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Supreme Court Rules Damage Caps Are Unconstitutional

On Friday, June 14, 2019, a decision that affects the whole of Kansas law was made when the Supreme Court rule damage caps are unconstitutional in Hilburn v. Enerpipe Ltd. The decision effectively reverses a previous decision from the court of appeals, and found that damage caps ultimately infringed upon the plaintiff’s constitutional rights, in particular her right to trial by jury.

What Happened?

The plaintiff, Diana K. Hilburn, was severely injured in a car accident with one of the defendant’s company vehicles. The vehicle (a semi-truck) rear-ended Mrs. Hilburn’s car, causing serious damage to her spine. Hilburn sued Enerpipe Ltd. for damages and was compensated $33,490.86 for her medical expenses as well as an additional $301,509.14 for pain and suffering.

Kansas's Previous Cap

Kansas has long had a cap in place for pain and suffering damages. The cap in place at the time of Ms. Hilburn’s injury was $250,000.00, and this effectively reduced the total verdict from $335,000.00 to only $283,490.96, which is the amount of Mrs. Hilburn’s medical expenses, plus $250,000 for her additional losses. The basis for this reduction was that Kansas Statute § 60 – 19a02 limited an injured person’s recovery for pain and suffering to $250,000 for causes of action between July 1, 1988 – July 1, 2014.

Not happy with this outcome, as it went against the decision of the jury, Mrs. Hilburn appealed her case all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court. She asserted that this ruling violated her constitutional right to a trial by jury. Section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights states that ”[t]he right of trial by jury shall be inviolate.” The Supreme Court agreed with Mrs. Hilburn’s position and ruled that the Kansas damage caps are unconstitutional.

What Does This Mean?

This decision is a historic and important one for the state of Kansas. It asserts that a jury - and not the legislature – is in the best and fairest position to resolve civil disputes. A jury is comprised of peers who do not have any secret agenda or personal interest in the outcome of the case. They only seek to determine what is right and fair in any case presented before them.

What Should You Do if You're in a Vehicle Accident?

If you are injured in a vehicle accident and wish to seek rightful compensation, reach out to Ralston, Pope & Diehl, LLC. We will do everything in our power to obtain fair compensation for your pain and suffering.

Call us today at (785) 200-9465 or contact us online.