United States District Court, D. Colorado
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Y. Wang, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter comes before the court on the following post-trial
(1) Plaintiff Silo Romero's (“Plaintiff” or
“Mr. Romero”) “Motion for Pre-Judgment
Interest and to Set Rate of Post-Judgment Interest, ”
(“Motion Regarding Interest”). [#138, filed
September 19, 2017];
(2) Defendant Helmerich & Payne International Drilling
Co.'s (“Defendant” or “H&P”)
Motion to Stay Execution of Judgment and Approve Bond
(“Motion to Stay”), [#139, filed September 19,
(3) Defendant's Motion for New Trial, [#146, filed
October 2, 2017].
Motions are before the court pursuant to the Order of
Reference dated July 13, 2015 [#24], 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, and D.C.COLO.LCivR 72.2. The court has
carefully considered the Motions and related briefing, the
entire case file, the applicable case law, and the comments
offered during the November 13, 2017 Motions Hearing, and,
for the following reasons, orders that the Motion Regarding
Interest is GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART, the Motion to Stay is
GRANTED, and the Motion for New Trial is
Silo Romero (“Plaintiff” or “Mr.
Romero”) initiated this action on December 24, 2014, by
filing a Complaint in the District Court for Mesa County,
Colorado. [#5] Plaintiff asserted one claim for wrongful
discharge in violation of public policy, alleging that he was
either actually or constructively terminated from his
employment with H&P in retaliation for seeking
workers' compensation benefits for lost wages incurred
after an on-the-job injury. H&P contended that Mr. Romero
voluntarily resigned. H&P removed the action from state
court, and this court exercises diversity jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. See [#1].
in this matter commenced before a jury on August 14, 2017. On
August 18, 2017, following five days of trial, the jury
returned a special verdict, finding in favor of Plaintiff as
to liability and awarding him $100, 000 in noneconomic losses
and $500, 000 in economic losses. [#134]. The jury also
determined that this award should be reduced by the amount of
$20, 000 due to Plaintiff's failure to mitigate his
damages. Id. On September 5, 2017, the court entered
judgment in Mr. Romero's favor and against H&P in the
amount of $580, 000. [#137]. The court awarded Mr. Romero
postjudgment interest to be calculated pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1961 and his costs, to be taxed by the Clerk of the
Court pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1) and D.C.COLO.LCivR
54.1. See id.
September 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Motion Regarding
Interest, asking that the court award him prejudgment
interest pursuant to certain Colorado law and federal
authority that applies in a diversity action, and that the
court set the postjudgment interest rate at 1.24 percent.
[#138]. The same day, H&P filed the Motion to Stay
pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 62(b) and (d),
asking the court to stay enforcement of the judgment and to
approve a bond in the amount of $725, 000 as security.
[#139]. Defendant filed a Response to the Motion Regarding
Interest on October 2, 2017. [#145]. Plaintiff filed a
Response to the Motion to Stay on October 3, 2017. [#147].
Defendant filed a Reply in support of its Motion on October
9, 2017, [#148], and Plaintiff filed a Reply in support of
his Motion on October 12, 2017, [#152].
October 2, 2017, H&P filed a Motion for a New Trial
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. [#146].
Plaintiff filed a Response on October 25, 2017, [#158], and
Defendant filed a Reply on November 7, 2017, [#160].
November 12, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a “Notice
Regarding Amount of Pre-Judgment Interest on Non-Economic
Damages; and Updates to Other Calculations” (the
“Notice”). [#161]. On November 13, 2017, the
court presided over a Motion Hearing and took argument with
respect to the Motion Regarding Interest and Motion to Stay.
Motion Regarding Interest
Romero asks the court to award him prejudgment interest as
applied to personal injury damages pursuant to Colo. Rev.
Stat. § 13-21-101. He also asks the court to award
postjudgment interest at a rate of 1.24 percent. Because the
court exercises diversity jurisdiction over this action, it
looks to state law to determine whether prejudgment interest
on damages is allowed. See, e.g., Casto v.
Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Co., 562 F.2d 622, 625 (10th Cir.
1977); AE, Inc. v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.,
576 F.3d 1050, 1055 (10th Cir. 2009) (“It is well
established that a ‘federal court sitting in diversity
applies state law, not federal law, regarding the issue of
prejudgment interest.'”) (quoting Loughridge v.
Chiles Power Supply Co., 431 F.3d 1268, 1288 (10th Cir.
2005)). In applying Colorado law, this court “must look
to the rulings of the highest state court.”
Stickley v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 505 F.3d
1070, 1077 (10th Cir. 2007) (also holding that federal courts
must “giv[e] ‘proper regard' to relevant
rulings of other courts of the State” if no directly
applicable “highest state court” ruling exists).
out of order from the briefing submitted by the Parties, the
court begins with the issues the Parties do not dispute. The
Parties agree for the purpose of the interest calculation on
the following operative dates: December 27, 2012, as the date
of the accrual of the claim; December 24, 2014, as the date
Plaintiff filed the lawsuit; and September 5, 2017, as the
date of the entry of judgment. The Parties also agree that
Plaintiff should receive prejudgment interest on his
noneconomic damages award of $100, 000 pursuant to Colo. Rev.
