SW Legal studies in Business

Trial Court Should Have Given Jury "Eggshell Skull" Instruction on Injury
Description Appeals court ordered a new trial for a plaintiff who was injured in a car accident. The plaintiff's medical condition made her subject to more severe injury due to the accident. The heightened likelihood of more severe injury should have been made clear to the jury in the instructions for determining damages.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Jury Instructions; Eggshell Skull
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Fuller was injured when her car was struck by a car driven by Merten. At trial, it was determined that Merten was at fault and caused Fuller's injuries. She was awarded $53,700. Fuller "has a preexisting arthritic condition that caused, among other things, the weakening of the bones, ligaments, and cartilaginous structures in some of her joints." She claimed that this condition made the injury worse than it would have been otherwise and that, as a result of her injury, "she was forced to discontinue taking her arthritis medication, thus aggravating her arthritis and contributing to complications with her sight." She requested that the judge give the jury the "eggshell skull" plaintiff instruction, but the judge would not. Fuller appealed, contending that had the judge given that instruction, her damage award would have been greater.
Decision Reversed and remanded for new trial. The trial court's failure to give the "eggshell skull" jury instruction was a reversible error. It was established at trial that Fuller had a medical condition that resulted in her bones being more subject to being fractured and injured, which resulted in a more severe injury. The eggshell skull instruction was appropriate to give to the jury given the facts.
Citation Fuller v. Merten, 22 P.3d 1221 (Ct. App., Ore., 2001)

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