On February 19, 2014, the Kansas Senate passed Senate Bill 119 that would require that Kansas medical malpractice claims be initially filed with a three-member panel that would determine if the defendant(s) breached the applicable standard of care in rendering (or failing to render) medical care to the plaintiff(s) before victims of medical malpractice could file their medical malpractice cases in a Kansas court.
One change made to the original bill would make the panel’s determination inadmissible in a subsequent court proceeding if new substantial evidence was discovered after the panel rendered its decision.
The Republican-sponsored bill was passed along party lines, 23 to 13, shortly after the Health and Welfare Committee of the Kansas Senate voted 7 to 4 to approve the bill, which was sponsored by the Chairwoman of the Committee. The Senate bill, which had died in the Kansas House where the Democrats outnumber the Republicans, had passed out of the Health and Welfare Committee once before but was sent back to the Committee by the Senate leadership after a Democratic Senator, who criticized the bill as pandering to businesses, filed amendments to the bill, which were subsequently rejected by the Committee after a contentious debate.
The Kansas Bill of Rights expressly states in unambiguous language, “The right of trial by jury shall be inviolate.” How does requiring a medical malpractice victim in Kansas to file his/her claim with a three-person panel for determination of a critical legal issue ensconced in the claim not violate the inviolate right of trial by jury?
Article Three of the Kansas Constitution provides, “The judicial power of this state shall be vested exclusively in one court of justice, which shall be divided into one supreme court, district courts, and such other courts as are provided by law … The district courts shall have such jurisdiction in their respective districts as may be provided by law.” How does empowering the medical malpractice panels with judicial decision-making power (i.e., determining the parties’ respective claims regarding the alleged breach of the medical standard of care under the circumstances) not violate the exclusivity of the courts specifically set forth in the Kansas Constitution?
Why does the Republican-led Senate so desperately seek to place time-consuming and costly roadblocks in the path of Kansans who seek to exercise their right to have a jury determine their claims involving the injuries and harms they allegedly suffered as a result of medical malpractice? Is it that the supporters of Senate Bill 119 in the Kansas Senate are inherently distrustful of the very constituents who voted them into office? Do they believe that ordinary citizens are not capable of fairly and honestly examining the evidence and hearing the testimony put before them when they serve as jurors determining medical malpractice cases in Kansas? Or is the reason for supporting the creation of pre-litigation panels to determine medical malpractice claims in Kansas more sinister: to protect the financial interests of a special group of people (negligent health care providers) at the expense (literally) of those injured by medically negligent doctors and other deficient health care providers in Kansas?
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or other serious harms as a result of medical malpractice in Kansas or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Kansas medical malpractice attorney (or a medical malpractice attorney in your state) who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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