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Kansas Supreme Court Decision and Commentary on Hilburn v. Enerpipe LTD - When Does it Apply and How

In this issue of Vital Sounds we present members with a summary of the June 14, 2019, Kansas Supreme Court opinion in Hilburn v. Enerpipe LTD. [CLICK HERE to read decision summary from KAMMCO] and perspectives from the desk of KAMMCO CEO, Kurt Scott.
Kansas Supreme Court Decision and Commentary on Hilburn v. Enerpipe LTD - When Does it Apply and How Might the Kansas Healthcare Landscape be Impacted?

Physicians and hospital administrators have enough to worry about with all of the changes buffeting healthcare. Now it seems we may have to re-fight a battle we fought (and won) over 30 years ago. First in 1986, and again in 1988, the Kansas Legislature enacted caps on non-economic damages in an effort to provide stability and predictability to the medical professional liability environment in Kansas, and it worked! Kansas’ litigation environment went from being in the lowest, or worst, quartile in states to being in the highest and best quartile. In fact, Kansas recently ranked as one of the best states in the nation to practice medicine. Kansas’ litigation environment affects many aspects of healthcare delivery, such as the ability to recruit and retain physicians and the cost of professional liability insurance, all of which contribute to ensuring access to quality healthcare for Kansans. Now, that environment faces some tough questions.
The first, and most important question is whether Hilburn even applies to medical malpractice cases. The Supreme Court’s press release on the day the opinion was issued reported that it did not apply to medical malpractice. In fact, in a recent public forum of attorneys, a Supreme Court Justice indicated Hilburn did not apply to medical malpractice cases, that it was instead an auto case. Even if Hilburn does apply, a careful reading of the “majority” opinion raises legal questions which need clarification before a path to fixing the issues created by Hilburn can be addressed by Legislative action in the future. The uncertainty created by the Court’s decision in Hilburn is perhaps the most confounding problem of all.
Kansas physicians, hospital administrators and other healthcare professionals insured by KAMMCO can be certain of one fact. As a KAMMCO member, you have an advocate on your side who will vigorously defend you, as well as the existence of, and need for, the Cap. You can be certain KAMMCO will defend the practice of quality medicine. You can be certain KAMMCO will not leave the Kansas market, or leave Kansas healthcare professionals without advocacy, whether in the courthouse or at the Statehouse. This is a fight which was fought and won by a previous generation of physician and hospital leaders at the Kansas Medical Society and Kansas Hospital Association, and it is a fight that with KAMMCO’s aid, we will fight and win again. KAMMCO was built for just this reason and for just these circumstances.
Over our 30 year history, KAMMCO has always been an advocacy company who just happens to sell insurance. As a KAMMCO member, you should take comfort in knowing your member directed insurance company remains your most relentless advocate.

Kurt Scott
President & CEO, KAMMCO

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