January 16, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Treatment with Approved Physician Did Not Terminate Previous Physician’s Authorized Treatment Provider Status

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Berthold v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, November 16, 2017.

Workers’ Compensation—Change of Authorized Treating Physician—Maximum Medical Improvement—Final Admission of Liability.

Claimant sustained work injuries and received medical care from Sharma, an authorized treating physician (ATP). Several months later she requested and received permission, under C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI)(A), to begin treatment with another physician, Miller. Notwithstanding the agreed-upon change of doctor, claimant’s employer periodically sent her to the see Sharma. After Miller assumed her care, Sharma reported that claimant reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Miller disagreed. Despite this disagreement, claimant’s employer filed a final admission of liability (FAL) based on Sharma’s conclusion. Claimant challenged the FAL, and an administrative law judge found that Sharma’s status as claimant’s ATP terminated when Miller began treating her, pursuant to C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(IV)(C), the automatic termination provision. A panel of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) disagreed, concluding that C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(IV)(C) applied only if the worker sought a change of physician under C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(III). The Panel further held that the termination provision in C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI)(B), which automatically terminates the relationship between an ATP and an injured worker upon treatment with a new ATP, did not apply either because it was not in effect when claimant changed physicians.

On appeal, claimant contended that her employer erred in relying on Sharma’s MMI finding when issuing the FAL because Sharma was no longer an ATP when he made the MMI finding. She argued that (1) her treating relationship with Sharma was automatically terminated by C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(IV) because it applies to all changes of physicians, and (2) even if this section does not apply, her relationship with Sharma was terminated by recently amended C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI). The Colorado Court of Appeals held that the C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI)(B) termination provision only applies to requests to change a treating physician made after the effective date of the provision. Second, C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(IV) is limited to changes made under C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(III) “within ninety days after the date of the injury.” Because claimant’s request in this case to change her physician predated C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(VI)(B), and because it was not granted under C.R.S. § 8-43-404(5)(a)(III), her treatment with Miller did not automatically terminate Sharma’s status as an ATP.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Award of Zero Noneconomic Damages Appropriate Where Injuries were De Minimis

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Miller v. Hancock on Thursday, November 16, 2017.

Non-economic Damages—Jury Award—De Minimis—Pre-Offer Costs—Pretrial Offer of Settlement.

Plaintiff Miller was involved in an automobile accident with defendants, Aragon and Hancock. Miller sued Aragon and Hancock to recover economic and noneconomic damages that he suffered as a result of that accident. Before trial, both Aragon and Hancock made statutory offers of settlement to Miller pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-17-202. The jury awarded Miller only economic damages. Miller filed a motion for new trial on damages, which the trial court denied. Each of the parties also moved to recover their costs, Miller as the prevailing party, and Aragon and Hancock pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-17-202, arguing that the final judgment Miller recovered did not exceed their respective pretrial settlement offers. The court did not award Miller costs against Hancock, but awarded Hancock the entire amount of her claimed costs that accrued after her first offer. The court awarded costs in favor of Miller and against Aragon and denied Aragon’s request for costs.

On appeal, Miller contended that the trial court erred by denying his motion for new trial on damages. He argued that a jury’s failure to award noneconomic damages is impermissible as a matter of law when the jury returns a verdict awarding economic damages. Miller contended that it was undisputed that his injuries were more than de minimis; however, his characterizations of the relevant facts and evidence lack record support. The jury could have reasonably concluded that Miller’s injuries from the accident were de minimis. Thus, the record here was sufficient to support the jury’s award of zero noneconomic damages.

Miller also argued that the trial court should have included his pre-offer costs when determining whether Hancock’s pretrial offers of settlement exceeded the amount Miller recovered from Hancock at trial. Whether a statutory offer includes pre-offer costs depends on the language of the offer. Hancock’s offers unambiguously included costs, so Miller was entitled to have his pre-offer costs included in his final judgment for the purpose of determining whether either of Hancock’s offers entitled her to recover her post-offer costs pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-17-202. Thus, the trial court erred by interpreting Hancock’s offers to exclude costs.

