recent articles

Who or what is ‘laches’?

A bill recently introduced in the Colorado General Assembly would prohibit the use of “the doctrine of laches to bar a civil action or claim as untimely” so long as that claim was filed within the applicable statute of limitations.

Non-attorneys – and those attorneys who tended to doze off in law school – asked, “What or who is laches?”

Laches is derived from a French term for “remissness” or “slackness.”  The legal laches doctrine is based on the maxim that “equity aids the vigilant, not the sleeping ones,” according to Black’s Law Dictionary.  Courts apply laches when the party bringing a claim has unnecessarily or unreasonably delayed that claim in a way that particularly disadvantages the opposing party.

Law.com provides the following hypotheticals: Read more

Bill gives homeless new rights to sue

A bill touted as creating a homeless “bill of rights” – apparently the one in the constitution isn’t sufficient – is little more than a license to sue on behalf of homeless people.

House Bill 1264, sponsored by Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Denver) and Sen. John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins), prohibits discrimination “on the basis of housing status.”  Among other things, it prohibits laws and ordinates that limit use of a “public space” through time constraints that discriminate against homeless persons.

So, local ordinances against sleeping or loitering on a public sidewalk or in a municipal park would be deemed to “disproportionately impact people without homes and people who have no private place to rest or seek nourishment.”

Yes, in the same way that laws against speeding and reckless driving disproportionately impact people who like to drive fast but don’t have a racing oval or dragstrip of their own. Read more

Employers get no help from House Judiciary

If the last election signaled a move toward the middle at the State Capitol, no one bothered to tell the House Judiciary Committee which is beginning to look like the place where good bills go to die – especially if those bills trample on the turf of trial lawyers.

On a 7-6 party-line vote, the House Judiciary Committee killed a modest effort to roll back part of the “Sue Your Boss Bill” from 2013 by repealing the portion that allows disgruntled employees to seek punitive damages as part of claims alleging employment discrimination.

A majority of states do not permit punitive damages against employers.  Not our neighbors – Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma or Utah.  And not even states like New York or Illinois where trial lawyers are firmly entrenched in the state legislature.

But the 2013 Sue You Boss Bill opened the door for lawsuits against any employer to seek punitive damages and pain-and-suffering damages.  That law also failed to exclude the smallest employers – contrary to the law in 36 other states.

House Bill 1172, sponsored by Rep. Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland), would have repealed the punitive damages portion of the law.  Unfortunately, the bill was killed in committee and not allowed the opportunity for a vote in the full House of Representatives.  Read more

Senate bill aims toward home affordability

Affordable condos and townhomes are rare as hens’ teeth in much of Colorado.  That’s because very few new units are being built.  That’s largely due to the inability of builders to get affordable insurance.  And that’s because Colorado law has made lawsuits against homebuilders quite profitable – for trial lawyers.

Now, two Colorado Senators, Mark Scheffel (R-Parker) and Jessie Ulibarri (D-Adams County) are again teaming up to try to stimulate construction of owner-occupied multi-family housing developments by introducing Senate Bill 177.

SB 177 would require a majority of all homeowners in a development to approve of any litigation against a homebuilder brought by the homeowners association.  It would also require that homeowners be fully informed of the financial complications that ongoing litigation can cause to their property should they want to sell or re-finance. Read more

Lineup changes at State Capitol

This week brings two noteworthy changes at the State Capitol:

The resignation a few weeks ago of Assistant Minority Leader Libby Szabo (R-Arvada), who was appointed Jefferson County Commissioner, triggered several changes in the House Republican Caucus.

First, a vacancy committee chose Lang Sias to replace Szabo as the State Representative for House District 27 in northern Jefferson County.  Sias, a former Navy pilot who now flies for FedEx, gets his chance under the Gold Dome after narrow losses for State Senate, in the 2012 general election vs. former Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Arvada) and then in the 2014 Republican primary to the eventual winner, Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada). Read more

‘Patent trolls’ in House Business spotlight

Thursday’s House Business, Labor and Technology Committee hearing might be sub-titled, Introduction to Patent Trolling, as legislators get their first look at legislation to address the obscure practice – bordering on extortion – of asserting dubious claims of patent infringement along with threats of litigation.

According to a recent piece in The Atlantic, the number of patent troll lawsuits has increased six-fold and the number of firms sued has increased by nine-fold.  In fact, the majority of patent lawsuits are now filed by “trolls,” reports the Harvard Business Review.

So, what is a patent troll?  A patent troll is someone with a plausible but dubious claim to a patent who adopts a business strategy of sending letters alleging patent infringement to companies that must choose between undertaking costly legal research to determine if patent infringement exists or pay the troll a licensing fee.  Typically, the troll has little risk and little at stake but can cause enormous expense to his or her target.  Read more

Committees hold key to civil justice legislation

During the 2015 legislation session, several committees are likely to hear key legislation related to our civil justice system.  Here’s a quick look at those the House and Senate Judiciary committees and legislators who chair them:

HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Denver), Chair

An attorney, Rep. Kagan and his wife Faye managed a law firm specializing in representing plaintiffs who had been injured by negligently designed products, as well as criminal defendants  In 1996, he became the managing director of Kagan Textiles Limited, a small, family business which was on the verge of collapse.  He held the position for over 12 years and successfully brought derelict textile manufacturing plants back to economic life in what he describes as a “socially responsible” way.

