Wrongful death "cap" on non-economics does not limit household service expenses
More than a decade ago, the Michigan Legislature adopted limits (or so-called "caps") on the amount of damages an injury victim could recover for non-economic damages in some cases. Medical malpractice insurance companies have aggressively used these "caps" to limit the recovery of malpractice victims: among other successes, they have persuaded the Supreme Court to apply the "cap" to wrongful death malpractice claims. The Defendants in Thorn v. Mercy Memorial Hospital attempted to go one step further: they persuaded the local court to rule that the household services previously provided by the malpractice victim could not be collected by her family. They also argued that household services were collectible, the household service expenses should be considered a "non-economic" damage and reduce or eliminate the other damages recoverable for pain and suffering or loss of society and companionship under the cap.
In Thorn, a young mother bled to death after a C-section. Her family hired an economist to explain to the jury what it would cost to hire someone to perform her services in the household. The Defendants asked the local judge to exclude this testimony on the theory that the statute did not expressly list household services as an economic loss. The judge ruled in the insurer's favor and the family appealed.
The Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the Defendant's argument and the lower court's holding. It found the insurance company's position to be "inconceivable" and its characterization to be "inaccurate" and an "oversimplification".