Brad Nakase, Attorney
An Eggshell Plaintiff: People Unusually Susceptible to Injury
A person who commits a wrongful act that that injured another person will be responsible for the injury to that person even if a normal person would not have been injured. For example, a person with cerebral palsy may sustain severe injury from a fall than a normal person. If you are more susceptible to further injury, the liable person is not released from legal responsibility.
You, the highly susceptible injured plaintiff, are known as an “eggshell plaintiff”; the term relates to all parts of the law, whether it be intentional, negligence, criminal, or liability. This eggshell doctrine protects you from a preexisting condition that increases your risk of injury.
A defendant is not allowed to use a preexisting condition as a crutch to escape from legal liability. Your lawyer’s job is to convince the jury that any further injury to your preexisting condition is the fault of the defendant.
Your Burden as a Plaintiff
You, as the plaintiff, must show that the defendant was the cause or at least a contributing factor in your injury. Your attorney must use your preexisting condition as justification that the defendant made you more susceptible to harm or injury through wrongful conduct. Any condition or injury you may have had prior must be disclosed in full and explained thoroughly.
Your lawyer may use their opening statement to explain your preexisting conditions. The opening statement is an ideal opportunity for your attorney to disclose your health and justify it before the defendant has the chance to use it against you.
If your preexisting condition is a mental one, your lawyer must determine if any new psychological distress developed naturally or from the wrongful actions of the defendant.
What is the Role of Experts?
In these cases, experts are going to be an essential tool to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. Experts will accurately explain the difference between the injury that occurred at work versus the preexisting condition. The experts that represent you can vary from doctors to psychiatrists or psychologists. Any expert should first review all documents on you and the incident to be knowledgeable when taking the stand.
Experts can also assist in determining any possible factors that may have caused or contributed to the preexisting condition. The experts in an eggshell case, in particular, should be used primarily to explain and distinguish the critical information to differentiate the preexisting condition and the current injury.
A comprehensive investigation must occur to gather all facts, since you, as the plaintiff may not voluntarily reveal all the pieces of information. This investigation will help determine the amount of damage you have suffered.
Instructions from the Jury
Jury instructions are instructions given to the jurors to use as a guideline for making decisions. These instructions can be used to justify to the jury that the defendant is the one responsible for the wrongful conduct and that they must be held accountable.
In CACI, there are two types of jury instructions that are important to you as a plaintiff with a preexisting injury. The first of these instructions is CACI 3927, which states that in the case of a plaintiff with a preexisting condition, the defendant must be held liable if their behavior aggravated the preexisting condition of the plaintiff. For example, if you had either a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by the defendant’s actions, you will be awarded the proper compensation for your distress.
The second of these instructions is CACI 3928 which addresses an unusually susceptible plaintiff. CACI 3928 states that although you, the eggshell plaintiff, may have been more distressed than a healthy person, you must still receive fair compensation for the damage caused. Your team must agree on fair and reasonable compensation for the damages done to you even though you were more susceptible.
The two jury instructions discussed are essential to your case and should always be provided when involving an eggshell case. They allow for an eggshell plaintiff to be treated fair in the eyes of the jury and also receive the proper amount of compensation for their injuries.
Hypothetical Preexisting Conditions
Negligent conduct can worsen or aggravate a plaintiff’s preexisting condition, and this kind of case is referred to as an ‘eggshell’ case. Jurors usually understand that even though you may have had preexisting health conditions, the defendant does not have the right to aggravate these conditions without taking liability. A good lawyer representing you will make clear in the court that the preexisting condition is separate from the current injury or that the defendant’s behavior aggravated it.
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References: Eggshell Skull Rule