Of course a wife is entitled to recover against the wrongdoer who caused the death of her loving husband. But what if the husband had long ago abandoned her? Without a loving relationship or continuous support, is the "forgotten widow" entitled to any compensation at all?
In most cases, yes, because the forgotten widow or abandoned wife who has lost her husband is viewed as having lost her husband's financial support. Even if the husband had not been paying that support, the widow is entitled to compensation.
In the usual wrongful death case, an award for loss of support is based on the amount of support the widow proves her deceased husband would have provided to her in the future. But a California court has ruled that, in the case of the forgotten widow, that proof is not necessary.
The California court in Powers v. Sutherland Auto Stage Co., considered a case where the deceased spouse had deserted his wife more than 13 years before his death. During that time, he had sent her only infrequent small checks, and for several years prior to the his death, the claimant wife had heard nothing from him and did not know his whereabouts. The spouse was entitled to no compensation for the loss of her husband's "care comfort or society.' But the court determined that the wife was entitled to be compensated for the loss of her legal right to support.
It made no difference that the wife had never attempted to enforce her rights. Her right to support was created by the marriage and would exist so long as the marriage itself existed. By causing the death of her husband, the wrongdoer deprived the forgotten widow of a right to which she was legally entitled.