Complaint in a Wrongful Death Case with a Surviving Minor Child

Wrongful death cases are a unique breed, and the damages recoverable in a wrongful death case deserve special attention. Through the Tennessee Supreme Court’s holding in Jordan v. Baptist Three Rivers Hospital, 984 S.W.2d 593 (Tenn. 1999), the jury is allowed to consider the human losses suffered by the victim’s surviving family members. Unlike a personal injury case, however, the surviving family members do not hold a separate claim for loss of consortium. To the contrary, the Supreme Court made clear that it’s holding in Jordan did not create a new cause of action, but merely “refines the term ‘pecuniary value.'” The family members do not have their own claims, but the family members’ personal losses are considered part of the victim’s worth. The distinction of who owns the claim for Jordan type damages has it’s greatest practical impact in the admission of evidence, the verdict form, and the distribution of proceeds among the surviving family members.
At the pleading stage, the plaintiff should try to provide notice to the defendants of each of the family members whose losses will be asserted. This Complaint covers a wrongful death where the victim leaves behind one minor child but no spouse. Note that, under Jordan, an adult child also has a right to recover, but the trier of fact takes into consideration factors that suggest the closeness and dependency of the parent-child relationship. Download file