Court to issue long-awaited decision on medical malpractice cap

Ruling in Miller v. Johnson case expected Friday

1 | Courts, Health Care Delivery

— Court officials today said the Kansas Supreme Court will issue tomorrow its long-awaited decision in a case challenging the constitutionality of a law capping the amount of jury awards to people harmed by medical malpractice.

Justices first heard the case of Miller v. Johnson in October 2009 and took the unusual step of rehearing it again in February 2011. At issue is a 25-year-old state law that limits damage awards for pain and suffering to no more than $250,000.

The case at hand involves Amy Miller, a Douglas County woman, who had the wrong ovary removed by her doctor when Miller was 28 years old.

A Douglas County jury in 2006, awarded Miller $760,000 in damages. Of that, $360,000 was to cover past and future medical expenses and $400,000 was for pain and suffering that resulted from the botched surgery.

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Amy Miller's doctor wrongly removed one of her ovaries when she was age 28. Miller is challenging the constitutionality of a law that caps at $250,000 the amount a medical malpractice victim can be awarded for pain and suffering. Doctors, hospitals and others have been awaiting the decision of the Kansas Supreme Court for more than three years.

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In keeping with state law, the $400,000 was reduced to $250,000 by then-District Court Judge Steve Six.

Under the law, juries cannot be informed about the law's cap and it falls upon the judge to reduce awards that exceed the $250,000 limit.

Attorneys for Miller have said the cap violated her constitutional right to a jury trial.

Article 5 of the Kansas Constitution states: "The right of trial by jury shall be inviolate."

Spokesmen for the Kansas Medical Society, an association that represents most of the state's physicians, have said the law is important for controlling the costs of medical malpractice insurance and that if it is struck down they will ask the Legislature to authorize a constitutional amendment restoring limits to jury awards.

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