Through the past two decades, Kansas City attorney Timothy M. Aylward has had a front-row seat to litigation that has shaped Missouri’s law on damages caps.
“My career has sort of inexplicably been hitched to the statutory caps, for better or for worse,” he said.
In 1992, Aylward represented defendant Children’s Mercy Hospital in Adams v. Children’s Mercy before the Missouri Supreme Court.
It was the first case to challenge tort-reform legislation Missouri lawmakers passed in 1986 that capped noneconomic damages to $430,000 per defendant. The court ultimately upheld the cap.
Then in 2011, Aylward found himself representing a neurologist in the case of Sanders v. Ahmed, which touched on the issue of caps in wrongful-death cases.
Aylward said he looked to another pending case before the court, Watts v. Cox Medical Center. The Watts case stemmed from stricter caps enacted in 2005.
“Our argument was that wrongful-death actions are created by the legislature, and the legislature has the right to modify causes of actions that it creates,” he said. “Whatever analysis in the Watts case is going to be different because it was a statutory cause of action. The Supreme Court agreed.”
The court upheld the caps in Sanders but later struck down the caps in Watts, creating a situation in which damages are limited in wrongful-death cases but not in cases where people are injured but survive.
Aylward’s career in the legal profession has been equally fortuitous. He became a lawyer after first pursuing journalism. He speaks fondly of his first five years working as a newspaper reporter and editor, first for the Independence Examiner and later for the Topeka Capitol-Journal.
As a reporter, he interviewed Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Hubert Humphrey. Still, he felt the itch to become a lawyer, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom were attorneys.
“I was raised to believe you did the best work you could for your client and that was its own reward, and I believe that.”
Aylward went back to school and earned a law degree from Washburn University in 1982.
He joined Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin in Kansas City, where he worked for 17 years and handled a variety of cases, including asbestos litigation and medical malpractice-defense litigation.
He also built up a practice representing insurers, which was a key part of his decision to leave the firm with his colleagues Bob Horn and Jim Bandy. The three cofounded Horn Aylward & Bandy in 1999.
“It was a long and very gradual process,” he said. “I loved my years at Blackwell. It was a very happy parting of ways.”
While his work has earned him membership in prestigious legal organizations such as the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Board of Trial Advocates, Aylward said the most important accolades come from his clients when they succeed.
“I was raised to believe you did the best work you could for your client and that was its own reward, and I believe that,” he said.