Measure Changing Tort Damage Limits Awaits Governor’s Signature

A bill introduced and passed in the waning days of the 2024 Colorado legislative session would raise damage caps on several different types of tort measures if Gov. Jared Polis signs it in the coming days. 

House Bill 24-1472 makes five separate changes to current tort law. The first raises the cap for civil actions filed on or after Jan. 1, 2025, for noneconomic loss or injury from $250,000 to $1.5 million. Following Jan. 1, 2028, and on a biennial basis after, the damages cap will be adjusted based on inflation. 

In wrongful death cases, a sibling of the deceased will be able to bring a wrongful death action in certain circumstances if the bill becomes law. In addition to that change, the bill imposes a wrongful death damages cap of $2.125 million. That cap, starting Jan. 1, 2028, and on a biennial basis after, will be adjusted based on inflation. 

The final area the bill addresses is medical malpractice. Starting Jan. 1, 2025, the medical malpractice wrongful death damages limitation will increase to $1.575 million over the course of five years, and the limitation will follow the same biennial inflation adjustment as the other measures. For noneconomic damages in medical malpractice actions, it raises the limitation from $300,000 to $875,000 over the course of five years, starting Jan. 1, 2025, with the same inflation adjustment after five years. 

The bill was a bipartisan measure across both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly. Rep. Kyle Brown, Minority Leader Rose Pugliese, Sen. Kyle Mullica and Assistant Minority Leader Bob Gardner sponsored the measure. 

The bill came about late in the session after the failure of a similar bill, Senate Bill 24-130, that would’ve raised the limitation on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice actions. 

“It was pointed out to me that it was probably fitting that this would be my last bill in the Colorado General Assembly because I have dealt with a noneconomic damages bill in some form, I believe, in every one of my 16 sessions,” said Gardner at the bill’s initial hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.  

Gardner added the bill was a good agreement and compromise on the tort limits for all parties involved. 

“I would say that this bill is somewhat more generous to plaintiffs … it is the grand compromise that makes everybody equally unhappy,” said Gardner. 

Testifying in support of the bill were representatives from the American Property and Casualty Insurance Association, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association and Coloradans Protecting Patient Access. 

“I hope this unique group of stakeholders that is coming together to this table to ask for support on this bill is a reflection of the hard work and thoughtful negotiations that have come together to strike this balance to ensure that we are compensating for the losses of victims, as well as providing the certainty and predictability that is needed for the insurance industry and the business community,” said Kelly Campbell, representing APCIA. 

“It’s safe to say that having the medical community come together, CTLA, the business community, property casualty community, and work really hard, and come to an agreement, is a rare thing,” said Kari Jones Dulin, CTLA’s current president. 

“Colorado Trial Lawyers feels that this legislation provides a huge step in access to justice for our clients, and righting the wrongs that happen to them every single day here in Colorado,” added Jones Dulin. 

No organizations or individuals testified in opposition or from an amend position, and the bill passed its initial committee hearing with a unanimous vote. 

The bill made rapid progress through the legislature. It was introduced on May 5 in the House and sent to the governor’s desk just two days later on May 7.

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