Miller next argued that the trial court erroneously reduced the costs he was entitled to recover, yet awarded Hancock the entire amount of her claimed costs without subjecting her costs to similar scrutiny. Here, the trial court abused its discretion when it reduced the amount of Miller’s recoverable costs without making adequate findings as to whether those costs were reasonable and necessary.

The order denying Miller’s motion for a new trial on damages was affirmed. The awards of costs to Hancock and Miller were reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings to determine Miller’s costs and whether, after determining Miller’s costs, Hancock made a settlement offer pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-17-202 that exceeds the amount of Miller’s final judgment, inclusive of pre-offer costs and interest.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Risk-Benefit Test is Proper Test in Products Liability Action

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Walker v. Ford Motor Co. on Monday, November 13, 2017.

In this case, the supreme court considered whether a trial court erred when it gave a jury instruction that allowed the jury to apply either the consumer expectation test or the risk-benefit test to determine whether a driver’s car seat was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect. The court concluded that the risk-benefit test is the appropriate test to assess whether a product was unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect when, as here, the dangerousness of the design is “defined primarily by technical, scientific information.” Ortho Pharm. Corp. v. Heath, 722 P.2d 410, 414 (Colo. 1986), overruled on other grounds by Armentrout v. FMC Corp., 842 P.2d 175, 183 (Colo. 1992). The court further concluded that the jury’s separate finding of negligence did not render the instructional error harmless in this case.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Restitution Statute Does Not Require Prosecution’s Requested Specificity for Setoff

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Stanley on Thursday, September 7, 2017.

Traffic Accident—Unapportioned Settlement—Crime Victim Compensation Program—Restitution—Setoff—Burden of Proof.

Stanley’s automobile insurer, Geico Indemnity Co. (Geico), entered into a “Release in Full of All Claims” (release) with the victim and her husband. Under the settlement, Geico paid the victim $25,000 for all claims related to and stemming from the accident in exchange for a full and final release of all claims against Stanley and Geico. Thereafter, Stanley pleaded guilty to felony vehicular assault, driving under the influence, and careless driving. The prosecution filed a motion to impose restitution and attached a report from the Crime Victim Compensation Program (CVCP). It showed that the CVCP had paid the victim $30,000, the maximum amount allowable by statute, for pecuniary losses proximately caused by Stanley’s criminal conduct. The Court awarded Stanley a $25,000 setoff against restitution for the amount paid by Geico, and ordered him to pay the $5,000 net amount.

On appeal, the prosecution argued that Stanley should not receive a setoff for the settlement funds because the release was an unapportioned settlement that did not “earmark” the proceeds for the same expenses compensated by the CVCP, leaving open the possibility that the victim used the proceeds for losses not compensated by the CVCP. When a victim receives compensation from a civil settlement against a defendant, the defendant may request a setoff against restitution “to the extent of any money actually paid to the victim for the same damages.” For purposes of a setoff, however, the court cannot allocate proceeds from an unapportioned civil settlement agreement without “specific evidence that the settlement included particular categories of loss,” because in civil cases victims may recover both pecuniary losses covered by the restitution statute and other damages specifically excluded under the restitution statute. Because the information needed to determine whether a victim has been fully compensated or has received a double recovery is known only by the victim, once a defendant has shown that a civil settlement includes the same categories of losses or expenses as compensated by the CVCP and awarded as restitution, the defendant has met his burden of going forward, and the prosecution may then rebut the inference that a double recovery has occurred. Here, Stanley met his burden of proving a setoff, but the victim may have used some or all of the settlement proceeds for losses not compensated by the CVCP.

The order was affirmed, and the case was remanded to permit the prosecution to show that the victim did not receive a double recovery from the settlement proceeds and the CVCP payment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Discovering Discovery: Building Your Case, Deposition Tips, Expert Witnesses, and More

“Reduced to its essence, discovery is the process of identifying, collecting, producing and/or receiving relevant, nonprivileged materials in connection with pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation. With the advent of notice pleading, civil discovery provides access to the relevant information that litigants and their counsel require to make informed decisions about the merits of their case and the potential for settlement.” -Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer

Discovery is a crucial component of every litigation case. In the last 10 years, civil litigation has changed significantly. The proliferation of electronic data and new rules on both the state and federal level create increasingly difficult challenges for preserving, managing, and producing electronically stored information. Conducting discovery outside Colorado has become mainstream as civil litigation has become more national—even global.

