Issue: Can medical expenses be recovered as an element of damages in a wrongful death action pursuant to Mass. Laws ch. 229, 2?
|Area of Law:||Personal Injury & Negligence|
|Keywords:||Wrongful-death damages; Wrongful-death action; Medical expenses|
|Cited Cases:||550 F. Supp. 589; 499 N.E.2d 1189; 182 N.E.2d 519|
|Cited Statutes:||Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 229, § 2 (Law. Co-op 1986 & Supp. 2000), Chapter 229, § 6A|
As a matter of statutory construction, Mass. Laws ch. 229, § 2 (1986 & Supp. 2000) must be read as listing the kinds of damage that may be recoverable in a wrongful-death action. Section 2 states that wrongful-death damages shall include three kinds of damages: (1) compensatory damages relating to decedent’s “fair monetary value”; (2) funeral and burial expenses; and (3) punitive damages of at least $5000. Id. The most logical place for medical expenses to be listed if they were recoverable is between the compensatory damages and the funeral/burial expenses. But since medical expenses are not specifically listed, they cannot be recovered.
In Massachusetts a wrongful-death recovery is not an asset of the decedent’s probate estate. It is viewed as a statutory trust fund, with the administrator as trustee responsible for distributing the proceeds to the statutory beneficiaries. Sullivan v. Goulette, 344 Mass. 307, 182 N.E.2d 519 (1962). Chapter 229, § 6A amply demonstrates that point. It provides that when the decedent’s estate is insufficient to pay “the charges of administration and funeral expenses . . . , all medical and hospital expenses necessitated by the injury which caused the death, . . . reasonable attorneys’ fees and reasonable costs and expenses of suit,” the amount of those expenses that cannot be paid from the estate must be paid from the wrongful-death recovery.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court states that when a claim arises from common law, the death statute sets forth the procedure and recovery. See Hallett v. Town of […]