Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Claimant was injured in a car accident on his way home from work. Claimant’s co-worker was driving the vehicle at the time. The Workers Compensation Board entered an award in favor of Claimant, deciding that Claimant’s injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Claimant’s claim was barred by the “going and coming” rule. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision and affirmed the Board’s decision, holding that there was substantial competent evidence in the record to support the Board’s finding that the accident occurred while Claimant was in the course and scope of his employment. View "Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Doctor and Doctor’s employer (Employer), alleging that Doctor touched her inappropriately and made sexually charged comments during her office visits. Plaintiff settled with Doctor, and the case proceeded against Employer. The district court held that Plaintiff’s claims against Employer were barred by Kan. Stat. Ann. 40-3403(h), which past decisions of the Supreme Court interpreted to cover a covered health care provider’s vicarious liability and any other responsibility, including independent or direct liability, for claims caused by the professional services of another health care provider. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the lower courts erred in relying on the cases interpreting the statute because the cases were wrongly decided, were distinguishable, or had been effectively overruled. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 40-3403(h) barred Employer’s liability, and the district court did not err in granting summary judgment. View "Cady v. Schroll" on Justia Law

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After Employee was injured in a car accident with a police officer, Employer's workers compensation carrier (Claimant) sought to bring this tort action against City. Claimant gave notice to City that it was pursuing a negligence claim against it, claiming damages in the amount of $19,590. Claimant then brought a lawsuit in the district court, requesting $19,590 in damages. Several months later, Claimant sought leave to amend its petition to raise the amount of alleged damages to $228,088. City objected, arguing that Claimant's notice did not include "a statement of the amount of monetary damages that is being requested" as required under Kan. Stat. Ann. 12-105b(d)(5). The district court granted Claimant's petition, finding that Claimant's statutory notice substantially complied with 12-105b(d). A divided court of appeals affirmed the district court's ruling that the notice was in substantial compliance with the law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances, Claimant's notice substantially complied with 12-105b(d), as the notice contained all the information required by the statute; and (2) when a notice conforms with section 12-105b(d), subsequent amendments to the pleadings are subject to an inquiry into a claimant's bad faith or misleading conduct. View "Cont'l W. Ins. Co. v. Shultz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought a retaliatory discharge claim against her former employer (FedEx), alleging that she was terminated for exercising her rights as an injured worker pursuant to the Kansas Workers Compensation Act. Plaintiff filed her suit fifteen months after she was fired. FedEx responded by claiming that, while Kansas law provides a two-year statute of limitations of Plaintiff's claim, Plaintiff was bound by her employment contract to file her suit within six months of her termination. The federal district court granted summary judgment for FedEx. The federal court of appeals certified questions of Kansas law to the Kansas Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered by holding that the private contract between FedEx and Plaintiff in this case violated public policy and was invalid to the extent it limited the applicable statute of limitations for filing a retaliatory discharge claim based on Plaintiff's exercise of her rights under the Workers Compensation Act. View "Pfeifer v. Federal Express Corp." on Justia Law

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The Workers Compensation Board awarded Plaintiff benefits under the Workers Compensation Act for an injury he sustained while operating a go-cart at an event sponsored by his employer (Employer). Employer and its insurance carrier (Insurer) appealed the award, claiming that Plaintiff's injuries were not compensable because they were sustained during a recreational or social event that Plaintiff was not required to attend. The court of appeals affirmed the Board. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board applied the incorrect legal standard in determining whether Plaintiff's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment, and the error was not harmless. Remanded to the Board to make the determination based on the statutory criteria of Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-508(f). View "Douglas v. Ad Astra Info. Sys., LLC" on Justia Law

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Corporation owned a club with exotic dancers who were treated as independent contractors rather than employees for the purposes of unemployment insurance. In 2005, the Department of Labor determined that the dancers were employees. A hearing officer upheld the determination, concluding that the dancers received wages for services and therefore, the dancers were employees under the Kansas Employment Security Law (KESL). The district court agreed with the findings and conclusions of the hearing officer, and the court of appeals affirmed. At issue on appeal was the relationship between provisions in the KESL as they existed before amendments that took effect in 2011 and common-law rules used to determine the existence of employee status. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the determinative question in this case was whether the dancers had the status of employees under the usual common law rules applicable in determining the employer-employee relationship. Because the critical common-law factor in this analysis is the employer's right of control over the employee and her work, substantial evidence supported the conclusion that the dancers were employees, where Corporation possessed such a right of control over the club's dancers. View "Milano's, Inc. v. Dep't of Labor" on Justia Law

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Claimant sustained an injury while working for Employer. During the course of the workers compensation proceedings, it was confirmed that Claimant was an unauthorized alien. An ALJ denied Claimant's claim for permanent partial general work disability based on public policy grounds, concluding that awarding an unauthorized alien a work disability would be inconsistent with the Workers Compensation Act's legislative intent. The Workers Compensation Board disagreed and awarded Claimant a fifty-nine percent work disability, concluding that the Act's plain language did not prohibit an unauthorized alien from receiving an award for work disability. The Supreme Court affirmed the Board's award of work disability, holding that, under the statutes in effect when Claimant was injured in this case, Claimant's immigration status did not preclude her from receiving work disability compensation. View "Fernandez v. McDonald's" on Justia Law

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Defendant Christopher Hughes was the driver in a one-car accident that killed one passenger and injured two others. At the time of the accident, the four were traveling together to work on a drilling crew for employer Duke Drilling. The two injured passengers and the common law wife of the deceased passenger brought civil suits against Hughes. After a jury trial, Hughes was found to be negligent. Because the jury found Hughes was not in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, the trial court concluded Hughes was not covered by a fellow servant immunity under the Kansas Workers Compensation Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the travel in which Hughes was engaged on the morning of the accident was an intrinsic part of Hughes' job, and thus, Hughes was within the course and scope of his employment; and (2) therefore, Hughes was entitled to fellow servant immunity, and Plaintiffs' civil lawsuits against him were barred. View "Scott v. Hughes" on Justia Law

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The case involved a manufacturer of conveyor pizza ovens, Wolfe Electric, its former employee, Terry Duckworth, and the competing business Duckworth helped form, Global Cooking Systems. Wolfe Electric brought suit against Duckworth and Global Cooking for misappropriation of secrets under the Kansas Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Wolfe Electric also separately alleged Duckworth breached his fiduciary duty and his employment contract while Global allegedly tortiously interfered with Duckworth's employment contract. A jury found for Wolfe Electric on all causes of action and awarded damages in a variety of categories. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that multiple erroneous jury instructions and a verdict that failed to specify which of the innumerable acts alleged actually caused which of the particular damages awarded required reversal. Remanded. View "Wolfe Elec., Inc. v. Duckworth" on Justia Law

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Shelly Herrell filed suit against National Beef Packing Company to recover for a knee injury she suffered while working in its plant as an independent contractor, alleging negligence in maintaining a dangerous condition and failing to warn of a dangerous condition. The district court denied National Beef's motion for summary judgment and motion for judgment as a matter of law on the duty issue, and the jury entered a verdict in favor of Herrell. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for entry of judgment as a matter of law in favor of National Beef, holding that Herrell's remedy was limited to workers compensation because National Beef did not maintain substantial control over Herrell's employer's activities on the premises. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court correctly denied judgment as a matter of law to National Beef because National Beef owed Herrell a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances; and (2) the inclusion in the jury instruction a description of an OSHA regulation, with no opportunity for the jury to differentiate any liability based upon it in the general verdict form, polluted the trial of the case and necessitated reversal. Remanded. View "Herrell v. Nat'l Beef Packing Co." on Justia Law