Some States Allow Loss of Consortium Damages for Injured Children
Although "loss of consortium" damages are traditionally associated with
spousal relationships, modern cases have extended the right to recover them
to parent-child relationships. Referred to as "filial consortium damages,"
these awards are intended to compensate the parent for the loss of
affection, love and companionship that results from a child's injury or
Wrongful Death Actions Distinguished
In cases where parents sue for the wrongful death of their child, most
jurisdictions permit parents to recover filial consortium damages from the
wrongdoer. Parents can generally recover these damages under the state's
wrongful death statute.
The situation is much different, however, in cases where the child survives.
Under these circumstances, although the child may have suffered severe
permanent injuries, state law varies significantly with respect to the
availability of filial consortium damages. As a general proposition, most
states do not recognize parents' claims for lost consortium when the child
Majority of States: No Filial Consortium Damages for Non-Fatal Injuries
A majority of jurisdictions do not permit parents of non-fatally injured
children to recover filial consortium damages. The following examples
reflect the status of the law in several states:
Some States Allow Parents to Recover for Non-Fatal Injuries
- In 2003, the Texas Supreme Court declined to extend a claim for loss of
consortium to the parents of a child with a non-fatal injury. As such,
Texas does not permit parents to recover loss of consortium damages
resulting from a child's serious injuries.
- In 1988, Michigan's highest state court held that a parent has no cause of
action for loss of consortium damages when a child is negligently injured.
However, the parent is still entitled to sue for loss of services as well as
- In 1986, the Wyoming Supreme Court similarly rejected a parent's right to
consortium damages resulting from serious injuries to a child.
A substantial minority of jurisdictions authorize parental recovery of
consortium damages for injured minor children. In some states, parents may
recover under a statute which expressly sanctions such damages. In other
states, however, parents must rely on case law and judicial interpretation
to recover filial consortium damages.
Though not an exhaustive list, the following states permit a parent to
recover loss of filial consortium for non-fatal injuries:
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- A Massachusetts statute sets forth the following rule: "The parents of a
minor child or an adult child who is dependent on his parents for support
shall have a cause of action for loss of consortium of the child who has
been seriously injured against any person who is legally responsible for
causing such an injury."
- In 1994, the Florida Supreme Court expressly ruled that a parent has a
common law right to recover for loss of an injured child's consortium,
stating "The loss of a child's companionship and society is one of the
primary losses that the parent of a severely injured child must endure."
- In 1986, the Arizona Supreme Court granted parents the right to recover
consortium damages from a third party who permanently injures their adult
child. The court expressly refused to limit loss of consortium damages in
severe injury cases to cases involving minors: "Loss of consortium is a
compensable harm, and we see no basis for limiting this action solely to
cases of wrongful death [and] no reason for limiting the class of plaintiffs
to parents of minor children when the parents of adult children may suffer
equal or greater harm."