A new chapter has just begun in the story of personal injury law in the state of Connecticut. A noteworthy decision by the state Supreme Court last month recognized, for the first time, the rights of minor children to file a loss of consortium claim following an injury to a parent. Legal experts around the state and throughout the country have recognized the ruling as a large step forward, as a majority of jurisdictions in the United States already permit such action. In its decision, however, the Court included certain restrictions that may limit loss of consortium claims in particular situations.
In 2008, a West Haven man was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. He died three days later, and his wife filed suit against the car’s driver on several counts, including wrongful death, loss of spousal consortium, and loss of parental consortium on behalf of the couple’s three children. The trial court determined appropriate wrongful death damages to be almost $3 million, along with a $1 million award for the loss spousal consortium. Due to contributory negligence findings, the awards were reduced by 42 percent, and the actual awarded damages totaled about $2.3 million. The loss of parental consortium claim, however, was rejected. The children appealed, and Campos v. Coleman eventually made its way to the state Supreme Court.
The trial court’s refusal to hear the loss of parental consortium element was based on a 1998 Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in Mendillo v. Board of Education. In deciding Campos, however, the high court was forced to reconsider its own previous ruling, and legally recognize the importance of the relationship between a parent and his or her children. By a split decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the precedent set by Mendillo should be changed, and that loss of parental consortium is a valid cause of action, but with a number of restrictions.
Action for loss of parental consortium may be raised only on behalf of a child who was a minor at the time of the injury in question, and must be attached to the injured parent’s claim for recovery. Damages are limited, as well, to the time between the parent’s injury and either the date that the child reaches majority or the date of the parent’s death, whichever occurs first. Recovery remains barred for loss of parental consortium for periods following the parent’s death; thus, if death occurs simultaneously with the injury, parental consortium cannot be considered. This element of the ruling, however, may be subject to change in the future, as claims for loss of spousal consortium were once similarly limited but have been since permitted by legislation.
If your family has been affected by an injury to a parent, and you would like to know more about filing a loss of parental consortium claim, contact an experienced Hartford personal injury attorney. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we are committed to helping families collect the full compensation permitted by law, including damages now allowed by the recent ruling. Call [[phone1]] to schedule your confidential consultation and put our knowledge of the law to work for you.