Loss of consortium is a civil law term that describes the loss suffered by an individual after his or her spouse has died or been injured due to another person’s wrongful, negligent, or intentional act. Damages may be awarded for loss of consortium in a civil lawsuit, for the purpose of compensating the surviving or uninjured spouse for the loss of an existing family relationship or function. In some circumstances, other family members can also file a loss of consortium claim as well. To explore this concept, consider the following loss of consortium definition.
Definition of Consortium
Pronounced kuh n-sawr-shee-uh m
- The legal right of an individual to enjoy the company, affection, and support or, as well as sexual relations with, his or her spouse.
1820-1830 Latin partnership, consort (consort+ium)
What is Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a claim for damages that may be made by anyone who has lost the benefits of a family relationship due to injuries or death caused by someone else’s negligent or intentional acts. There seems to be a misconception that loss of consortium is only awarded to a party who has suffered a decrease in, or lack of, sexual activity after his spouse is injured or killed due to the fault of a third party.
The truth is, loss of consortium refers to much more than a couple’s sexual relationship, as it is intended to address losses of the personal relationship itself. For this reason, loss of consortium may be claimed by close family members other than a spouse, including children and parents. Damages in such a case include:
- Companionship and social discourse
- Emotional and mental support
- Love and affection
- Basic home services such as household chores, providing for children, running errands
- Love and comfort
Damages for loss of consortium take the form of a monetary award, and can only be received if the individual who suffered the loss files a civil lawsuit.
Mary was awarded over $1 million after filing a loss of consortium claim against the factory where her husband, Bob, worked. The claim came about after her husband was severely injured when an elevator dropped on him. As a result, Bob suffered a spinal cord injury that left him in constant severe pain, unable to walk, stand, or sit for any length of time, and unable to care for himself in many ways.
Mary became Bob’s caregiver, and was forced to take over all of the household tasks Bob was no longer capable of doing. Bob’s injuries also caused emotional problems in the couple’s relationship, as Mary was overwhelmed with taking care of her husband, even while her husband grieves his old life.
Mary and her husband filed a civil lawsuit against the elevator company, seeking compensation for Bob’s medical bills, and pain and suffering. In addition, Mary included a claim for loss of consortium.
Mary testified that, in addition to the loss of her close friendship with her husband, he was no longer able to do everyday tasks around the house, and not only does Mary no longer enjoy a normal sexual relationship with her husband, but she has to take care of his most basic physical needs. The jury awarded Bob $1.5 million for medical expenses, and $1.8 million pain and suffering. Mary was awarded $800,000 for loss of consortium.
Compensation for Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is classified under general damages, which are non-economic in nature. Compensation for loss of consortium is, at best, a substitute for the plaintiff’s damages, as it is difficult to put a price tag on such losses. The court has a great deal of discretion in determining the amount that should be awarded as compensation for loss of consortium. In some cases, such as a situation in which the spouse and family relied heavily on the injured or deceased person’s financial support, an expert witness may be used to put a dollar value on that financial loss.
Loss of Consortium in Personal Injury Case
In 1980, Donald Feltch was severely injured when the driver of a truck, Robert Randall, drove his truck into an electric cable that Fletch and his fellow employees were installing to a home, from the power pole across the street. When Randall hit and pulled the cable, Feltch was pulled 30 feet into the air, and dropped onto the road.
Feltch suffered a broken hip, and serious injuries to his back, for which he was hospitalized and disabled for months. Even after a recovery period, Felch’s injuries left him unable to do his job, or to perform regular household tasks. He became depressed, and took his frustrations and anger out on his wife. In addition, Feltch was unable to have sexual relations with his wife.
Feltch filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages from a variety of companies involved, as well as the driver of the truck. Donald’s wife, Anne, filed a claim for loss of consortium against the defendants. After two trials, and an appeal, Donald $195,000 in damages, and his wife was awarded $117,000 for loss of consortium.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Civil Lawsuit – A lawsuit brought about in court when one person claims to have suffered a loss due to the actions of another person.
- Damages – A monetary award in compensation for a financial loss, loss of or damage to personal or real property, or an injury.
- Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.