A horrific accident occurred in Denver on Saturday, April 3, 2010 in which two people riding in another vehicle were tragically killed when struck by an RTD bus. From a legal standpoint, the relatives of the deceased will never receive fair compensation for their losses, regardless of the conduct of the bus driver. According to witnesses, the RTD bus ran a red light and struck two vehicles. The RTD bus was being driven by an employee for a private contractor, Veolia Transportation. According to the Colorado Court of Appeals in the decision of Henisse v. First Transit Inc., the contractors of RTD service are considered employees of RTD and therefore covered (and protected) by the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act. As a special district or instrumentality of the State of Colorado, RTD is considered a governmental entity. Regardless of the conduct involved, a governmental entity in the State of Colorado cannot be held responsible for damages to injured individuals for more than a maximum of $150,000 per person, or a total of $600,000 per accident.The value of the losses suffered by the surviving relatives of these two individuals clearly exceed the $150,000 limitation, but their chance of recovery of amounts greater than that appear slim at this point in time.
In this attorney’s opinion, private contractors to a governmental entity should not be considered public employees for the purposes of protection under the Governmental Immunity Act. Veolia Transportation is a private company and employed private employees. The drivers of RTD buses, which have the ability to cause far more damage than your average motor vehicle, should face the same exposure as every other driver on the road – such as you and me – who do not enjoy such protections. The Court of Appeals opinion in Henisse v. First Transit Inc. impermissibly expands the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act beyond its intended scope. The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado and will hopefully be overturned. We have addressed these issues in representing past clients in automobile accident injury cases. Similarly, we have faced the same argument from Standard Insurance who claims that it is an agent of Colorado PERA for purposes of administrating its disability retirement program. That issue has been successfully resolved in front of the Court of Appeals. Standard Insurance no longer makes that claim to immunity in the PERA disability benefit cases we litigate for clients.