Legal Memorandum: Limitation on Damages to Pecuniary Losses

Issue: Under Colorado law, may the children of a deceased individual bring a separate wrongful cause of death action against the same individual or entity?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Wrongful death causes of action; Limiting any damage recovery to pecuniary losses
Jurisdiction: Colorado
Cited Cases: 837 P.2d 205; 684 P.2d 954; 34 Colo. App. 356; 680 P.2d 1352; 38 Colo. App. 90; 42 Colo. App. 1; 934 P.2d 873; 948 P.2d 119; 357 P.2d 649; 749 P.2d 1002; 769 P.2d 1047; 588 P.2d 892; 554 P.2d 698; 674 P.2d 383; 408 P.2d 434
Cited Statutes: Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-21-201, -202, -203 (1999); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-50.5-105(1)(a) (1999)
Date: 07/01/2000

A personal injury action, which was settled on a full and complete basis including the prohibition of future wrongful death causes of action, was held to be unenforceable or contrary to the law.   However, for a general overview of hold-harmless clauses, and other releases in the particular context of negligence actions or medical malpractice actions, refer to Summey v. Lacy, 42 Colo. App. 1, 588 P.2d 892 (1978), Neves v. Potter, 769 P.2d 1047 (Colo. 1989), and Smith v. Zufelt, 880 P.2d 1178 (Colo. 1994).

Settlement agreements, in general, are favored by courts and are reviewed and upheld, if appropriate, as any ordinary contract.  Recreational Dev. Co. of Am. v. American Constr. Co., 749 P.2d 1002, 1005 (Colo. Ct. App. 1987); Roemmich v. Lutheran Hosps. & Homes Soc’y of Am., 934 P.2d 873, 876-77 (Colo. Ct. App. 1996).  As noted by the Recreational Development court, “[a] settlement and compromise is a contract to end judicial proceedings, and accordingly, for it to be binding and enforceable, there must be a ‘meeting of the minds’ as to its terms and conditions.”  749 P.2d at 1005.  The court further cautioned that “later dissatisfaction with the terms of a compromise agreement is not sufficient grounds to set it aside.”  Id.  Only where the terms of an agreement are inequitable or unconscionable will a settlement be reviewed and potentially set aside.  Roemmich, 934 P.2d at 877.  […]

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