Benda v. Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City – Filial Loss of Consortium Claim Allowed

In any type of personal injury lawsuit, there are many different kinds of damages that may be owed to the injured person. These might include claims for compensation of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering or loss of life enjoyment. One of the lesser-known types of damages are those incurred by the loved ones of the person injured. These are called claims for “loss of consortium.” son1

Florida statute and common law recognizes valid loss of consortium claims that may be brought by:

  • A spouse for loss of spousal companionship (per F.S. 768.21(2))
  • A parent for the loss of a child’s companionship (per the 2001 Florida Supreme Court case of Cruz v. Broward County School Board; F.S. 768.21(4))
  • A child for loss of parental companionship (per F.S. 768.0415; F.S. 768.21(3))

This ability to sue for loss of society and companionship of a loved one has been around in many forms for almost as long as common law has existed. But the extent of loss of consortium claims vary wildly by state. Some only allow spousal relationship loss of consortium claims. Others, like Florida, allow a broad range of claims by various loved ones.

What our Miami injury lawyers can say for certain is that the legal landscape is always evolving, and it’s important for your lawyer to be up-to-date on the kinds of claims on which you can prevail in your state, and the best way to do so.

Recently in Utah, the Utah Supreme Court opened the doors for loss of consortium claims brought by a parent for the filial loss of consortium of a son following a tragic and debilitating school injury. The case is Benda v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

According to court records, a high school freshman, age 14, was injured in October 2012 while working as part of a student crew with the school’s drama production. The drama teacher instructed the student to climb up to a lift to replace several light bulbs in the auditorium. This lift was 30 feet in the air, and the student was not tethered to the lift in any way. Now anyone who has ever worked in construction or at any height knows this is extremely dangerous to conduct without any type of fall arrest system — especially when we’re talking about a 14-year-old kid with zero experience working from heights.

The student changed the light bulb and then the teacher instructed other students to push the left from one light to the next while the young teen remained on top. This was a horrible idea. The lift toppled over and the student suffered serious and life-threatening injuries.

Two years later, the student’s parents — individually and as his guardians — filed a lawsuit against the diocese and the high school alleging negligence that caused the student to suffer severe and life-threatening injuries, which included a traumatic brain injury. Among the damages they sought were for loss of filial consortium, seeking damages for the loss of consortium, companionship, services, comfort, society and attention of their son.

The high school conceded fault and accepted responsibility — but still sought to have the loss of consortium claim dismissed on the grounds the state doesn’t recognize such a claim. The trial court agreed, but the Utah Supreme Court vacated. The state high court ruled that in cases where a minor child’s injury meets the definition set forth in the state’s spousal loss of consortium statute (Utah Code section 30-1-11), there was nothing in the statute that precluded the parents from prevailing in their claim.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Benda v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City., Aug. 25, 2016, Utah Supreme Court

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Concert Injury Lawsuit Filed Against Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Venue, Aug. 28, 2016, Miami Injury Lawyer Blog