Minnesota Wrongful Death Damages
Minnesota wrongful death claims are controlled by Minnesota Statute 573.02 and Minnesota Jury Instruction 91.75, which determines permissible Minnesota wrongful death damages. Although, there is no cap on damages and punitive damages are available in the most extreme cases, Minnesota does not allow compensation for some of the things that matter most in a wrongful death action; grief and emotional distress of the next-of-kin, pain and suffering in the death of the victim, an amount to punish the defendant unless specifically included by motion to the court.
What is Included in the Minnesota Wrongful Death Damages Jury Instructions?
Minnesota CIVJIG 91.75 sets forth the measure of damages in a wrongful death claim in Minnesota. We believe the following sections from CIVJIG 91.75 are relevant:
Money Value of Damages
When you consider damages for claimant (s), determine an amount of money that will fairly and adequately compensate (claimant)(s) for the losses (he) (she) (they) suffered as the result of this death. You should consider what (name of deceased) would have provided to the (claimant)(s) if (he) (she) (they) had lived.
Factors to consider:
- (His) (Her) contributions in the past
- (His) (Her) life expectancy at the time of (his) (her) death
- (His) (Her) health, age habits, talents, and success
- (His) (Her) occupation
- (His) (Her) past earnings
- (His) (Her) likely future earning capacity and prospects of bettering (himself) (herself) had (he) (she) lived
- (His) (Her) personal living expenses (cost of supporting the child)
- (His) (Her) legal obligation to support the (surviving spouse) (next of kin) and the likelihood that (he)
- All reasonable expenses incurred for a funeral and burial (etc.), and all reasonable expenses for support due to (his) (her) last sickness, including necessary medical and hospital expenses incurred after and as a result of the injuries causing death
- [The probability of (name of decedent)’s paying the debt owned by ______________ to ______________]
- The counsel, guidance, and aid (he) (she) would have given (claimant) (s)
- [The advice, comfort, assistance, and protection that (name of decedent) would have given if (he) (she) had lived.]
Lost time together:
Decide the length of time those related might be expected to survive together. You should compare the life expectancy of (name of decedent) with the life expectancy of each claimant. Take into account only the amount of time the two being compared would be expected to survive together.Base your money damages for each claimant on the shorter life expectancy of the two being compared.
Items to exclude
Do not include amounts for:
1. [Punishing the defendant]
2.[Grief or emotional distress of the surviving spouse and the next of kin], or
3.[For the pain and suffering of _______ before (his)(her) death].
Factors to exclude
Do not be influenced by the fact that:
1. [The (surviving spouse) (next of kin) (may have received) (may get) money or other property from (name)’s estate], or
2. [The (surviving spouse) (next of kin) (may collect) (has collected) insurance of workers’ compensation benefits because of (name)’s death], or
3. [The surviving spouse has remarried], or
4. [The minor children have been emancipated], or
5. [There is no legal obligation to support the next of kin]
You (the jury) must determine the total amount of money that will fairly and adequately compensate the (claimant)(s) for damages suffered as the result of death.
[I (the judge) will divide the damages among the (claimants).]
Wrongful Death Damages Case Law – Pecuniary Loss – Source Minnesota Statute 573.02 Annotations
The statute does not define pecuniary loss. We have previously stated, however, that pecuniary loss includes loss of “advice, counsel, and loss of companionship.” Jones v. Fisher, 309 N.W.2d 726, 730 (Minn.1981); see also Gravley v. Sea Gull Marine, Inc., 269 N.W.2d 896, 901 (Minn.1978) (noting that pecuniary loss includes “loss of advice, comfort, assistance, and protection”).
The sample jury instructions state that “[p]ecuniary loss is financial loss, but also includes loss of counsel, guidance and aid.” 4 Minn. Dist. Judges Ass’n, Minnesota Practice-Jury Instruction Guides, Civil, CIVJIG 45.45 (5th ed.2006).“Bodily injury” in the context of the Civil Damages Act has the same meaning as in the general personal injury context. See 4 Minn. Dist. Judges Ass’n, Minnesota Practice-Jury Instruction Guides, Civil, CIVJIG 45.55 (5th ed.2006). Bodily injury damages include compensation for pain, disability, disfigurement, embarrassment, and emotional distress. 4A Minn. Dist. Judges Ass’n, Minnesota Practice-Jury Instruction Guides, Civil, CIVJIG 91.10 (5th ed.2006). Bodily injury damages are not recoverable where, as here, death occurs as a result of the injuries suffered, and plaintiffs do not seek such damages.
The only damages claimed by the Bruas in this case are pecuniary loss and property damage.“Means of support” refers to financial support that, but for the accident, would have been provided to the plaintiff by the injured or deceased person. See 4 Minn. Dist. Judges Ass’n, Minnesota Practice-Jury Instruction Guides, Civil, CIVJIG 45.45 (“A person’s means of support has been damaged when the usual source of support has been [ (and)(or) will be] lost or reduced.”). The Bruas initially sought damages for loss of means of support, but ultimately dropped those claims.
Call Kenneth L. LaBore for a free consultation he has handled hundreds of nursing home abuse, neglect and Minnesota Nursing Home Wrongful Death Attorney cases and is willing to discuss your concerns free of charge. If someone you love has died as a result of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, then contact Kenneth LaBore locally at 612-743-9048 or call his direct toll free number 1-888-452-6589.