Thomas Saunders was under no legal obligation to support Lori Lea, plaintiff claims that Lori Lea failed to suffer a pecuniary loss and, like her emancipated children, is not entitled to share in the proceeds of this wrongful death action. Tommi and Lori claim that plaintiff's estimate of their pecuniary loss is too low because it fails to consider the value of the care, training, advice, guidance and emotional support they lost because of their father's death.
Pecuniary loss in this context "is not a matter of guess or conjecture, but must be grounded on reasonably continuous past acts or conduct of the deceased." Gaydos v. Domabyl, 301 Pa. 523, 530, 152 A. 549 (1930). Services, gifts, education, training and advice can all be elements of an individual's pecuniary loss. Id. However, they "must have been rendered with a frequency that begets an anticipation of their continuance; occasional gifts and services are not sufficient on which to ground a pecuniary loss." Id.
The law creates a rebuttable presumption that minor children suffer a pecuniary loss when one of their parents dies. 301 Pa. at 532. Emancipated children, however, "must affirmatively show direct pecuniary loss . . ., damages are never presumed." 301 Pa. at 532, 535.
I find that Tommi Lee suffered a pecuniary loss equal to the $150.00 per month her father was legally required to provide for her support until she reached the age of eighteen. Although her father never provided her with monetary or emotional support equal in value to $150.00 per month, in Pennsylvania "'[a] husband and father is presumed to perform the legal duty of supporting his wife and minor children [and] . . . they are entitled to what the law would have compelled him to furnish them, whether he had previously done so or not.'" DeSantis v. Maddalon, 348 Pa. 296, 300, 35 A.2d 72 (1944).
I further find that neither Tommi nor Lori has met their burden of establishing a pecuniary loss based upon the services and gifts their father would have provided them after they reached the age of eighteen, had he lived.
For almost eight years Thomas Saunders showed virtually no interest in his children. He failed to meet his legal support obligations, hardly spoke to his children and failed to give them any meaningful guidance, education or emotional support. A few months before he died he began to show a minimal interest in his children. His occasional gifts and services during this time are insufficient according to Pennsylvania law to establish a pecuniary loss. They were not "rendered with a frequency that begets an anticipation of their continuance," and given Thomas Saunders' previous neglect of his children, I have no reason to believe that his renewed interest in his children would have continued.
An appropriate order follows.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following court-provided text does not appear at this cite in 632 F. Supp.]
AND NOW, this day of, 1986, it is hereby ORDERED AS FOLLOWS:
1. Plaintiff's petition to approve her proposed distribution of the proceeds of this action is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
2. Plaintiff shall make the following distribution of the proceeds of this action:
TO: Litvin, Blumberg, Matusow & Young $ 6,500.00
(reimbursement of costs)
TO: Litvin, Blumberg, Matusow & Young $
TO: Virginia Graham Saunders $
TO: Effie Moore, in trust for $
Tommi Lee Saunders
TO: Robert D. Saunders $
TO: Donna Saunders Barber $
TO: Jeffrey Saunders $
TO: Lori Lea Saunders $
TO: Litvin, Blumberg, Matusow & Young $18,000.00
to be held in escrow as a subrogation
fund to satisfy the lien of the American
Bridge Division of United States Steel
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