Court rules damages limited by number of claims in suit
While the case of Lynn Gordon Bailey is still being tried, the matter of how much his family can receive from the suit has been settled.
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Monday Jan. 21 that Leslie Lanahan, Gordie Bailey’s mother, can receive a maximum of $250,000 in accordance with the Colorado Wrongful Death Act.
The opinion of the court, delivered by Justice Allison Eid, said that Lanahan was not entitled to additional compensation because the maximum damages amount allowable per claim is $250,000.
Lanahan filed a Rule 21 petition arguing that she should be entitled to $250,000 per defendant for a potential total of $2,250,000, but the court ruled that the language of the WDA caps the total at $250,000 because it is a single claim being filed.
Lanahan sought compensation for the multiple defendants in the case including the Chi Psi fraternity and its members Patrick Wall, Nicholas Abrahamsen, Frank Darden, Brett Herter, Christopher Jones, Michael Ryan, and Alan Williams.
Bruce Jones, partner at the Holland and Hart firm, which is Denver based, and Lanahan’s attorney in the case, said plaintiffs can recover damages from multiple defendants in cases where injury results, but the language of the WDA sets strict limits on how much a plaintiff can be awarded.
“In cases involving personal injury that do not result in death, non-economic damages can be recovered on a per defendant basis,” Jones said. “I think it’s a rather sad comment that if several people injure somebody they’re all liable, but if they take it to the extreme and cause death they have to split $250,000 among them.”
David Mayhan, an attorney at the Denver firm of Wells, Anderson and Race and attorney for former Chi Psi President Patrick Wall in the case, declined to comment saying that he did not wish to speculate on a pending case.
“The plain language of section 13-21-203(1)(a) C.R.S. (2006), bars a plaintiff from recovering more than $250,000 in non-economic damages in any wrongful-death action regardless of the number of defendants,” according to the brief filed by Wall’s attorneys in response to Lanahan’s petition.
The case was scheduled to be in trial court this March but was delayed following Lanahan’s petition. Jones said that Lanahan is not planning on any further appeals and that the focus is now on winning the case in trial court once the date is set.
“The case is back in trial court now, we’re ready to go,” Jones said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Rob Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.