Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Kansas Supreme Court
Sierra Club v. Stanek
The Supreme Court dismissed this case involving permits issued in 2017 and 2018 by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to four different swine confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), holding that current circumstances rendered moot the legal challenges brought by Sierra Club.In 2017, Husky Hogs LLC formulated a plan to rebuild and expand its CAFO. As part of the plan, the rebuild planners formed Prairie Dog Pork, LLC, which was granted a portion of Husky Hogs' property. Thereafter, KDHE granted each LLC a permit. Subsequently, the same group of landowners created two additional LLCs to further their growing capacities and were given permits from KDHE. Sierra Club brought this lawsuit alleging that the permits issued to the four CAFOs violated the surface water setback requirements of Kan. Stat. Ann. 65-1,180. The district court held that the permits were unlawful. The CAFOs appealed, and while the appeal was pending KDHE issued four new permits to the CAFOs reflecting new legal descriptions of the four facilities. The court of appeals remanded the case with directions to reinstate the 2017 and 2018 permits, which were no longer operational. The Supreme Court dismissed the case, holding that there was no longer any actual controversy concerning the 2017 and 2018 permits. View "Sierra Club v. Stanek" on Justia Law
Fisher v. Kan. Dep’t of Revenue
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the court of appeals and district court affirming the decision of the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR) to suspend Appellant's driving privileges, holding that, contrary to Appellant's arguments on appeal, the KDOR had subject matter jurisdiction to act.On appeal, Appellant argued that the KDOR lacked subject matter jurisdiction to suspend his driving privileges because the law enforcement officer who pulled him over made a mistake in entering the date on his officer's certification and notice of suspension form (DC-27). The court of appeals disagreed and sided with out cases that "refused to treat strict compliance with Kan. Stat. Ann. 8-1002 as jurisdictional." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) while the DC-27 contained mistakes, it satisfied the requirements of section 8-1002(a); and (2) therefore, the KDOR continued to have the authority to take action in this case. View "Fisher v. Kan. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law
Delaware Township v. City of Lansing
The Supreme Court reversed the rulings of the lower courts against the City of Lansing in this dispute between municipalities in Leavenworth Country over the future and assets of a fire district, holding that an interlock agreement governing the fire district was enforceable by its clear terms.Lansing invoked the termination and assets provisions of the agreement, seeking to withdraw from the agreement. Thereafter, two townships petitioned for declaratory judgment to stop the dissolution or alteration of the Fire District, arguing that the sections in the agreement that Lansing relied on to terminate the agreement were illegal and unenforceable. Lansing counterclaimed seeking a declaratory judgment that the agreement was enforceable in its entirety. The district court ruled in favor of the townships, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Lansing's notice of termination of the agreement was effective and enforceable. View "Delaware Township v. City of Lansing" on Justia Law
In re Equalization Appeal of Walmart Stores, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) concluding that Johnson County's valuations for the 2016 and 2017 tax years involving eleven Walmart and Sam's Club "big box" stores in the County were too high because they improperly relied on unadjusted sales and rental income data from other properties subject to build-to-suit leases, holding that In re Prieb Properties, LLC 275 P.3d 56 (2012), is overruled.The BOTA in this case did its duty to follow Prieb, a 2012 decision that crafted a rule of law to exclude appraisal opinions founded on unadjusted build-to-suit lease data to support valuations used in the process of ad valorem taxation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) Prieb's rationale invades BOTA's longstanding province as the fact-finder in the statutory process for appraising real property at its fair market value for ad valorem tax purposes; and (2) by following Prieb, BOTA improperly imposed an exclusionary rule on the County's evidence rather than simply considering its weight and credibility. View "In re Equalization Appeal of Walmart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
EagleMed v. Travelers Insurance
In this consolidated workers compensation appeal arising from disputes between EagleMed, LLC, a critical care transportation service, and Travelers Insurance, a workers compensation insurance carrier, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment directing the Workers Compensation Appeals Board to dismiss this proceeding, holding that remand was required.49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(1) prohibits states from enacting or enforcing any law related to a service of an air carrier providing air transportation. Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-510i(c)(2) requires the Director of the Division of Workers Compensation to oversee health care provider services to ensure charges are "fair, reasonable, and necessary." At issue was the phrase "usual and customary charges." The Board decided it lacked jurisdiction to determine the reasonableness of air ambulance charges that would reduce the amount owed, made no factual determination whether the disputed billings were "usual and customary charges," and ordered Travelers to pay in full. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court vacated the panel's decision and the Board's order that Travelers pay EagleMed in full and remanded the case for the Board to decide whether the charges were "usual and customary," holding that the Board will need to interpret this term in a manner reflecting both federal law and the state's legislative purposes. View "EagleMed v. Travelers Insurance" on Justia Law
Schmidt v. Trademark, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of a panel of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to the Kansas Workers Compensation Fund on the Fund's collateral action against Trademark, Inc., holding that there was no error.After Juan Medina received a workplace injury he sought compensation from his direct employer under the Kansas Workers Compensation Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-501 et seq. Because the employer did not carry workers compensation insurance, Medina impleaded the Fund to obtain benefits. Thereafter, an ALJ awarded compensation to Medina, and the Fund paid Medina benefits. The Fund then filed this action under Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-532a against Trademark, the general contractor for whom Medina's employer was acting as a subcontractor at the time of the injury. The district court granted summary judgment to the Fund and denied attorney fees. The court of appeals panel affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the lower courts correctly interpreted section 44-532a as allowing the Fund to pursue an action against Trademark; but (2) the Fund was not entitled to attorney fees. View "Schmidt v. Trademark, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Tax Appeal of River Rock Energy Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) upholding county appraisers' application of the Kansas Oil and Gas Appraisal Guide developed by the Kansas Department of Revenue's Property Valuation Division for valuations given for the 2016 tax year to the working interest of River Rock Energy Co. in 203 gas wells and related equipment, holding that the BOTA did not err.In its dispute, River Rock argued that the Guide produced inflated values for its working gas leases by capping operating expense allowances to arrived at a "working interest minimum lease value." The BOTA upheld the county appraisers' application of the Guide. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the Guide overvalued River Rock's wells. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the county appraisers correctly applied the Guide; and (2) the court of appeals correctly decided that it had jurisdiction to entertain River Rock's challenge to BOTA's order refusing to abate filing fees. View "In re Tax Appeal of River Rock Energy Co." on Justia Law
Hanson v. Kansas Corp. Commission
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the lower courts that a natural gas utility company's invoicing practice was "unjust, unreasonable, [or] unfair" under Kan. Stat. Ann. 66-1,206(a), holding that the lower courts reached the correct conclusion.Plaintiffs complained to the Kansas Corporation Commission about Texas-Kansas-Oklahoma Gas, LLC's (TKO) billing practices. The Commission decided that Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of proving that TKO's rates or practices with regard to them were unreasonable. On review, the district court agreed with Plaintiffs and remanded the case to the Commission to calculate how much TKO overbilled Plaintiffs. The court of appeals agreed that the Commission erred in its analysis of TKO's billing methodology but altered the district court's refund directive and ordered the Commission to decide an appropriate remedy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) TKO's calculating method constituted an unlawful practice; and (2) the case is remanded to the Commission to fashion an appropriate remedy. View "Hanson v. Kansas Corp. Commission" on Justia Law
Hawkins v. Southwest Kansas Co-op Service
In this case involving an Employer's subrogation interest in a $1.5 million settlement, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the Workers Compensation Board calculating the subrogation interest for Employer and remanding for a larger reduction, holding that the Board correctly determined the calculations.Employee suffered a workplace injury and received workers compensation benefits from Employer and its insurance carrier. Employee sued three other entities he claimed were liable for some or all of his injuries and settled with two of those entities. In this matter, Employer and its insurer sought to be repaid from one of those settlements under Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-504(b). The jury found Employer twenty-five percent at fault and assessed Employee's damages at more than $4 million. The Board reduced the subrogation interest for Employer's past and future expenses by twenty-five percent of the settlement, but the court of appeals concluded that the reduction should be by twenty-five percent of the jury's award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board did not err in calculating Employer's subrogation interest. View "Hawkins v. Southwest Kansas Co-op Service" on Justia Law
Johnson v. U.S. Food Service
In this workers compensation case, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-510e(a)(2)(B) was unconstitutional on its face, holding that the statute is constitutional.Appellant was injured during his employment and filed for workers compensation benefits. A doctor rated Appellant's permanent partial impairment using the Sixth Edition of the American Medical Association Guides, as adopted by the Kansas Workers Compensation Act. See section 44-510e(a)(2)(B). The court of appeals reversed, holding that the statute's use of the Sixth Edition was unconstitutional on its face because it changed the essential legal standard for determining functional impairment. The Supreme Court reversed after construing the ambiguous statutory language to avoid the constitutional question, holding that the language of section 44-510e(a)(2)(B) referencing the Sixth Edition can reasonably be interpreted as a guideline rather than a mandate. View "Johnson v. U.S. Food Service" on Justia Law