Topeka 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.