Non-economic damages bill passes

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columnsNearly two years ago the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. The cap is the cornerstone of Kansas' tort reform structure, and the main reason liability insurance costs for physicians have remained stable and favorable for many years. However, the Court's opinion contained a clear warning that the cap must be increased by the legislature to remain constitutionally adequate in the future. In order to preserve the cap, KMS introduced SB 311 to respond to the Court's opinion. The bill gradually increases the cap to $350,000 over an eight-year span.

Despite broad support for SB 311, a coalition of business groups led by the Kansas Chamber threatened to kill the bill unless it included a tort reform provision modifying a rule of evidence called the collateral source rule. This provision proved to be very controversial, and was rejected by the House of Representatives three times by very strong votes. Failing to convince the House to include the collateral source provision, the business groups then tried to kill the bill in the Senate, arguing that there wasn't any urgency to pass the bill.

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