Section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights could not be simpler
or more plain: "The right to trial by jury shall be inviolate."
This is clear and should be followed. The decision today by the Kansas
Supreme Court seems to be in contrast to this important Constitional protection.
When Amy Miller sued her doctor for removing the wrong ovary, the jury
awarded her $759,679.74 in damages. The doctor removed the healthy ovary
instead of the one which needed to be removed. However, the district court
reduced that amount by $425,000 because of Kansas's law, which limits
noneconomic damages in personal injury lawsuits. The problem is, the United
States Constitution requires trial by a jury! The jury should be the ones
deciding the correct amount to award, not our legislature, who is trying
to shield doctors. This isn't about frivolous lawsuits. This is a
case where a woman was legitimately damaged by a negligent doctor. Surely
the legislature's actions were deemed unconstitutional, right? Wrong!
Today, after years of struggling to make a decision, the Kansas Supreme
Court finally decided that this legislature, K.S.A. 60-19a02 was Constitutionally
valid. It should be noted, this was NOT a unanimous decision and was a
The case is AMY C. MILLER, v. CAROLYN N. JOHNSON, M.D. In that case, the
Kansas Supreme Court states, "Our initial focus is the constitutionality
of K.S.A. 60-19a02, which operated to cap Miller's jury award for
noneconomic damages. This statute is one of several enacted to "reform"
our state's tort laws.." They go on to state, "In resolving
the four constitutional issues in this case, a majority of the court upholds
K.S.A. 60-19a02 as applied to Miller—a medical malpractice victim.
A minority would hold the statute unconstitutional."
In other words, if you are horribly injured and have millions of dollars
in non-economic damages…. You will be limited to $250,000 in non-economic
damages. So sad. Too bad.
Interestingly, this decision is opposite of the ruling held in Missouri
last month. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned Missouri's $350,000
cap on non-economic damages.
A special thanks to personal injury lawyer
Lynn R. Johnson and the other attorneys who litigated for the Constitutional understanding
that juries should be deciding damages, not the government.
This is a monumental case which will lead to numerous injured people not
receiving the help they need.
Personal injury lawyers in
Kansas will now have a tough time taking legitimate cases to trial, due to the caps.