Monday, February 1, 2016

Ability of Parent To Recover Damages In Own Right Where Child Injured In MVA

A common question in automobile accident personal injury matters is to what extent a parent can recover damages in a case where claims are pursued on behalf of a minor Plaintiff. 

This issue was addressed in a recent decision by Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Gray in the case of Ritter v. Makos, No. 14-02653 (C.P. Lycoming Co. Nov. 5, 2015 Gray, J.).

In Ritter, the Plaintiff-mother was driving with the Plaintiff-minor, i.e., her daughter, when they were involved in a motor vehicle collision.  A Complaint was filed for personal injuries to the minor Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff-mother did not sustain any permanent personal injuries.

A separate Complaint was filed on behalf of the Plaintiff-mother for her alleged damages arising out of the same accident.  Included in the Plaintiff-mother's Complaint was a claim for a recovery by the Plaintiff-mother of health care costs expended, or to be expended, out-of-pocket by the mother for treatment for the child up to the child reached the age of 18

A claim for the pecuniary value of any services the child would have provided to her mother during child's minority if the child was not injured was also asserted on behalf of the Plaintiff-mother.

The defense filed Preliminary Objections asserting that the Plaintiff-mother's claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 

The court denied the Preliminary Objections and noted that the defense had only cited to 75 Pa.C.S.A. Section 1722 of Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law ("MVFRL"), but no caselaw.

Judge Richard A. Gray
Lycoming County
Judge Gray ruled that the MVFRL did not generally preclude a claim by a parent of a minor child injured in a motor vehicle accident.

The court noted that, under Pennsylvania law, a personal injury to a minor child gives rise to two separate and distinct causes of action.  First, there is a recognized claim for pain and suffering to the child and for losses after the child reaches the age of majority.  Also recognized under Pennsylvania law is a claim by a parent(s) of the injured child for medical expenses and the loss of the minor's services during the minority period of the child's life.

The court noted that, while Section 1722 of the MVFRL precludes double recoveries in auto accident personal injury cases, the claims of the parent and child asserted were separate and distinctly recognized recoverable claims such that no double recovery was involved.

As such, the Preliminary Objections were denied in this regard.

The Preliminary Objections were sustained to the extent the parent was attempting to recover damages for health care expenses and related costs recoverable by the guardian of the minor on the separate claims pursued on behalf of the minor Plaintiff.

Anyone wishing to review this case may click this LINK.

Source:  "Digest of Recent Opinions."  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Jan. 12, 2016).

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