Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that his transfer was retaliatory, holding that the common-law tort of retaliation may be premised on an employer's action short of dismissal or demotion. Plaintiff, a Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) trooper, alleged that the KHP retaliated by requiring him to move across the state to keep his job after the Kansas Civil Service Board ordered the agency to reinstate him to work. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed, although the lower courts disagreed as to inquiries at issue on this appeal. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case, holding (1) common-law retaliation may be premised on the involuntary job relocation alleged in this case; (2) sovereign immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claim; but (3) there were genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. View "Hill v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court, holding that the noneconomic damages cap under Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-19a02 violated Plaintiff's right under section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights because it intrudes upon the jury's determination of the compensation owed her to redress her injury. In this auto-truck accident case, Plaintiff received a jury award of $335,000. The district court applied section 60-19a02 to reduce Plaintiff's jury award to a judgment of $283,490.86. The district court acknowledged that Plaintiff's case was distinguishable from Miller v. Johnson, 289 P.3d 1098 (Kan. 2012), in which a majority of the Court upheld the application of the noneconomic damages cap to a medical malpractice plaintiff's jury award, but ultimately ruled that section 60-19a02 was constitutional. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of judgment in Plaintiff's favor on the jury's full award, holding that the cap on damages imposed by section 60-19a02 is facially unconstitutional because it violates section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. View "Hilburn v. Enerpipe Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's suit against Defendants, two commercial drinking establishments, for injuries he suffered in an accident with a vehicle whose driver consumed alcohol beverages at Defendants' establishments before the collision, holding that the district court properly dismissed the suit. On appeal, Plaintiff asked the Supreme Court to reconsider longstanding Kansas caselaw insulating commercial drinking establishments from liability for torts committed by their intoxicated patrons. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision after reaffirming the common law under the principles of stare decisis, holding (1) this Court declines to overrule Ling v. Jan's Liquors, 703 P.2d 731 (Kan. 1985), and Plaintiff failed to state a claim for negligence; and (2) Plaintiff failed to state a claim for aiding and abetting under Restatement (Second) or Torts 876. View "Kudlacik v. Johnny's Shawnee, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's petition alleging that Defendants - medical providers and facilities - committed negligence and medical malpractice resulting in a patient's wrongful death, holding that Plaintiff failed to meet the evidentiary standard required when responding to a motion to dismiss with facts outside the pleadings. In dismissing Plaintiff's petition, the district court found that the petition was filed one day after the statute of limitations had expired. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that her attorney electronically submitted the petition for filing before the statute of limitations ran and promptly responded when the petition was returned because of an electronic filing issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no evidence in the record supported Plaintiff's factual assertion that her counsel timely submitted the same petition as the one eventually file stamped by the clerk. Therefore, the Court could not reach the substance of Plaintiff's argument that a document is filed for purposes of the statute of limitations when uploaded to the electronic filing system rather than when the clerk of court accepts and file stamps it. View "Lambert v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the Kansas Workers Compensation Board (Board) affirming an ALJ's denial of Helen Knoll's application for hearing with the Kansas Division of Workers Compensation (Division), holding that Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-523(f)(1) controlled Knoll's claim and required its dismissal. More than five years after Knoll filed her application with the Division, Employer moved to have Knoll's claim dismissed under section 44-523(f)(1) because the claim had not proceeded to a final hearing within three years of the filing of an application for hearing. The ALJ concluded that Knoll's motion for extension was timely and entered an award of compensation. The Board affirmed the ALJ's denial of the motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that dismissal was appropriate because Knoll did not file a motion for extension within three years of filing her application for hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) if a workers compensation claimant filed an application for hearing under Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-534 after Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-523(f)(1) took effect in 2011, the 2011 statute governs the claim; and (2) because Knoll filed her application for hearing six months after the 2011 amendments became effective, section 44-523(f)(1) controlled her claim. View "Knoll v. Olathe School District No. 233" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning the statutory definition of "idiopathic causes" contained in the statute excluding benefits for certain accidents or injuries the Supreme Court held that the Workers Compensation Appeals Board improperly denied benefits to Terrill Graber, who was injured when he fell down a workplace stairway, holding that there was not substantial competent evidence to support the Board's finding that the accident or injury arose directly or indirectly from an idiopathic cause under the statutory exclusion. There was no evidence presented in this case showing why Graber fell down the workplace stairway. The Board construed the term "idiopathic causes" in Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-508(f)(3)(A)(iv) broadly to cover all unknown causes and denied compensation. The court of appeals reversed after defining the term more narrowly. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the case to the Board for reconsideration consistent with this opinion, holding that the term "idiopathic causes" in this context means medical conditions or medical events of unknown origin that are peculiar to the injured individual. View "Estate of Graber v. Dillon Companies" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals vacating the jury verdict in favor of Charles Dawson as to his claim that the negligence of his employer, BNSF Railway Company, caused his back injuries, holding that reasonable minds could reach different conclusions as to whether Dawson’s claim was timely. In 1979, Dawson began his employment with BNSF as a switchman and brakeman and later worked as a conductor. In 2008, Dawson began experiencing back pain. In 2011, Dawson filed this action against BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) alleging that BNSF’s negligence led to his injuries. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Dawson. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the district court erred when it denied BNSF’s motion for judgment as a matter of law because Dawson’s cumulative claim was time barred and that Dawson’s acute injury claims were time barred. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and affirmed the district court, holding that the district court did not err when it submitted the statute of limitations question to the jury. View "Dawson v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court ordering Devin Wilson to pay Kenneth Risley a jury award in favor of Risley, holding that the district court did not err in determining that the assignment provision in Kan. Stat. Ann. 40-3113a(c) did not divest Risley of the right to recover his medical expenses from the tortfeasor. A jury found Wilson liable in tort for injuring Risley in an automobile accident and awarded Risley the cost of his medical expenses in addition to other compensation. Risley had previously been paid for his medical expenses under the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage of his automobile insurance policy. The jury entered judgment on the entire amount of damages as awarded by the jury. On appeal, Wilson argued that Risley had no right to sue for the medical expenses because the cause of action for those medical expenses had been statutorily assigned pursuant to section 40-3113a(c) to Risley’s PIP insurance carrier. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Risley was entitled to the full damages as awarded by the jury, including any medical expenses that were duplicative of the PIP benefits Risley received from his PIP insurance carrier. View "McCullough v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held in this wrongful death lawsuit that a landowner whose property abuts a rural intersection owes no duty to passing drivers to trim or remove trees or other vegetation on the property. The estate and heirs of a deceased driver who was involved in a fatal two-car accident at a rural intersection sued the owners of property located at one corner of the intersection, alleging that an overgrowth of trees and vegetation obstructed the view at the intersection and contributed to the accident. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, the landowners did not owe a common-law duty to passing drivers to correct a natural condition on their property that affected road visibility at the rural intersection. View "Manley v. Hallbauer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court held that summary judgment was improperly granted to a title company on negligence and breach of fiduciary duty claims that arose out of the company’s omission of a reserved mineral interest in a deed and its handling of a later conveyance. In granting summary judgment, the district court determined that the relevant statute of limitations barred the claims. A court of appeals panel reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) as to the negligence claim, a genuine issue of material fact existed as to when the cause of action accrued, and the case must therefore be remanded for further proceedings; and (2) the breach of fiduciary duty claim was not excusable from further litigation because of the statute of limitations, as the claim was brought well within the allowable period. View "LCL, LLC v. Falen" on Justia Law