In Part I we discussed the nature of the loss of services claim of the non-injured spouse.
We now turn to the issue of who is entitled to recovery? In this age of “significant others”, “life partners”, “civil unions”, and “same sex marriages” there has been a bit of a blurring of what is a spouse.
New York law is clear that the person claiming a loss of services claim must be a spouse who has legally married the injured person.
Therefore, the following relationships are not recognized:
- Civil Unions. New York has recognized “civil unions” between same sex couples for certain legal rights, such as health insurance and right to occupy rent regulated property. However, civil union is not the same as marriage. The non-injured partner cannot sue for loss of services.
- Common Law Marriages. New York does not recognize common law marriage. In other words, a man and woman living together and holding themselves out as married will not be deemed married under the common law. However, New York will recognize a common law marriage if it were legally entered outside of New York in a state which recognizes common law marriage. E.g., assume John and Joan lived as husband and wife but did not go through a ritual marriage in a state which recognizes common law marriage. Further assume that John and Joan are deemed legally married in that state under its common law marriage laws. If John and Joan were to move to New York, then New York will recognize the couple as legally married.
- People Living Together. In New York people living together have no legal status as a “couple” or “spouses” even where they have children together.
New York will recognize a same sex couple as legally married if that couple were legally married in another state which has legal same sex marriage. E.g., if the couple were married in Connecticut, then New York would recognized the couple as married. In this instance, the non-injured spouse would have a right recover for loss of services in New York.
If New York legalizes same sex marriages, then same sex couples married in New York will have the same rights as married, heterosexual couple now have. That includes the right of the non-injured spouse to recover for loss of services.
If you have been injured in an accident, please call me at 800-581-1434 for a free consultation, or write to email@example.com.
Mark E. Seitelman, 5/29/09, www.seitelman.com.