Saturday, July 11, 2009
Is the loss of household work an "economic injury"?
Women who stay at home full time do work full time, they just don't get paid a salary for it. Does the fact that they don't get paid mean that when they lose the ability to do the job their damages are not "economic" in nature? My guess is that most jurisdictions would not consider this "injury" an economic injury. This is why a common argument against caps on non-economic damages is that they affect women, the unemployed and the elderly disproportionately. Thanks to a report on a new case I just read in the TortsProf Blog, I now know this is no longer true in Michigan. It turns out that the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled last year that household services such as raising children aren't subject to caps on medical malpractice damages related to pain and suffering and this principle was just reaffirmed (sort of) by the state's Supreme Court. I say "sort of" because the news is just that the Supreme Court of Michigan has rejected an appeal from a decision by a court of appeals. The appeals court had held that a mother's family can sue a hospital and doctors for $1.4 million in damages for loss of household services like caring for her children. The defendants (Mercy Memorial Hospital and several physicians) argued that the loss of household services is a "noneconomic" type of injury which should be subject to the cap on non-economic damages. The Court of Appeals held otherwise and the Supreme Court voted 4-3 to reject the appeal.