Indiana’s Adult Wrongful Death Statute and Patient’s Compensation Fund – Scope of Damages
After the executor of a young woman’s estate settled a medical malpractice claim for the statutory limit, the executor petitioned the Patient’s Compensation Fund for additional compensation in excess of the settlement amount for attorney fees, probate administration, loss of services (love and companionship) to the decedent’s parents and litigation costs under Indiana’s Adult Wrongful Death Statute (AWDS). The Superior Court Judge of Marion County rejected the Fund’s contention regarding the scope of damages permitted under the Adult Wrongful Death Statute and awarded the full amount requested by the executor.
Damages Must be Compensatory
The Fund appealed the trial court’s final judgment in the amount of $278,377.55 on grounds that the judgment included sums for expenses of administration, attorney fees and loss of services that are not recoverable under Indiana’s Adult Wrongful Death Statute, Ind. Code § 34-23-1-2. The Court of Appeals rejected the Fund’s arguments and affirmed the trial court ruling. Ind. Patient’s Comp. Fund v. Brown, 934 N.E.2d 168 (Ind.Ct.App.2010). Indiana Supreme Court Justice Dickson, in the majority opinion, affirmed the trial court’s ruling. He writes: “[t]he Court of Appeals correctly noted that damages in actions under Indiana’s wrongful death statutes must be compensatory in nature”. Brown, 934 N.E.2d at 176-77.
The Fund’s argument treated all damages together—as a class—and did not make the distinction between the recoverability of any one item. In Brown, the Court declared, “[A]ttorney fees, probate administration costs, and litigation costs are compensatory damages that remedy actual pecuniary losses [emphasis added]. Therefore, we find no compelling reason why these damages should not be allowed.”
The Fund did not contest that the decedent’s parents suffered a pecuniary loss from the loss of her love and companionship but instead argued that “[s]uch damages are categorically unavailable under the Adult Wrongful Death statute.” The majority disagreed and stated: “[L]oss of services, when proved, would constitute a pecuniary loss of the type contemplated by the AWDS.”
Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyers
The sudden loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another requires a firm grasp of the law and legal skill. Charlie Ward of Ward & Ward Law Firm is experienced in Wrongful Death Claims. If you have suffered a loss of a loved one from an accident or a medical providers negligence, and would like to discuss a wrongful death claim, call Charlie Ward for a free consultation today.
By Charlie Ward