In a personal injury case, the injured party expects to be compensated for the injuries they sustained due to a defendant’s negligence. But what happens when the plaintiff has a previous injury that is exacerbated by the defendant’s negligence or when the plaintiff has a condition that makes them more susceptible to severe injury? Is the defendant expected to compensate the plaintiff for previous injuries and conditions? In these types of personal injury cases, the plaintiff may be able to utilize a legal theory known as the eggshell plaintiff rule.
Eggshell Plaintiff Rule
The Eggshell plaintiff rule is defined as the doctrine that makes a defendant liable for the plaintiff’s unforeseeable and uncommon reactions to the defendant’s negligent or intentional tort. A wrongdoer must take his victim as he finds him. That means, if a plaintiff is particularly vulnerable to experiencing traumatic injuries or pain as a result of a preexisting physical or mental condition, and a defendant’s negligence makes that preexisting physical or mental condition worse, the defendant will still be responsible for making the plaintiff whole.
This is true even if a plaintiff’s preexisting physical or mental condition made him or her more vulnerable than a normally healthy person would have been. The defendant cannot defend an award of damages simply because he did not originally cause the plaintiff’s injury or condition that was made worse as a result of the defendant’s negligence. However, the damages as to the injury or condition are limited to the additional injury caused by the aggravation. If you are a victim of this type of injury, you may be a classic “eggshell” plaintiff.
It is important to note that there are exceptions to the eggshell plaintiff rule. One common exception is intervening cause. Intervening cause is defined as an event that occurs between the original improper or dangerous action and the damage itself. If a plaintiff’s injury caused by the defendant is not immediate but a separate incident worsens an injury, a defendant is not liable.
The case of Vosburg v. Putney is a landmark American torts case that applied the eggshell plaintiff rule. In 1889 an 11-year-old boy named George Putney kicked 14-year-old Andrew Vosburg in the shin. Although a seemingly minor action, this kick resulted in permanent injury for Andrew Vosburg. Vosburg had suffered a previous injury to his knee and due to the kick from Putney, he developed a serious infection which resulted in weakness in his leg for the rest of his life. Even though Putney never intended to cause Vosburg harm, he was still responsible for the full extent of the injuries Vosburg suffered as a result of his actions.
Am I an Eggshell Plaintiff?
If you have an injury or condition that was worsened due to the negligence or intentional act of another, it is important to work with an experienced attorney, like a personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas, NV. who can help determine if you are entitled to additional damages under the eggshell plaintiff rule. The eggshell plaintiff rule is most often utilized in seemingly minor incidents where plaintiffs are claiming significant injuries.
Thanks to our friends at Eglet Adams for their insight on the eggshell plaintiff rule.