The Connecticut Supreme Court has created a new class of plaintiffs in negligence actions. Longstanding precedent limited claims for loss of consortium to spouses – i.e., for loss of the injured or dead spouse's affection, society and companionship – and denied similar claims by children. Yesterday the Court reversed course and now recognizes a child's claims for loss of an injured parent's love, care, companionship and guidance.
The case name is Gregoria Campos, Administratrix (Estate of Jose Mauricio Campos), et al. v. Robert E. Coleman, et al., S.C. Docket No. 19195. While on his bicycle, Jose Campos was struck by a vehicle owned by defendant LQ Management and operated by defendant Robert Coleman. He died from his injuries three days later. The Estate brought a wrongful death claim, Ms. Campos brought a loss of spousal consortium claim and the three minor children brought claims for loss of parental consortium. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to strike the children's claims.
The jury found for the Estate and Ms. Campos. The children appealed the trial court's decision striking their loss of parental consortium claims. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings on the children's claims. The result is that children of parents who have suffered injury or death caused by the negligence of a third party may claim damages for loss of parental consortium, provided that:
- The loss of parental consortium claim must be joined with the parent's negligence claim;
- If the parent's claim is terminated by settlement or by adverse judgment on the merits, the child's claim is extinguished;
- The child must have been a minor on the date of injury and damages may be awarded only from the date of injury until the child reaches majority age (18); and
- In wrongful death actions, damages are limited to those arising during the parent's life, and do not include those arising from the parent's death (e.g., the Campos children could seek damages for the three days that their father remained alive).
A Pandora's box? The Court left "for another day" the question of whether non-adoptive stepchildren or children in other parent-child type relationships may sue for loss of consortium. We expect to see litigation that will test the boundaries of this new class of plaintiffs. We also expect that the Connecticut General Assembly will eventually amend the State's Wrongful Death Statutes (§§ 52-555 and 52-555a) to authorize a cause of action for loss of parental consortium arising from wrongful death, as it did in 1989 to permit loss of spousal consortium in such cases.
The Campos decision applies to pending cases, including those where judgment has entered in the trial court but the appeal process has not yet concluded. To read the opinion, click here.
For more information on wrongful death and loss of consortium claims or other legal developments that impact the health care profession, please contact Kristin Connors at 203-578-4202 or [email protected], or Mariella LaRosa at 203-575-2654 or [email protected].