Loss of Consortium and Rental Car Expenses Allowed on Appeal

After a motor vehicle accident, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against defendant, the defendant’s employer and the defendant’s insurer. The trial court awarded plaintiffs $20,000.00 in general damages, $241.00 in rental car reimbursement and $1,000.00 to plaintiff’s wife for loss of consortium.

The defendants appealed, arguing that plaintiff had a long history of back pain and other spinal issues related to a prior diagnosis before the motor vehicle accident. The Second Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana found that plaintiff admitted to a prior medical history causing back problems but testified that he had not experienced any back pain in the six months leading up to the accident. Conversely, as a result of the accident, plaintiff was unable to stand for long periods of time, unable to do yard work, unable to perform household chores, and unable to perform routine maintenance on vehicles. Plaintiff stated that his pain decreased over time and he eventually regained the ability to do certain tasks and certain chores. However, at the time of trial, more than two years after the accident, the plaintiff stated he still experienced pain at times and was unable to work in the yard or stand for long periods of time. The only physician’s testimony at trial indicated that the plaintiff’s accident aggravated his prior back condition and there was no indication plaintiff was exaggerating his symptoms. Therefore, the court held that the general damage award was acceptable.

Defendants further argued that the trial court erred in awarding the plaintiff $241.00 in reimbursement for rental vehicle charges. The only evidence submitted in support of the charges was plaintiff’s testimony, and no receipts or invoices were introduced into the record. The court concluded that the award was supported by the record.

Lastly, defendants argued that it was error to award plaintiff’s wife damages for loss of consortium. Plaintiffs did not introduce any evidence to prove that the accident affected their marriage or that they experienced a loss of love or affection. However, both plaintiffs testified that the husband was more active prior to the accident. The wife also testified that the injuries her husband received caused a significant change in their lifestyle; and since the accident, she had to do the majority of the yard work and most of the household chores. For these reasons, the trial court’s award of $1,000.00 for loss of consortium was supported by the record.

Smith v. Escalon

Patrick J. Babin