Construction compensation law at issue
A Colorado law limiting the amount property owners can recoup for shoddy construction practices may be essentially nullified by voters in the Nov. 2 election.Amendment 34 would create a constitutional ban against setting limits on how much money property owners could recover from companies that are found liable for construction defects. It is a direct response to House Bill 1161, which was introduced by outgoing state Rep. Gregg Rippy and passed in 2003.Colorado Democrat Kathleen Curry, who is vying for Rippy’s seat, does not support Amendment 34 primarily because of how the issue is being handled.”I don’t think we should be amending the constitution on specific issues like this,” she said. “If there is a problem with Gregg Rippy’s bill, which is now law, the fixes should be made through the legislative process.”Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland has similar concerns about amending the state constitution to legislate, but noted, “The Rippy bill went too far in limiting damages for willful or gross misconduct by disallowing claims for consequential damages.”Ireland, who said he will vote in favor of Amendment 34 “with reservations,” offered this example of how the current law doesn’t work.”For example, you own a warehouse. The contractor negligently or willfully installs a defective roof. The roof collapses and your inventory is ruined. The current law says the contractor is responsible for replacing the roof, you have to replace the contents,” he said. “This could be ruinous to the business owner. It’s no answer to say that the owner should have to pay for additional insurance to cover damages from construction defects. That shifts the burden to the victim.”Ireland’s argument about contractor rights versus property owner rights is at the crux of debate surrounding the ballot measure. Proponents of the amendment include the Committee to Take Back Our Property Rights, whose tag line urges Coloradans to “stop getting screwed by fat cat developers.” “Passing Amendment 34 will protect every Coloradan’s right to recover the costs of shoddy construction,” states the organizations Web site, http://www.stopscrewingus.com. “Amendment 34 does that by defining ‘good and workmanlike manner’ to mean ‘construction that is suitable for its intended purposes.'”Those in favor of the constitutional amendment argue the proposal would protect property owners by ensuring they can be fully compensated for faulty construction. They say the change would also allow damages to determined on a case-by-case basis in a court of law, rather than through a formula that treats all property owners the same.Opponents of the amendment argue the proposal would drive up the cost of housing as it will increase the number of lawsuits, their respective rewards, and insurance rate premiums. They also say the change would allow lawsuits to be filed against anyone who makes improvements to a property, not just construction professionals, essentially encouraging lawsuits.Republican Becky Rippy, who is running against Curry in the Nov. 2 election, will vote against Amendment 34 for these exact reasons.”Gregg Rippy’s legislation allows contractors time to repair defects prior to court action and places limits on things like “mental anguish.” Homeowners can still sue for actual damages if the builder does not remedy the defect or the homeowner rejects the builder’s financial settlement,” she explained. “Previous to this legislation, lawsuits were driving up the cost of liability insurance and in turn the price of housing. In [the Roaring Fork Valley], housing prices are high enough without adding the cost of unnecessary litigation. “I believe Amendment 34 is bad for builders, homeowners, and consumers.”Jeanne McGovern’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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