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What is a loss of consortium?

A loss of consortium arises when one’s husband or wife is injured to such a degree that the injured spouse can no longer provide the “love, affection, companionship, comfort, or sexual relations” they were able to prior to the injury. This could mean the spouse was physically disabled, rendered sterile, killed, or even suffered a severe and long-term psychological injury.

In all cases, the plaintiff—i.e. the husband or wife of the originally injured person—must also be able to show that the marital relationship is “more than superficially or temporarily impaired.” The problem is that it is extremely difficult for juries and even judges to determine the dollar amount for the spouse’s suffering; how can you put a price tag on love and affection?

In New York, for example, a jury awarded $4,000,000.00 in a loss of consortium claim for a husband whose wife was rendered a vegetable by a hospital’s malpractice. This award, however, was later reduced by the judge to $1,000,000.00, showing the difficulty in determining the dollar amount for a loss of consortium claim.