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CCJL to honor ‘Common Sense’ legislators at Oct. 28 event

Colorado Civil Justice League will recognize leading state legislators on Thursday, Oct. 28 during its annual Legislative Awards Luncheon at the Denver Four Seasons.  CCJL’s Common Sense In The Courtroom Awards are given to state legislators who have demonstrated a commitment to curtailing lawsuit abuse and protecting working families from the cost of frivolous litigation.

CCJL is the only organization in Colorado exclusively dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse while preserving a system of civil justice that fairly compensates legitimate victims.

“Common Sense in the Courtroom requires justice for those who have been harmed by someone else, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” said CCJL executive director Mark Hillman. read more…

‘It could have been worse’ is no consolation to Colorado job creators

By Mark Hillman

When the Colorado General Assembly adjourned on June 8, small-business owners and job creators breathed a collective sigh of relief.

After suffering through COVID-related restrictions and closures for most of the previous 12 months, employers were hopeful that legislators would join in their efforts to help get the economy back on its feet.

Maybe legislators in another state, but not in Colorado in 2021.

Instead, when our neighborhood businesses were trying to reboot, they found themselves in the crosshairs of more than a dozen bills aimed at creating new opportunities for lawsuits or removing safeguards designed to protect against inflated claims.

This year, the legislature’s unstated but unmistakable message to business was, “Beatings will continue until morale improves.”

Six of the seven states that border Colorado have acted to protect their business owners from dubious COVID-related lawsuits.  Nationwide, 33 states have enacted such laws, and Democratic governors in Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin proudly signed them.

Colorado legislators introduced two similar bills.  Like many proposals, these efforts needed revisions to effectively accomplish their objective, but they were tailored to offer businesses the same protections state law already affords governments.  However, unlike many bills that were given time for improvements, both of these bills were snuffed out in their first committee hearing.

Meanwhile, lawmakers introduced a litany of legislation creating new opportunities for litigation against businesses.

House Bill 1188 overturned a decision by the Colorado Supreme Court in Ferrer v. Colorado Cab.  The court ruled that, once an employer has acknowledged its own liability for the injurious actions of an employee, additional claims against the employer for the same injury are “duplicative and unnecessary.”

Now that HB 1188 has been signed into law, plaintiffs’ attorneys will use it to inflate damage claims by picking apart, with 20/20 hindsight, everything an employer “should have done” better to train an employee.

Consider a 2014 case in which a fan attending a Kansas City Royals baseball game was struck in the eye by a hotdog thrown by the team mascot.  The fan suffered a detached retina.  Of course, the fan filed a claim for damages for his medical treatment, but he also sought additional damages by claiming the Royals had failed to train their mascot on how to “safely” throw hotdogs.  Expect similar claims in Colorado.

Senate Bill 87 creates opportunities for employees of farmers and ranchers to sue their employers by, among other things, creating a legal presumption against the farmer or rancher.  If the farmer or rancher cannot overcome the presumption that they unfairly retaliated against an employee, they face a minimum penalty of $10,000 per violation and must pay the employee’s attorney fees.  Ironically, there’s no corresponding requirement for an employee who files a losing lawsuit to pay the employer’s attorney fees.

The unintended consequence of SB 87 will be that once a few farmers or ranchers suffer the cost of trying to defend against these lawsuits, word will spread that it’s better to replace employees with automated equipment whenever possible to avoid the risk of litigation.

Proponents were warned about this result, but they rejected less adversarial solutions in favor of more lawsuits.

Fortunately, lawmakers defeated several other bills that threatened still more litigation either against employers in general or against specific industries.  But in most cases, sponsors of those defeated bills vowed to re-introduce them next year to fight for still more lawsuits against Colorado’s job creators.

Actually, there is one business that was treated exceptionally well this year at the State Capitol: plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Consumers and employers alike will pay a price for that for years to come.

 

Mark Hillman, a former Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer, is executive director of Colorado Civil Justice League.

Colo. Supreme Court to decide if state’s release of public records should now be confidential

The Colorado Supreme Court next week will consider whether a Denver judge was correct when he declined to bar confidential documents from being used in a lawsuit after the state had previously released them publicly through an open records request.

