Beginning this September, there will be two new rule changes and one new procedural change in the Colorado courts. These aim to reduce the cost of litigation for smaller cases and reduce the time it takes to get the case to trial.
District Court - Simplified Procedure
Civil actions (with some exceptions) in which the value of the claims is less than $100,000 (exclusive of fees and costs) are required to be governed by Simplified Procedure. Prior to this rule change, parties could elect to be excluded from Simplified Procedure just by filing a notice to the court. Now, to be excluded from Simplified Procedure, a party must show either “good cause” or certify that the value of the case is “reasonably believed to exceed $100,000.” The rule change also allows a party to request Simplified Procedure even if they believe their damages exceed $100,000. The good news is that trials for Simplified Procedure actions should be given earlier settings. Another benefit is that discovery is limited, which makes the cost of litigation less expensive.
County Court Jurisdictional Limit
Under the current law, a person may file a civil action in the county court if their claim is valued at less than $15,000.00. The new law increases this limit to $25,000.00. This will make litigation a viable option for individuals and businesses who have claims valued at around $20,000.00. Litigating in county court is significantly less costly than district court, as there are usually no motions filed or discovery. Additionally, trials are normally under four hours. On the flip side, we anticipate more cases filed in county court, which means that trials may get pushed further out on the court’s calendar.
Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) Procedure Changes
Every July, the FED court changes hands. From this July through next June, Judge Henderson will be the eviction judge. To streamline FED hearings, Judge Henderson will be implementing a pre-trial order which will change the way that hearings have been conducted. First, when a defendant appears at a return hearing without an answer having been filed, the defendant must file by noon that day. For possession hearings, parties must arrive 15 minutes prior to the hearing time to exchange exhibits (mandatory). Further limitations include no opening or closing statement and parties are limited to a maximum of three witnesses and five exhibits. Damages hearings are limited to two hours, five witnesses, and five exhibits. These changes should bring down the cost of FED litigation and provide some necessary direction for pro se parties.