The Kansas state senate has just decided to approve a bill that would increase the limits for damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits. The Kansas house committee endorsed the proposal as well as revisiting the rules of evidence in such cases.
The measure passed by a 32-8 vote. Now that the bill has passed the senate, the measure will be up for debate and vote in the house.
The bill was introduced in response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling in 2012. The court upheld the state-imposed limit of $250,000 for damages awarded. The State of Kansas currently has a limit of $250,000 for non-economic damages for pain and suffering in any type of personal injury lawsuit.
Changes to the damage limits
The goal of the bill was to balance the use of evidence rules while keeping the cap intact. The bill would increase the cap to $300,000 in July this year. In 2022, the amount would be increased to $350,000. The bill narrowed the use of expert testimony in such cases.
It also said a jury could be informed whether or not the plaintiff had been awarded an insurance settlement. In other words, the legislation reverses the policy of preventing jurors from knowing whether or not the insurance company has compensated a victim or the family for the incident before the case came to trial
Critics argued that lifting the ban on discussing whether victims were compensated shielded wrongdoers from being held accountable.
Rules of evidence
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce played an instrumental role in pursuing changes to the rules of evidence. But the chamber wasn’t the only group that supported the measure; medical groups were receptive to the change as well.
Controversy over the proposed bill stems from fears that insurance premiums for businesses would increase. Some argued that the bill would dramatically increase insurance premiums for both health-care providers and companies.
In the past, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce wasn’t supportive of this kind of legislation. The Kansas Association for Justice and the Bar Association predicted that changes to the rules would increase the costs of litigation and dramatically lengthen the process.
Disclosing other forms of compensation
Legislators were at odds over the changes. There was a push to allow the released of information about other forms of compensation received by the plaintiff. Some felt it unfair that plaintiffs could be compensated multiple times for an injury in receiving payments from litigation as well as from the insurance company.
Those who didn’t agree with insurance payout information being released believed that plaintiffs would be punished. Some believed that those who cause injuries would get off easier and be on the hook for lower total damages.
The original ruling
The 2012 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that inspired the current legislation originated with a medical malpractice suit. In its opinion, the court stated that awarding anything beyond the cap amount would be unconstitutional even if it took inflation into account.
In its opinion, the court commented on the fact that the limited hadn’t been adjusted since 1988 — almost a quarter century!