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Connecticut Recognizes Parental Consortium Claims

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The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed that children of an injured parent should be allowed to bring a claim for loss of parental consortium. Connecticut was one in five states that previously declined to recognize children’s claims.

Jose Campos was killed after a car struck him while he was riding his bicycle. The vehicle was operated by the defendant, Robert Coleman and owned by his employer LQ Management. The family was awarded $2.9 million for the wrongful death claim and $1 million for spousal loss of consortium.

The Campos family’s primary argument was to overrule Mendillo v. Board of Education, which declined to recognize a parental consortium claim. 717 A.2d 1177 (1998).   In Mendillo, the court declined to allow the claim for the following reasons:

  • The additional economic affects on the public;
  • The uncertainty of whether recognition would produce social benefits;
  • The risk of double recovery; and
  • The weight of judicial authority.

 

The state supreme court believed, however, that a failure to recognize this type of claim would be “inconsistent with the fundamental policy purposes of the tort compensation system. . .”

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Parent-Child Relationships

The state supreme court favored recognition of the claims because the factors surrounding the claim outweighed those disfavoring the claim. Specifically, the unique emotional attachment in a parent-child relationship was distinguishable from other familial relationships. While the parent is no longer with the child, it is necessary for the child to have continued development and for innocent parties to be compensated.

The court acknowledged that its reasons in Mendillo were overstated. Previously, the court believed that recognizing the parental consortium claim would open the door to an unlimited class of plaintiffs who could “present equally strong claims of loss of consortium.“

The court further explained that minor children are the only ones who have a legal entitlement to the claims because adult children are presumed independent of their parent’s care. Minor children suffer the most by an injury to the parent.

Additionally, there is no distinction between the loss suffered by natural children versus an adopted or stepchildren, because the deprivation is the same.

Undue Societal Impact & Large Families

The parent-child relationship is distinguishable from other familial relationships. The impact of the injury to the parent is foreseeable and the only workable way to compensate for the loss is a monetary award.

The court stated that if a monetary award was not available the effects of the loss may have a broader societal impact such as the child’s future development as a contributing member of society.

Mendillo was concerned with the number of potential claims if there are multiple children. With larger families there will be additional claims made, however the number of potential claims is not a sufficient reason to deny the action, the court stated. The larger the family the greater the scope of injury.

Double Recovery

If the claim for parent consortium were recognized, previous courts believed the surviving spouse and the children would both recover by filing separate claims. However, the court quickly dispensed with the issue by suggesting the parent’s claim and the child’s claim would be joined to the same proceeding and specific jury instructions should be provided on damages.

The court concluded its opinion by providing some guidelines for parental consortium claims in the state:

  • The parental consortium claims must be joined with parent’s negligence claim whenever possible;
  • Jury must be instructed that only the child raising the claim can recover the pecuniary value of the parent’s services;
  • The consortium claim will be barred when surviving parent’s claim has been terminated by settlement or by adverse judgment on the merits
  • The claim may be raised only by a person who was a minor on the date of the parent’s injury and damages are limited to the period between the injury and date the child reaches the age of majority.

 

This case is Gregoria Campos, Administratix (Estate of Jose Mauricio Campos), Et Al v. Robert E. Coleman Et Al., Case No. SC 19195, Supreme Court of Connecticut.

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