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House maintains position in non-economic damages negotiation

By Trevor Graff | April 02, 2014

A bill that would incrementally increase the cap on non-economic damages in case of personal injury and medical malpractice was sent back to conference committee after the failure Wednesday of a House motion to agree to disagree.

Rep. Marvin Kleeb, an Overland Park Republican and the House chairman of the conference committee, said the move effectively “puts the ball in the Senate’s court” as they consider the House’s position on the bill.

Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park

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The motion to adopt the committee report to agree to disagree failed 36-77 in the House, confirming that body’s position against a provision to allow jurors to hear testimony concerning the financial standing of a plaintiff prior to deliberation.

The Senate version of the bill would:

  • Raise the current cap on non-economic damages from $250,000 to $350,000 over a period of eight years, starting July 1.
  • Create separate court proceedings for determining whether expert witness testimony should be considered credible and shared with a jury.
  • Allow jurors to hear testimony about a plaintiff’s financial well-being prior to their deliberations.

The two sides reached a standstill in their three meetings on the “collateral source” provision allowing for prior testimony of a plaintiff’s financial standing.

“We have thoroughly rejected collateral source,” Kleeb said in the committee’s initial meeting. “I do not think at all that we will be able to get that put back in the bill.”

The motion to agree to disagree came after the Senate provided what it called a clarification of language concerning “collateral source” in the most recently drafted version of the legislation.

In the newest Senate offer, “collateral source benefits” are those expected to be received by the claimant or by someone for the benefit of the claimant.

The new language states that the provision is not to include services or benefits for which a valid lien exists or amounts included as parts of a criminal sentencing order.


SB 311

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On the House floor Wednesday, Rep. Janice Pauls, a Hutchinson Democrat, told the body that voting to agree to disagree would allow the Senate to enact a collateral source law that should be considered on its own.

Pauls said that passage of the agree to disagree motion would weaken the House’s positioning against collateral source. “You want to vote no on this, otherwise the House position may well erode,” she told legislators.

Kleeb said that the failure of the agree to disagree committee report leaves the Senate to decide on adopting the House’s view of collateral source. Senate members of the committee have shown little interest in compromising on the provision.

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