Sitting en banc, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal recently affirmed the highest general damage award to a minor child for the wrongful death of a parent in Louisiana. The jury awarded $2.5 million in general damages to the minor boy for the devastating loss of his non-custodial mother, with whom he had a close relationship. The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal approved the following separate elements of wrongful death general damages and explained how each was different from the other:
1) Past, present and future mental anguish, grief and anxiety
2) Past, present and future loss of love and affection
3) Past, present and future loss of society, services and consortium
Mental anguish and grief refers to the pain, discomfort, inconvenience, anguish, and emotional trauma that accompany the injury. This includes the initial shock, anxiety, and distress that a minor child experiences as a result of the loss of a parent. Put another way, grief is the presence of an emotion as a result of a loved one’s death.
Loss of love and affection, on the other hand, goes beyond the initial grief and emotional trauma. These damages compensate the minor child for the enduring and irreversible loss of his parent. While grief and anguish will wane over time, the minor child will always feel the absence of the traditional characteristics of the parent-child relationship. Loss of love and affection is the absence of an experience; specifically, the absence of a love previously bestowed.
The factors for loss of consortium include loss of society and companionship, loss of support and family income, and loss of performance of material services, including educational and household help for children.
Rachel v. Brouillette, 12-794 (La.App. 3 Cir. 3/13/13), 111 So.3d 1137, 1142-43, writ denied, 2013-0690 (La.5/3/13), 113 So.3d 217 (Affirming the jury’s general damage award of $1 million for past, present and future mental anguish, grief and anxiety; $1 million for past, present, and future loss of love and affection; and $500,000 for loss of society, services and consortium. An additional $300,000 award for loss of support was also affirmed.).
Prior to Rachel, $750,000 was the highest general damage award ever affirmed by a Louisiana court for the wrongful death of a minor child’s parent. See Raymond v. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co., 09-1327 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/2/10), 40 So.3d 1179, writ denied, 10-1569 (La.10/8/10), 46 So.3d 1268.