Loss Of Consortium in Personal Injury & Auto Accident Cases & Timely Filing in Rhode Island

In Desjarlis v. USAA. Co. 824A.2D 1272 (R.I. 2003 , the husband who was injured in an auto accident, settled with the tortfeasor’s (person who commits a wrongful act) insurance company for the policy limits  (medical), and his uninsured motorist carrier (defendant) consented to this settlement. The wife did not notify the tortfeasor, his insurance company, or the defendant uninsured motorist carrier of her loss of consortium (inability of one’s spouse to have normal marital relations) and society claims until after her husband had settled his claim against the tortfeasor and arbitrated his uninsured motorist claim against the insurer, at which point she filed an action on behalf of herself and her minor children against the defendant-insurer, seeking uninsured benefits, alleging loss of consortium and society.

In Desjarlais II, (the Court) held that the spouse or children of an impaired party (i.e.. the deprived parties) must join their consortium claims with the claim of the impaired partybefore the impaired party settles his claim, obtains an arbitration award, or before a judgement adjudicating his claim becomes final, whichever event first occurs.

On the facts of the instant case, the court reasoned that the wife sat idly by, with knowledge of her husband’s claim, while he was settling and arbitrating them. Since she made no showing that joinder to her husband’s claims was not feasible. Desjarlais II ruled that the trial court properly granted summary judgement to the defendant-insurer.