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Kansas Supreme Court Decisions for April 30, 2021

30 Apr 2021 3:09 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

Appeal No. 117,439: Alysia R. Tillman and Storm Fleetwood v. Katherine A. Goodpasture, D.O.

Archived oral argument video

A divided Kansas Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a state law abolishing a medical malpractice claim commonly known as a "wrongful birth" action. The decision affirmed Riley County District Court's dismissal of a lawsuit brought by parents who alleged their prenatal doctor negligently failed to inform them about serious fetal abnormalities observable from an ultrasound. The child was born with severe, uncorrectable neurological, cognitive, and physical impairments. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit claimed they would have terminated the pregnancy if the ultrasound results were accurately reported and the doctor’s negligence deprived the mother of her right to make an informed decision about her options. In 2013, the Kansas Legislature enacted a statute barring these lawsuits, which were recognized as viable claims in a 1990 Kansas Supreme Court decision. The parents argued the 2013 law violated their rights to a jury trial and to a remedy under the Kansas Constitution. A Riley County District Court judge ruled the statute was constitutional and dismissed the case. In the majority opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court agreed the constitutional right to a jury trial and to a remedy did not prevent the Legislature from eliminating the previously available right to sue in this instance. These constitutional guarantees typically limit the Legislature's authority to tamper with civil causes of action recognized when the state constitution was adopted, as well as some of their close modern descendants. But the Supreme Court held these claims did not fall into that category because they had unique factual requirements for the injury to be actionable and required special rules for calculating damages. "The wrongful birth cause of action is not just a different application of the traditional medical malpractice tort," the majority concluded, "it is a new species of malpractice action first recognized in 1990." Three justices wrote separately. Justice Caleb Stegall wrote a concurring opinion arguing the 1990 decision recognizing wrongful birth as a viable cause of action should be overruled, avoiding the constitutional questions. Chief Justice Marla Luckert dissented, arguing medical malpractice actions existed when the state constitution was adopted, so the 2013 statute violated plaintiffs' right to a jury trial. Justice Eric Rosen joined the chief justice's dissent. He also wrote a separate dissent arguing the existence of an injury should be sufficient for the constitutional right to remedy to protect a cause of action from being abolished by statute, without needing to decide whether the injury was actionable when Kansas adopted its constitution.

Appeal 118,734: Ayse Carmen v. Bryant Harris

Summary calendar; no oral argument 

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled any child support obligation for the mother's prenatal care and childbirth expenses must be included in the initial child support award entered when paternity is determined. Johnson County District Court denied a mother’s request more than a year after the paternity decision to add reimbursement for prenatal care and childbirth expenses to the father’s child support obligation. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court upheld the district court, noting its power to modify the previously established support obligation was limited by statute.

Appeal No. 120,209: State of Kansas v. Sergio Angel Arrizabalaga

Archived oral argument video
The Kansas Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the Court of Appeals and Saline County District Court and remanded this case for further proceedings after the State brought an interlocutory appeal from an order suppressing evidence gathered from a vehicle search. The district court granted the suppression motion after finding the duration of the continued detention of the driver was excessive and unlawful. The Court of Appeals affirmed this decision, with one judge dissenting. Upon review, the Supreme Court found the trooper conducting the stop acted diligently under the circumstances and the delay was not an unlawful extension of the driver’s detention.

Appeal No. 121,951: State of Kansas v. Ronald Johnson

Summary calendar; no oral argument

Appeal No. 122,281: State of Kansas v. Benjamin A. Appleby

Summary calendar; no oral argument

Appeal No. 122,293: State of Kansas v. Christopher M. Trotter

Summary calendar; no oral argument

Johnson, Appleby, and Trotter each challenged the sentence imposed for his first-degree premeditated or capital murder conviction. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected their arguments that K.S.A. 2020 Supp. 21-6628 provides an avenue or independent means to attack a hard-50 sentence and affirmed the lower court decisions denying each relief. Johnson's and Trotter's cases originated in Wyandotte County. Appleby's case originated in Johnson County.

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