For fiscal year 2014-15 in Colorado the approximate caseload of the Supreme Court was 1,800, the Appeals Court had 2,400 and 215,000 cases were presented in the District Courts. Through the system's history, their scope of function has continuously increased in complexity. In 1989, the courts were establishing additional actions relating to damages in cases of wrongful death. During this process, they wisely introduced a way to reduce complexity and litigation with a solatium statute for awards of non-economic damages.
The solatium statute allowed an alternative way of handling damages. Those bringing a wrongful death claim may choose to recover a flat $50,000 plus funeral, burial etc. costs. The amount is adjusted for inflation and in 2014 the approximate total was $68,250. This solatium settlement provides the extent of damages from noneconomic losses. It is exempt from adjustment (reduction) by the comparative fault statute, and/or the pro-rata liability statute.
Comparative Negligence & Pro-Rata Liability Statutes
Comparative negligence assigns each party involved a percentage of fault, or amount contributed to the injury. Any amount attributed to the plaintiff is deducted from the recoverable amount in damages. Pro-rata liability assigns or apportions percentages of liability to all parties and potential non-parties. If two defendants caused the plaintiff's injury, the jury decides how much fault is credited to each. A plaintiff may recover if the combined fault of all defendants or other named nonparties is greater than theirs.
CO Supreme Court
In B.G's v. Marla Gross, Ms. Gross brought wrongful death action against B.G's on behalf of her deceased husband. He and two friends were served alcohol at B.G's leading to intoxication and ultimately a fatality. Upon leaving, they were involved in a one-car accident which killed Mr. Gross. Ms. Gross chose to recover the solatium award for noneconomic losses in the case. The jury determined that B.G's employees knowingly served the driver while he was visibly intoxicated. The jury allocated or attributed percentages of fault among all the parties. The Appeals Court and later the Supreme Court, found that since Ms. Gross pursued only the solatium settlement, that the non-economic portion of the award(s) cannot be subjected to reductions related to the comparative negligence statute or pro-rata liability.
Purpose & Intent of Solatium Statute
- Provide motivation to forego and minimize litigation concerning noneconomic damages.
- Allow for relieve to wrongful death plaintiffs via a modest, set amount of damages when a defendant's liability is proven.
- Avoiding costs to the judicial system and all parties involved associated with lengthy litigation of such damages.
In occurrences of wrongful death, there is the initial dramatic trauma of an unexpected loss, which then transitions to financial anxiety resulting from the death of a familial provider. The Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal has been a recovery advocate for victims in Colorado for many years. You deserve the best legal assistance for your family's future and encourage you to contact the office for a free consultation.