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New Mexico Allows Sibling Loss-of-Consortium Claims

The New Mexico Supreme Court held that loss-of-consortium claims may extend to sibling relationships upon a sufficient showing of mutual dependence.

Twenty-two year old Jason Wachocki was killed when he was hit by a speeding van, driven by Metropolitan Detention Center guard Willie Hiley. His family sued in state court and obtained a wrongful death judgment against the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department. However, the loss-of-consortium claim brought by Jason's brother, Bill, was denied. See: Wachocki v. Bernalillo County Sheriffs Dept., 147 N.M. 720, 228 P.3d 504 (N.M.App. 2009).
The New Mexico Supreme Court granted review to consider whether loss-of-consortium claims may be brought by siblings. The Court noted that in Lozoya v. Sanchez, 133 N.M. 579, 66 P.3d 948 (N.M. 2003), it held that loss-of-consortium claims have two requisite elements: a sufficiently close relationship between the claimant and the injured person; and a duty of care.
Limiting its analysis to the first element, the Court rejected Wachocki's request "to adopt a loss of consortium analysis that is specifically tailored to the unique nature of sibling relationships, considering such factors as whether siblings remain in close communication during adulthood, provide emotional support to one another, and share interests and activities." Even though the Court declined "to inject factors specific to the sibling relationship into" its analysis, it concluded that the Lozoya" analysis should be streamlined to accommodate different types of relationships." Ultimately, the Court "concluded that mutual dependence is the key factor in determining whether the claimant shared a sufficiently close relationship with the injured party."
It then agreed with the lower court that "'recovery by a sibling may be proper,' but here the 'factual basis simply falls short.' ... The brothers were roommates and shared a small amount of financial responsibilities, but ... their relationship did not exhibit the mutual dependence required for recovery." Unfortunately, however, the Court failed to indicate what would "exhibit the mutual dependence required for recovery." See: Wachocki v. Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department, 150 N.M. 650, 265 P.3d 701 (N.M. 2011).

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Related legal case

Wachocki v. Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department