Burnette v. Eubanks & PainCARE, P.A.

425 P.3d 343 (2018)

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Burnette v. Eubanks & PainCARE, P.A.

Kansas Supreme Court
425 P.3d 343 (2018)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

Vernon “Joel” Burnette developed a severe pain disorder after Dr. Kimber Eubanks (codefendant) gave him an epidural injection through an infected lump. Joel sued Burnette, his partner Dr. Daniel Bruning, and their clinic, PainCARE P.A. (codefendants). While the case remained pending, Joel committed suicide, explaining he couldn’t live with the pain. Joel’s parents Gail and Vernon Burnette (plaintiffs) continued the negligence suit and added an action for wrongful death. Joel’s parents testified Joel was caring, attentive, engaged in many family activities, and often gave his parents notes and cards. The Burnettes’ attorney emphasized that Joel’s death caused the Burnettes to lose a complete family, as well as Joel’s care and attention, and encouraged the jury to characterize those losses as economic. The lawyer totaled hours and days for the rest of the Burnettes’ lives and suggested multiplying that number by a wide hourly or daily rate to compensate the Burnettes. The jury instructions asked the jury to list economic damages including “Loss of attention, care, and loss of a complete family” in an amount “equivalent to the benefit [the Burnettes] . . . could reasonably have expected to receive from [Joel’s] continued life.” The instructions told the jury to award noneconomic damages not calculable mathematically in a “fair and just” amount. The jury awarded Joel’s parents damages including $550,000 characterized as economic losses. The doctors appealed on causation grounds and argued the $550,000 should be recharacterized as noneconomic damages subject to Kansas’s $250,000 cap. The appellate court affirmed, but the Kansas Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Biles, J.)

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