Medical Malpractice

Is There a Cap on Damages in Kansas Medical Malpractice Cases?

By David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law
If you're filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Kansas, be aware that certain categories of losses ("damages") have statutory dollar-amount limits.

Like a lot of states (and as part of tort reform efforts), Kansas has passed laws that limit the amount of compensation a successful plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice case. In fact, Kansas lawmakers have gone a step further than most state legislatures, by capping non-economic damages in all personal injury cases (not just medical malpractice lawsuits).

Kansas Caps Non-Economic Damages in Injury Cases

The Kansas cap on non-economic damages can be found at Kansas Statutes section 60-19a02. The amount of the cap depends on when the right to file the lawsuit "accrued." In the context of a medical malpractice lawsuit, that usually means the date on which the underlying medical error was committed. Here's a breakdown of the cap, year-by-year:

  • for cases accruing after July 1, 1988 and before July 1, 2014, the cap is $250,000
  • for cases accruing after July 1, 2014 and before July 1, 2018, the cap is $300,000
  • for cases accruing after July 1, 2018 and before July 1, 2022, the cap is $325,000, and
  • the cap is $350,000 for cases accruing on or after July 1, 2022.

Non-economic damages include compensation for "pain and suffering," worry, sleeplessness, anxiety, scarring, disfigurement, and other negative effects of the malpractice.

How does this cap work in practice? Even when a plaintiff has made a successful case at trial, and a Kansas jury has found that a doctor or other health care provider was negligent in providing care to the plaintiff, the jury can't award whatever amount they see fit when it comes to non-economic losses. They're limited to awarding what the cap allows, or more specifically, the judge will step in and adjust any award in excess of the cap, prior to entry of a judgment. Juries aren't actually instructed on the statutory cap.

It's important to note that non-economic damages do not include the kinds of losses that can typically be captured by a dollar amount. That includes:

  • past medical treatment made necessary by the malpractice
  • future medical treatment that will be necessary
  • income that has been lost because of the malpractice
  • future income that will be lost (as well as lost ability to earn, or "diminished earning capacity"), and
  • any other out-of-pocket losses that are easily quantified by a dollar amount.

There is no statutory limit on these economic damages. (Learn more about economic versus non-economic damages in an injury case). But Kansas Statutes section 60-3408 says that, in any jury verdict for "future economic losses," the time period over which payment for those losses will be necessary must be specifically stated.

Kansas Caps Punitive Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Punitive damages are available in Kansas medical malpractice cases, but according to Kansas Statutes section 60-3702, they are limited to the defendant's highest annual gross income in any of the five years before the commission of the medical error, unless the court find that this amount would be "clearly inadequate to penalize the defendant." In that situation, the court may award up to:

  • 50 percent of the defendant's net worth, or
  • $5 million.

More Information on Kansas Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

These caps on medical malpractice damages are important for any potential plaintiff to be aware of, but there are more Kansas laws that will almost certainly impact a medical malpractice case, including the Kansas statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. If you're ready to file a lawsuit over a medical error committed by a health care provider in Kansas, it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Learn more about Selecting a Good Medical Malpractice Lawyer.

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