In Florida, “loss of consortium” is a legal injury parties in accident claims typically raise in relation to the effects of an accident on a couple’s sex life. In Peterson v. Sun State International Trucks, however, the Fourth District Court of Appeal explains that consortium damages can be sought for any deterioration in a marriage caused by the effects of an accident, sexual or otherwise.
Lorie Peterson was injured in a car accident in Florida when the car she was driving was rear-ended by a truck driven by a Sun State employee. Peterson and her husband Clayton sued the company, alleging that Ms. Peterson suffered severe neck and back injuries as a result of the crash.
The Petersons also sought damages for “loss of consortium,” which the Court explained is a theory under which the spouse of an injured person seeks redress for loss of “the companionship and fellowship of husband and wife and the right of each to the company, cooperation and aid of the other in every conjugal relation.”
Following a trial, a jury awarded Ms. Peterson damages for past and future medical expenses as well as come noneconomic damages. It did not, however, award Mr. Peterson loss of consortium damages. The trial court later denied the Petersons’ motion for new trial on the loss of consortium claim.
On appeal, the Second District reversed the trial court’s decision, finding that the Petersons’ provided uncontroverted evidence showing that the accident adversely affected their marital relationship. Both Mr. and Ms. Peterson testified at trial that Ms. Peterson’s injuries and the resulting pain limited her ability to do the things she had previously enjoyed, including housework and traveling. They also testified that Ms. Peterson became ill-tempered and “short” with Mr. Peterson. Specifically, Ms. Peterson said “[i]t’s affected me to the point where I’ve pulled away from him.”
Both Petersons also testified that Ms. Peterson’s injuries from the accident also decreased the frequency in which they engaged in sexual relations. However, defense counsel introduced evidence showing that Ms. Peterson had previously answered “no” when asked in a deposition whether the slowdown in the couple’s sex life was attributable to her injuries from the accident. Nevertheless, the court ruled that “the interests involved in a claim for loss of consortium involve far more than sexual relations.”
The Court further found that there was little or no evidence to contradict that provided by the Petersons which established that Ms. Peterson was no longer able to contribute to the marital relationship – including working outside the home, traveling and doing household chores – to the same extent as prior to the accident and the relationship deteriorated as a result of her injuries. “There was no evidence that would link the deterioration in the Petersons’ marital relationship to anything other than the accident,” the Court ruled.
As a result, the Court concluded that Mr. Peterson was entitled to at least nominal damages for loss of consortium and remanded the case back to the trial court for a new trial on this issue.
Rear end accidents are among the most common types of automobile collisions in the United States. As this case shows, they can result in life-altering physical and mental injuries. The South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine work hard to zealously represent clients throughout the area, including in Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton. Anidjar & Levine’s lawyers commonly represent individuals who were injured in rear end collisions, and persevere to get the best possible results for clients.
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