For decades, health care professionals and insureds in wrongful death cases were exposed to speculative claims for loss of household services. No rules guided counsel (or expert witnesses) on what must be proven to recover loss of household services. Plaintiffs used this uncertainty to their advantage…until now.
Fairness and clarity were restored when, in one of our recent cases, the Court of Special Appeals established what is needed to prove a claim for loss of household services. The Plaintiff, the mother of a deceased 22-year-old woman, claimed her daughter lived with her and performed daily chores around the house. The mother further claimed she planned to live with her daughter forever. Plaintiff had no expert support for her claim of loss of household services. The physician defendant moved for judgment as to this claim, arguing the evidence presented was insufficient to submit Plaintiff’s damages claim to the jury. The Court denied his motion and the jury awarded Plaintiff $500,000 in economic damages for loss of household services. The physician defendant appealed this award.
The appellate court derived a three-part rule for when a beneficiary in a wrongful death case may recover for loss of household services, as follows:
- The beneficiary must identify services that have market value;
- The beneficiary must have reasonably expected the decedent to perform them; and
- The beneficiary must present evidence of the duration for which the services would have been provided.
Applying this rule to Plaintiff’s claim for loss of household services, the Court found there was insufficient evidence of the market value of the services and how long her daughter would have performed those services. The Court then vacated Plaintiff’s loss of household services award. Plaintiff has appealed the decision in this case, but for now, this three-part rule determines whether a claim for loss of household services is sufficient.
Bottom Line: Don’t just accept a loss of household services claim. Make plaintiffs prove their damages with reasonable certainty!
If you have any questions about a claim for loss of household services in one of your cases, please contact us. We’re here to help.
 Choudhry v. Fowlkes, 243 Md. App. 75, 219 A.3d 107 (2019), cert. granted, 467 Md. 712, 226 A.3d 245 (2020).
This information does not constitute legal advice, and is not a substitute for counsel directed at your specific situation.