The Kansas Supreme Court has struck down a long standing cap on non-economic damages, allowing Kansas personal injury victims to collect the full measure of their damages for pain, suffering, disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life. The decision follows a 30-year battle in the Kansas Legislature and in the Kansas Supreme Court about limitations on non-economic damages.
In Hilburn v. Enerpipe, Ltd., the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the legislature’s cap on non-economic damages violates the state’s constitutional right to trial by jury. The case involved a motorist who was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, resulting in serious injuries. A jury awarded the plaintiff more than $33,000 for her medical expenses and more than $301,000 for her non-economic losses. Under Kansas law, the trial judge had to automatically reduce the non-economic award to $250,000. The Kansas Supreme Court reversed that reduction. In doing so, it ruled that the statutory cap on non-economic damages was facially unconstitutional, meaning it no longer applies to every type of Kansas personal injury case, including trucking, medical negligence, products liability, motor vehicle and premise liability cases.
Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman has long fought caps on non-economic damages. In the 1980s, Lynn R. Johnson testified on behalf of and led the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association in opposing early legislative efforts to cap non-economic damages. In 2012, he argued in the Kansas Supreme Court that it should strike down the cap in a medical negligence case, in which David R. Morantz authored a friend-of-the-court brief. In the most recent case, Hilburn, Mr. Morantz authored another friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association.