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In a Split Decision, the Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Cap Limits

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 split decision.

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.