X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
For the first time in New Jersey, a trial judge has decided that same-sex partners registered under the Domestic Partnership Act can win damages for loss of consortium. Essex County Superior Court Judge James Rothschild Jr. ruled May 11 that the right to consortium, though not set forth in the 2004 statute, fits the legislative intent. There is nothing “to suggest that the Legislature did not support the recent liberalization of tort law which would extend to those people who are not married the right, in limited circumstances, to sue for loss of consortium, provided they can meet the other requirements for bringing such a suit,” Rothschild wrote in Buell v. Clara Maass, Esx-L-5144-03. Rothschild’s one proviso is that plaintiffs can only claim damages that occur after a couple registers under the act. Through April of this year, 3,114 New Jersey couples have so registered, according to the state Health Department. That means that Judith Peterson may include loss of consortium claim in her domestic partner Linda Henry’s sex harassment and whistleblower suit against Clara Maass hospital but only for damages after she and Henry registered last August. The decision recognizes the evolution in the law that allows, for example, bystander liability claims and child visitation rights for nonspouses. Rothschild noted that the domestic partner laws or legislative histories in Connecticut, Vermont and California include specific grants of consortium rights. But Rothschild cited no decisions like his in other states’ courts, and there aren’t any, says the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Clark Alpert of West Orange’s Alpert Goldberg Butler Norton & Peach. Defense lawyer Mark Blunda of Apruzzese McDermott Mastro & Murphy in Warren had argued for dismissal on grounds that the right to consortium wasn’t enumerated in the Domestic Partners Act. Rothschild said enumeration wasn’t necessary because the rights mentioned –freedom from discrimination, the rights to visit and make medical decisions for hospitalized partners, and equal tax treatment — are not exclusive. He said his decision followed the thinking in Dunphy v. Gregor, 136 N.J. 99 (1994), which allowed the fianc�e of an accident victim to pursue a claim for bystander emotional distress if she could prove their relationship was as interdependent as a marriage. Henry and Peterson have been financially and emotionally tied for nine years, a relationship that would meet the Supreme Court’s Dunphy standard, the judge wrote.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.

 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.