West Virginia Supreme Court Limits Economic Calculations of Loss of Household Services
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently held that prejudgment interest could not be awarded pursuant to West Virginia Code § 56-6-31 unless an injured party actually expends “out-of-pocket” money to pay for household services. The question arose after a circuit court ruled that an injured motorist was entitled to prejudgment interest on damages awarded to cover her inability to perform household chores.
The Court came to this conclusion by reminding litigants that only special damages may be subject to prejudgment interest. Therefore, as the plaintiff did not expend any actual money to pay for her lost household services, the Court deemed such services to be general damages, not subject to prejudgment interest.
Chief Justice Ketchum’s footnoted opinion may prove insightful beyond this central holding. He opined that “a plaintiff’s mere loss of the ability to do housework is a customary activity, and is not subject to economic calculation.” As such customary activities are akin to “the loss of enjoyment of life,” they cannot be “subject to an economic calculation.” In turn, it would be reversible error to admit any expert testimony that attempts to economically calculate any such loss of household services.
Click here to read the full opinion in John Doe v. Hasil Pak (filed January 26, 2016).