Indirect economic damages are those that do not have a ready monetary
equivalent. They fall into two classes: those that represent services that the
injured person might have provided to his or her family, and those that
represent various aspects of mental or physical suffering by the injured person
or his or her family. Services include home repairs, household services, and
special services that the plaintiff might have provided. The value of sexual
services in a marriage are an important component in these damages, but they
are lumped with loss of companionship to form consortium. This avoids the
problem of presenting expert testimony on the value of sexual services.
Defending against these noneconomic claims has pitfalls. If the defense
disputes the plaintiff’s pain but that pain is credible to the jury, the defendant
will be seen as cruel. Establishing that the plaintiff was a shiftless wife beater
is unlikely to defuse the testimony of a small child that he misses his daddy.
The high ground in defending these claims is to sympathize but to question the
propriety of replacing daddy with money. Inevitably, the award of indirect
economic damages depends on the jury’s balancing their sympathy for the
plaintiff with their sympathy for the defendant.
Juries may use noneconomic damages as a way of compensating plaintiffs for
items that are not directly compensable. For example, juries know that
attorneys do not work for free, and they also recognize that the list of
compensable items that plaintiff’s counsel presents does not contain an entry
for legal fees. It is widely believed, but untested, that jurors put money for
attorney’s fees in soft categories, such as pain and emotional distress.