Lee A. Johnson
Lee A. Johnson is an American judge. After graduating from law school in 1980, he entered private practice. He served as the city attorney of Caldwell, Kansas from 1987 to 1997. In 2001, Lee A. Johnson was appointed to the Kansas Court Appeals system. From 2001 to 2007, Lee A. Johnson served in this capacity until appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2007.
One notable case Lee A. Johnson has ruled upon recently concerned placing caps on settlement payments related to medical malpractice. The case was filed by a woman who, during surgery to remove her right ovary, instead had her left ovary removed. The woman filed suit and was awarded $759,679.74 in damages. Of this sum, $575,000 was concerned with pain and suffering and related side effects of the surgery rather than pure economic loss. State law stipulates that this type of non-economic compensation should be limited to $250,000. Therefore, the amount of the settlement was modified by the judge.
The plaintiff then filed an appeal challenging the constitutionality of this restriction and the settlement adjustment made by the judge. The doctor also filed an appeal, alleging that the plaintiff had failed to conclusively demonstrate evidence of malpractice and that expert witness testimony had been improperly restricted.
The court heard this case in October 2012. Lee A. Johnson contributed to the majority opinion issued by five members of the Supreme Court. In their opinion, the court noted that placing caps on malpractice compensation is a controversial issue which the state Supreme Court has previously issued conflicting rulings about. The majority opinion went on to state that this restriction did not violate the right to trial by jury, the right to the due course of law and the right to equal legal protection. The majority opinion also stated that this legislation did not constitute violation of the separation of powers between state and federal governments.
While Lee A. Johnson concurred in part with the majority opinion, he filed a partial dissent alongside fellow justice Carol A. Beier. In their dissent, they noted that they believed the plaintiff's right to trial by jury and due process of law had been violated and did not issue a judgment as to whether the plaintiff's right to equal protection had been violated. However, Lee A. Johnson concurred by the majority concerning the separation of powers.
Lee A. Johnson also concurred with the majority in restoring $100,000 to the plaintiff awarded to cover future medical expenses, which had been granted by a jury but removed by a post-trial judge. The majority opinion concurred that the jury had had sufficient evidence to justify such an award. In total the plaintiff was awarded that amount, $250,000 for noneconomic damages, and roughly $84,000 in medical expenses already incurred. All arguments presented by the doctor concerning her lack of malpractice were rejected.