The nature of marriage is such that when one spouse suffers from hardship, the other spouse usually suffers right by their side. Adversity can really strengthen a couple’s bond or strain it to the breaking point.
Spousal illness is one of these major marital stressors. In many cases, the healthy spouse chooses to stay and to become a caregiver. In other cases, they opt to file for divorce. And some spouses stick it out as long as they can handle before finally leaving. All of these choices can be profoundly difficult to make, and all have consequences.
In one recent case, a woman’s decision to leave her ailing husband may have cost her nearly a million dollars. A judge hearing the appeal of her husband’s $3.8 million medical malpractice verdict ruled that because the woman left “when the going got tough,” she is not entitled to a separate $1 million award.
The plaintiff in the malpractice case, a 51-year-old New York man, was correctly diagnosed in 2009 with a condition that can be controlled with medication. But back in 2004, the neurologist who first treated him misdiagnosed him with a serious and potentially fatal condition. As a result, the man unnecessarily underwent 74 medical treatments, surgery and a very difficult regimen of home medical care.
According to the woman’s attorney, she stayed with her husband through the entire course of misdiagnosis and treatment and essentially became his primary caregiver. She finally left her husband after he received a correct diagnosis and his health began to improve.
Earlier this month, a judge called her $1 million award “clearly excessive,” in part, because she divorced her husband during his illness. The judge said that the woman can either accept a $100,000 settlement or face the prospect of a new trial to determine the losses she is owed.
During times of great adversity, not all spouses can or will stay by their partner’s side. The decision is a profoundly personal one, and any choice will come with consequences.
Source: New York Daily News, “Ex-wife of landscaper who received $1 million in medical malpractice case cannot keep the money after she left husband ‘when the going got tough’: judge,” Barbara Ross, July 16, 2014