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Law School Case Brief

Selders v. Armentrout (1973) - 190 Neb. 275, 207 N.W.2d 686 (1973)

Rule:

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-810 (1943), has not limited damages for wrongful death to pecuniary loss but the court has imposed that restriction. For an injury to the marital relationship, the law allows recovery for the loss of the society, comfort, and companionship of a spouse. The court has allowed such a recovery for the wrongful death of a wife.

Facts:

Plaintiffs appealed from the District Court for Madison County (Nebraska) finding the defendants negligent for the wrongful deaths of plaintiffs' three children and returning a verdict against them in the exact amount of the medical and funeral expenses. Plaintiffs brought an action to recover damages for the wrongful deaths of three of their minor children. The jury found the defendants negligent and returned a verdict against them for the amount of the medical and funeral expenses of the three children. The plaintiffs appealed contending that the jury instructions on measuring the damages for the loss of their children were erroneous. The court essentially instructed the jury that except for medical and funeral expenses, the damages should be the monetary value of the contributions and services which the parents could reasonably have expected to receive from the children less the reasonable cost to the parents of supporting the children.

Issue:

Was it proper for the jury to contemplate loss of the society, comfort, and companionship of the child in measuring damages?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

On appeal, the court reversed the verdict regarding damages. The court held that the measure of damages for the wrongful death of a minor child should be extended to include the loss of the society, comfort, and companionship of the child. The court reasoned that because the law allows recovery for the loss of the society, comfort, and companionship of a spouse, there is no logical reason for treating an injury to the to the family relationship resulting from the wrongful death of a child more restrictively.

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