The Eggshell Plaintiff
Q: One morning, in the kitchen of my apartment, I tripped and fell on a bump in the floor. Already, I suffered from diabetes, kidney failure, poor circulation, and lack of feeling in a large portion of my extremities. Now, after a nightmare of stays in the hospital and rehab, I am in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
A: Someone in your pre-accident situation is called by the law an ‘eggshell’ plaintiff. If the landlord was negligent in permitting the bump to exist, then he is subject to liability for your injuries even though your physical condition made the injuries greater than ordinary. This is so even though the landlord had no reason to know of your precarious condition. A defendant cannot escape the consequences of its negligence merely because its negligence would not have caused so much injury to a healthier person.
On the other hand, the eggshell theory does not give you carte blanche. Suppose that you had neglected to take insulin shots and other medication, or were dizzy in the aftermath of a dialysis session, and perhaps had no business walking. Then, the issue is causation rather than the extent of injuries: the defendant will contend that you, too, were at fault, and will seek to apportion liability.
Moreover, the eggshell theory does not immunize you from a defense of failure to mitigate damages. In the various post-accident doctors and procedures, the defendant will look for evidence that you did not always follow instructions. However, to the extent that you did not, then your attorney can still hope to have an avenue to victory – such as by proving that the instruction, actually, was not a good one.
By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial
The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.
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