Supreme Court upholds limits on wage claims, backing CCJL position

Monday, March 12, 2018

Colorado Supreme Court unanimously ruled that claims for disputed wages must be filed within the statute of limitations (either two or three years) and that the clock starts ticking "on the date that each set of wages first became due and payable—not on the date of separation."

The opinion, written by the court's newest member, Justice Melissa Hart — Yes, we were pleasantly surprised! — largely echoes the salient points submitted by CCJL in a friend of the court brief, authored by Chris Ottele and Sonia Anderson of Husch Blackwell, and which was joined by the Denver Metro Chamber and Building Jobs 4 Colorado.

As summarized by a blog:

The plaintiffs in Hernandez v. Ray Domenico Farms, Inc.had sought to exploit an unusual feature of the Colorado Wage Claim Act (the Wage Act). It allows employees to bring suit for unpaid wages under two separate provisions, depending on whether the employee is currently employed or no longer employed. Plaintiffs in this case had reasoned that the provision that applies to former employees revived claims that were time-barred under the provision that applies to current employees. If true, former employees could bring suit for unpaid wages dating to the beginning of their employment, possibly 20 or 30 years ago. 


On behalf of the Colorado Civil Justice League and other business interests, Husch Blackwell attorneys filed the only amicus brief in support of the employer. The Supreme Court’s opinion agreed with each of the positions set forth in Husch Blackwell’s amicus brief and disagreed with the briefs of the plaintiffs, their amici and, with respect to at least one issue, even the defendant employer.

Asbestos transparency advances in Senate

Monday, March 05, 2018

There's an unseemly underside to some of those mesothelioma commercials that dominate late-night television. It hasn't come to Colorado yet, and if the Colorado General Assembly passes Senate Bill 123 (sponsored by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg), it never will. 

Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops from asbestos fibers that become lodged in the lungs. Because it usually goes undiscovered until it has become advanced, it is almost always fatal.

While it is just to feel sympathy for those suffering from mesothelioma and to want them to receive timely compensation, the way some asbestos plaintiffs lawyers abuse the asbestos claims process is not only unjust - it also endangers the ability of future victims to receive adequate compensation.

Those suffering from mesothelioma can seek relief in two ways: a lawsuit against manufacturers of asbestos products that are still in business or a claim against one or more "asbestos trusts" established during bankruptcy proceedings to pay claims against insolvent companies.

Many injured parties may have legitimate claims against both. However, as more primary companies declared bankruptcy, plaintiffs attorneys began focusing lawsuits against secondary users of asbestos, including those whose products were less dangerous.

One such company, Garlock Sealing Technologies, regularly settled for very small amounts while the primary companies were still solvent. But when the trusts were established, Garlock and other secondary companies suddenly saw claimants argue that they had been exposed only to these secondary products and not to those manufactured by the likes of Owens Corning or Johns Manville.

Garlock's lawyers smelled a rat and, thanks to an inquisitive judge, uncovered a scam in which plaintiffs lawyers first sued solvent companies, claiming exposure only to one or two products, then after reaching a settlement, they applied to the asbestos trusts, now claiming exposure to many other products which were manufactured by now-bankrupt companies.

Bankruptcy Judge George R. Hodges examined 15 such cases and found that in "each and every one" evidence of exposure to other products was withheld by the plaintiffs' attorneys.

"It was a regular practice by many plaintiffs' firms to delay filing Trust claims," Hodges wrote. He found that, on average, plaintiffs against solvent companies disclosed only about two exposures to bankrupt companies' products, but after settling with Garlock, those same plaintiffs subsequently made claims against 19 of the trusts.

Because exposure happened decades ago, "there's no way for defendants to get information on exposure (to asbestos) except from claimants," said Phil Goldberg, who testified for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in favor of SB 123.

SB 123 requires claimants to first file trust claims before litigating against existing companies in state courts and to provide the same information to each.

"The fastest way to pay plaintiffs is to file trust claims first," Goldberg testified. "The only reason to file civil claims first is to game the system."

While no such abuses are yet known to have occurred in Colorado, we should institute safeguards before these deceptive practices undermine the integrity of our judicial system.


Legislators chosen for 'Common Sense' Awards

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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 Friday, October 20, at the Denver Four Seasons. Tickets are available at

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.

A highlight of the 2017 legislative session was the passage of House Bill 1279 which addressed construction litigation by ensuring that homeowners are fully informed of costs and risks of litigation and given a formal voice in determining whether to initiate a lawsuit to resolve alleged defective construction.

“The most encouraging development this year is the growing coalition of legislators who value economic growth for all Coloradans above the narrow interests of personal injury lawyers and a handful of plaintiffs,” Hillman added.

"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," said Jeff Weist, CCJL legislative director.

Common Sense in the Courtroom Award recipients include:

  • Representatives Jeni Arndt (Fort Collins), Jon Becker (Fort Morgan), Susan Beckman (Littleton), Perry Buck (Greeley), Terri Carver (Colorado Springs), Marc Catlin (Montrose), Phil Covarrubias (Brighton), Justin Everett (Littleton), Matt Gray (Broomfield), Leslie Herod (Denver), Edie Hooton (Boulder), Steve Humphrey (Eaton), Tracy Kraft-Tharp (Arvada), Lois Landgraf (Fountain), Polly Lawrence (Douglas County), Tim Leonard (Evergreen), Kimmi Lewis (Kim), Larry Liston (Colorado Springs), Paul Lundeen (Monument), Hugh McKean (Loveland), Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (Pueblo West), Patrick Neville (Franktown), Dan Nordberg (Colorado Springs), Bob Rankin (Carbondale), Kim Ransom (Douglas County), Lori Saine (Firestone), Lang Sias (Arvada), Dan Thurlow (Grand Junction), Don Valdez (La Jara), Kevin Van Winkle (Highlands Ranch), Yeulin Willett (Grand Junction), David Williams (Colorado Springs), Jim Wilson (Salida) and Cole Wist (Centennial).
  • Senators Randy Baumgardner (Hot Sulphur Springs), John Cooke (Greeley), Don Coram (Montrose), Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Bob Gardner (Colorado Springs), Kevin Grantham (Canon City), Owen Hill (Colorado Springs), Chris Holbert (Parker), Beth Martinez Humenik (Thornton), Cheri Jahn (Wheat Ridge), Kent Lambert (Colorado Springs), Dominic Moreno (Commerce City), Kevin Priola (Brighton), Ray Scott (Grand Junction), Jim Smallwood (Castle Rock), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Jack Tate (Centennial), Nancy Todd (Aurora), Angela Williams (Denver), Rachel Zenzinger (Arvada).