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Torts No. 01-0765, 7/3/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: Courtney Williamson’s parents, Lainie and Casey Williamson, individually and on behalf of their daughter, sued Dr. Karen Roberts, Laird Memorial Hospital, Dr. Mark Miller and Dr. Roger Fowler. The Williamsons’ claims against the hospital, Fowler and a treating physician who was not named as a defendant were settled for $468,750. The claims against Roberts and Miller proceeded to trial. The jury apportioned responsibility for Courtnie’s injuries as follows: 85 percent to the settling parties, 15 percent to Roberts, and 0 percent to Miller. The jury awarded $3,010,001 in damages, including $75,000 to the parents for past loss of filial consortium and $1 for future loss thereof. The trial court rendered judgment on the verdict, ordering Dr. Roberts to pay $451,500, or 15 percent of the entire award, with no deduction for the settlements. The trial court also awarded the ad litem a fee of $21,405, which it divided equally between Roberts and the Williamsons. Roberts and the Williamsons filed separate appeals. Roberts urged that 1. Texas law does not permit a parent to recover for loss of consortium for nonfatal injuries to a child; 2. a doctor was not qualified to testify as an expert on the cause and effect of Courtnie’s neurological injuries; 3. no evidence supported the jury’s award of past and future medical expenses; and 4. the trial court erred in not applying a settlement credit before apportioning damages. The Williamsons complained only about having been taxed with one-half of the ad litem’s fee. The court of appeals rejected Roberts’ appeal and affirmed the trial court’s award of damages against her. However, the court of appeals agreed with the Williamsons’ separate appeal, reversing the trial court and rendering judgment that Roberts pay the full amount of the ad litem’s fee. HOLDING: Affirmed in part; reversed and rendered in part. In Reagan v. Vaughn, 804 S.W.2d 463 (Tex. 1990), the court held that a child is entitled to seek damages for loss of consortium when a parent suffers a serious, permanent and disabling injury. The court equated the child’s relationship to the parent to that of one spouse to another, a relationship for which this court had previously recognized consortium rights. The court further noted the vulnerable and dependent role of the child in this relationship and the profound harm that might befall a child who has been deprived of a parent’s love, care, companionship and guidance. The parent-child relationship is not reciprocal like husband and wife and that the child is the party to the relationship who needs special protection. The court concedes that serious injury to a child will have emotional consequences for the parents. Tort law, however, cannot remedy every wrong. the law ordinarily denies recourse to those not directly injured by a negligent act, but whose injury is caused indirectly by the harm to another. There are exceptions to this general rule, including claims for loss of consortium. But all these exceptions have been narrowly cabined. Thus, while the court has recognized that spouses and children can recover loss of consortium, the court has concluded that siblings and step-parents cannot. Some may argue that the refusal to extend consortium rights to parents creates a paradox because the court permits parents to recover consortium damages in wrongful-death cases. But there are reasons for distinction, the court states. Before abolition of the pecuniary loss rule, the wrongful death of a child did not ordinarily create pecuniary consequences for the negligent tortfeasor because the child was of little monetary value to the family. Abolishing this rule and permitting the “[r]ecovery for loss of affection and society in a wrongful-death action thus fulfills a deeply felt social belief that a tortfeasor who negligently kills someone should not escape liability completely, no matter how unproductive his victim.” Borer v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 563 P.2d 858 (Cal. 1977). But when the child survives, as here, so does the child’s own cause of action against the tortfeasor. And if the primary victim of the accident may bring an action, there is no need to recognize actions by other family members to prevent the tortfeasor from escaping liability. Thus, the law is not inconsistent in recognizing certain intangible damages for secondary victims in death actions but not in personal injury actions. The court concludes that no compelling social policy impels the court to recognize a parent’s right to damages for the loss of filial consortium. OPINION: Phillips, C.J.; Hecht, Enoch, Owen, Smith and Wainwright, JJ., joins, and O’Neill, Jefferson and Schneider, JJ., join in all Parts except Part II. DISSENT: Jefferson, J., O’Neill and Schneider, JJ., join, dissenting as to Part II only. “In Sanchez v. Schindler, this Court concluded that the common law is best served by permitting a parent ‘to recover damages for loss of companionship and society . . . for the death of his or her child.’ 651 S.W.2d 249, 251 (Tex. 1983). In Reagan v. Vaughn, this Court held that the common law supports a child’s recovery of damages for loss of consortium when a parent is injured but not killed by the tortious act of a third party. 804 S.W.2d 463, 466 (Tex. 1990). These cases, and others outlined below, explain why the Court grudgingly acknowledges a ‘surface logic’ to extending consortium rights to parents whose children are severely injured. __ S.W.3d __, __. I am at a loss, then, to understand why the Court today concludes that the common law is best served by holding that parents have no such rights. Id. at __. The Court’s conclusion is contrary to our longstanding precedent, counter to the majority of jurisdictions that have considered this issue, and unduly tolerant of the anomaly it creates in the law. And the theme underlying the Court’s decision – that a parent’s loss of consortium claim must be rejected because adults require less protection than children – makes little sense in light of our repeated declarations that parentsmay recover consortium damages for the death of their children, and adult childrenare entitled to consortium damages for the death of, or serious injury to, their parents. Because the Court’s opinion creates, but does not adequately justify, a prominent paradoxin Texas law, I respectfully dissent.”

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