Minn. Jury Award for Wrongful Death Sets Precedent

October 31, 2005

A Minnesota jury’s award of more than $720,000 in a loss-of-relationship settlement is under fire by the insurance company involved, according to Associated Press.

A jury awarded the Hibbing, Minn. Rafinski family more than $720,000 for losing its relationship with son Ryan Rafinski, a 27-year-old who was killed in a car accident in April 2004. The lawsuit claimed damages for losing his “advice, comfort, assistance and protection.”

A plaintiff’s attorney said Western National Mutual Insurance offered $22,500 to settle before trial, arguing that plaintiff John Rafinski failed to notify it that Ryan was living with him.

John Rafinski’s attorney, Paul Schweiger, said the insurance company told him in 1999 that it could no longer insure him if Ryan was living with him because Ryan had several driving violations and two DWIs on his record.

John Rafinski was awarded $120,000 for past damages, $600,000 for future damages and about $11,000 for funeral expenses.

“This is a very large verdict, but Minnesota courts have always said that putting a value on the loss of a child is so difficult that it is peculiarly a task for the jury to undertake,” said University of St. Thomas Law School Prof. Robert Vischer.

William Mitchell College of Law Prof. Michael Steenson said the verdict wasn’t unprecedented, but, “That’s a lot of money in a wrongful-death case.”

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