“Plaintiffs have already refused the Attorney General’s demand that they stop using and destroy the privileged documents,” argued Porter Adventist Hospital located in Denver to the court. “[N]o Colorado court has previously considered a situation like this.”

– Colorado Politics

CCJL announces Common Sense in the Courtroom Award winners for 2020

DENVER — Colorado Civil Justice League has announced winners of its Common Sense in the Courtroom Awards, given to state legislators who have demonstrated a commitment to curtailing lawsuit abuse and protecting working families from the cost of frivolous litigation.

CCJL is the only organization in Colorado exclusively dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse while preserving a system of civil justice that fairly compensates legitimate victims.

“Common Sense in the Courtroom requires justice for those who have been harmed by someone else, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” said CCJL executive director Mark Hillman.

Although legislators passed several bills in 2020 that will increase the costs and risks associated with lawsuits, they also served notice that they won’t automatically support every legislative whim that will expand unnecessary litigation.

“At CCJL, we are grateful for the bipartisan support of legislators who understand the importance of an efficient and balanced court system to our state’s economy,” Hillman said.

Common Sense in the Courtroom Award recipients include:

  • Representatives Mark Baisley (Roxborough Park), Perry Buck (Greeley), Terri Carver (Colorado Springs), Marc Catlin (Montrose), Richard Champion (Columbine Valley), Tim Geitner (Peyton), Richard Holtorf (Akron), Steve Humphrey (Severance), Tracy Kraft-Tharp (Arvada), Lois Landgraf (Colorado Springs), Colin Larson (Littleton), Larry Liston (Colorado Springs), Hugh McKean (Loveland), Patrick Neville (Franktown), Rod Pelton (Cheyenne Wells), Kim Ransom (Douglas County), Janice Rich (Grand Junction), Shane Sandridge (Colorado Springs), Kevin Van Winkle (Highlands Ranch), Perry Will (New Castle), Dave Williams (Colorado Springs), and Jim Wilson (Salida).
  • Senators John Cooke (Greeley), Don Coram (Montrose), Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Bob Gardner (Colorado Springs), Chris Hansen (Denver), Owen Hill (Colorado Springs), Dennis Hisey (Fountain), Chris Holbert (Parker), Paul Lundeen (Monument), Vickie Marble (Fort Collins), Brittany Pettersen (Lakewood), Kevin Priola (Brighton), Bob Rankin (Snowmass Village), Ray Scott (Grand Junction), Jim Smallwood (Parker), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Jack Tate (Centennial), Angela Williams (Denver), Rob Woodward (Loveland), and Rachel Zenzinger (Arvada).

In addition, Attorney General Phil Weiser was named a Common Sense Award-winner for his work to find a balance that protects consumers from deceptive practices and protects honest businesses from speculative lawsuits.

Recipients are typically honored at CCJL’s annual Legislative Awards Luncheon.  However, this year’s event has been cancelled due to the COVID pandemic and corresponding restrictions on public gatherings.

CCJL announces Common Sense legislator awards

DENVER — Colorado Civil Justice League has announced winners of its Common Sense in the Courtroom Awards, given to state legislators who have demonstrated a commitment to curtailing lawsuit abuse and protecting working families from the cost of frivolous litigation.

Awards will be presented at CCJL’s Legislative Awards Luncheon on Friday, Oct. 11, at the Denver Four Seasons.  Tickets are available at www.CCJL.org.

CCJL is the only organization in Colorado exclusively dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse while preserving a system of civil justice that fairly compensates legitimate victims.

“Common Sense in the Courtroom requires justice for those who have been harmed by someone else, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” said CCJL executive director Mark Hillman.

Although legislators passed several bills in 2019 that will increase the costs of risks of lawsuits, they also served notice that they won’t automatically support every legislative whim that will expand unnecessary litigation.

“At CCJL, we are grateful for the bipartisan support of legislators who understand the importance of an efficient and balanced court system to our state’s economy,” Hillman said.

