ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Legal Newsline) – On Nov. 1, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reversed a $500,000 economic damages award for a woman who said she had lost her late daughter’s services with household chores.
Lolita Fowlkes was awarded $1 million in her wrongful death lawsuit concerning her daughter as a jury determined that physician Shabbir Choudhry, M.D. was liable. While $500,000 was in noneconomic damages, the other half was for economic damages as Fowlkes said she suffered loss of her daughter Yenita Owens’ services because Owens often helped her around the house.
Choudhry filed the appeal challenging the award, and the appeals court reversed the $500,000 for the loss of Owens' services.
“We are cognizant that Fowlkes suffered a devastating loss due to the wrongful death of her 22-year-old daughter," Judge Daniel A. Friedman wrote. "But economic damages, especially future damages, must be established with reasonable certainty,”
JudgeTimothy Meredith and Senior Judge Deborah S. Eyler also ruled in the case.
While the judges decided that household chores, like the ones Owens often performed, could be considered a pecuniary loss, Friedman wrote Fowlkes failed to provide evidence when proving her damages to the jury.
Friedman agreed that a beneficiary, in this case the mother, should be able to recover economic damages for an aspect like the loss of household services, but only if the said beneficiary can provide evidence that the deceased was actually performing the tasks, and to the degree, that was claimed. They would also have to prove that the deceased planned on performing those services for the long-term.
Unfortunately for Fowlkes, she didn’t provide enough evidence to support her claim.
“Even if Fowlkes did not have to present evidence of the specific market value or replacement cost of the services once she identified tasks that undoubtedly have a market value (that is, tasks that can be completed by domestic workers), we would still reverse,” Friedman wrote.
Friedman pointed out that Fowlkes was unclear about how long Owens had been helping with household chores before her untimely passing. Fowlkes said that when Owens passed, she did chores for roughly two hours a day, but she didn’t know how long of a period. She also didn’t state that Owens would be helping out indefinitely or in the long run.
Owens was 22 when she passed away from complications connected to necrotizing fasciitis, an infection in the leg and groin areas. Her mother sued Choudhry, one of Owens’ doctors. Fowlkes said Owens had started helping around the house as she “got older.”