A surviving spouse in a wrongful death action may recover both economic and noneconomic losses incurred as a result of the negligently caused death of his or her spouse. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-203. In addition to being entitled to compensation for economic damages such as funeral expenses, a surviving spouse is entitled to compensation for the loss of financial benefits he or she reasonably would have expected to receive from the decedent had the decedent lived.
After her husband died in an accident at the company's facility, the deceased's wife brought a wrongful death suit against the company. During trial, the wife filed a motion in limine requesting that the company be barred from presenting any evidence about the husband's income tax liability. This motion was granted by the court and the company filed an original proceeding with the Supreme Court of Colorado.
Was it proper for the court to grant the motion in limine excluding plaintiff's dead husband's future tax liabilities?
The court discharged its rule to show cause and returned the matter to the district court for further proceedings. The court held that evidence concerning a decedent's future income tax liability was inadmissible for purposes of calculating the net pecuniary loss to a plaintiff in a wrongful death suit brought pursuant to Colorado's Wrongful Death Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-21-201 to -204 (2007), because (1) absent from the economic loss factors enunciated in the relevant case law and the standard jury instruction was a consideration of a decedent's future tax liability in calculating the plaintiff's economic losses; and (2) the court's decisions generally considered tax returns to be irrelevant and not discoverable on the question of present and future damages in personal injury actions.