Understanding Non-Economic Damages

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Understanding Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages under Nebraska statutory law are defined as meaning “subjective, non-monetary losses, including, but not limited to, pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental suffering, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation, and humiliation, but shall not include economic damages.” Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-21,185.08(3).

Damages for pain and suffering are a somewhat difficult value to assign to a plaintiff. The amount of non-economic damages for pain and suffering, both that suffered and that which will reasonably be suffered in the future, is peculiarly for the determination of the jury. There is no yardstick by which damages for pain and suffering can be measured and compensated. If the verdict of the jury bears a reasonable relationship to the injuries sustained, the court will not disturb it.

LeMiuex v. Sanderson, 180 Neb. 311, 317-18, 142 N.W.2d 557, 562 (1966) (citing Peacock v. J.L. Brandeis & Sons, 157 Neb. 514, 60 N.W.2d 643 (1953); Morford v. Lipsey Meat Co., Inc., 179 Neb. 420, 138 N.W.2d 653 (1965)).

With regard to the personal injury of a non-fatally injured plaintiff, a spouse may also be joined in an action under the theory of loss of consortium. Consortium has been defined by the Supreme Court of Nebraska as meaning “comfort, society, love, and protection.” Guenther by Guenther v. Stollberg, 242 Neb. 415, 495 N.W.2d 286 (1993) (citing Creason v. Myers, 217 Neb. 551, 350 N.W.2d 526 (1984) (citing Sowle v. Sowle, 115 Neb. 795, 215 N.W. 122 (1927); Larsen v. Larsen, 115 Neb. 601, 213 N.W. 971 (1927))).

A parent does have a cause of action for the loss of the value of the services of a non-fatally injured child. Guenther, 242 Neb. at 416, 495 N.W.2d at 286 (citing Macku v. Drackett Products Co., 216 Neb. 176, 343 N.W.2d 58 (1984)). A child does not have a corresponding cause of action for any losses to a non-fatally injured parent, however. Guenther, 242 Neb. at 416, 495 N.W.2d at 286. The Court differentiates marital consortium from parental consortium. “[U]nlike recovery for loss of marital consortium, recovery for parental consortium involves serious problems of multiplication of claim and of inflation of damage awards.” Guenther, 242 Neb. at 420, 495 N.W.2d at 288-89 (citing Hoesing v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 484 F. Supp. 478, 480 (D. Neb. 1980)). The Court also noted the problems in determining a pecuniary value of the loss to the children of a parent’s society, companionship, and comfort. Guenther, 242 Neb. at 420, 495 N.W.2d at 288.

Jeanelle Lust
Managing Partner
www.knudsenlaw.com

February 6th, 2008|Uncategorized|