Common Sense in the Courtroom Award recipients include:

• Representatives Jeni Arndt (Fort Collins), Mark Baisley (Roxborough Park), Susan Beckman (Littleton), Adrienne Benavidez (Denver), Shannon Bird (Westminster), Bri Buentello (Pueblo), Terri Carver (Colorado Springs), Marc Catlin (Montrose), Alec Garnett (Denver), Tim Geitner (Falcon), Matt Gray (Broomfield), Chris Hansen (Denver), Leslie Herod (Denver), Edie Hooton (Boulder), Steve Humphrey (Severance), Tracy Kraft-Tharp (Arvada), Lois Landgraf (Colorado Springs), Colin Larson (Littleton), Kimmi Lewis (Kim), Larry Liston (Colorado Springs), Hugh McKean (Loveland), Patrick Neville (Franktown), Rod Pelton (Cheyenne Wells), Kim Ransom (Douglas County), Janice Rich (Grand Junction), Lori Saine (Firestone), Shane Sandridge (Colorado Springs), Matt Soper (Delta), Kerry Tipper (Lakewood), Kevin Van Winkle (Highlands Ranch), Perry Will (New Castle), Dave Williams (Colorado Springs) and Jim Wilson (Salida).

• Senators Jeff Bridges (Greenwood Village), John Cooke (Greeley), Don Coram (Montrose), Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Bob Gardner (Colorado Springs), Owen Hill (Colorado Springs), Dennis Hisey (Fountain), Chris Holbert (Parker), Paul Lundeen (Monument), Vickie Marble (Fort Collins), Brittany Pettersen (Lakewood), Kevin Priola (Brighton), Bob Rankin (Snowmass Village), Ray Scott (Grand Junction), Jim Smallwood (Parker), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Nancy Todd (Aurora), Rob Woodward (Loveland) and Rachel Zenzinger (Arvada).

This year’s luncheon is sponsored by COPIC, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell, Colorado Hospital Association, State Farm, HuschBlackwell, Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors, American Furniture Warehouse.

Lawmakers selective on litigation in 2019 session

Although legislators passed several bills that will increase the costs and risks of lawsuits, they also served notice that they won’t automatically support every legislative whim that will expand unnecessary litigation.

Even before the General Assembly convened in January, the stability of Colorado’s lawsuit climate was at a perilous point, ranked 35th among the 50 states – an all-time low.  Other national groups worried about the growing unpredictability of our courts.

Numerous bills sought to create new opportunities for lawsuits, but many of those were subsequently modified.  A few others failed when legislative support withered.

Consequently, Colorado Civil Justice League grades the legislature at a “C” for its 2019 session.

read more…

Equal pay shouldn’t treat employers like the enemy

Equal pay for equal work isn’t just a laudable goal. It’s basic fairness, so Colorado law can certainly require it of employers.

On the other hand, Senate Bill 85, as originally introduced by Sen. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, didn’t focus on basic fairness. Instead, it contained rigid rules and “gotcha” litigation traps that doom Colorado employers to failure, then punish them with costly lawsuits for violations that have nothing to do with discrimination.

For example, each of the following would have constituted unlawful discrimination under the introduced bill:

  • •A male hotel clerk in Aspen is paid more than a female hotel clerk in Akron – not because one is male and the other female, but due to differences in the cost-of-living.
  • •A female nurse is paid more to work the graveyard shift than a male nurse who works days. That’s because one is paid more to work undesirable hours.
  • •A company has a hard time recruiting employees to work in remote parts of the state, so they pay a male sales representative more to work in Springfield than a female doing the same job in Greeley. Employers sometimes pay more for hard-to-fill positions.

These are all legitimate reasons for paying different salaries and have nothing to do with whether the employee is male or female.

At the bill’s first hearing in Senate Judiciary Committee, some practical concerns raised by Colorado employers were addressed. For example, amendments to the bill clarified that liquidated damages could not be imposed if an employer acts in good faith. Also, pay differentials based on geography would be allowed. But much work remains.

Senate Bill 85 still allows an employee to bring a lawsuit without ever filing a formal complaint with a neutral party, such as the Department of Labor (which typically handles wage disputes) or the Civil Rights Commission (which hears claims of unlawful discrimination).

read more…

Legislative Update

Nearly one month into the 2019 legislative session, CCJL is keeping a close eye on bills that would create new lawsuits or impose new costs on Colorado businesses and the working families who rely on them.

