• Caleb Meriwether

Loss of Consortium and Cap on Damages

Tennessee's Supreme Court affirmed the statutory cap on non-economic damages in February in the matter of McKay v. Airport Management Services, LLC. Non-economic damages - i.e. pain and suffering - are generally limited to $750,000.00. The recent case of Yebuah v. Center for Urological Treatment, No. M2018-01652-COA-R3-CV, provides an important illustration of how the cap works and clarifies that it is a per plaintiff cap, as opposed to an aggregate cap.

Mrs. Yebuah apparently suffered an injury during a medical procedure. She sued her providers. Her husband also sued them for his loss of consortium - the loss of the love, services, affection, and companionship of his wife. The jury awarded 4 million dollars to Mrs. Yebuah for her pain and suffering and $500,000.00 to her husband for his loss of consortium. The trial court applied the statutory cap and reduced the award to Mrs. Yebuah to $750,000.00, but left the $500,000.00 award to the husband undisturbed.

Yebuah demonstrates several important points about the cap. It appears that the Yebuahs had limited, if any, economic damages - loss of income, medical expenses, funeral expenses, etc. The defendants were, therefore, able to calculate their maximum exposure at trial, likely $750,000.00 per plaintiff. Without the statutory caps, one wonders whether the defendants would have taken the risk of trying the case.

The trial court reduced the award as directed by the statute. The jury awarded 4 million dollars to Mrs. Yebuah. The court followed the law and reduced that award to $750,000.00. This seems straightforward, but with the limited jury trials, especially those resulting in large awards, it is interesting to see the caps applied.

Lastly, the caps apply per plaintiff, not in the aggregate. You'll recall that the husband was awarded $500,000.00, meaning the defendants were out 1.25 million. The defendants argued that the maximum they should have to pay was $750,000.00, regardless of the number of plaintiffs. In other words, defendants argued that the statutory caps apply in the aggregate to the total award. The trial court and the appellate court disagreed, holding that the cap applies per plaintiff. So, each individual plaintiff may recover up to $750,000.00 in non-economic damages. This is important because most catastrophic cases will also have a loss of consortium claim brought by the spouse.

LEGAL JARGON DISCLAIMER: The foregoing is not legal advice. Even if you construe it that way, it’s probably only worth what you paid for it. I am an attorney but am not yours.

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