Court Holds Unemployed Plaintiff Is Eligible for Future Earnings Damages Award

Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion discussing the availability of damages for a student-plaintiff who was not employed at the time of the accident but expected to obtain employment after graduation. In the case, Fecke v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University, the court ultimately determined that the plaintiff was eligible to receive damages based on a decrease in her future earnings, although she was not employed at the time of the accident.

The Facts of the Case

Fecke was a college student at Louisiana State University. As a part of one of her courses, Fecke was required to complete an indoor rock climbing assignment at the school’s gym. Fecke scaled the wall without a problem, but on the way down, she fell, fracturing her ankle. She blamed the fall on an employee of the facility. As a result of the fall, she required several surgeries, eventually requiring her ankle to be fused.

Fecke and her family filed a lawsuit against the school. After a jury trial, Fecke was found to be 25% at fault and the University 75% at fault. Fecke and her family were awarded just under $2 million, part of which was an award for loss of future earnings. On appeal, the University appealed several issues, one of which was whether an unemployed college student is eligible for damages based on loss of future earnings.

The Appellate Court Determines the Plaintiff Is Eligible for the Damages Award

The appellate court had to decide whether Fecke was eligible for damages based on her loss of future earnings or her loss of future earning capacity. This issue was important because under state law, damages for loss of earning capacity were capped at $500,000, but damages for loss of future earnings were not capped.

The court explained that the difference between the two types of damages is that the loss of future earnings is a type of “specific damages” because the actual loss amount can be reasonably estimated, whereas the loss of earning capacity cannot be reasonably estimated and is a type of “general damages.”

The evidence presented showed that Fecke was two weeks away from obtaining a degree in kinesiology. Since then, she had returned to school to obtain a certificate to be a physical therapy assistant. However, because of her injury, she had a difficult time performing the duties of the job and had switched to a lower-paying position by the time of trial. The court considered this type of loss to be pecuniary in nature, and thus a reasonable amount of compensation could be determined. As a result, Fecke will be permitted to keep the damages awarded by the jury.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Maryland accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for all that you have been put through. Depending on the nature of your injuries and the type of accident at issue, there may be several types of damages that you could be awarded. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Family Loses Lawsuit and Subsequent Appeal in Case Against Smoke Detector Manufacturer, Maryland Accident Law Blog, September 19, 2016.

Accident Victim’s Bad-Faith Claim Against Insurance Company Fails Based on Legitimate Dispute of Liability and Causation, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 3, 2016.

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