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Empty Court and Jury Room

The right to a jury trial is a core right in the American legal system. It was established through the 6th amendment, which was ratified and added to the U.S. Constitution on December 15, 1791. In addition to the laws adopted in the U.S. Constitution,  individual states are allowed to pass their own laws and regulations. They can do this as long the laws they add to, and do not take away from, the U.S. Constitution. The Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights states in Section 5, “the right of a trial by jury shall be inviolate.” This means that whatever a jury in Kansas decides should be final. However, that has not been true in personal injury cases.

            In a personal injury case, the jury’s job is to determine whether or not to award damages to the plaintiff. If, after listening to all of the evidence, a jury decides to award $1,000,000 dollars to the plaintiff then that would seem to be the end result. However, prior to June 14, 2019, that was not the case.

Prior to June 14, 2019, if a jury awarded an individual $1,000,000 in non-economic damages, which are damages based on pain, suffering, mental anguish and disfigurement, then the judge, after excusing the jury, would reduce the $1,000,000 that the jury awarded to $250,000. This was done because of the caps the Kansas legislature had placed on the amount an individual could recover for pain and suffering that resulted from an individual’s negligence. Reducing an amount that a jury originally awarded goes directly against Section 5 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. Section 5 states, “The right of a trial by jury shall be inviolate.” By allowing a judge to reduce an amount deemed fair by the jury is condoning a direct violation of an injured person’s right to a trial by jury.

In June of 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court finally rectified the horrible precedent of allowing a judge to overturn a jury’s decision if a jury awarded more than the statutory cap amount of $250,000. In Hillburn v. Enerpipe, the Kansas Supreme Court found that it was unconstitutional, and a direct violation of Section 5, to reduce the amount of money that a jury awarded a plaintiff for pain and suffering.

The court found that a person was entitled to more than a lip service panel. Hilburn v. Enerpipe Ltd., 112,765, 2019 WL 2479464, at *6 (Kan. June 14, 2019). A person’s right to a jury trial includes: the right to assemble a jury, the right to present evidence, the right to have a jury determine and award damages, and a right to the full amount awarded by the jury. Id. at 4. This is a fundamental right in the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights and cannot be done away with or ignored. Id. at 4.

If you or a family have suffered a personal injury, you need an experience attorney on your side, while the insurance company looks to build a claim against you and take away from value from your claim, we will work to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your claim. Let DeVaughn James go to work for you. Give us a call at (316) 888-8888 for a free consultation.