The Colorado Chamber of Commerce recently launched an initiative called the Legal Reform Alliance in an effort to “improve Colorado’s legal climate, advance reforms, and restore the competitive edge that has allowed Colorado to thrive for decades,” Kendra Beckwith, a partner at Lewis Roca and a co-chair of the alliance, told Law Week via email.
Beckwith noted “the Alliance provides a forum in which to bring for discussion current legal challenges or issues facing Colorado business.” A press release from the chamber, citing data from its national counterpart’s Institute for Legal Reform, notes Colorado’s legal climate has dropped in the rankings to 21st, down from 16th in 2016 and ninth in 2008.
The release provided by the chamber also outlines a number of focuses that affect businesses, including class action suits, damage caps, punitive damages, eviction and tenant issues, environmental and employment rules, personal injury and more.
Beckwith told Law Week that a current focus of the alliance is “maintaining reasonable caps on noneconomic damages in Colorado,” because “it is well-documented that those caps help to make Colorado an affordable and competitive place to live and work.”
While Beckwith said that was a current focus, she also said “as a general matter, any legal issue or proposed legislation that makes it harder to do business in Colorado is of interest to the chamber.”
Larry Hudson, a partner at the Fulcrum Group and a co-chair of the alliance, told Law Week via email the alliance “will be fully engaged on legislative proposals that are detrimental to an already climbing, litigious business climate that exists in Colorado, namely any proposals that create private rights of action, broad and expanded powers to government agencies creating litigious enforcement actions with little due process and one-sided remedies that encourage lawsuit abuse and nuclear verdicts” in the upcoming 2024 Colorado Legislative Session.
The alliance’s focus is not purely on the legislature. Beckwith said “the Alliance keeps a diligent eye on cases the Colorado Court of Appeals releases and on which the Colorado Supreme Court grants review.”
Two examples of the cases the alliance track are Kathleen Keaten and Delaney Keaten v. Terra Management Group and Littleton Main Street and Alexander Rudnicki v. Peter Bianco, which led to decisions in the appeals court in March and November 2023, respectively.
The Keaten case addresses document retention situations. The appeals court opinion on the case notes Terra Management Group and Littleton Main Street contended the “district court misapplied the Colorado Premises Liability Act, erred by imposing an adverse inference sanction for defendant’s spoliation of evidence, and improperly awarded exemplary and physical damages against them.”
Beckwith told Law Week the issues addressed in that case present “real and important costs to any Colorado business, particularly ones that may find themselves in litigation.” Rudnicki v. Bianci addressed damage caps created by Colorado’s Health Care Availability Act, and Beckwith said the case was important for similar reasons.
The Colorado Chamber of Commerce highlights the alliance as a “critical initiative” of its Vision 2033, a “blueprint to improve the state’s business climate.”