Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law Senate Bill 19-109 which will raise the caps on recoverable noneconomic damages to adjust for inflation through 2022. Governor Polis signed the bill yesterday. This is the first time the caps have been raised since 2008.
According to the new law, damages caps will be raised for inflation starting on January 1, 2020, and will be adjusted for inflation every January 1st for the following two years. The change will apply to claims that accrue on or after January 1, 2020.
Colorado law defines noneconomic loss or injury as nonpecuniary harm for which damages are recoverable by the person suffering the direct or primary loss or injury, including pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, and impairment of the quality of life.
To illustrate how this will impact jury awards in 2020, consider the following:
The current cap for noneconomic damages in Colorado is $468,010. In 2020, the projected new cap will be $584,210.
The current cap for dram shop/social host damages in Colorado is $280,810. In 2020, the projected new cap will be $350,550.
The current cap for a wrongful death claim is $468,010. In 2020, the projected new cap will be $584,210.
The current cap for solatium is $87,210. In 2020, the projected new cap will be $108,840.
State analysts who have studied the bill expect it to have minimal impact on the workload of the state Judicial Department. There is expected to be some increase in revenue and workload for the Denver County Court due to increased civil filings.
To the extent that the law causes civil court filings to increase, one can expect a similar impact on other county governments in Colorado.
The effective date of the new law is August 2, 2019.