Query: In Illinois, can a parent whose minor child is injured in an accident sue to recover damages for the services rendered in caring for the child?
Yes, according to the recent case of Worley v. Barger, No. 5-02-0679 (5th Dist. March 31, 2004).
The case was complicated by the fact that the damages were sought in a lawsuit by the parent, rather than in the minor's action:
The usual practice in Illinois . . . is to sue for all damages in the minor's action. This is accomplished by alleging an assignment or waiver or relinquishment by the parents of their right to recover these damages. Curtis v. Lowe, 338 Ill. App. 463, 87 N.E.2d 865 (2d Dist. 1949)." (Emphasis added.) Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Civil, No. 30.08, Comment, at 141 (3d ed. 1995).
In the case at bar, the issue of plaintiff's lost wages was brought in a separate cause of action because the minor's cause of action had been settled and plaintiff's claim of lost wages had not been addressed in the minor's settlement documents.
(Obviously, there is also a lesson to be learned in this case about settlement agreements.) The Court did not agree that the claim for lost wages was appropriate; even so, the Court found in favor of the plaintiff, reversing the trial court, by reasoning that medical expenses in caring for a child may include the cost of childcare. Since medical expenses would have been recoverable by a parent, then the reasonable value of the childcare costs are recoverable too, even if lost wages in caring for the child are not:
We find that it is reasonably foreseeable that an injury to a minor child would result in his or her parent expending time in caring for the child and that there is a sufficient likelihood of the parent suffering pecuniary injury. The magnitude of guarding against the injury is no greater than that of guarding against the injury to the child. The consequence of placing the burden on the defendant to pay the reasonable value of the services rendered to the minor child by the parent is no greater than if the expense had been incurred in employing a third person to deliver the service. We decline plaintiff's request for lost wages because it would insert a level of unforeseeability that is not necessary in order for plaintiff to receive a reasonable recovery for the care of the minor child.
In summary, we find that plaintiff should be allowed to recover the reasonable value of caretaking services that would have been allowed if someone had been employed to take care of her child, as permitted by Illinois pattern instruction No. 30.09 (Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Civil, No. 30.09 (3d ed. 1995)), which is entitled "30.09 Measure of Damages-Caretaking Expense-Past and Future-Adult Plaintiff, Emancipated Minor, or Minor Whose Parent Has Assigned Claim to Minor" and states, "The reasonable expense of necessary help which has been required as a result of his injury [and the present cash value of such expense reasonably certain to be required in the future]."