- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that children in Connecticut have the right to sue for the loss of love and affection when a parent is seriously injured.

The ruling comes in the case of a West Haven family whose father, Jose Campos, died three days after being struck by a car while riding a bicycle in September 2008.

His family won about $1.7 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against the car’s driver. Campos’ wife was awarded an additional $580,000 for the loss of love and affection - known as spousal consortium.

But lower courts, citing a 1998 Supreme Court case, threw out a claim filed on behalf of Campos’ three minor children seeking more money for the loss of parental consortium.

The state’s highest court overturned that precedent on Monday, finding in part that the “unique emotional attachment” and “critically important services” that parents provide are reasons to recognize such lawsuits.

“The inability of a parent who has suffered a physical or mental injury to provide the ‘love, care, companionship and guidance’ to minor children that he or she otherwise would have provided is an eminently foreseeable and uniquely harmful consequence of such an injury,” Justice Richard Palmer wrote for the majority.

The court did set some limits. It found that damages may be awarded only for losses suffered while a child is a minor, and only between the time the parent is injured and the time that parent dies. After that, the state’s wrongful death statute takes precedence, the court ruled.

Jack Mills, the attorney for the Campos family, said he was disappointed by those restrictions, but said the ruling is still a major victory for children.

“The effects of the deaths are going to last a lifetime, so why limit it?” he said. “Maybe some other case in the future will expand this. But, at least the system is a lot more fair to children today than it was yesterday.”

Paul Chill, an associate dean at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said Connecticut joins a number of states that have recognized the concept of parental consortium (20 according to the majority opinion, 17 according to a dissent).

Chill said courts across the country have been grappling to set reasonable limits on who has the right to sue in such cases.

“When you negligently injure someone with your car, not only might you have to pay damages to the person you injured, but now it’s their children maybe and a spouse,” he said. “Courts are always worried about questions of double recovery and expanding liability so it gets to be too great.”

The 4-3 decision sends the Campos family’s case back to the Superior Court to another trial on the children’s claims.

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This story has been corrected to show the ruling applies to cases of serious injury, not killings.


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