Court rules consumer act includes physicians

BY CARL MANNING
Associated Press
http://www.kansas.com

The Kansas Consumer Protection Act can apply to a physician’s conduct in providing treatment to a patient, but expert testimony may be required to prove a claim, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The 5-2 decision is the first time the state’s highest court has addressed the issue of whether professional conduct by physicians in providing care falls under the Consumer Protection Act.

The court concluded there’s nothing in the law exempting physicians, although it suggested the Legislature could change that. The case was returned to Sedgwick County District Court for trial on the claims.

“The plain language of the KCPA is broad enough to encompass the providing of medical care and treatment services with a physician-patient relationship,” the court held.

“A physician is, in the ordinary course of business, a seller or supplier of services. A patient is a consumer of those services for personal, family or business purposes. The sale of those services is a consumer transaction,” it said.

The ruling arose from a lawsuit in which Tracy Williamson of Parker claimed former Wichita physician Jacob Amrani, now in Scottsdale, Ariz., told her in 1999 that the back surgery he recommended had a high likelihood of relieving pain, when in fact it was unsuccessful in the majority of cases in which Amrani used it.

The trial court ruled a year ago that the Consumer Protection Act didn’t apply to physicians, and Williamson appealed. The act allows the attorney general’s office, or a consumer, to bring a civil action against someone accused of deceptive practices.

Williamson’s lawyer, Michael Hodges of Lenexa, called the ruling mixed.

“The jury ought to be able to determine if it is reasonable to be told certain things by a physician. We will be required to have an expert say whether what was said in this case departed from what a reasonable physician would have told a patient in order to prove a deceptive act,” Hodges said.

Steve Day, the Wichita lawyer representing Amrani, said similar cases in other states have resulted in the professional conduct of physicians not coming under consumer protection scrutiny.

“This is going to be damaging to the medical profession. I think it will have the potential for increasing malpractice insurance,” Day said.
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