Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Torts-Taylor V. Beard: The Tennessee Supreme Court Declines Adoption of a Cause of Action for Loss of Parental Consortium in Personal Injury Cases

Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Torts-Taylor V. Beard: The Tennessee Supreme Court Declines Adoption of a Cause of Action for Loss of Parental Consortium in Personal Injury Cases

Article excerpt

On October 17, 1995, a chain reaction accident involving seven vehicles occurred on Sam Cooper Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee.1 Mr. Al Beard (Beard), while driving a truck for his employer, Southeastern Motor Freight Company, Inc. (Southeastern), collided with another eastbound vehicle causing that vehicle to strike a van from behind.2 The van was driven by Mrs. Pamela Taylor (Taylor), and her thirteen year old daughter, Lindsay, was a passenger.3 Taylor's van hit a fourth vehicle and careened off the south side of the road.4 Taylor and her daughter suffered injuries as a result of the collision.5

Taylor and her husband entered into negotiations with Beard and Southeastern to settle personal injury claims arising from the accident.6 The parties then filed a Joint Petition for Approval of Minor's Settlement (Joint Petition) on January 17, 1997, for settlement of claims for Lindsay's personal injuries.7 Prior to court approval, however, the Taylors filed an amendment to the Joint Petition adding Lindsay's brother, Bradford, and Lindsay's sister, Rachel, as additional plaintiffs.8 The amendment was styled "Complaint for Personal Injury and Loss of Services," and added a new cause of action for loss of parental consortium on behalf of the three Taylor children.9

On February 22, 1999, the trial court dismissed the Joint Petition and treated the amendment as a separate complaint for Lindsay's personal injuries,10 Lindsay's medical expenses, her parent's loss of her services,11 and Taylor's children for loss of parental consortium.12 The trial court dismissed the claim for loss of parental consortium, finding that no such cause of action existed in Tennessee for personal injury cases.13 The court of appeals affirmed, adhering to the policy of deferring to the legislature to promulgate causes of action not recognized at common law.14 The Tennessee Supreme Court held, affirmed. The court refused to adopt a cause of action for loss of parental consortium in personal injury cases because the creation of such a cause of action should be left to the legislature. Taylor v. Beard, 104 S.W.3d 507 (Tenn. 2003).

The loss of consortium action has its genesis in early Roman law.15 Under the doctrine of paterfamilias, an injury against a man's wife, children, or slaves is an injury to the man.16 Neither the children nor the wife could bring action for personal injury in their own name because the law considered them to be an extension of the man.17 The father, however, could bring an action to recover damages for any wrong done to him through his family.18

English common law incorporated an action for loss of services due to injury of a servant in the thirteenth century and extended the action to include loss of services of a wife in the seventeenth century.19 Adoption of this Roman law cause of action fit naturally with the "quasi-proprietary" interest that a master had in his servants' services, which lingered during English feudal times.20 In that era, wives were still legally considered one with their husbands and had no status to sue on their own behalf.21 Traditionally, a husband sued for damages and joined his wife, however, courts eventually dropped the requirement for joining the wife in the action in the seventeenth century, holding that a wife's services were analogous to a servant's services.22

Modern consortium law arose when emphasis on loss of services shifted toward loss of companionship and affection.23 In Guy v. Livesey,24 the King's Bench, while recognizing the analogy between husband and wife and master and servant, held that "the action . . . is brought for the particular loss of the husband, for that he lost the company of his wife . . . ."25 The original reasons for the cause of action for loss of consortium faded away, replaced by a cause of action "per quod consortium amisit," meaning "whereby he lost the company [of his wife]."26

Tennessee adopted the consortium cause of action in its common law and expanded it to include loss of the wife's company as well as loss of the wife's services. …

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