Colorado Supreme Court called 'point of light' for plausibility decision

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A decision by the Colorado Supreme Court to adopt the federal plausibility pleading standard in civil litigation earned a rare "point-of-light" designation from the American Tort Reform Association in its annual Judicial Hellholes report, which routinely excoriates the worst examples of state courts stretching the law, logic and common sense to advance frivolous lawsuits.

In a 4-3 decision authored by Justice Nathan Coats, the court dismissed a plaintiff's lawsuit for "failure to state a plausible claim for relief." Under the former "notice pleading" standard, plaintiffs were not required to state a plausible claim.

Think about that for a minute. Prior to this decision, a lawsuit could continue even if the plaintiff's claim was not plausible.

"It's regrettable that this common sense decision resulted in a 4-3 split on the high court," stated Mark Hillman, executive director of Colorado Civil Justice League which advocates for "common sense in the courtroom."


Joining Justice Coats in the majority were Chief Justice Nancy Rice and Justices Allison Eid and Brian Boatright. Dissenting were Justices Richard Gabriel, William Hood III and Monica Marquez.

CCJL submitted a friend-of-the-court brief - authored jointly by Jordan Lipp and Geoffrey Klingsporn of Davis Graham & Stubbs and by Evan Stephenson and Thomas Werge of Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell - in support of the plausibility standard.

 

Legislators win CCJL's Common Sense in the Courtroom Awards

Monday, September 19, 2016

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 Tuesday, Oct. 18 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 wronged, balanced by fairness for those who may be wrongfully accused,” said CCJL executive director Mark Hillman.

While this year’s legislature didn’t advance significant tort reform, a bi-partisan coalition of legislators derailed several bills that would create more litigation, such as enshrining a new right for homeless people to sue for privacy, assigning arbitrarily liability for earthquakes to oil and gas operations, and subjecting employers to costly lawsuits simply for asking typical interview questions.

"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), J. Paul Brown (Ignacio), Perry Buck (Greeley), Terri Carver (Colorado Springs), Kathleen Conti (Littleton), Don Coram (Montrose), Brian DelGrosso (Loveland), Tim Dore (Elizabeth), Justin Everett (Littleton), Steve Humphrey (Severance), Janak Joshi (Colorado Springs), Tracy Kraft-Tharp (Arvada), Lois Landgraf (Fountain), Polly Lawrence (Douglas County), Tim Leonard (Evergreen), Paul Lundeen (Monument), Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (Pueblo West), Patrick Neville (Franktown), Dan Nordberg (Colorado Springs), Dan Pabon (Denver), Kevin Priola (Brighton), Bob Rankin (Carbondale), Kim Ransom (Douglas County), Paul Rosenthal (Denver), Kit Roupe (Colorado Springs), Lori Saine (Firestone), Dan Thurlow (Grand Junction), Kevin Van Winkle (Highlands Ranch), Ed Vigil (Fort Garland), Yeulin Willett (Grand Junction), Angela Williams (Denver), Jim Wilson (Salida), Joann Windholz (Commerce City) and Cole Wist (Centennial).
  • Senators Randy Baumgardner (Hot Sulphur Springs), Bill Cadman (Colorado Springs), John Cooke (Greeley), Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Kerri Donovan (Vail), Leroy Garcia (Pueblo), Kevin Grantham (Canon City), Owen Hill (Colorado Springs), Mary Hodge (Brighton), Chris Holbert (Parker), Cheri Jahn (Wheat Ridge), Kent Lambert (Colorado Springs), Kevin Lundberg (Berthoud), Vicki Marble (Fort Collins), Beth Martinez Humenik (Thornton), Tim Neville (Littleton), Ellen Roberts (Durango), Mark Scheffel (Parker), Ray Scott (Grand Junction), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Jack Tate (Centennial) and Laura Woods (Arvada).
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    2016 Legislative Review: Balance, no backsliding, but bulls-eye on business again

    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    While the 2016 session of the Colorado General Assembly produced little news on the civil justice front, the partisan balance of a Democratic-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate provided two obvious benefits:

    For legislation to survive both chambers, its sponsors were able to navigate and negotiate. Sponsors from both chambers sought the input of Colorado’s business community both to develop good public policy and to build political support.

    Legislation that ignored business concerns – or, worse yet, put a bulls-eye on business as a target for speculative or unmerited litigation – usually met stiff resistance . . . and not only in the Republican-controlled Senate.

    Colorado Civil Justice League, the state’s only associated devoted primarily to tort reform and curbing lawsuit abuse, opposed eight bills introduced in this year’s session. Of those, six died in the Senate, one died in the House, and one passed after sponsors agreed to eleventh-hour amendments that alleviated concerns about expanding liability.

    CCJL appreciates legislators who opposed such extreme legislation as:

    • Enshrining a right for homeless people to sue for privacy (House Bill 1191),
    • Arbitrarily assigning liability for earthquakes to oil and gas operations (HB 1310),
    • Creating a corporate shaming regime funded by “fees” on business (HB 1435), and
    • Bills that ignore the legitimate business practices of conducting criminal background checks on prospective hires (HB 1388) and discussing a potential employee’s salary history and expectations (HB 1166).

    Importantly, the bipartisan balanced stopped further erosion of Colorado’s business liability climate. Colorado currently ranks 16th on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce State Lawsuit Climate survey, up from 23rd in the previous study but well below the Top 10 status that made Colorado a magnet for growth in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    The past four legislative sessions have yielded an onslaught of 38 bills that arbitrarily attack Colorado employers by making employment law a harvest field for plaintiffs lawyers. Such persistent threats raise enormous red flags to businesses that might consider expanding or relocating in Colorado.

    CCJL backed two pro-active measures this year, as well. Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) and Majority Leader Mark Scheffel (R-Parker) teamed up with Rep. Yeulin Willet (R-Grand Junction) to sponsor Senate Bill 184 which would update a 40-year-old statute that set the interest rate for litigation claims at 9 percent. SB 184 would have calibrated the rate to float at 2 percent above the Kansas City Federal Reserve discount rate. That bill passed the Senate 20-15, but died in a House committee.

    Rep. Cole Wist (R-Centennial) and Sen. Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge) sponsored HB 1299, an overdue correction to the attorney fee recovery provision of the Colorado anti-discrimination act. Under this bill, successful employers could recover attorney fees from meritless claims “when no reasonable person” would believe the claim was likely to succeed. The House Judiciary Committee defeated this bill on a party-line vote.

    Two bills demonstrated the ability of legislators of both parties to develop practical solutions to emerging issues. HB 1432, sponsored by Rep. Faith Winter (D-Westminster) and Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood), provided employees with the opportunity to view the employer’s personnel file without creating a litigation trap for employers. HB 1438, sponsored by Rep. Winter and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R-Adams County) largely applies federal law regarding employers’ responsibility to accommodate pregnant employees.