Loss of Consortium in Florida Personal Injury Cases – Flomenhoft v. Georgia Pacific

There are a number of different types of damages for which a person injured in an accident in Florida may sue the responsible parties. Medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage are among the common costs and expenses at issues in these cases. Another, lesser known source of damages is “loss of consortium,” under which the spouse of a person injured in an accident can seek recovery for loss of companionship, emotional care and support, affection, sexual intimacy and even the injured spouse’s inability to assist in household chores and other duties. In Flomenhoft v. Georgia Pacific, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida explains that loss of consortium damages may be awarded only to a person who’s actually married to the injured party at the time of the injury.

Mr. and Ms. Flomenhoft sued Georgia Pacific, alleging that Mr. Flomenhoft was injured by being exposed to asbestos in products made by the company. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which the court explained is an incurable form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, in August 2012 and his wife cared for him extensively from this time on. The couple asserted claims for negligent failure to warn and strict product liability. Among other damages, Ms. Flomenhoft sought those associated with loss of consortium.
Granting the company’s motion for summary judgment on the loss of consortium claim, the district court said Ms. Flomenhoft couldn’t seek these damages because she wasn’t married to her husband at the time he was allegedly exposed to asbestos.

“Under Florida common law, a spouse seeking damages for loss of consortium must have been married to his or her spouse at the time of the injury at issue,” the court wrote, citing the 1980 decision by Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals in Tremblay v. Carter. The Fifth District Court of Appeals made clear that this principle also extends to latent injuries – those that aren’t discovered until years after they occur – 15 years later in Fullerton v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., the district court recalled.

In the present case, Ms. Flomenhoft didn’t marry her husband until after he had already been exposed to asbestos. As a result, the court “reluctantly” held that she was unable to raise a triable claim for loss of consortium. The court further expressed its opinion that the case law should be altered in latent injury cases. “The Court sympathizes with Linda Flomenhoft’s plight in this case and the Court respectfully disagrees with the Fullerton decision to the extent that it applied Tremblay, which involved an accident, to a case involving a latent injury,” the district court concluded.

It is important to note that this ruling eliminates Ms. Flomenhoft’s loss of consortium claim only, and does not affect her husband’s other personal injury claims.

If you were recently injured in an accident and are interested in pursuing a claim against the responsible party, contact the South Florida personal injury lawyers at Anidjar & Levine for a free consultation today. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we represent clients throughout the region, including in Boca Raton, Pompano Beach and Coral Springs. Call us at 800-747-3733 or contact us online.

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