In Maryland, the Court of Appeals recently granted certiorari to determine what a plaintiff must prove in a Maryland wrongful death case to recover economic damages. The case arose after the plaintiff’s daughter died after receiving medical treatment from the defendant. A jury awarded the plaintiffs $1,000,000, which included $500,000 in non-economic damages and $500,000 in economic damages. The Court of Special Appeals vacated the economic damages award, and the woman appealed.
Under Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act, a parent may recover economic damages for the loss of household services rendered by a deceased adult child. According to the appellate court, beneficiaries must meet a three-prong test to establish their right to economic damages arising from the loss of household services. Under the test, the beneficiary must:
- Identify the market value of the domestic services,
- Have reasonably expected the decedent to provide the services; and
- Present evidence regarding the length of time the decedent would have provided the services.
In this case, the lower court vacated the judgment based on their determination that the plaintiff did not present “market value” evidence for the services or proof that the decedent intended to provide services to her mother regularly. During the trial, the plaintiff testified that she had her daughter at 17 years old and lived together since that time. She further asserted that she maintained a profound relationship with her daughter and considered each other best friends. During her testimony, she stated that her daughter would clean the bathrooms, wash dishes, mop the floor, vacuum, and drive the woman around. She argues that she maintained a “reasonable expectation of pecuniary benefit. In support of her assertion, she suggested that her expectation in conjunction with her daughter’s habits is sufficient to establish proof of damages under the Wrongful Death Act.
The appeals court found that the plaintiff did not adduce evidence that her daughter intended to provide household services in the future. Further, she failed to present proof that her daughter had a legal duty to provide services. Finally, she neglected to present any written or oral promise that the daughter intended to continue providing services. While there was proof that the daughter was “in the habit” of providing services, this does not meet the evidentiary threshold. The court ultimately found that evidence of a symbiotic relationship would lead to juror speculation about the decedent’s intent. As such, they affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
Maryland Wrongful Death Attorney
If you or someone you love has suffered losses because of another’s negligence, contact the Maryland wrongful death attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen. The attorneys at our firm understand the emotional, financial, and physical toll that an accident can have on individuals and their loved ones. We work to ensure that Maryland injury victims recover damages against negligent individuals, corporations, hospitals, and insurance companies. Our firm handles Maryland accident cases stemming from motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, birth injuries, nursing home negligence, and construction accidents. Contact our office today at 800-654-1949 to discuss your rights and remedies after a Maryland accident.