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Loss of Consortium Claims in Massachusetts

When a loved one suffers an injury in Massachusetts, it doesn’t just affect them; the impact reverberates through the family. Enter the concept of Loss of Consortium.

What is Loss of Consortium?

When a family member is seriously injured, and it affects another family member’s quality of life in terms of their relationship with the injured person, Massachusetts law recognizes a claim for loss of consortium. This can manifest as a loss of companionship, assistance, intimacy, moral support, and household contributions.

Eligible Parties for Loss of Consortium Claims

  1. Married individuals if their spouse is injured.

  2. Children under 18 if their parent is injured.

    • The Massachussets courts have held that “children have a viable claim for loss of parental society if they can show that they are minors dependent on the parent. . . . This dependence must be rooted not only in economic requirements, but also in filial needs for closeness, guidance, and nurture.” Ferriter v. Daniel O’Connell’s Sons, Inc., 381 Mass. 507 (1980)
  3. Disabled or dependent children, irrespective of age, if their parent is injured. 

  4. Parents of a minor who is injured.

Not Typically Eligible:

  • Couples who married post-injury.
  • Unmarried couples.
  • Most adult children, college-aged children, siblings.
  • Unadopted step-children or step-parents.

Historical Precedents

In the landmark case of Diaz v. Eli Lilly in 1973, legally married spouses received the right to file for loss of consortium claims. Goodrich v. Dept of Public Health further extended this right to same-sex married couples. It is essential that the couple was married at the time of the accident.

Similarly, rights have been extended to minor children and parents under specific circumstances. These provisions can be explored in depth in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 231, Section 85X.

Statute of Limitations

Typically, most personal injury cases in Massachusetts come with a three-year statute of limitations. For loss of consortium claims, the timeline generally aligns with that of the personal injury claim because they arise from the same incident. However, there are exceptions for minors who can file lawsuits up to three years post their 18th birthday.

Loss of Consortium claims after death of a party

Even if a spouse who filed a loss of consortium claim passes away, the claim can still continue. For instance, if a wife gets hurt in a fall and sues the property owner responsible, her husband can also file a loss of consortium claim for the impact on their relationship. If the husband dies before the case ends, the claim doesn’t just disappear. Instead, the husband’s estate has the right to keep pursuing the loss of consortium claim.  See Davis v. US, 670 F. 3d 48 – Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit 2012

Comparative Negligence: Does It Impact?

Although the loss of consortium claim stems from the same event as a personal injury claim, they’re treated separately. In Massachusetts, if the injured party is partially at fault, it doesn’t reduce the value of the loss of consortium claim. Comparative negligence, a modified standard adopted in Massachusetts, can affect the settlement of the injured party, but it doesn’t influence the compensation for loss of consortium. More on this can be found here.

What Can You Claim?

A loss of consortium claim can encapsulate:

  • Loss of companionship and marital benefits.
  • Loss of services, comfort, and moral support.
  • Loss of guidance, intimate relations, and household contributions.

However, claims for economic damages or pain from the injury itself are exclusive to the injured party.

In Conclusion

The trauma of an accident doesn’t just affect the injured party but often has a cascading effect on close family members. Loss of consortium claims in Massachusetts aim to address and compensate for this secondary trauma. If you or a loved one find yourself in such a situation, contact us for a free consultation.

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