Loss of Consortium Where Injury Occurred Before Marriage

Posted on June 20, 2012

In a recent case, Leonard v. John Crane, Inc., the California Court of Appeal held that a wife could recover for loss of consortium even though her husband’s injury took place before their marriage. In a prior case, Zwicker(2002) 98 Cal.App.4th 26, the court had held that a spouse must have been married to the injured spouse during the time of injury in order to recover under a theory of loss of consortium. The Court of Appeal concluded that Zwicker’s reasoning did not apply in a case where a “latent and unappreciated injury first becomes manifest during marriage.” In this case, the husband had been exposed to asbestos between 1958 and 1995, but the couple only married in 2001. Only in 2010 was the husband diagnosed with mesothelioma, from which he subsequently died. John Crane, Inc., a defendant in the case, claimed that the wife was not entitled to recover because she was not married to her husband during the time of asbestos exposure. The Court of Appeal disagreed and ruled that the wife could never have claimed loss of consortium until John Crane, Inc.’s negligent conduct actually caused the husband to suffer harm, which took place during the marriage.