ALRC Report 32 (tabled 23 October 1986) examined the position in the Australian Capital Territory regarding the doctrine of loss of consortium. This doctrine allows a husband to recover damages for the loss of his wife’s companionship and services resulting from an injury inflicted on her through negligence.
In the ALRC’s first report on community law reform in the ACT, Contributory Negligence in Fatal Accident Cases (ALRC Report 28), it was noted that there was considerable support for a review of the loss of consortium doctrine. One of the Commission’s main concerns was that, in its present form, the law was discriminatory in recognising only a husband’s interests and narrow in its failure to recognise relationships other than marriage.
A draft Bill is included in the report.
The action for loss of consortium should be abolished. It would be undesirable, however, for there to be no means of compensating for a loss of capacity to do housework. Therefore, the law should be amended to provide that if a person becomes unable to perform housework, the loss should be regarded as one suffered by the injured person, not by their spouse. Compensation for that loss should generally be valued on the basis of average weekly earnings.
On 21 September 1990, the ACT Attorney-General directed the Community Law Reform Committee of the ACT to review the recommendations contained in ALRC Report 32. The Committee agreed with the Commission’s findings. The Commission’s recommendations were implemented by the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act (No 2) 1991 (ACT). The action for loss of consortium was abolished. In its place, the Act provides for an extension of a negligent person’s liability. The range of loss recognised by the law now includes impairment in the injured person’s capacity to perform domestic tasks.