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Kansas Supreme Court Decisions for April 2, 2021

02 Apr 2021 1:09 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

Appeal No. 118,379: Hugh Michael Hawkins v. Southwest Kansas Co-op Service and Travelers Indemnity Co.

Archived oral argument video
The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the Workers Compensation Board's allocation of settlement proceeds between Hawkins and his employer, Southwest Kansas Co-op. Hawkins was severely injured in a workplace crane collapse, and Southwest paid him workers compensation benefits. Hawkins then sued various entities responsible for the crane and obtained settlements. A jury trial against the remaining entity resulted in the jury finding Southwest 25% at fault for Hawkins' injuries and allocating the remaining fault to a party he had already settled with. Southwest asserted its statutory subrogation interest against the settlement proceeds. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court held the subrogation interest should be reduced by Southwest's percentage of fault, even though the jury's verdict was rendered after the settlement it seeks to recover from, and that, having done so, the Workers Compensation Board properly calculated the subrogation interest.


Appeal No. 121,467: State of Kansas v. Aaron David Cash

Archived oral argument video
The Kansas Supreme Court upheld Johnson County District Court's denial of Cash's motion to suppress certain drug evidence seized during a traffic stop. Cash was stopped for not having a license plate decal. Cash told the officer the vehicle belonged to a friend. While Cash searched for registration and insurance documents, the officer noticed a plastic bag and a Crown Royal bag hanging out of a partially opened safe on the rear floorboard. The officer could not see into either bag, so she asked Cash to open it. Cash complied, and the officer saw drug paraphernalia in the plastic bag. Cash also said there was a pipe inside the safe. The officer then searched the vehicle and found drugs inside the safe and elsewhere in the vehicle. Cash filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized in the search, arguing the officer lacked the requisite reasonable suspicion to extend the traffic stop to ask him questions about the safe and the bags. The district court denied the motion, finding the officer had reasonable suspicion to extend the stop. Cash was convicted at a bench trial. On appeal, a majority panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling, but one judge dissented and wrote the officer's limited subjective experience combined with the presence of the bags did not give rise to reasonable suspicion. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ majority panel's findings. It specifically held the officer's subjective experience with these kinds of investigations was irrelevant. In looking at the totality of the circumstances, an objective standard from the standpoint of a trained law enforcement officer, the presence of the bags and the safe presented a particularized and objective basis for suspecting Cash was engaged in illicit activity.


Appeal No. 122,685: In the Matter of A.B.

Archived oral argument video

The Kansas Supreme Court reversed Clay County District Court's decision that determined the aggravated indecent liberties with a child statute, K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-5506(b)(1), unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause to the U.S. Constitution. The State had charged a then 14-year-old girl for having sexual relations with a then 14-year-old boy, who was a few months older than the girl. The State charged the girl with aggravated indecent liberties with a child instead of the Romeo and Juliet statute, K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-5507, a less severe crime. The state cited In re E.R., 40 Kan. App. 2d 986, 197 P.3d 870 (2008), which held individuals charged under the Romeo and Juliet statute must be "under age 19 and older than the child by some period less than 4 years" to be adjudicated a juvenile offender. In an opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the court overruled E.R. The Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals holding in E.R. incorrectly interpreted the Romeo and Juliet law since the statute's plain language does not require the offender be older than the other juvenile.


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