X and Y are married. One day, X and Y are traveling in their car, with X driving and Y in the passenger’s seat. Another driver, D, crosses the center line from an oncoming lane and hits the car in which X and Y are traveling. X is unharmed, but Y is severely injured.
Y suffers several broken limbs, a punctured lung, and other internal damage. After one week, during which Y remains conscious and in pain, Y dies.
The applicable law permits survival actions, and allows the decedent’s estate to recover whatever damages the decedent could have recovered if the decedent had lived. The applicable law also permits a wrongful death action by a surviving spouse. A plaintiff in a wrongful death action may recover for loss of consortium and the loss of any financial support that the deceased person would have provided to the plaintiff. Finally, the applicable law follows a rule of pure comparative negligence in all cases, with a rule of joint and several liability.
Both X and the estate of Y join as plaintiffs in a tort case against D. X seeks to recover for the wrongful death of Y, including loss of consortium and lost financial support. The estate of Y asserts a survival action against D on Y’s behalf, seeking to recover for medical expenses in addition to pain and suffering.
At trial, the evidence shows that D was negligent in allowing D’s car to cross the center line. The evidence also shows that X could have avoided the collision, except that just before the collision occurred, X was looking at his cell phone and not paying attention to the road. Finally, the evidence shows that Y was not wearing a seat belt. The failure to wear a seat belt constitutes negligence under applicable law.
The trial is held in two phases: a liability phase, followed by a damages phase. At the end of the liability phase, the jury finds that D was 50 percent negligent, X was 40 percent negligent, and Y was 10 percent negligent.
In the damages phase, the evidence shows that Y was the lifetime beneficiary of a trust that generated at least $100,000 per year in income. X testifies that X and Y had a loving and stable relationship, in which they shared all of their assets and property equally, including all of Y’s trust income. Under the terms of the trust, upon Y’s death, the trust and its benefits passed to Y’s sister. X therefore claims lost trust income as an element of X’s damages.
D presents evidence that Y consistently gave half of the trust’s earnings to charity every year. D also presents evidence that Y was considering divorcing X. X objects to D’s evidence, arguing that it is irrelevant to the calculation of X’s damages. The judge overrules the objections.
The jury finds that the total value of X’s damages is $1,000,000. The jury finds that the total value of Y’s damages is $500,000. These values do not reflect any adjustments based on comparative negligence. The judge must make these adjustments before entering judgment on the verdict.
- Did the judge properly overrule X’s objections to D’s evidence in the damages phase? Explain.
- Assuming that all of the jury’s findings are correct, in what amounts should the judge enter judgment for X and for the estate of Y, respectively? Explain.
- Can the estate of Y recover all of its damages from D alone, without seeking to recover from X? Explain.