Hedonic damages refer to an element of non-economic damages in a personal injury, medical malpractice or wrongful death case. Noneconomic damages are monies awarded as compensation for non-monetary losses and injuries which the plaintiff or, in a wrongful death case, plaintiff's decedent has suffered as a result of the fault of another. They are awarded for such things as physical pain and suffering and the destruction of the ability to enjoy life's pleasures.
Hedonic damages are also referred to as compensation for loss of life's enjoyment, loss of life's pleasure or lost value of life. The word Hedonic is derived from the Greek "hedonikos" meaning delight and was first coined as a theory of recovery by Economics Professor Stanley Smith in Sherrod v. Berry, a 1987 Seventh Circuit wrongful death case.
Connecticut is only one of a handful of states that provides for hedonic damages in a wrongful death action. Section 52-555 of the Connecticut General Statutes provides a deceased person's legal representative with the ability to maintain a cause of action against the responsible party for, among other things, the wrongful death of the decedent.
Connecticut's wrongful death statute also provides for compensation for the loss of the capacity to enjoy life's activities. Additionally, section 14-295 of the Connecticut General Statutes provides the decedent's representation with the right to assert a claim for double or treble damages.
Double or treble damages may be awarded if it is specifically pled and proven that another party has deliberately, or with reckless disregard, operated a motor vehicle in violation of the specifically named statutes and if that violation was a substantial factor in causing the decedent's death.
The Connecticut Supreme Court held in Floyd v. Fruit Industries, Inc (1957) that damages for wrongful death are not restricted to those arising from the mere destruction of earning capacity. Some damages are recoverable for the death itself, without regard to earning capacity.
Although there is no mathematical formula for determining Hedonic damages, the calculation of the loss must represent a crude monetary forecast of how the deceased's life would have evolved.
An award of damages in a wrongful death, personal injury or medical malpractice case is left to the jury to determine and this calculation should not be disturbed or set aside unless the verdict is exorbitant, plainly excessive, or if the findings are contrary to law, not supported by proof or contrary to the Court's explicit and unchallenged instructions.
The worth of a hedonic portion of a plaintiff's claim will be based upon a number of factors including the plaintiff's or decedent's way of life, how active the person was, the person's relationship with family members and friends and the lifestyle which the plaintiff or decedent led.