Here’s a look at emerging bills and issues:

Criminal History of Job Applicants – House Bill 1025 (sponsored by Reps. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora) prohibits employers from excluding people with a criminal history from applying for a job opening. It does not say that employers can’t consider someone’s criminal history, only that those applicants cannot be automatically excluded from applying. Commendably, the bills’ sponsors did not create a new “right to sue” (aka private right of action) as the enforcement mechanism, instead relying on a state agency to investigate possible violations. This is a procedure that others should emulate if they truly wish to address a perceived problem rather than create incentives for more litigation.

Homeless Right to Sue – HB 1096 (Rep. Melton) is the latest iteration of the so-called Right-to-Rest Act. The bill targets local government ordinances which regulate when and where people are allowed to sleep or camp on public sidewalks, in parks or on other public property. It also compares such ordinances to “cruel and unusual punishment” and allows for enforcement via lawsuit.

Add District Court Judges – Senate Bill 43 (Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs) adds 15 new district court judges in several judicial districts around the state. Given the increased demands on our state’s court system, CCJL supports this bill as a means of ensuring that legitimate claims can be handled without needless expense or delay.

Pay Disparites – SB 85 (Sen. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood) is advertised as “equal pay for equal work.” That’s a worthy goal, but the text of the bill, as introduced, sets too many “litigation traps” by treating every conceivable pay disparity as evidence of discrimination – and grounds for a lawsuit. For example, the bill doesn’t recognize that an employer with offices in Vail, Colorado Springs and Akron has a legitimate reason to pay a different salary to managers at those locations based on the vastly disparate costs-of-living in those communities. Another serious concern is that the bill completely eliminates the authority of the Department of Labor to investigate and enforce wage discrimination claims and turns that authority over to the civil litigation system with privately-hired attorneys acting on behalf of aggrieved employees. The bill also creates significant, additional burdens for businesses in terms of job posting requirements and record keeping. read more…

Report: Colorado verging on ‘Judicial Hellhole’ status

Anyone wondering why insurance premiums are on the rise in Colorado need look no further than four recent decisions by the Colorado Supreme Court.  Those rulings expand liability and increase litigation costs, so consumers can expect to pay more for insurance coverage.

After all, insurance companies simply set premiums to cover their anticipated costs.

As a result, a new report by the American Tort Reform Association finds Colorado teetering on the verge of becoming a “Judicial Hellhole.

Liability-expanding decisions by the Colorado Supreme Court coupled with the prospects of a pro-plaintiff legislative agenda has created an unfair and unbalanced environment for those who face lawsuits in the Centennial State. The state appears to be moving in a dangerous direction and if it does not correct course, the Colorado Supreme Court or the state may find itself in unwanted company on next year’s Judicial Hellholes list.

Four Colorado Supreme Court decisions issued in 2018 have exposed insurers to expanded liability, which will lead to higher rates for consumers.

read more…

‘Common Sense’ legislators to be honored by CCJL at Oct. 24 event

DENVER — Colorado Civil Justice League has announced winners of its Common Sense in the Courtroom Awards, given to state legislators who have demonstrated a commitment to curtailing lawsuit abuse.

Awards will be presented at CCJL’s Legislative Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Denver Four Seasons.

CCJL is the only organization in Colorado exclusively dedicated to stopping lawsuit abuse while preserving a system of civil justice that fairly compensates legitimate victims.

“Common Sense in the Courtroom requires justice for those who have been wronged, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” said CCJL executive director Mark Hillman.

The best news from the 2018 legislative session was the bills that didn’t pass.Late in the legislative session, two bills were introduced to discourage arbitration – an alternative to litigation that often saves time and money.  The alternative to arbitration?  Hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit, of course.

Other bills were introduced to address business practices that result in perceived greed or inequity.  The irony, however, is that in each of these bills the remedy to alleged “corporate greed” was to create new incentives for profiteering by personal injury lawyers.

read more…