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Kansas Supreme Court strikes down key tort law

bigstock Gavel 5663641On June 14, 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling (Hilburn v. Enerpipe, LTD) that will impact physicians, hospitals, and ultimately Kansas patients. The Court ruled that the state laws limiting non-economic damages (i.e. damages for pain and suffering) in civil cases are now unconstitutional. The ruling was a surprise to the legal community and reverses the Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Johnson which upheld the cap’s constitutionality.
 
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. We recognize that the Hilburn decision dismantles that carefully curated framework. 
 
The elimination of the caps on pain and suffering awards will have wide-ranging impact. Some of those can be reasonably anticipated. We expect that, over time, the number of medical malpractice cases filed each year will increase and it is possible that the size of awards might rise. The likely result is that physicians, hospitals and health care professionals will see higher insurance premiums. The longer-term, gradual effects of this change are more challenging to quantify but we do believe they will be substantial. 
 
The Kansas Medical Society–in collaboration with our partners at KAMMCO and the Kansas Hospital Association--is continuing to carefully review the decision. We will be working with the health care provider community and others to assess the full implications of this ruling and then begin planning how best to respond to this unfortunate, costly decision by the Court. 
 
We will continue to keep you informed as this situation develops. If you have questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at 800.332.0156. 

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