Legal Memorandum: Wrongful Death and Valuation of Future Earnings

Issue: In Maryland, do post-death mergers of a corporate employer impact the value of a wrongful death plaintiff’s stock options?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Wrongful death; Value of stock options; Post-death mergers
Jurisdiction: Federal, Maryland
Cited Cases: 910 F.2d 737; 551 F.2d 41; 897 F.2d 1336; 406 F. Supp. 547
Cited Statutes: Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-904(c)(1), (d);
Date: 02/01/2001

Under the Maryland Wrongful Death statute, damages may be awarded to the beneficiaries for “pecuniary losses” resulting from the wrongful death.  Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-904(c)(1), (d) (Supp. 2000).  A measure of the pecuniary loss is “determined by ascertaining the pecuniary interest of the plaintiff in the life of the person killed.”  Cincotta v. United States, 362 F. Supp. 386, 407 (D. Md. 1973) (citations omitted).  This interest includes “the losses already sustained and those that may probably be suffered in the future.”  Id. 

Courts consider a wide variety of factors in determining the extent of the loss, including financial matters.  See id. (noting factors to consider, including occupation of the deceased and support provided to the family).  However, the courts have also stated:  “What is absolutely clear in Maryland . . . is that speculativeness is to be scrupulously avoided in assessing damages under the Maryland Wrongful Death Statute.”  Alden v. Maryanov, 406 F. Supp. 547, 551 (D. Md. 1976).  Of course, the attempt to place a valuation on the extent of an economic loss is, by nature, speculative to a certain extent.  Nevertheless, steps can be taken in presenting evidence in order to avoid reduction of damage awards on the grounds that they are too speculative or are based on mere conjecture:

Proof of loss of prospective earning power is at best largely a projection of probabilities based on past performance, statistical data, and the like, offered by […]


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