Continental Western Insurance Company, Appellant/Cross-appellee,
Christopher J. Shultz; City of Great Bend, Kansas; and City of Great Bend, Kansas, Police Department, Appellees/Cross-appellants.
1. K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 12-105b(d) requires anyone bringing a claim against a municipality under the Kansas Tort Claims Act to provide that municipality with prior written notice setting out the specific facts and circumstances giving rise to the claim. Notice is a prerequisite to filing an action against a municipality.
2. K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 12-105b(d) provides that substantial compliance with its provisions and requirements is sufficient to constitute valid notice of a tort claim against a municipality. Within this statute's context, substantial compliance means providing the essential matters necessary to assure every reasonable statutory objective is met.
3. The statutory objectives of K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 12-105b(d) are to have the proper municipality advised of the time and place of the injury, to give that municipality an opportunity to ascertain the character and extent of the injury sustained, and to allow for the early investigation and resolution of claim disputes.
4. If the statutory notice provided to the municipality substantially complies with K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 12-105b(d) and the subsequent petition filed with the district court is consistent with that statutory notice, a party has complied with the statute. Absent a showing of misleading conduct or bad faith in the statutory notice's submission, subsequent amendments to the pleadings in the district court are controlled by K.S.A. 60-215.
Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed July 15, 2011. Appeal from Barton District Court; Ron Svaty, judge.
Todd B. Butler, of Butler & Associates, P.A., of Topeka, argued the cause, and Stephanie B. Poyer, of the same firm, was with him on the briefs for appellant/cross-appellee.
Gaye B. Tibbets, of Hite, Fanning & Honeyman, LLP, of Wichita, argued the cause, and was on the briefs for appellees/cross-appellants.
State law requires anyone bringing a claim against a municipality under the Kansas Tort Claim Act, K.S.A. 75-6101 et seq., to provide that municipality with prior written notice of the claim. K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 12-105b(d). This requirement exists to advise the municipality of the time and place of the injury and allow it to ascertain the character and extent of the injury before suit is filed. Dodge City Implement, Inc. v. Board of Barber County Comm'rs, 288 Kan. 619, 639, 205 P.3d 1265 (2009). Among other things, the notice must include "a statement of the amount of monetary damages that is being requested." K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 12-105b(d)(5).
In this case, the claimant alleged $19, 590.07 in damages in the notice. Later, that same amount was alleged as damages when the claim first became a lawsuit in the district court. But several months after suit was filed, the alleged damages rose to $228, 088.25. The municipality objected, arguing the notice did not adhere to the statute's disclosure requirements in light of the 11-fold increase in damages. A sharply divided Court of Appeals panel held that the notice substantially complied with the statute. Continental Western Ins. Co. v. Shultz, No. 103, 776, 2011 WL 2793583, at *13 (Kan. App. 2011) (unpublished opinion). We granted review on that issue. We agree with the panel majority that the notice substantially complied with K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 12-105b(d)(5) and affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
In March 2005, Layne Steinert was injured in a car accident with Christopher Shultz, a Great Bend police officer. Both were in the course of their employment when the accident occurred. Steinert obtained workers compensation benefits but did not bring a tort action to recover his damages from the accident. Consequently, that right was statutorily assigned to Continental Western Insurance Company, his employer's workers compensation carrier. K.S.A. 44-504(c) (injured worker's failure to bring tort action operates as assignment to employer); K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 44-532(a) (insurer subrogated to employer's rights under Workers Compensation Act).
On March 27, 2007, Continental gave notice to the City of Great Bend that it was pursuing a claim against the city for damages resulting from Shultz' negligence in the March 2005 accident. The notice set out various details regarding the accident, including a request for money damages in the amount of $19, 590.07 for medical bills and indemnity. That same day, Continental prematurely filed suit in district court in violation of K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 12-105b(d), which states that no action may commence ...