Bill updating limits on GovGuam liability claims vetoed

Senator Telo Taitague (PNC file photo)

Bill 215, which sought to increase the limits on claims against the Government of Guam from $100,000 to $200,000 for wrongful death, has been vetoed by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.

The author of the bill, Sen. Telo Taitague, said her bill was vetoed based on a “misguided” conclusion that the measure could jeopardize government funds unless substantial funding is provided.

“While the governor refuses to help victims of gov’t negligence deal with higher legal and medical costs and the financial obligations they’re left with – Adelup continues fighting to keep the 5% BPT rate which makes goods and services more expensive and out of reach for these same victims and their families,” Taitague stated in a news release.

According to the senator, the liability limits for the Government of Guam haven’t been adjusted for the last 40 years despite the rising cost of living. Government of Guam liability laws cover auto accidents, personal injury, student injury, property damage, negligence, wrongful death, and malpractice.

Taitague said she and 13 of her colleagues who supported Bill 215 were fully aware of the financial impact higher liability caps may have on government finances as they considered the measure earlier this month.  But while there are valid questions concerning whether the Government of Guam can afford higher awards, Taitague said that only 65% of budget appropriations for the Government Claims Fund was used for payouts in the last 5 years.

Moreover, Taitague said Guam law allows that in the event funds are insufficient to fully pay a claim, the claim shall be paid pro-rata until the total claim is paid in full.

“To those who may have lost a family member because of gov’t negligence – although our efforts can’t bring back your son, daughter, mom or dad, I will work with my colleagues to override the governor’s veto of Bill 215 at the next legislative session so that your government can help each of you find some peace and closure as you go forward in life without your loved ones. To those who are harmed due to a negligent act on the part of our government, this legislature will do its part to remind Adelup through an override of Bill 215 that there are many burdens that are placed on you including the rising cost of goods and services,” Taitague said.