This Friday, CBA-CLE will debut the newest title in our litigation library, Discovery in Colorado, at a full-day program, “Discovering Discovery.” Discovery in Colorado is a practical guide to discovery that brings to life the application of the Colorado and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing the discovery process. Discovery in Colorado was written by a variety of different practitioners, overseen by Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang and Natalie Hanlon Leh, Esq. Attorneys and judges with backgrounds in private, in-house, and government practice authored individual chapters.

Learn different approaches to discovery and hear distinct perspectives from some of the most experienced trial attorneys and judges in Colorado. Each class attendee receives Discovery in Colorado, 1st Edition, as course materials. Explore the ever-changing state of discovery through this valuable course and companion book. Register using the links below, or call (303) 860-0608.

 

CLELogo

CLE Program: Discovering Discovery

This CLE presentation will occur on Friday, July 28, 2017, at the CLE Large Classroom (1900 Grant St., 3rd Floor) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Register for the live program here and the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here — Video OnDemandMP3 Audio

Colorado Court of Appeals: Attorney Must Assume Financial and Ethical Responsibility in Order to Share Fees

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Scott R. Larson, P.C. v. Grinnan on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

Attorney Fee Dispute—Referral Fees—Division of Fees.

Grinnan is a general practitioner with limited experience in personal injury cases. Grinnan’s friend Kelley asked Grinnan to represent him in a personal injury case. Grinnan obtained Kelley’s approval to involve Scott Larson., P.C. in the case, and Larson entered into a contingency fee agreement with the Kelley family. As relevant here, the agreement identified Grinnan as “associated counsel,” stated that Grinnan would be paid a percentage of Larson’s fee “not to exceed 100%,” and provided that Larson was responsible for paying case expenses. Grinnan was not a signatory to the agreement.

Larson brought claims against various entities and settled with one early in the case. From Larson’s $333,333 fee on this settlement, he sent Grinnan a check for $50,000. After three years of litigation, the case settled. Based on the settlements, the contingent fee agreement entitled Larson to a fee of $3,216,666.67. Larson had incurred about $300,000 in costs.

Larson and Grinnan couldn’t agree on how to divide the contingent fee. Grinnan entered his appearance, and the court granted his request that all attorney fees paid to Larson be placed in a restricted interest bearing account. Following a hearing, the trial court entered a detailed written order allocating the attorney fees. The trial court declined to divide the fees in proportion to services and found that Grinnan had assumed joint responsibility for the litigation. The court divided the fees by awarding Grinnan 20% of the $333,333.34 from the first settlement and 12.5% of the $2,883,333.33 fee from the other two settlements. The court also awarded Grinnan prejudgment interest at the rate of 8% from the date the settlement checks were issued until final judgment entered on the fees allocated to him. It also awarded Larson interest on the fees placed in the restricted account less the fees awarded to Grinnan (as a wrongful withholding). The court declined to award costs, finding that neither lawyer was the prevailing party.

On appeal, Larson asserted that Grinnan never assumed joint responsibility because he did not assume responsibility for the representation as a whole. The court of appeals found that Grinnan had assumed one of the two components of joint responsibility—financial responsibility for the case—because of Grinnan’s exposure to liability for any malpractice of Larson. A remand was necessary to determine whether he also assumed ethical responsibility, the second component, on which the court had made no findings.

As guidance to the trial court on remand, the court analyzed the ethical responsibility issue. It concluded that a referring lawyer must: actively monitor the progress of the case; make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm of the lawyer to whom the case was referred has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct; and remain available to the client to discuss the case and provide independent judgment as to any concerns the client may have that the lawyer to whom the case was referred is acting in conformity with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

On remand, if the court finds that Grinnan assumed ethical responsibility, the court’s fee award will stand, subject to appeal by Larson. If the court finds that Grinnan did not assume ethical responsibility, he is only entitled to fees in proportion to the services he performed, with the referral fees to be reallocated to Larson, subject to appeal by Grinnan.

