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|March 11, 2016, Appellate Court Digests|
Kansas Supreme Court – Criminal
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW; TELECOMMUNICATIONS
FACTS: After the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) granted Kansas City Power & Light (KCPL) a $48.67 million rate increase, KCPL requested more, arguing that the Commission erred when calculating the rate increase. Specifically, KCPL claimed that the KCC used the wrong return on equity when calculating KCPL's cost of capital. There were four expert calculations submitted to the KCC for what an appropriate return on equity would be. After it was displeased with the final calculation, KCPL appealed, claiming that the KCC's return on equity determination was not supported by substantial competent evidence.
ISSUE: Whether the KCC properly determined the appropriate return on equity when calculating the rate increase
HELD: The KCC's order may only be set aside if it is not supported by substantial competent evidence "based upon the record as a whole" or if it is otherwise unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious. The KCC has been given broad discretion in executing its specialized and complex areas of operation. In its final order, the KCC justified why it believed that KCPL's proposed return on equity was too high, and its reliance on a different expert's testimony was supported by findings in the record on appeal. In an appeal such as this, the court cannot make credibility findings of witness testimony; that sort of fact-finding is left to the KCC. The KCC made a reasonable decision based on the evidence presented that was neither arbitrary nor capricious.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 77-621; K.S.A. 66-118c, K.S.A. 77-601, -621
Kansas Court of Appeals – Civil
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; DAMAGES; INSURANCE; STATUTES
FACTS: A car in which Hilburn was riding was rear-ended by a truck owned and operated by Enerpipe, Ltd. Injuries from the accident necessitated back surgery and resulted in chronic pain for Hilburn. A jury returned a verdict of $335,000 in mostly noneconomic damages for Hilburn. The district court, over Hilburn's objection, reduced the damages to $250,000 under the Kansas noneconomic loss damages statute. Hilburn appealed the constitutionality of the cap as applied to a negligence claim that did not involve medical malpractice.
ISSUES: (1) Whether the Miller v. Johnson quid pro quo test applies to claims under Section 5 of the Kansas Constitution and (2) Whether the noneconomic loss cap applies to negligence claims not involving medical malpractice
HELD: A panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals is bound by prior precedent from the Kansas Supreme Court. Any analysis regarding the constitutionality of the damages cap must be made using the quid pro quo test. Since motor carrier liability insurance is mandatory in Kansas, the state "maintains an interest" in making sure that motor carrier insurance remains affordable and available. And because insurance is available, a "reliable source of recovery" exists through motor carrier liability insurance. This availability satisfies the second step in the quid pro quo test, rendering the damages cap constitutional as applied to Hilburn.
STATUTES: 49 U.S.C. § 31139(b), § 13906(a)(1) (2012); Kansas Constitution, Section 5, Kansas Constitution, Section 18; K.S.A. 2010 Supp. 40-3104, -3403, 66-1,108b, -1,128(a); K.S.A. 40-3102, -3104, -3107, -3402(a), 60-19a02
Kansas Court of Appeals – Civil
JURISDICTION; PARENT AND CHILD
FACTS: N.U. is a child with a home state of Nebraska. The child's father resides in Nebraska, but the mother lives in Kansas. In 2015, a Kansas district court exercised temporary emergency jurisdiction over N.U. to place the child with her mother in Kansas. When the six-month period of emergency jurisdiction expired, neither the state nor the mother had attempted to transfer permanent jurisdiction from Nebraska to Kansas. The district court granted the mother's motion allowing her more time to accomplish that transfer. The father appealed, claiming that the state's temporary emergency jurisdiction had expired.
ISSUES: (1) Whether the appeal is moot and (2) Whether Kansas properly extended temporary emergency jurisdiction
HELD: Appellate courts do not generaly decide moot questions. While Nebraska might have relinquished jurisdiction after the expiration of the temporary emergency jurisdiction in Kansas, questions still remain regarding the Kansas court's actions. Accordingly, there remains an active controversy that may be heard by the court. A finding that a child is in need of care by itself is not sufficient to trigger the exercise of emergency jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. And, the emergency jurisdiction is temporary. The state exercising emergency jurisdiction must determine how long the emergency order can remain in effect. In this case, the district court determined that six months would be an adequate period. Once that six-month period expired, the Kansas district court lost jurisdiction.
STATUTES: K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 23-37,201, -37,204, 38-2273, -2274, 60-2103; K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 23-37,202