COMMENTARY

New Tactic to Keep Tort Reform; Deadly Hospital Linens; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

May 15, 2014

In This Article

A New Strategy to Retain Tort Reform Victories

If signed into law by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a bill to raise the state's cap on medical malpractice damages may signal a new strategy in the effort to retain tort reform victories, as a story posted on the Website of the Wichita Business Journal makes clear.[1]

In April, both houses of the Kansas legislature passed a proposal to raise the state's 25-year-old lid on pain and suffering damages, a major component of noneconomic awards in medical liability cases, from $250,000 to $350,000 by 2022.

The lawmakers' vote was surprising on two counts. First, in 2012, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state's $250,000 cap was constitutional -- which means that in the short term, at least, the limit on pain and suffering damages isn't in danger of being overturned, as it was in neighboring Missouri in 2012.[2]

Even more surprising, perhaps, was that many Kansas doctors supported the cap-raising legislation. In fact, the Medical Society of Sedgwick County -- which includes the state's largest city, Wichita -- "identified passing legislation to increase the cap as one of its four most pressing issues of 2014."[1]

Why would doctors in the Sunflower State back such a proposal?

Doctors' support for higher limits, say observers, establishes a defensible middle ground between their pro-cap stance and the anti-cap stance of those who want to abolish award limits altogether. Absent this middle ground, doctors and others clearly fear that what happened in other states, including Missouri, could someday happen to them.

Kansas lawmakers returned to session in Topeka on April 30. The story in the Wichita Business Journal didn't make clear whether Governor Brownback, a Republican, was expected to sign the new legislation into law.

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