Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2012

Statehouse Live: Kansas Supreme Court to file decision in long-awaited case on medical malpractice caps

October 4, 2012


— The Kansas Supreme Court today announced it will file on Friday a long-awaited decision in a legal challenge of limits on medical malpractice awards that stems from a case where a Eudora woman had the wrong ovary removed by a Lawrence physician.

The court has been considering the case for three years and some of the state's most powerful special interests have lined up on opposite sides of the dispute.

In 2002, Amy Miller, who was 28 at the time, went in for surgery for removal of her right ovary. Dr. Carolyn Johnson removed Miller's left ovary by mistake.

The state Supreme Court is considering whether a state law that limited a jury award to Miller is constitutional.

The court heard oral arguments in the case in 2009 and then in February 2011 held a second round of arguments, which lasted more than three hours.

In 2006, a Douglas County jury returned a verdict for Miller for nearly $760,000. That award included $250,000 for noneconomic losses; $150,000 for future noneconomic losses; $84,680 for medical expenses; $100,000 for future medical expenses, and $175,000 for loss or impairment of services as a spouse. Noneconomic losses are awarded for pain, suffering, disability, mental anguish and physical disfigurement.

But then-District Court Judge Steve Six reduced the total of $400,000 in past and future noneconomic losses to $250,000 because of a 1986 state law that limits to $250,000 awards for noneconomic losses. Six also struck down the $100,000 for future medical expenses.

Labor groups and plaintiff's attorneys say capping damages in injury claims is unconstitutional because it removes the right to have a jury decide what is just compensation.

But business groups, insurance companies, and physicians say the cap limiting jury awards provides a societal benefit by stabilizing the cost of medical malpractice insurance that doctors must have.


Steven Gaudreau 5 years, 7 months ago

If I went into a surgery and a doctor took off my good arm and then my bad arm had to be removed, $250k aint gonna cut it. That being said, I am intimately familiar with this case. The doc removed the wrong ovary. After an exam, the surgeon realized the mistake and told Amy. Prior, Amy had told the doc she was done having kids. Also, the second ovary was going to have to be removed as well in the near future. Amy now states differently but others have heard the opposite. The doc did the ethical thing and told Amy. If the doc was unethical, she would have remained quiet and Amy would have never known. Knowing what I know about this case is the reason why their are caps on insurance. $250k for having an ovary removed that was gonna be removed anyway.......that's a lot of money. Amy and her attorney are being greedy and you two are whats wrong with our our judicial system and how ambulance chasers are rewarded with this type of behavior.

sleepy33 5 years, 7 months ago

Removal of one or both ovaries does have a health impact beyond just the ability to bear children, especially in a younger woman. I am sure there was a good reason that she wanted to try to preserve at least one of her ovaries, otherwise why wouldn't they just take them both at the same time? Plus, it's all well and good to say that you are done having kids at 28, but it would be nice to have the option open to change your mind. Good for the doctor for admitting what happened, I guess, but it's not like they wouldn't have otherwise figured it out, especially if they anticipated future problems with her ovaries.

For me, I don't really buy the argument that it 'didn't matter since she didn't want more kids', etc. It is more about the fact that doctors are held to a very high standard, as you are completely vulnerable and must trust them with the care of your own body. Do you think this woman or her family will ever be able trust another doctor? The damage amount should be enough that it provides a significant deterrent and wakeup call for all doctors. Our justice system is based on decisions being made by a jury of our peers. Are we really going to say that we trust juries to decide to execute people, but we don't trust them to decide on a dollar amount?

KU_cynic 5 years, 7 months ago

My wife and then-yet-to-be-born child were endangered by an earlier incident of malpractice by Dr. Johnson when she worked at another practice in town. Thanks to the skillful yet by then unavoidably invasive intervention of other professionals at the 11th hour, it all turned out okay in the end for both mother and child. Not wanting to contribute to the tort law plague upon our society, we did not sue Dr. Johnson. I read of this case involving removal of the wrong ovary when it went to trial, and I then regretted my decision not to sue, as perhaps we could have helped to flag this reckless practitioner much earlier.

KU_cynic 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, tort law plague.

Although my wife had to undergo great pain and an emergency surgery that could have been avoided, a great surgeon (Mark Praeger) and his team saved my wife and child, and LMH never billed us a dime. We are very fortunate. At the time I felt no need to financially punish Dr. Johnson, her partners in practice, or all the people at LMH who got us through. I was just too grateful to have an intact family.

My mistake was not seeing that Dr. Johnson would be kicked down the road to another practice and then another until somebody else was a victim of her incompetence.

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