The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently affirmed the principle that, where a child dies as a result of another’s negligence, the parents may recover monetary damages for the value of the companionship, society and comfort the child would have provided had he or she lived.  In Hatwood v. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 2012 PA Super 217 (Oct, 5, 2012), plaintiff mother and father sued defendant hospital and doctor for medical malpractice related to the death of their 17-month-old child.  The child suffered a brain injury at birth which led to cerebral palsy and, ultimately, the child’s premature death.  A jury awarded the parents more than $2.1 million in damages.  Included in the award were damages for loss of the child’s companionship, society and comfort.  The defense appealed, arguing that due to the inherent uncertainty involved in such damages, they should be impermissible.  The Court disagreed, reinforcing the principle that, just because there is no mathematical formula for valuing these losses, does not mean a negligent party should be excused from reimbursing them.  Therefore, in a wrongful death action relating to the death of a child, the parents and family are entitled to monetary compensation for their loss of the child’s companionship, comfort, society, guidance, solace, protection and services.  As the Supreme Court has previously stated: “All these things … which go into the vase of family happiness-are things for which a wrongdoer must pay when he shatters the vase.”  Spangler v. Helm’s New York-Pittsburgh Motor Exp., 396 Pa. 482 (1959).  And, Pennsylvania law does not require proof of such damages to a mathematical certainty.

Michael Ksiazek is a member of Stark & Stark’s Yardley, PA office, concentrating in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Ksiazek.