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Loss of Consortium Claims in Maryland | Miller & Zois

The loss of consortium, under Maryland law and elsewhere, means the loss of society, affection, assistance and conjugal fellowship. It includes the loss or impairment of sexual relations. See Deems v. Western Maryland Ry., 247 Md. 95, 100 (1967). A loss of consortium claim does not involve economic loss (like, for example, household services which can be claimed separately) The monetary value of a loss of consortium claim is determined by the jury.

The Law on Loss of Consortium

loss of consortium A loss of consortium claim may arise when a seriously injured spouse cannot fully participate in the marriage due to the injury. Married couples have no loss of consortium claim for damages derived from personal injuries that predated their marriage. A few states have allowed for a recovery for loss of consortium by a plaintiff who is not married to the victim if a stable and significant relationship can be proven. Maryland is not one of those states.

The jury must find a loss to the marriage as a result of the tort. A loss of consortium does not immediately follow from the fact that one spouse has been injured.

In Maryland, these claims are brought together in the same lawsuit. Unlike some other jurisdictions, termination of the injury claim also terminates the loss of consortium claim in Maryland. (Insurance adjusters who handle personal injury cases in some jurisdictions are often unaware of the Maryland law on this point and demand that the injured victim's spouse agrees to the settlement.) Because a consortium claim is derivative of the injured spouse's claim, a single cap on non-economic damages applies to the whole action. In other words, you cannot backdoor the cap with a loss of consortium claims.

Practical Considerations

If you are a bringing a loss of consortium claim before a jury in Maryland or elsewhere, you should proceed with some care. Many jurors ascribe to the notion that a spouse signs on "for better or worse, in sickness and in health." Weak or vague loss of consortium claims can weaken the credibility of the injured spouse because the non-injured spouse is often the most effective witness on the damages to the injured spouse. While there is usually no harm in bringing a loss of consortium claim in your lawsuit, you want to reevaluate the claim before you bring it before a jury. Personal injury lawyers also need to be aware that they equally represent both parties and proactively manage any potential conflicts of interest.

How Does the Jury Award Loss of Consortium Damages?

In Maryland Pattern Civil Jury Instruction 10:9, the jury is told that a "husband and wife are entitled to be compensated for wrongful damage to their marital relationship. The damages which justify compensation include their loss of companionship, affection, assistance, and loss or impairment of sexual relations." From this instruction, the jury determines the dollar amount to place on the injury.

Solatium Damage

A related concept is solatium damages, which are awarded in wrongful death cases in Maryland for the death of a spouse; these may include damages for mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education where applicable. Md. Code Ann., Cts.&Jud. Proc. Section 3-904(d).

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