Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Loss of Parental Consortium

Parental consortium damage awards are damages intended to compensate a child for the loss of the parent’s love, compassion, companionship, society and comfort. Consortium awards were traditionally reserved to compensate for the loss of spousal consortium. However, courts and legislatures allowing parental consortium damages relied on the importance of the parent-child relationship to society. Thus, consortium damage awards are available in most states to children whose parental relationship is adversely impacted due to a parent’s death or serious injury.

Parental Consortium Awards in Personal Injury Actions

While some states only allow consortium damages for the death of a parent, other states do allow damages for the serious injury to a parent. In 1980, Massachusetts became the first state to award consortium damages to a child whose father was rendered a quadriplegic as the result of a workplace accident. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reasoned that the need of children for parental love and nurture was to be protected whether the parent suffered injury or death. After the Massachusetts decision, a number of other jurisdictions also allowed parental consortium damages in personal injury actions. Florida passed legislation allowing children such a right. In Texas and Arizona, the right to parental consortium damages is available not only to minor children, but also to adult children. Oklahoma only permits parental consortium for children whose parent is in a “state which equates death.”

States that have rejected recovery for loss of parental consortium in personal injury cases claim that damage awards would be too high if such awards were allowed. Added to the damages awarded to the injured parent him or herself would be claims for damages from each child of the injured parent. With the increased liability, there would be higher insurance rates and higher insurance payouts.

Parental Consortium Awards in Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

All states have laws that allow the loved ones of those killed wrongfully to bring a cause of action against those responsible for the killing. Wrongful death statutes allow the family members to bring a cause of action for the death of their loved one to recover for the economic impact of the death. Survival actions are brought on behalf of the estate of the decedent. Survival actions are based on the theory that an action for the injury that caused the death survives the death. The majority of states allow minor children to recover consortium damages for the loss of a parent. Proof of damages in a loss of parental consortium action is generally shown through evidence of loving and affectionate behavior from the parent to the child or children, evidence of shared family activities and travel, evidence of religious or educational guidance, and the like.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.