Lawmakers on Tuesday discussed Bill 215-35, the measure that raises the limit for claims against the government of Guam – up to $200,000 for wrongful death and up to $500,000 for any other tort action.
The current liability limits listed under the Government Claims Act are $100,000 for wrongful death and $300,000 for any other tort action. They haven't been adjusted in 40 years, according to Sen. Telo Taitague, who introduced the bill.
"That's 40 years of liability caps that haven't been changed while limits across the nation are well above those authorized in local laws," Taitague stated in session Tuesday.
Successful claims against line agencies are funded out of the Government Claims Fund. The Legislature has appropriated $250,000 into the fund from fiscal years 2017 through 2021. Only in 2016 was the fund fully expended. It was appropriated $200,000 at that time, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill.
In case funds are insufficient to fully pay a claim, the claim shall be paid pro rata until the claim is paid in full.
Autonomous agencies are responsible for paying successful claims made against against them, and are under the same liability limits.
It has typically taken up to six months for the Office of the Attorney General and relevant agencies to respond to claims filed against the government, Taitague added, referring to information out of the AG's office.
Twelve claims were paid in calendar year 2019, she added.
"Nine were disputed and no claims were denied or unpaid because the time to respond to the claims expired," Taitague said.
The bill gathered general support from colleagues Tuesday, with several senators stating that the measure is long overdue. It was moved to the voting file.
"While there's no amount of money that can ever replace a life lost or adequately compensate victims and their families for their pain and suffering, Bill 215 gives me reason to believe that claimants and their loved ones can and will be given some form of justice, peace of mind and a sense of closure," Taitague stated in part in a release following the motion.