Legal climate ranking worse due to lack of tort caps, Chamber will look to fix it

Kansas saw the ranking of its legal climate plummet in the recent U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (IRL) 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey. Kansas fell 14 spots from its 2017 ranking of 18th to the 32nd most favorable legal climate in the nation.

“The main reason that Kansas plummeted was the ruling in June that non-economic damages caps are unconstitutional, according to the Kansas Supreme Court,” said Kansas Chamber CEO Alan Cobb.

The ruling will make the climate for businesses less favorable. A record-high 89 percent of IRL survey participants said a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact their company’s decisions about where to locate or do business.

“Obviously, taxes and labor force and other things are important, but so is the tort or litigation climate,” said Cobb. “It hurt Kansas. There’s no question about it.”

The judicial opinion of justice Caleb Stegall in June seemed to lay out a path where a similar limiting of awards could pass constitutional muster if the law were written differently to allow juries to know about the damage cap before they rule on a case.

“Passing a bill is a lot easier than getting a Constitutional amendment,” said Cobb. “Although, if the governor would veto it, we would still need two-thirds to override it anyway, but I do think we would get two-thirds in the House and Senate to override.”

Language of any potential bill is still being worked out for potential introduction in the 2020 session.