Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Case Law Development: Consideration of Health of Marriage Relevant in Apportioning Wrongful Death Award

For those of you who teach issues of consortium claims and other rights incident to marriage, the California Court of Appeals has provided a fascinating angle on these issues.  Two members of a three-judge panel held that, in apportioning a wrongful death award, a trial court may consider evidence that the deceased’s marriage was in trouble and thus may award the widow less than a child who had a close relationship with the deceased.  One of the three judges dissented in a strongly worded and thorough opinion, in which he maintained that this evidence should be irrelevant to an apportionment decision.  The judges agreed that one may not recover for grief in wrongful death but differed in their interpretation of precedent that allowed recovery for the pecuniary value of companionship and society.  The majority found apportioning the majority of the wrongful death award to the adult daughter of the deceased was entirely appropriate in light of testimony that the decedent was contemplating divorce before his death and that he had an exceptionally close relationship with his daughter.  The dissent saw this approach as a “"profound injustice" that “turned the case into the equivalent of a fault divorce for a dead man.”

Corder v. Corder, 2005 Cal. App. LEXIS 1506 (September 26, 2005)
Available on the web at (last visited September 27, 2005 bgf)

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