In Walker v. Ford Motor Company, 2020COA164, the Colorado Court of Appeals examined how interest is calculated under Colorado law when a Plaintiff wins on retrial after the previous trial victory was overturned. A division of the Court of Appeals concluded that the plaintiff is entitled to prejudgment interest at the statutory rate of 9% on the new judgment from the date of the accident to the date the second judgment is entered.
The original case goes back to 2009. The plaintiff, Walker, was injured when his Ford Explorer was rear-ended. Walker settled his claim against the at-fault driver and then sued Ford Motor Company alleging the driver's seat in his vehicle was defective and contributed to his injuries.
The jury in the original case returned a verdict of $2,915,917.20 against Ford Motor Company. On appeal, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and ordered a new trial. Walker appealed the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court which affirmed on other grounds.
The case was retried in 2019. The Plaintiff won again. In May of 2019, the trial court entered a judgment of $2,929,881.20 against Ford. Walker asked the court to award prejudgment interest at the statutory rate of 9% for the decade that had passed since he was injured. Ford objected arguing that once it appealed the first trial, interest should accrue at the lower post-judgment interest rate until the case is concluded. The trial court sided with the Plaintiff and awarded an additional $3.6 million in interest.
Ford argued that C.R.S. § 13-21-101(1) states the following:
“if a judgment for money in an action brought to recover damages for personal injuries is appealed by the judgment debtor, postjudgment interest must be calculated on the sum … from the date of judgment through the date of satisfying the judgment and must include compounding of interest annually.”
The Court of Appeals, however, explained that the sentence relied upon by Ford is only a portion of the language contained in 13-21-101. The appellate panel noted that when 13-21-101 is construed in its entirety, “it becomes clear that the switch from prejudgment to postjudgment interest does not just depend on the judgment debtor's decision to file a notice of appeal, but also on the outcome of that appeal.”
For example, the statute provides that if a judgment is affirmed on appeal, interest will accrue after the appeal is filed at the postjudgment interest rate.
Postjudgment interest in Colorado is discussed in C.R.S. § 13-21-101(3) and (4) which explains the process for calculating the postjudgment interest rate using the federal discount rate which is then adjusted yearly by the Colorado Secretary of State.
In rejecting Ford's argument, the Court of Appeals reasoned that when Ford prevailed in reversing the first trial, there was no longer a judgment that existed. Therefore, “Ford's theory would require the district court to apply postjudgment interest to a judgment that did not yet exist.”