INDIANAPOLIS (June 3, 2005)—Colorado Gov. Bill Owens took a strong stand in support of tort reform and constitutional rights on Wednesday by vetoing a bill that would have allowed substitute service of process upon the Colorado Secretary of State.
The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), members of the insurance industry and other trade associations actively opposed this legislation as being inconsistent with tort reform, contrary to established constitutional law, and imprudent from a public policy standpoint.
NAMIC lobbied the legislature, met with staff, and formally asked Gov. Owens to veto, H.B. 1121, Concerning Substitute Service of Process upon the Secretary of State Due to Defendant's Absence from the State in Civil Actions Arising from the Operation of a Motor Vehicle.
"NAMIC applauds Governor Owens for his recognition of the sacrosanct value our society places on the importance of protecting a defendant's right to substantive and procedural due process,” stated State Affairs Manager, Christian J. Rataj. “H.B. 1121 would have denied defendants of actual or even constructive notice of the claim against them, which is a violation of both the letter and spirit of the due process clause of the Constitution."
"The Governor's steadfast commitment to tort reform and judicial economy benefits all citizens of the state, since they are the ones who ultimately pay the increased costs associated with impractical and inefficient procedural rules that needlessly burden the legal system. H.B. 1121 would have lead to a number of constitutional challenges to substitute service of process and would have created procedural problems at the trial court level that would have adversely impacted the legal system and those citizens that seek a timely redress of their civil claims in a court of law,” concluded Rataj.
The bill applied in any civil action against a Colorado resident or non-resident for damages or injuries sustained as the result of the operation of a motor vehicle if, after reasonable diligence and 120 days, the operator of the vehicle cannot be located.
"[t]his bill raises serious constitutional and procedural problems, as well as being contrary to the tenets of tort reform," Owens wrote to the House of Representatives. "[t}he Constitution places limitations on the power of state courts to compel someone to appear before them. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. A state court that enters judgment against a defendant without providing a fair judicial procedure violates the Fourteenth Amendment.”
"H.B. 1121 is inconsistent with the tenets of tort reform and the basic procedural standards of the legal system." Owens asserted that misuse and/or abuse of the substitute service of process provision of H.B. 1121 "could create a procedural problem for the legal system that would waste limited judicial resources and cause delays in the adjudication of meritorious claims."