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Colorado Ballot Initiative To Remove Non-Economic Damages Cap

by | Feb 15, 2024 | Firm News

A recently submitted Colorado Ballot Proposal, Initiative 2023-24 #150: Damages Involving Catastrophic Injury or Wrongful Death, requests an amendment to C.R.S. § 13-21-102.7 to remove the noneconomic damages cap for any claim involving catastrophic injury, including wrongful death.  In the ballot proposal, the term “catastrophic injury” is defined as “death, dismemberment, permanent injury to body or mind, or a severe injury that seriously limits activities of normal daily life”. The definition of catastrophic injury set forth in the proposed legislation could be broadly interpreted to include many injuries in varying degrees of severity. For example, any permanent injury to body or mind, no matter how minor, could potentially expose a defendant to unlimited non-economic damages. This ballot proposal has the potential to significantly impact jury verdicts in personal injury cases across the board in Colorado.

Currently, the non-economic damages cap limits the recovery of damages for physical and mental pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, and impairment of the quality of life in certain tort actions.  If a jury awards an amount greater than the non-economic damages cap, then the court will modify the judgment to reduce that amount in accordance with the cap on non-economic damages.  This cap helps prevent nuclear verdicts or runaway juries in the non-economic damages category which covers pain and suffering only.  There is no cap on the recovery of economic damages or damages for physical impairment or disfigurement. In addition, the current non-economic damages cap allows for the recovery of a greater capped amount if the court finds justification by clear and convincing evidence that the case warrants a larger amount.  As of January 1, 2024, the non-economic damages cap in Colorado is $642,180 and if the court finds clear and convincing evidence warranting an increase the court can award up to $1,284,370 in non-economic damages.

Initiative 2023-24 #150 has passed through the review and comment committee hearing. The measure will be presented at a public meeting with designated representatives of the measure that will be scheduled in the near future.  We will provide an update once a decision has been made.