The agritourism liability bill, discussed here last week, is in much better shape today after the House Judiciary Committee approved an amendment which preserves the best parts of House Bill 1280 and corrects some inconsistencies between Colorado law and others after which this bill was patterned. A more complete description appears in our Legislative Update.
A bill intended to increase protections for farms and ranches that allow tourists onto their property for an up-close look at real-life agriculture may actually increase exposure to lawsuits for working farms and ranches, an analysis by Colorado Civil Justice League indicates.
“I know the intentions behind this bill are noble, but the fact is that ordinary farms and ranches actually lose protections,” said CCJL executive director Mark Hillman, who also operates a farm on the Eastern Plains. “Let’s hope these shortcomings can be fixed, so the bill truly is helpful to agriculture.”
Under current law, farms and ranches that allow or invite visitors to watch or participate in ordinary activities related to agriculture are required to “exercise reasonable care” or to give a “warning of any dangers that are ordinarily present.” HB 1280 removes the option to “exercise reasonable care.” Read more
House and Senate committees significantly pared the slate of civil justice bills last week, killing five of six bills that received hearings in their first committee. That’s not necessarily bad news. Frankly, if the legislature would kill five out of every six bills introduced (on any subject), Coloradans would be better for it!
Last week’s “committee carnage” claimed bills from across the philosophical spectrum, erasing some bills that would have increased litigation and nixing others that aimed to deter litigation:
- Senate Bill 74, which would have repealed last year’s “Sue Your Boss Bill,” was killed in Senate State Affairs on a party-line vote. Sen. George Rivera sponsored this effort.
- Senate Judiciary, on the other hand, voted to kill SB 10 which would have created considerable contention between owners of mobile home parks and their tenants. Sponsor Sen. John Kefalas asked the committee to kill his bill and stated that he will try again with a different approach in the future.
- Rep. Kevin Priola aimed to thwart frivolous lawsuits with House Bill 1153, which would have awarded attorney fees to the prevailing party when certain cases are dismissed. However, the bill was sideswiped by a ridiculous cost estimate by compiled legislative staff. House Judiciary killed the bill on a 9-2 vote. Read more
Senate Bill 118 is presented as a bill that merely updates Colorado law to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act and provides some nice protections for people with service animals.
If only that were all it does.
Tucked away within the provisions of this 27-page bill is a looming shakedown racket for plaintiff’s lawyers and yet another threat to Colorado businesses.
Sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver), the bill astronomically increases penalties for all types of discrimination in public accommodation and employment – not just those related to disability – by as much as 7000% (yes seven thousand percent) from a range of $50 to $500 in current law to a stipulated penalty of $3,500 with no discretion allowed. Read more
Supreme Court justices have decided to review a case which determined that employers continue to have a right to fire employees for marijuana use away from the workplace, the high court announced.
In Coats v. Dish Network, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled, in a 2-1 decision, ruled Dish was within its right to fire a quadriplegic man who was a medical marijuana patient. Coats argued that, because his marijuana use was legal under state law, his employment was protected under a Colorado law that protects employees from being fired for “lawful activities” away from the workplace. Judges Janice Davidson and Jose Marquez ruled that marijuana use is not a protected activity because it remains illegal under federal law.
“This decision could have a significant impact on Colorado employers, particularly those that drug-test their employees or have safety-sensitive positions,” said Chris Ottele, an employment attorney at Husch Blackwell who also chairs the Colorado Civil Justice League’s legal advisory board.
CCJL is leading an effort to submit a “friend of the court brief” in support of the rights of employers.
The Supreme Court will also decide if the practice of litigation lending is regulated under the Uniform Consumer Credit Code, as both the Court of Appeals and a district court have held.
In Oasis v. Suthers, Oasis Legal Finance Group (dba LawCash) contends that its contracts with litigation plaintiffs are not loans but rather a contract to purchase the proceeds from a lawsuit.
A 3-0 panel of the Court of Appeals, however, sided with Attorney General John Suthers who argued that the LawCash contracts – which include a “monthly use fee” of 3.5% of the funded amount were loans subject to Colorado’s restrictions on usary and excessive interest.
CCJL members are actively following this case.
Property rights and freedom to contract are turned upside down by Senate Bill 10, an overwrought exercise in political correctness which invites a myriad of litigation by imposing a variety of new requirements on owners of mobile home parks.
By turning a contract in which both sides must agree to renew into a de facto property right to a space in the park and by requiring 24 months notice to change the use of the property to something other than a mobile home park, this bill will reduce the value of existing mobile home parks, discourage anyone from developing new mobile home parks, cause current owners to consider selling or changing the use before this law takes effect, and create blight at mobile home parks because landlords with capital to make improvements will be replaced by associations of mobile home owners who now own the park itself.
SB 10 makes the law needlessly-wordy and more confusing for citizens by replacing “landlord” with “owner or management” and “mobile home” with “manufactured home” – oblivious to the reality that “manufactured home” often applies to stick-built homes that are factory-produced, sans wheels, and then assembled at a permanent site.
It’s hard to know if the purpose of this bill is actually to protect people who live in mobile home parks or to erase them from the landscape.
We will find out more today when the bill is heard in Senate Judiciary Committee at 1:30 p.m. in Room 354. If you can’t attend in person but would like to listen online, click HERE to access the live audio.