We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Are We?

June 28, 2019

After the recent Kansas Supreme Court decision to lift caps on non-economic damages, Dorothy may not want to click her ruby slippers three times to go home.

Previously, Kansas had caps on non-economic damages; these are damages awarded based on things that are harder to put a dollar amount on, like emotional distress, and pain and suffering. The caps were in place to prevent plaintiffs’ attorneys from seeking outlandish awards, and protect companies from excessive and frivolous litigation. Eleven states have similar laws.

But now, plaintiffs’ lawyers are poised to flood Kansas courts with uncapped claims, forcing businesses to spend time and money fighting potentially massive lawsuits.

This decision directly affects all Kansans, who will bear the costs of increased litigation. A recent study from the Institute for Legal Reform found that every household in the state paid $2,471 into its tort system in 2016. That number will almost certainly go up, perhaps approaching a high-cost state like New Jersey. In that state, there is no non-economic damages cap and households pay $5,551 into its own tort system.

If the Kansas legislature fails to address this decision, it will become the Emerald City for plaintiffs’ lawyers, burdened by potentially colossal lawsuits as unpredictable as a twister.