The "Eggshell Plaintiff" Rule in Panama City Injury Lawsuits

There are many interesting legal theories that can apply Panama City injury lawsuit. Although it is not yet clear if any legal liability is involved, a story in the News Herald reminded our team of one important concept in personal injury law - the "Eggshell Plaintiff" rule.

Recent Death at Panama City Beach Motel

On Monday afternoon, the Bay County Sheriff's Office responded to a call from the Catalina Court Motel on Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach. Witnesses had pulled the body of a 50-year-old woman from the swimming pool. Another woman, who said she was the deceased woman's aunt, told police and reporters that the victim had a medical condition that recently caused several seizures and may have contributed to her death. The motel's general manager spoke well of the Laguna Beach woman, a guest of the hotel for the prior month. The manager's husband said he had seen the woman lying on a float earlier in the day but had not considered whether anything might be wrong. An investigation is ongoing, but early signs did not point to foul play.

Even if this death did not result from foul play, legal liability might apply in some cases. Pool deaths can fall under a premises liability theory, meaning a property owner or other involved parties may be responsible for the death if the pool area was poorly maintained or otherwise unreasonably dangerous. Product liability law can also apply if a faulty product, such as a malfunctioning drain or poorly constructed float, led to the accident.

The Eggshell Plaintiff Theory in Florida Injury Claims

In this case, the report suggests the woman's health may have been an additional issue. While this may have some relevance as to the cause, the physical state of the plaintiff is not relevant, so the defendant is responsible for the injuries sustained by the victim, even if the plaintiff's health status meant the victim suffered a more serious injury that an average person would incur in a similar incident. In law school, students learn about the "eggshell plaintiff" concept. The theory imagines a person with an especially thin (or "eggshell") skull. If the defendant's negligence caused the plaintiff to bump his head, the plaintiff might suffer a serious skull fracture or other major injury even if a typical person would suffer only a minor bump on the head.

Even though the extent of the injury was unusual, if the court finds the defendant caused the injury and is legally liable for the incident, the defendant must still compensate the victim for the full extent of the injury. In other words, a defendant "takes the plaintiff as he finds him," including any unique susceptibility to injury such as a pre-existing condition or prior injury. The rule does not, however, mean the defendant is responsible for inevitable injuries that would have happened anyway when the incident had only a minimal impact on the outcome.

The "eggshell plaintiff" theory is recognized by Florida law. A number of court decisions affirm the principle, and it is included in the Florida Standard Jury Instructions (401.12 and 402.6). With a law degree from The University of Florida and 35 years of legal experience, Wes Pittman understands this and other legal principles key to the success of an injury lawsuit. Please call if our team can put this experience to work for you.

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