House kills bill to expand employwer lawsuits

Monday, October 18, 2010

A bill that would have imposed broad new litigation risk to large and small employers alike died on a bipartisan vote today in the Colorado House of Representatives.

House Bill 1269 sought for the first time to expand claims for pain and suffering and punitive damages, as well as imposing attorney fees, on small businesses, while creating the opportunity for plaintiffs attorneys to "forum shop" between federal and state courts.

The bill previously passed two House committees on strict party-line votes with Democrats in support and Republicans in opposition. However, a group of Democrats — motivated by the potential cost to business and the discriminatory manner in which the bill failed to extend its "protections" to public sector workers — came together to defeat the bill on a standing vote. Bill sponsor Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) chose not to attempt to revive the bill with a recorded vote later in the morning.

For the past two years, the business lobby has worked to defeat, albeit narrowly, bills similar to HB 1269. Rep. Levy has recently expressed a desire to discuss the issue during the summer to determine if any common ground can be found between the bill's backers and Colorado employers.

A broad business coalition — including Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, National Federation of Independent Business, Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, Colorado Competitiveness Council, Colorado Concern and Colorado Hospital Association, among others — worked with CCJL to rally opposition and explain the threat that HB 1269 posed to the state's employers.

Reps. Joe Rice (D-Littleton), Edward Casso (D-Thornton), Wes McKinley (D-Walsh), Christine Scanlan (D-Dillon), Jim Riesberg (D-Greeley) and Kathleen Curry (U-Gunnison) joined all Republicans to oppose the bill.