Hess v. St. Francis Regional Medical Center

869 P.2d 598 (1994)

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Hess v. St. Francis Regional Medical Center

Kansas Supreme Court
869 P.2d 598 (1994)

KL

Facts

Ralph Hess (plaintiff) was burned by a caustic liquid at work and received improper treatment at St. Francis Regional Medical Center (defendant), which aggravated his injuries. Hess settled his workers’-compensation claim with his employer, Vulcan Materials (Vulcan) (defendant). Vulcan then terminated Hess’s employment. Hess sued Vulcan for retaliatory discharge and for negligently failing to notify medical personnel that Hess was injured by a caustic material. Hess also sued an on-staff nurse (defendant) at Vulcan, and he sued St. Francis, suing both for negligently treating his injury. Vulcan settled the claims against Vulcan and Vulcan’s on-staff nurse. In the settlement agreement, Vulcan waived its subrogation rights for the workers’-compensation benefits and medical expenses it had already paid. At trial, St. Francis was the only remaining defendant, but the jury assessed the fault of all the defendants. During the trial, a Vulcan employee testified, and St. Francis introduced evidence of Hess’s settlement with Vulcan on cross-examination of the employee. St. Francis also made several other mentions of the settlement during the trial. The jury determined that Vulcan was 100 percent at fault, and the court accordingly entered judgment for St. Francis. Hess appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in allowing evidence of Hess’s settlement with Vulcan to be admitted at trial. St. Francis argued that the court had previously allowed evidence of a settlement if a witness for the settling defendant testified at trial and that it was within the court’s discretion to allow the settlement to be mentioned at trial because the settlement’s probative value outweighed the risk of prejudice.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lockett, J.)

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