Damages for Loss of Household Services at Issue in Maryland Wrongful Death Case

In Maryland, family members may bring a wrongful death action against a defendant whose negligence caused the death of their loved one.  The Maryland wrongful death statute allows the plaintiffs to recover economic and non-economic monetary damages resulting from their loss.  In a November 1, 2019 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed the jury’s award of damages to a plaintiff who had prevailed in her wrongful death action against the defendant.

The case arose from the death of the plaintiff’s daughter’s in 2013.  The plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the medical providers who treated her daughter, including the defendant.  Following a trial, the jury found the defendant liable for the wrongful death of the plaintiff’s twenty-two-year-old daughter.  The jury awarded the plaintiff $500,000 in non-economic damages and $500,000 in economic damages for the loss of her daughter’s services.  The defendant subsequently appealed the jury’s award of economic damages.

The specific issue on appeal was whether the plaintiff had sufficiently established her damages claim for the loss of her daughter’s household services.  The court confirmed that in a Maryland wrongful death action, a covered beneficiary may recover for both economic and non-economic damages.  After reviewing Maryland case law and other legal authority, the Court of Special Appeals went on to present a three-part rule for determining when a beneficiary in a wrongful death action may recover economic damages for the loss of household services.

The court held that in order to establish that the loss of household services is a pecuniary loss, the plaintiff must present evidence of the following: the market value of the domestic services provided by the decedent; the duration the decedent would have likely provided the services; and the plaintiff’s reasonable expectation that the decedent would provide such services.  The court also explained that economic damages, especially future damages, must be established with reasonable certainty.

The court then applied the test in light of the evidence presented at trial.  The court wavered on whether the plaintiff was required to present evidence of the specific market value or replacement cost of the services provided by her daughter, rather than a general prevailing wage.  However, the court ultimately concluded that the lack of evidence as to the likely duration of her daughter’s services warranted reversal.  The court noted that her daughter was beginning her adult life, and there was no evidence that she planned on living with the plaintiff indefinitely.  Acknowledging the plaintiff’s devastating loss, the court recognized that household services may be recoverable as a pecuniary loss, but that in the instant case, there was insufficient evidence of the damages claim.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland injury lawyers have the experience and skill to help you seek the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled.  We can provide trusted legal guidance to individuals after a medical malpractice injury, semi-truck collision or car crash, slip and fall, and many other personal injury and wrongful death accidents.  To consult with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact Foran & Foran, P.A. by phone at (301) 441-2022 or online and schedule a consultation.