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Sacramento Injury Verdict Demonstrates “Eggshell Plaintiff Rule”

According to Juryverdictalert.com , a jury in Sacramento California rendered a verdict of approximately $360,000 in a case of “disputed injury”in the matter of “Doe v. Landis” Case No. 34-2012000133121.  (See jury verdict summary here ).  The summary of this case and the things I find interesting about the claim are as follows:

Facts of the Case: Plaintiff was rear ended while sitting at a stop light.  She claimed immediate neck pain at the scene of the accident.  She underwent several months of physical therapy and, when this did not fully resolve her pain, she underwent trigger point injections.  At the time of trial, she still claimed to have residual pain.  The plaintiff had a history of fibromyalgia and chronic pain and headaches prior to the car crash.

Rules of Law that Can Be Drawn from This Verdict: Cases where a party is injured due to negligence or wrongdoing but, had a pre-existing medical condition prior to the incident are not uncommon.  California law basically states that the defendant is not liable for prior medical problems, but, to the extent that these problems were exacerbated by the incident complained of, the defendant is still liable.  Furthermore, if any prior medical condition caused the plaintiff to be more susceptible to injury, it is immaterial to liability.  Specifically, these rules are stated as follows:

California Civil Jury Instruction 3927: Plaintiff is not entitled to damages for any physical or emotional condition that [he/she] had before defendant‘s conduct occurred. However, if plaintiff had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by defendant‘s wrongful conduct, you must award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate [him/her] for the effect on that condition.

California Civil Jury Instruction 3928: You must decide the full amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate [name of plaintiff] for all damages caused by the wrongful conduct of [name of defendant], even if [name of plaintiff] was more susceptible to injury than a normally healthy person would have been, and even if a normally healthy person would not have suffered similar injury.

It is often difficult to explain these two concepts to a civil jury and to reconcile the two rules.  Apparently, the plaintiff’s attorney in this case did a good job through his medical experts in conveying that, even though the plaintiff did have prior problems with neck and back pain, being struck from behind while at a stop clearly made these conditions worse.  In addition, the fact that she was more susceptible to injury than someone without prior neck and back issues, is immaterial to the defendant’s liability.

 

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