Legal Memorandum: Damages for Mental Anguish

Issue: Can the loss of companionship of a son constitute mental anguish for a mother under federal law?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Mental anguish; Compensatory damages; Loss of companionship of a son
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 12/01/2000

Federal law is clear that a plaintiff is entitled to compensatory damages for mental anguish caused by the violation of a constitutional right, as long as the award is based on proof of an actual injury.  Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 882 F.2d 1101, 1104 (6th Cir. 1989).  The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has also made clear that a mother states a cause of action under § 1983 claim for the loss of society and companionship of her son, when the son suffered a constitutional injury.  Sharpe v. City of Lewisburg, 677 F. Supp. 1362, 1363 (M.D. Tenn. 1988).  In Sharpe, the court held that the mother stated a cause of action against governmental officials whose failure to train police officers to deal with mentally disturbed persons like the plaintiff’s son rose to the level of deliberate action.  Id. at 1368.  Therefore, the defendant policymakers were liable to the mother for deprivation of her liberty interest in the society and companionship of her son.  Id.


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