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April 24, 2012 11:39 PM UTC

GOP Suddenly Opposes Liability Caps!

  • by: Colorado Pols

A double-take inspiring press release moments ago from Colorado House Republicans:

The state of Colorado will step up and take responsibility for its mistakes.

That’s the message that state Reps. Bob Gardner and Cheri Gerou want the people of Colorado to know after a controlled-burn by the Colorado Forest Service ignited parts of Jefferson County, costing three Coloradans their lives and destroying nearly two-dozen homes.

“The Lower North Fork Fire was a terrible accident that no one wanted.  However, we need to recognize that the fire, which was started by the state, has devastated the lives of so many families in Jefferson County,” Gerou, who represents the area, said.  “These families and individuals deserve to be heard and be compensated for their losses.”

Gerou, R-Evergreen, and Gardner are sponsoring a bill that will be introduced later this week, establishing the Lower North Fork Fire Commission.  The commission will establish a hearing process in order investigate the events surrounding the fire, and to pay out claims to those who lost their homes and loved ones in the Lower North Fork Fire.

Under the Colorado Government Immunity Act, the state’s combined claim is capped at $600,000. That is $600,000 that must be divided amongst hundreds of victims…

Got that, folks? The state of Colorado should “step up and take responsibility for its mistakes” by suspending the statutory cap on liability for damages caused by the North Fork Fire. A controlled burn that got out of control and tragically caused the death of three people, and resulted in the destruction of dozens of homes near Conifer a few weeks ago.

Now, given that limiting liability in lawsuity-type situations is usually at the very top of the Republican legislative agenda, how would you explain this move, which naturally everyone with an ounce of human compassion should rally around and support without reservation?

Yes, we get that there’s a difference between government immunity and limiting liability for, say, a polluting corporation. But doesn’t the principle for doing so in both cases hold?

Despite the fact that you’ll likely agree with the idea, doesn’t it seem kind of weird for the GOP to be pushing it? There’s certainly a good reason why Republicans would jettison their principles, principles that so often motivate them to “keep trial lawyers in check” and prevent “abuse of the system”–we could keep going but you’ve heard it before. We know good reasons for this change of heart exist, we just don’t usually hear that from Republican elected officials in Colorado.

And without a grandstandable incident and an upcoming election, we might never hear it again.


11 thoughts on “GOP Suddenly Opposes Liability Caps!

  1. “The 23 homes burned in the Lower North Fork Fire alone were valued at more than $11 million.

    ‘What we don’t have is moral impunity,’ state Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, said.”

    Not saying they don’t deserve some compensation, but just noting whom the Republicans have decided to go way out on a philosophical limb for. Between that $11M figure and the video in this AP news report:

    which shows homes reasonably described as mansions and what I’m pretty sure is a resident packing up a pair of Mercedes…just sayin’

    1. If they did, the property damage would be covered by the insurance and this bill is simply an attempt to reimburse the insurance companies for their own coverage determinations. If the homeowners didn’t have insurance it is because they choose to incur the risk of loss and should live with their own decisions, or they were not able to get fire coverage because the insurers recognized the extreme fire risk and would not provide coverage at any price.  If that is the case, the homeowners should also knew what they were getting themselves into and voluntarily took on the risk of loss from fire.  

  2. Not that I wouldn’t want to help these folks.

    It was a terrible mistake which should have been avoided had they consulted the weather models.  The state needs to find a way to help those who lost everything due to this careless decision.

  3. and I don’t want to minimze their losses, but didn’t these homeowners have insurance?  

    And…if the state ponies up any cash, to the homeowners, wouldn’t the insurance companies be first in line for the cash?

    Isn’t this really just an insurance bailout?  

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