Kansas court upholds limits on damages in lawsuits

Associated Press Modified: October 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm •  Published: October 5, 2012

Yet the majority rejected arguments from Miller's attorneys that the cap violated a section of the state constitution's Bill of Rights declaring the right to trial by jury "inviolate," and another guaranteeing the right to "remedy by due course of law." The dissenters were Justices Carol Beier and Lee Johnson.

House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican and an attorney who helped write the law, said the policy on damages has been well-settled. He said it stabilized insurance costs which once posed "a threat to the delivery of health care."

According to the American Medical Association, a majority of states limit non-economic damages in lawsuits.

"This is a long time to wait, but I'm not going to criticize the court for not reaching a decision in a prompt fashion," said O'Neal, who's stepping down in January and has been hired as president and CEO of the powerful Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which backed the cap.

The anti-tax, small-government group Americans for Prosperity was less charitable. It endorsed the result, but state director Derrick Sontag said it's "inexcusable" for the court to have taken so long to rule.

He said the lack of ruling until now pointed to a need to change the current process for selecting appellate court members. A nominating commission screens applicants for appellate court positions, selecting two or three finalists for the governor, with no role for legislators.

Meanwhile, Skepnek said Miller continues to face health issues.

She initially agreed to surgery to remove her right ovary after suffering from abdominal pain since childhood. Her doctor, Carolyn N. Johnson, removed the left ovary instead, and Miller's pain persisted.

Later, Miller had her right ovary removed as well, ending the pain. But Skepnek said she faces a lifetime of hormone therapy and must take blood thinners to avoid clots, which results in easy bruising and other health issues.

"As a man, how would you feel about being castrated? For a woman who loses her ovaries, it's the same thing," Skepnek said. "That limits the quality of your life. That affects your happiness."

___

The case is Amy C. Miller v. Carolyn N. Johnson, M.D., No. 99, 818.

___

Online:

Kansas Supreme Court: http://www.kscourts.org

___

Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna