Kansas City Kansas

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Justices say 2006 law places liability with agency that has custody at time of care

by Andy Marso, KHI News Service

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the Kansas Highway Patrol must pay the University of Kansas Hospital for medical treatment the hospital provided to an uninsured man who was brought in by state troopers after crashing his car in a high-speed chase.

In a decision released Friday, the court upheld a Wyandotte County District Court judgment finding the highway patrol liable for the costs of the man’s care. The high court said under a law passed in 2006, KHP was liable for the costs of treating Wayne Thomas because the state agency had Thomas in its custody when he was brought to the hospital.

“KHP suggests the statute is ambiguous because it could be read to obligate either the County or KHP to pay for Thomas’ medical expenses,” the decision states. “But there is no ambiguity — an agency is liable for the medical expenses of a person in its custody.”

According to the court decision, a state trooper stopped Thomas in Wyandotte County for speeding, and as soon as the trooper exited his vehicle, Thomas took off. A high-speed chase ensued, ending when Thomas crashed his car into a tree.

The trooper took Thomas in his patrol car to the hospital, where Thomas was treated for his crash injuries overnight.

The parties involved agreed that Thomas had no feasible way to pay his medical bills, which amounted to about $25,000.

But they disagreed about who should be liable for the bills.

The KU Hospital Authority sued Wyandotte County and the Kansas Highway Patrol.

The justices agreed with the lower court’s determination that, under K.S.A. 22-4612(a) of the state’s legal code, only the highway patrol was liable.

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office represented the highway patrol in the case.

A lawyer from the attorney general’s office attempted to argue that Thomas was not in the agency’s custody after the trooper who brought him in removed his handcuffs and left the hospital.

But the justices rejected that argument, stating that Thomas was under arrest and in custody when the decision to seek treatment was made.

“Here, because Thomas was under arrest and in the KHP trooper’s custody, he had no ability to seek medical care on his own,” the decision states. “He was wholly dependent on the trooper. Under the law discussed in past Kansas appellate decisions, this means a governmental entity became liable for Thomas’ medical care since he was both a prisoner and indigent.”

The justices noted that a 1985 case, Wesley Med Center v. City of Wichita, set a precedent that Kansas counties were responsible for medical expenses incurred following the arrest of an offender who could not pay, if the offender was charged with a state crime and delivered to the county’s custody.

But the justices wrote that the 2006 law “superseded” that legal precedent by establishing that the liability for medical expenses rested with whatever government agency had custody of the offender at the time the medical treatment was given.

“The Legislature chose words that departed from the holding in Wesley,” the decision states. “Instead of simply stating that a cap would apply if a governmental entity was liable for an indigent criminal offender’s medical bills, the Legislature chose to include language that designated custody as the trigger to that liability.”

Jennifer Rapp, the public information officer for the attorney general’s office, said the Legislature should revisit the 2006 law in light of the latest court decision.

“It makes little sense to have public agencies fighting among themselves over who must pay indigent care when the cost ultimately is borne by taxpayers one way or another,” Rapp said via email. “Perhaps a more sensible system, at least when state law enforcement agencies are involved, would involve the established process for making claims against the state.”

The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org when a story is reposted online.

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Kansas City, Kan., Police Department officers have responded to a homicide in the 2400 block of Pacific Avenue, according to police.

When they arrived, officers found a man in his 20s outside of the residence, dead from a gunshot wound, a spokesman said.

The police asked anyone with information to call the TIPS hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

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Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas will hold Memorial Day Masses on Monday, May 25, at the following locations and times:
• Mt. Calvary Cemetery, 15825 S. 169 Highway, Olathe, Kan., 8 a.m.; celebrated by the Rev. Michael Hermes.
• St. John Cemetery, Lenexa, Kan., 8:15 a.m. at Holy Trinity Church, 89th and Pflumm Road, Lenexa.
• Gate of Heaven Cemetery, 126th and Parallel Parkway, Kansas City, Kan., 9 a.m.; celebrated by the Rev. Jeremiah Spencer.
• Mt. Calvary Cemetery, 38th and State Avenue, Kansas City, Kan., 9 a.m.; celebrated by the Rev. Mark Mertes; liturgical music by Ed Grisnik.
• Resurrection Cemetery, 83rd and Quivira Road, Lenexa, Kan.; flag-raising by American Legion Post 370 at 8:30 a.m.; Mass at 9 a.m. celebrated by the Rev. John Riley; liturgical music by Tom Jacobs.
• St. Joseph Cemetery, 61st Terrace and Quivira Road, Shawnee, Kan., 9 a.m.; celebrated by the Rev. Michael Hawken.
• Mt. Calvary Cemetery, 801 S.W. Westchester Rd., Topeka, Kan., 10 a.m.; concelebrated by Msgr. Vincent Krische and the Rev. Tim Haberkorn; liturgical music by Christ the King (Topeka) Liturgical Ensemble; Mass followed by blessing of new statues of the four evangelists and columbaria. For more information, call 913-371-4040 (Kansas City area) or 785-272-0820 (Topeka area); email information@cathcemks.org ; or visitwww.cathcemks.org.

An American Red Cross blood drive is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 2 at Elm Grove Baptist Church, 15774 Linwood Road, Bonner Springs, Kan. For more information or to make an appointment, visit www.redcrossblood.org.

A weekly Scripture Group with Bible Sharing and Reflection, Lectio and Journaling, is offered from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesdays at Keeler Women’s Center, 2220 Central Ave., Kansas City, Kan. Heather Neds is a pastoral minister and leads the group at Keeler Women’s Center. Call 913-906-8990 to register.

Living Water United Methodist Church, 3001 N. 115th St., will be holding a special camp for children, Worship, Arts, and Music (WAM) Camp. It will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 8-11. It is for ages 3 – 8th grade. Children will explore the arts with singing, drumming, and art projects. The camp will be taught by local music and art teachers. For more information visit livingwaterumc.net and to enroll visit http://livingwaterumc.net/worship-arts-music-camp/.

Open Door Baptist Church, 3033 N. 103rd Terrace, will have a Vacation Bible School from June 22-26. The theme is “Everest, Conquering Challenges with God’s Mighty Power.” For more information, visit www.groupvbspro.com/vbs/ez/Opendooreverestvbs/gpgs/Home.aspx. Services this weekend at Open Door are at 10;30 a.m. Sunday in the church sanctuary.

A Community Blood Center blood drive is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 22 at the Parkway Baptist Church, 12320 Parallel Parkway, Kansas City, Kan. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 816-753-4040 or visit www.savealifenow.org.

Risen Lamb International Church of the Nazarene, located in the Turner area of Kansas City, Kan., has announced the opening of the Risen Lamb Prayer Room and Retreat Center. On location at their church at 5301 Metropolitan Avenue, the prayer room and retreat center is open to the public for daytime retreats. All individuals or small groups seeking a quiet, sacred space to gather, pray, meditate, journal or read resources about prayer are welcome. The prayer room provides a peaceful space for solitude or can be scheduled in advance for groups of up to eight people. Guests seeking spiritual guidance may schedule a time of spiritual direction with one of the pastoral staff, and groups may inquire about scheduling a member of the pastoral team to lead or speak at a retreat. Donations accepted but not required. For more information, or to plan a visit, contact the Rev. Philip Friday at pobfriday@yahoo.com or call 913-287-9418.

The Sanctuary of Hope Prayer and Retreat Center, 2601 Ridge Ave., will hold a Hopefest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 20, with music, balloons, games, a variety of food, and a tour of gardens and retreat facilities. For more information, visit www.sanctuaryofhope.org or call 913-321-4673.

Enjoy good food and fun at the Summer Festival to benefit the charitable works of the Sisters, Servants of Mary from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 7, on the grounds of the Sisters’ Convent, 800 N. 18th St., Kansas City, Kan. Homemade tacos and tamales, Italian sausage and barbecued beef sandwiches, hot dogs, ice cream and Spanish desserts will be served. There will be games for children and booths including dolls from Mexico; various fundraisers; a variety booth; and tote bags and cookbooks for sale. The Sisters, Servants of Mary are a community of women religious who provide nursing care to persons in their homes. The Sisters offer their services at no charge to individuals or families. They are nurses and serve people throughout the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area. The Kansas City, Kan., location is their “mother house” or headquarters for their convents in the United States and Mexico. For more information about the festival, call 913-371-3423.

A swap and shop is planned from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 6 in the parking lot at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 1086 N. 94th St., Kansas City, Kan. There will be a charge to have a space there. The event is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

Stony Point Christian Church, 149 S. 78th, is planning a church work day at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 30.

A Community Blood Center blood drive is scheduled from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. June 16 at the Wyandotte United Methodist Church, 7901 Oakland Ave., Kansas City, Kan. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 816-753-4040 or visit www.savealifenow.org.

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