Vermont Supreme Court Allows Wrongful Death Recovery for Death of a Sibling

The Supreme Court of Vermont has held that the sibling of a decedent may maintain a wrongful death suit seeking damages for loss of companionship where the sibling is the "next of kin."

The Vermont statute provides that in a wrongful death case the court  jury may "give such damages as are just, with reference to the pecuniary injuries resulting from such death, to the wife and next of kin or husband and next of kin, as the case  may be." 14 V.S.A. § 1492(b).   The Court had previously held that  "pecuniary injuries are not limited to economic losses, but may include recovery for loss of child or spouse’s companionship, as well as loss of care, nurture, and protection."

In Dubaniewicz v. Houman, No. 2004-306 (September 15, 2006) extended its previous interpretation of the statute and held that plaintiff, as next of kin of the decedent, "may obtain such damages to the extent that he can prove them by submitting evidence of the physical, emotional, and psychological relationship between himself and the decedent."

Read the opinion here.