Have you ever noticed that sometimes things in life are unfair? In the legal world that adage also holds true. Take for example: If an unmarried adult, without minor children (say a grandmother whose children are grown and whose husband passed away) goes to see a doctor and that doctor accidentally kills her due to obvious and total malpractice there is no way to bring a malpractice suit. The adult children do not have the right to bring that suit on behalf of their dead mother. That seems unfair to me.
Another example, is pets. Dogs, cats, etc.., have no value beyond their replacement value. In other words, if I have a fantastic dog who is my kids best friend and a great part of our family and someone kills that dog, I can only recover the value to replace that dog. If that dog was a mutt from the dog-pound, then the replacement cost is about $60.00. The emotional loss is terrible for the family, but the economic loss small.
What would you do if you took your photos to a photo lab for development and they lost your photos or even destroyed them? There is a value to those photos. The emotional value is very large, but the economic value is small. Although you have the right to recover for any loss, you are likely restricted to the economic loss. That economic loss is so small that is isn't worth the fight. I do not believe Florida law has changed to allow emotional losses in commercial cases. There is a legal rule called the Economic Loss Rule that prohibits emotional damages in commercial cases. I have not researched the Economic Loss Rule for some time, but I do not believe it has changed. Recently I saw a legal article advocating the law permit emotional losses in some situations: Movers who destroy family heirlooms that are worthless but have great family value was the example given *(which is similar to lost photos). I do not believe, however, the present state of the law permits such recovery.
Roy C. Young wrote an interesting article on economic loss called “Florida Supreme Court Overturns the "Economic Loss Rule". In the article, he shares the following sentiments:
That Florida recognizes the responsibility of individual professionals for their negligent acts is also evidenced by the express provisions of two legislative enactments that are relevant here–section 471.023, Florida Statutes (1993), pertaining to engineers, and section 621.07, Florida Statutes (1993), pertaining to professional associations. Both of these statutory provisions permit professionals to practice in the form of a corporation or partnership for the purpose of rendering professional services. However, both sections indicate an intent to hold professionals personally liable for their negligent acts by expressly stating that the formation of a corporation or partnership shall not relieve the individual members of their personal professional liability.
Section 621.07 of the Professional Service Corporation Act ("Act"), states in pertinent part:
Nothing contained in this act shall be interpreted to abolish, repeal, modify, restrict, or limit the law now in effect in this state applicable to the professional relationship and liabilities between the person furnishing the professional services and the person receiving such professional service and to the standards for professional conduct; provided, however, that any officer, agent, member, manager, or employee of a corporation or limited liability company organized under this act shall be personally liable and accountable only for negligent or wrongful acts or misconduct committed by that person, or by any person under that person's direct supervision and control, while rendering professional service on behalf of the corporation or limited liability company to the person for whom such professional services were being rendered . . . .
§ 621.07, Fla. Stat. (1997). Similarly, section 471.023(3) expressly applies to engineers and states in pertinent part: (3) The fact that a registered engineer practices through a corporation or partnership shall not relieve the registrant from personal liability for negligence, misconduct, or wrongful acts committed by him. . . . Any officer, agent, or employee of a corporation shall be personally liable and accountable only for negligent acts, wrongful acts, or misconduct committed by him or committed by any person under his direct supervision and control, while rendering professional services on behalf of the corporation.
After reading this excerpt, one may ask the question: does this mean that person is or is not responsible?
First, I must point out that this is one of those interesting niche areas of the law. The Economic Loss Rule was supposed to stop lawsuits for pain and suffering damages in contract cases. In other words, it was intended to limit damages to the economic effect of the contract so people wouldn't be suing for their inconvenience damages, their pain and suffering damages etc, when one party breaches a contract.
There are, however, many exceptions that the rule so the rule is a fuzzy line, not a bright line. The Supreme Court case Phillipe H/ Moransais, vs. Paul S. Heathman, an individual, Bromwell & Carrier, Inc, a Florida corporation, Lennon D. Jordan and J/ Larry Sauls is a fuzzy case which is an exception to the economic loss rule. Another fuzzy area is professional malpractice. Any time you are dealing with professional services and those services are done negligently there is an issue as to whether the Economic Rule applies.
I hope that this explains economic loss and how important it is when an attorney or an insurance company values a case.