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Kansas Supreme Court strikes down key tort law

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On June 14, 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling (Hilburn v. Enerpipe, LTD); the Court ruled that the state laws limiting non-economic damages (i.e. damages for pain and suffering) in civil cases are unconstitutional. At this time, it is unclear whether this ruling impacts the caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice actions.

Kansas has enjoyed a stable medical malpractice environment for many years. The Legislature, in partnership with the health care community, intentionally crafted a sensible approach to balancing the needs of patients and their families as well as ensuring that patients across the state continued to have access to competent health care. The  cap on non-economic damages is a key component of that tort reform package and it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012. 

The Court did not speak with specificity regarding the Hilburn ruling’s impact on medical malpractice liability. Though the Court’s own public information officer distributed a statement indicating the malpractice caps are unaffected, questions remain about how the Court’s intention to limit the ruling to personal injury will be applied or upheld. Understanding the ruling and its impact will require continued study.

The Kansas Medical Society–in collaboration with our partners at KAMMCO and the Kansas Hospital Association—are actively reviewing the decision and working to determine its potential ramifications. We will continue to keep the physicians of Kansas informed as the situation progresses. In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact the KMS office at 800.332.0156.

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