Federal District Court Holds that Tennessee Law Does Not Provide for Damages for a Plaintiff’s Own Loss of Household Services

In an east Tennessee personal injury lawsuit for damages suffered in an airplane accident, car crash, or truck wreck, the plaintiff may seek compensation for several different elements of damages.

Typically, these damages include past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of earning capacity. If the plaintiff is married, his or her spouse may also seek monetary compensation for loss of consortium.

A recent case explored the distinctions between some of these potential elements of damages.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the plaintiff was a woman who, along with several other passengers, was allegedly injured in an aviation incident in Nashville in 2015. After the passengers’ claims against the airline and a federal governmental agency were consolidated, the plaintiff amended her complaint to substitute a party defendant. After the deadline for amending pleadings had passed, she sought leave to amend her complaint a second time in order to add a claim for damages for loss of household services and to remove her claim for future loss of earning capacity. The defendants did not object to the removal of the plaintiff’s claim for loss of future earning capacity, but they opposed the addition of the plaintiff’s proposed new claim for loss of household services. According to the defendants, the new claim for damages was futile because Tennessee state law did not permit a personal injury plaintiff to recover damages for past or future household services outside of the context of a loss of consortium claim. The plaintiff countered that there was no available Tennessee precedent for excluding damages for the loss of the value of household services.

The Decision of the Court

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, granted the plaintiff’s motion in part and denied it in part. Insomuch as the defendants did not object to the plaintiff’s wish to remove her claim for future loss of earning capacity, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend her complaint to remove this claim. As to the household services claim, however, the court denied the plaintiff’s request for leave to amend her complaint to add this element of damages to her claim.

Agreeing with the defendants that such an amendment would be futile, the court noted that existing Tennessee case law expressly authorized damages of the type sought by the plaintiff in her proposed amendment only in the context of a loss of consortium claim brought by the spouse of an injured party. Because the Tennessee courts have not recognized a plaintiff’s loss of the value of her own household services as a category of recoverable non-economic damages, the federal district court opined that the plaintiff could not establish that she was entitled to recover this type of damages.

In so holding, the court pointed out that, if the plaintiff can prove that she has had to – or will have to – pay others to help her with household matters such as lawn or yard work, cooking, housecleaning, and the like, Tennessee law does contemplate that the plaintiff can recover for these expenditures as a part of her economic damages. Furthermore, the plaintiff may be able to recover non-economic damages for loss of enjoyment of life, which could include components similar to that which she seeks to add via the amendment. Thus, while the plaintiff was unsuccessful in her motion to amend, it was the court’s opinion that the plaintiff could potentially be compensated for her damages in other ways.

Talk to a Knoxville Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of another’s negligence, you should talk to a lawyer about holding the responsible party accountable for your damages. To schedule a consultation with a Knoxville airplane accident and personal injury attorney, call the Hartsoe Law Firm today at 865-524-5657. We serve clients throughout east Tennessee.

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