Rep. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs), Vice Chair

Rep. John Buckner (D-Aurora)

Rep. Terri Carver (R-Colorado Springs)

Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver)

Rep. Tim Dore (R-Elizabeth)

Rep. Mike Foote (D-Lafayette)

Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Castle Rock)

Rep. Paul Lundeen (R-Monument)

Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Denver)

Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton)

Rep. Kevin Van Winkle (R-Highlands Ranch)

Rep. Yeulin Willett (R-Grand Junction)

 

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), Chair

Sen. Roberts, who also serves as Senate President Pro Tem, is an attorney specializing in estate planning, probate and business law.  She is beginning her second term in the Senate after serving two terms in the House of Representatives.  She serves on the board of directors of 1st National Bank of Durango, is the past chairwoman of the Mercy Regional Medical Center board, and is a member of a number of other local community groups.  She is a past winner of CCJL’s Common Sense in the Courtroom Award.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), Vice Chair

Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley)

Sen. Lucia Guzman (D-Denver)

Sen. Michael Merrifield (D-Manitou Springs)

 

HOUSE BUSINESS, LABOR & TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE

Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver), Chair

Rep. Williams, who also serves as Democratic Caucus Chair, has been a small business owner for many years and currently owns the Angela Williams Agency, an insurance consulting firm. With a strong business background, her primary focus in the legislature has been to reduce red tape on small businesses and protect the health, safety and rights of Colorado workers.  She has a degree in criminal justice from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma and is a past recipient of CCJL’s Common Sense in the Courtroom Award.

Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada), Vice Chair

Rep. Jeni Arndt (D-Fort Collins)

Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver)

Rep. Clarice Navarro Ratzlaff (R-Pueblo West)

Rep. Dan Nordberg (R-Colorado Springs)

Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver)

Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver)

Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs)

Rep. Libby Szabo (R-Arvada) *Resigned Jan. 16.

Rep. Jack Tate (R-Centennial)

Rep. Dan Thurlow (R-Grand Junction)

Rep. Faith Winter (D-Westminster)

 

SENATE BUSINESS, LABOR & TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE

Sen. David Balmer (R-Centennial), Chair

Sen. Balmer is a former senior manager for Cherokee Investment Partners, the nation’s largest private equity firm specializing in brownfield redevelopment.  As a Lieutenant Colonell in the U.S. Army he served in deployments to Afghanistan and Bosnia.  He is in his first term in the Senate after serving seven years in the House.  He is a graduate of the University of North Caroline and Wake Forest Law School.  He is a past recipient of CCJL’s Common Sense in the Courtroom Award.

Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Parker), Vice Chair

Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver)

Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R-Cowdrey)

Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder)

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge)

Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton)

Sen. Linda Newell (D-Littleton)

Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada)

CCJL announces winners of 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 stopping lawsuit abuse.

Awards will be presented at CCJL’s Legislative Awards Luncheon on Oct. 8 at the Denver Four Seasons.  Tickets are available at www.CCJL.org.

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

“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.

This year, the General Assembly passed a handful of reforms, including liability protections for volunteers at emergencies, as well as a bill to establish a personal responsibility standard for participants in certain agricultural activities, including “agritourism.”  Legislators also defeated several attempts to expand litigation.

Common Sense in the Courtroom Award recipients include:

• Representatives Perry Buck, Kathleen Conti, Don Coram, Brian DelGrosso, Tim Dore, Justin Everett, Leroy Garcia, Bob Gardner, Cheri Gerou, Chris Holbert, Steve Humphrey, Janak Joshi, Tracy Kraft-Tharp, Lois Landgraf, Polly Lawrence, Jenise May, Frank McNulty, Carole Murray, Clarice Navarro Ratzlaff, Dan Nordberg, Dan Pabon, Kevin Priola, Bob Rankin, Lori Saine, Ray Scott, Jerry Sonnenberg, Amy Stephens, Spencer Swalm, Libby Szabo, Ed Vigil, Mark Waller, Angela Williams, Jim Wilson and Jared Wright.

• Senators David Balmer, Randy Baumgardner, Greg Brophy, Bill Cadman, Larry Crowder, Kevin Grantham, Ted Harvey, Bernie Herpin, Owen Hill, Cheri Jahn, John Kefalas, Steve King, Kent Lambert, Kevin Lundberg, Vicki Marble, Scott Renfroe, George Rivera, Ellen Roberts, Mark Scheffel and Lois Tochtrop.

Employers need tools for workplace safety, CCJL says in brief to Supreme Court

Businesses ask court for flexibility to determine employee drug policies

Employers need flexibility to craft drug policies necessary to preserve safety and accountability, says Colorado Civil Justice League in a brief field today with Colorado Supreme Court.

Read CCJL’s Brief HERE.

Coats v. Dish Network is a highly-scrutinized case that tests the limits of Colorado’s Amendment 20 which legalized “medical marijuana” under state law.  Plaintiff Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who used medical-marijuana, was fired by Dish Network after he failed a drug test, violating the employer’s policy that prohibited marijuana use.

Colorado’s lawful off-duty activity statute (LODAS) prohibits employers from terminating an employee for “engaging in any lawful activity” off the job. Read more