The court concluded that Grinnan failed to preserve issues he raised on cross-appeal.

Grinnan also contended that the trial court erred in finding a wrongful withholding.  The court found no error in the trial court’s award of prejudgment interest to Larson based on Grinnan’s wrongful withholding.

The court also noted that on remand the trial court could reconsider its decision not to award costs based on its findings on ethical responsibility.

The attorney fee award was vacated, the cross-appealed rulings were affirmed, and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Dog Owner Owes No Duty of Care to Child who was Scared by Dogs and Ran Into Street

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in N.M. v. Trujillo on Monday, June 26, 2017.

Negligence—Duty of Care—Nonfeasance—Special Relationships—C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5).

This case required the supreme court to determine whether respondent, a dog owner, owed a duty of care to petitioner, a child who became frightened when respondent’s dogs rushed at respondent’s front yard fence and who, although not touched by the fenced-in dogs, ran into the street and was struck and injured by a passing van. Because petitioner’s negligence claim against respondent was predicated on alleged nonfeasance, or failure to act, and because the case is distinguishable from cases in which a dangerous or vicious animal attacks and directly injures someone, petitioner was required to plead a special relationship between himself and respondent to establish the duty of care necessary to support his negligence claim. Petitioner did not, however, plead such a special relationship. Accordingly, the court concluded that, as a matter of law, respondent owed no duty of care to petitioner and thus the district court properly dismissed petitioner’s negligence claim against respondent. The court of appeals’ judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Agent May Exercise Apparent or Implied Authority to Reject UM/UIM Insurance Coverage

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Johnson on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance—Agency—Implied Authority.

This case presented two questions for the supreme court’s consideration. First, does the uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) statute, C.R.S. § 10-4-609, require each named insured to reject UM/UIM coverage, or is one named insured’s rejection binding on all? And second, did the legislature, by enacting C.R.S. § 10-4-609, abrogate the common law agency principles of implied authority and apparent authority? The court started with the second question and concluded that nothing in the language of C.R.S. § 10-4-609 precludes an agent from exercising either apparent or implied authority to reject UM/UIM coverage on behalf of a principal. Turning to the facts of this case, the court concluded that the evidence presented at trial established that respondent Johnson delegated to his friend the task of purchasing insurance for their jointly owned car and that, in undertaking this task, the friend had implied authority to reject, and did in fact reject, UM/UIM coverage on Johnson’s behalf. Based on this conclusion, the court found it unnecessary to address the first question presented. The court thus reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Non-negligently Constructed and Maintained Playground Equipment Cannot be “Dangerous Condition” for CGIA Waiver Purposes

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in St. Vrain Valley School District RE-1J v. Loveland on Monday, May 22, 2017.

Governmental Immunity—Waiver of Governmental Immunity—Dangerous Condition.

In this case, the supreme court considered the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act’s “recreation-area waiver,” which deprives a public entity of immunity in an action for injuries resulting from a dangerous condition of a public facility located in a recreation area. Specifically, the court examined the meaning of “dangerous condition” under the recreation-area waiver. The court held that a non-negligently constructed and maintained piece of playground equipment cannot be a “dangerous condition” under the waiver. Given this holding, the facts respondents alleged cannot show that a “dangerous condition” existed in this case. The court therefore concluded that the recreation-area waiver did not apply and petitioner retained its immunity from suit. The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded to that court to reinstate the trial court’s order.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Vacation and Sick Leave are Pecuniary Losses Compensable to Victim Under Restitution Act

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Perez on Thursday, April 20, 2017.

RestitutionVacationSick LeaveProximate CausePecuniary Loss.

