No Expert Testimony Needed to Establish Value in Wrongful Death Claim

Mar 5, 2019

In a case involving a wrongful death claim, the Appellate Division recently held that expert testimony is not required to establish the pecuniary value of the loss of advice, guidance and companionship in wrongful death actions.  Dutton v. Rando, - N.J. Super. – (App. Div. 2019).

Defendant, Stephen Rando, fatally struck plaintiff’s son, Patrick Dutton, as he was riding his bicycle.  A jury awarded the mother, representing her son’s estate, wrongful death damages and survivorship damages.

Defendant appealed contending that the jury award of wrongful death damages was unsupported by the evidence, particularly without any expert testimony to substantiate the pecuniary value of the loss of Patrick’s advice, guidance and companionship.  The Appellate Division rejected the appeal.

The Appellate Division held that no expert testimony is necessary to establish pecuniary loss in a wrongful death action.  Under New Jersey law, in cases involving the death of a child, parents may recover for the pecuniary value of the child’s companionship, including his or her advice and guidance as the parents grow older.  The court held that plaintiff was not required to present expert testimony to establish the pecuniary value of the claim.