Loss of Parental Consortium

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August 12, 2009

The majority of jurisdictions today do not recognize a child's claim for loss of parental consortium when a parent is seriously injured or killed by a tortious act. There is, however, a growing minority of jurisdictions which have held that children have the same claim that spouses have for "loss of consortium." Such jurisdictions recognize that children suffer the same loss of emotional support, companionship, love and other emotional benefits as the married adult man or woman whose spouse is seriously injured or killed because the children are in their maturing years, when the parent's guidance is so critical. The minority of states that allow claims for parental consortium have found that it is a logical evolution of the common law consortium claim because of changes in modern society regarding children's rights in other areas of law.[1]

Although no Connecticut Appellate Court has dealt directly with the issue of a child suing for loss of parental consortium, there have been two decisions in Connecticut that are considered as authority for the proposition that a claim for consortium only arises out of the "civil contract of marriage."[2] In Hopson v. St. Mary's Hospital, the Connecticut Supreme Court, in dictum, stated that consortium is usually defined as including a "variety of intangible relations" such as affection, companionship, emotional support, and dependence, which are legally protected because of the legal significance of marriage.[3]

In addition, the Connecticut Appellate Court, in Mahoney v. Lensink, addressed the issue of whether a parent can sue for the loss of consortium of his or her child.[4] The Appellate Court held that the parent's cause of action failed to state a claim because it was for loss of "filial" consortium and not the appropriate "spousal" consortium, which the court stated arises from the marital relationship.[5]

No higher Connecticut court has directly considered a claim for loss of consortium by a parent for injury to his relationship with his child, or a child for injury to his relationship with his parent.[6] However, the majority of Superior Courts considering this issue have declined to extend the cause of action to the parent-child relationship, largely relying upon the Supreme Court's emphasis upon the marriage contract as the basis for the consortium claim. Other Superior Courts have declined to recognize the cause of action pending a decision from a higher court or a statute from the legislature.

A minority of Superior Courts have recognized the cause of action, concluding that the law provides the same value and recognition to the parent-child relationship as the spousal relationship. These decisions recognized that the judiciary, and not the legislature, created and delineated spousal consortium. Consequently, the judiciary could appropriately expand the cause of action to include injuries to the parent-child relationship. However, despite stronger arguments for the extension of the cause of action to the parent-child relationship, the majority of Superior Courts will likely decline to allow parents or children to bring this claim absent a new statute or contrary ruling from a higher court.

[1] See generally Annotation, Child's Right of Action for Loss of Support, Training, Parental Attention, or the Like Against a Third Person Negligently Injuring Parent, 11 A.L.R. 4 th 549.

[2] Hopson v. St. Mary's Hospital, 176 Conn. 485 (1979); Mahoney v. Lensink, 17 Conn. App. 130 (1988); rev'd on other grounds, 213 Conn. 548 (1990).

[3] Hopson v. St. Mary's Hospital, 176 Conn. 485, 487 (1979).

[4] Mahoney v. Lensink, 17 Conn. App. 130, 131 (1988).

[5] Mahoney v. Lensink, 17 Conn. App. 130, 141 (1988) (the right to consortium is said to arise out of the civil contract of marriage and as such, does not extend to the parent-child relationship).

[6] See Foran v. Carangelo, 153 Conn. 356, 363 (1966) (prior to Hopson, stating in dicta that children could not recover for a post-mortem loss of consortium).