Wrongful death actions are a distinct legal claims which can be brought on behalf of the next-of-kin of a person who suffers an injury due to the negligence of another which results in death. Minnesota Statute 573.02 is the controlling statute concerning a wrongful death action.
The next-of-kin can bring an action to recover damages for the amount the jury deems fair and just in reference to the pecuniary loss resulting from the death, and shall be for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin, proportionate to the pecuniary loss severally suffered by the death. The court then determines the proportionate pecuniary loss of the persons entitled to the recovery and orders distribution accordingly. Funeral expenses and any demand for the support of the decedent allowed by the court having jurisdiction of the action, are first deducted and paid. Punitive damages may be awarded as provided in section 549.20.
Wrongful Death Pecuniary Loss
The statute does not define pecuniary loss. however, that pecuniary loss includes loss of “advice, counsel, and loss of companionship.” Jones v. Fisher, 309 N.W.2d 726, 730 (Minn.1981); see also Gravley v. Sea Gull Marine, Inc., 269 N.W.2d 896, 901 (Minn.1978) (noting that pecuniary loss includes “loss of advice, comfort, assistance, and protection”). The sample jury instructions state that “[p]ecuniary loss is financial loss, but also includes loss of counsel, guidance and aid.” 4 Minn. Dist. Judges Ass’n, Minnesota Practice-Jury Instruction Guides, Civil, CIVJIG 45.45 (5th ed.2006).
A wrongful death action in Minnesota does not include many of the damages most family members seek the most, including: pain, suffering, grief, and emotional distress. Punitive damages are only awarded in Minnesota “upon clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the defendant show deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others”. 549.20.
Many wrongful death cases in a nursing home setting are the result of a preventable event such as fall injury with resulting fractures or a subdural hematoma, or from some form of infection, such as urinary tract infections, or septic pressure sores, or wounds.
If a loved one has suffered from an untimely death due to the neglect of a health care professional or facility, contact Attorney Kenneth L. LaBore to hold the negligent party accountable. Mr. LaBore can be reached for a free consultation by email at KLaBore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com or by phone at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589.