Kansas Court Upholds Limits On Damages In Lawsuits

Seated left to right: Hon. Marla J. Luckert, Hon. Lawton R. Nuss, Chief Justice; Hon. Carol A. Beier. Standing left to right: Hon. Dan Biles, Hon. Eric S. Rosen, Hon. Lee A. Johnson, and Hon. Nancy Moritz.
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld a state law imposing a $250,000 cap on damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering in personal injury lawsuits.

The court ruled Friday against Eudora resident Amy Miller, who challenged the 1988 law imposing the cap on non-economic damages. Miller sued her doctor for removing the wrong ovary from her during surgery in 2002.

Business and medical groups had urged the court to uphold the law, saying it keeps insurance premiums affordable. Miller's attorneys had argued that the cap violated the Kansas Constitution's guarantees of a right to trial by jury.

The court said setting limits is a policy issue for the Legislature to settle.

A Douglas County jury awarded Miller nearly $760,000 in damages in 2006, but the award was reduced.

Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal says he's pleased by the ruling.

The Hutchinson Republican said Friday, “I appreciate the court’s affirmation of the long standing precedent of upholding the right of the legislature to fashion reasonable limitations on personal injury awards.”

The law imposing the cap was enacted in 1988. O'Neal is an attorney who helped draft the law.

O'Neal is not seeking re-election to the House this year and will become the president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce after his term expires in January. The chamber had urged the court to uphold the cap.

O'Neal said lawmakers enacted the cap because doctors were seeing the costs of medical malpractice insurance increasing and some of them were giving up their Kansas practices.