Perez pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury. After the court sentenced Perez, the prosecution requested restitution based on the victim missing 55 days of work after the accident, including use of vacation and sick leave. Perez argued that the victim’s expenditure of leave was not compensable and that he was not the proximate cause of the victim’s losses because he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury but not to any crime establishing that he was the proximate cause of the victim’s injury. The district court held that Perez was the proximate cause of the victim’s losses and ordered restitution.

On appeal, Perez claimed that the district court erred in holding that his actions were the proximate cause of the victim’s injuries because it did not make an express finding on the issue. The court’s rejection of Perez’s proximate cause contention necessarily implied that it found Perez to be the proximate cause of the victim’s injuries, and the record supports that finding. The conduct underlying the charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury was Perez hitting the victim with his car. The crime for which Perez pleaded guilty arose from acts that injured the victim. Therefore, there was no error in this finding.

Perez next contended that vacation and sick leave are not compensable under the Restitution Act (the Act) because the loss of leave is not a pecuniary loss. The court of appeals concluded that expenditure of vacation and sick leave is a loss of employee benefits comparable to lost wages that is compensable under the Act.

Lastly, Perez contended that the court erred in calculating his restitution to the victim by five work days. The award of an additional five days of missed work was not supported by the record and results in a windfall to the victim, and must be reduced.

The order was affirmed in part and the case was remanded for reduction of the restitution award.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Bills Enacting Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act, Exemption from Mandatory Advisement Requirements, and More Signed

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, Governor Hickenlooper signed ten bills into law. To date, he has signed 147 bills into law this 2017 legislative session. Some of the bills signed Thursday include a bill adopting the Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act, a bill granting immunity to a person who renders emergency assistance to a person or animal in a locked vehicle, a bill exempting certain traffic violations from the mandatory advisement requirements for municipal judges, and more. The bills signed Thursday are summarized here.

  • HB 17-1021“Concerning an Employer’s Violation of Wage Laws,” by Rep. Jessie Danielson and Sen. John Cooke. The bill clarifies that information obtained by the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics that relates to a finding of a violation of wage laws is not confidential and shall be released to the public or for use in a court proceeding, unless the Director of the Division makes a determination that the information includes specific information that is a trade secret.
  • HB 17-1081“Concerning Authority to Offer In-state Tuition Classification at State-supported Institutions of Higher Education for Athletes Training in Colorado in Programs Approved by the United States Olympic Committee,” by Rep. Dan Nordberg and Sen. Stephen Fenberg. The bill allows a state-supported institution of higher education to charge in-state tuition to an athlete residing anywhere in Colorado and training in an elite level program in Colorado approved by the United States Olympic committee and the governing body of an Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American, or Parapan American sport.
  • HB 17-1083“Concerning an Exemption for Certain Traffic Violations of the Requirement that a Municipal Judge Inform a Defendant of Certain Rights,” by Rep. Larry Liston and Sen. Bob Gardner. The bill excludes cases involving traffic infractions or violations for which the penalty is only a fine and for which jail is not a possibility from the requirement that municipal judges inform defendants of certain rights.
  • HB 17-1125“Concerning Eliminating the Duty of the Division of Correctional Industries to Provide Certain Services for the State’s Correctional Facilities,” by Reps. Dan Nordberg & Faith Winter and Sens. Jim Smallwood & Cheri Jahn. The bill removes a requirement that the Division of Correctional Industries in the Department of Corrections establish programs for vehicle maintenance, physical plant and facility maintenance, and food and laundry services for each of the state’s correctional facilities.
  • HB 17-1144“Concerning Amendments to the Automatic Cash Fund Funding Mechanism for Payment of Future Costs Attributable to Certain of the State’s Capital Assets,” by Rep. Daneya Esgar and Sen. Randy Baumgardner. The bill requires the General Assembly to include an annual depreciation-lease equivalent payment line item payable from the cash fund that is the funding source for the capital construction appropriation in the operating section of the annual general appropriation act for each state agency.
  • HB 17-1145“Concerning Authorization for Amateur Winemakers to Enter Wines in Organized Events,” by Rep. Leslie Herod and Sen. Bob Gardner. The bill authorizes amateur winemakers to enter their wine in organized events, such as contests, tastings, or judgings at licensed premises.
  • HB 17-1179“Concerning Immunity for a Person who Renders Emergency Assistance from a Locked Vehicle,” by Reps. Lori Saine & Joann Ginal and Sens. Lois Court & Vicki Marble. The bill provides immunity from civil and criminal liability for a person who forcibly enters a locked vehicle for the purpose of rendering assistance to an at-risk person or animal.
  • HB 17-1194“Concerning Technical Changes Relating to the Operation of Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools,” by Rep. Mike Foote and Sen. John Cooke. The bill amends the definition of a pathways in technology early college (p-tech) high school to include a p-tech program that operates within a host school.
  • HB 17-1196“Concerning Changes to the Training Requirements for Applicants for Licensure under the ‘Barber and Cosmetologist Act’,” by Rep. Jeni Arndt and Sen. Kevin Priola. The bill requires the Director of the Division of Professions and Occupations in the Department of Regulatory Agencies to promulgate rules for applicants for cosmetologist or barber licensure to furnish proof of training, not to exceed 50 credits or 1,500 contact hours.
  • SB 17-154“Concerning  the ‘Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act’, by Sen. Bob Gardner and Rep. Cole Wist. The bill adopts in Colorado the Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act,expands the uniform law to include domestic unsworn declarations as contemplated, and clarifies that the act applies only to the use of unsworn declarations in state courts.

