The New York State Appellate Division, 4th Department recently held that a jury award of $500,000 for loss of consortium constituted a material deviation from reasonable compensation. The underlying basis for the claim occurred while the plaintiff-decedent was being treated for respiratory issues in an upstate hospital. Several unsuccessful attempts to intubate resulted in a punctured esophagus.
The decedent died from unrelated causes, however, she and her husband had initiated a medical malpractice suit prior to the decedent’s death. A jury awarded $500,000 for pain and suffering and $500,000 for loss of consortium. A claim for loss of consortium arises when the injured party can no longer provide services customary in a marital relationship (ie. companionship, love affection, sexual relations),
The court ruled that the maximum amount of reasonable compensation for loss of consortium was $200,000, and as such granted a new trial for damages for loss of consortium only. In making this determination, the Appellate Court cited CPLR section 5501(c), which states, in relevant part, that “the appellate division shall determine that an award is excessive or inadequate if it deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation.” Because the Appellate Division in this case deemed that the $500,000 award for loss of consortium deviated materially from what would be reasonable compensation, it was within its powers to reverse the award and grant a new trial. If plaintiffs stipulate to reduce the award to the $200,000 that the court ruled reasonable compensation, a new trial would be avoided and the judgment modified for the specific damages.
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