Stat. § 13-21-101, as applicable to personal injuries.
the Parties originally disagreed as to the calculation of the
correct amount of prejudgment interest on the award of
noneconomic damages, Plaintiff's Notice filed November
12, 2017 reflects the Parties' stipulation as to the
amount, which stipulation Defendant subsequently confirmed at
oral argument the following day. [#161, #162-1 at 2].
Therefore, the court finds that the prejudgment interest
associated with the jury verdict of $100, 000 in noneconomic
damages totals $48, 917.43.
Plaintiff concedes in his Reply that the proper postjudgment
interest rate is 1.23 percent, and
accordingly, this court sets the postjudgment interest rate
as such, applied to the jury verdict from September 5, 2017
court now turns to the disputed issues arising from the
jury's award of economic damages.
Prejudgment Interest Applied to Economic Damages
argues that the court should award Mr. Romero prejudgment
interest from the date the action accrued, i.e., December 27,
2012, to the date of the judgment, September 5, 2017 at a
rate of 9 percent per annum, as set by Colo. Rev. Stat.
§ 13-21-101 that is applicable to personal injury money
judgments. Defendant contends that the applicable interest
rate is derived not from § 13-21-101, but from the Colo.
Rev. Stat. § 5-12-102 that provides for 8 percent per
annum. Defendant also contends that no prejudgment interest
is applicable to any award of front pay, either because
Plaintiff's expert already included front pay in his
calculation, or because § 5-12-102 only allows
prejudgment interest on Plaintiff's past economic
damages. [#145]. In reply, Mr. Romero insists that the
application of § 13-21-101 is proper because his claim
is tort in nature; § 13-21-101 provides for prejudgment
interest on future damages; and the damage calculations for
past losses were not adjusted by either inflation or a growth
rate. [#152]. Plaintiff further argues, in the alternative,
should the court disagree regarding the applicable statute
and/or award of prejudgment interest on future damages, his
past economic losses as identified by the jury total at least
Applicable Colorado Statute
court first turns to address which prejudgment interest
statute applies. Interest is commonly understood as
“the compensation allowed by law, or fixed by the
parties, for the use, detention, or forbearance of money or
its equivalent.” Farmers Reservoir and Irr. Co. v.
City of Golden, 113 P.3d 119, 132 (Colo. 2005) (quoting
Stone v. Currigan, 138 Colo. 442, 445, 334 P.2d 740,
741 (1959)). “[T]he purpose of prejudgment interest is
to reimburse the plaintiff for inflation and lost
return.” Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v.
Holmes, 193 P.3d 821, 826 (Colo. 2008) (citing Mesa
Sand & Gravel Co. v. Landfill, Inc., 776 P.2d 362,
364 (Colo. 1989) (“Section 5-12-102 recognizes the time
value of money.”). “The right to prejudgment
interest, independent of an agreement to pay it, is
statutory.” South Park Aggregates v. Northwestern
National Insurance Co., 847 P.2d 218 (Colo.App. 1992).
And a trial court's award of prejudgment interest under
Colorado statute is “a ministerial act that is
mandatory and does not require the exercise of judgment or
discretion.” Todd v. Bear Valley Village
Apts., 980 P.2d 973, 981 (Colo. 1999).
interest is available in Colorado pursuant to one of two
statutes. Section 5-12-102, C.R.S. serves as Colorado's
“general prejudgment and postjudgment statute.”
Farmers Reservoir, 113 P.3d at 133 (citing Great
W. Sugar Co. v. KN Energy, Inc., 778 P.2d 272, 276
(Colo.App. 1989)). Section 5-12-102 is known as the
“wrongful withholding statute, ” and applies in
all actions that do not involve personal injury. The section
is “comprehensive in scope, ” but has been
described as providing for prejudgment interest in cases
where “the aggrieved party lost or was deprived of
something to which she was otherwise entitled.”
Parker, 200 P.3d at 353 n.3 (quoting Goodyear
Tire & Rubber Co. v. Holmes,193 P.3d 821, 825
(Colo. 2008)). As the Goodyear Tire court explained,
“[w]hen a plaintiff is injured by a defendant, she is
wronged by that defendant's action and becomes entitled
to damages.” Id. at 826 (citing Seaward
Constr. Co. Inc. v. Bradley,817 P.2d 971, 975 (Colo.
1991)). A plaintiff typically seeks damages that would make
her whole at the time they are measured; however, the
defendant generally does not pay those damages until later,
when they are awarded by the court. “During the period
between the time at which the plaintiff's loss is
measured and the judgment, the plaintiff is deprived of the
use of the money or property that would constitute the
award”; in other words, the money comprising the
damages award ...