For a list of all Governor Hickenlooper’s 2017 legislative actions, click here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Contract Exception to the Collateral Source Statute is Applicable in Post-Verdict Proceedings to Reduce Damages

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Pressey ex rel. Pressey v. Children’s Hospital Colorado on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Medical Malpractice—Health Care Availability Act—Damages Cap—Medicaid—Collateral Source Statute—Contract Exception—Pre-majority Economic Damages—Minor—Statute of Limitations.

Naomi Pressey (Naomi), by and through her conservator Jennifer Pressey, sued Children’s Hospital Colorado (Hospital) for negligence. The case was tried to a jury, which found the Hospital negligent and awarded Naomi $17,839,784.60. The damages award included past medical expenses, past noneconomic losses, future medical expenses, future lost earnings, and future noneconomic losses. After trial, the court reduced the damages to $1 million based on the legislative directive in C.R.S. § 13-64-302(1)(b) of the Health Care Availability Act (HCAA). The court approved Naomi’s motion to exceed the damages cap for good cause and entered judgment in her favor for $14,341,538.60.

On appeal, the Hospital argued that the court erred in excluding evidence of Medicaid benefits and private insurance available to Naomi in the post-verdict proceeding to exceed the damages cap. Sound public policy supports both the cap and the contract exception to the collateral source statute. The Colorado Court of Appeals concluded that the contract exception to the collateral source statute is applicable in post-verdict proceedings to reduce damages in medical malpractice actions under the HCAA. Medicaid benefits are paid on behalf of the injured party and are thus collateral sources subject to the contract exception. Accordingly, the trial court correctly did not consider Medicaid payments and private insurance in determining whether to exceed the HCAA damages cap.

The Hospital also argued that the trial court erred in denying its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because Naomi failed to establish that she, rather than her parents, was entitled to her pre-majority economic damages. Parents own the legal right to seek reimbursement for a minor’s pre-majority economic damages. Here, Naomi’s parents did not relinquish this right and failed to institute a claim within the applicable statute of limitations.

The Hospital further argued that irrespective of the evidence of Medicaid and private insurance benefits, Naomi did not establish good cause to exceed the damages cap. The trial court considered a multitude of factors in concluding there was good cause. Its decision was not manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair, and was not a misapplication of the law.

Lastly, the Hospital argued that Naomi received a duplicate award for future medical care and lost future earnings. The court concluded there is record support for the trial court’s findings that the damage award does not overlap with the future lost earnings award.

That portion of the judgment awarding pre-majority economic damages to Naomi was reversed. The judgment was affirmed in all other respects. The case was remanded for recalculation of the total amounts owed by the Hospital.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.