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What is an Eggshell Plaintiff?

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The concept of eggshell plaintiff is a legal concept that comes to play in torts. It essentially means that the defendant must take the victim as he finds him. If the victim is more susceptible to injury than an average individual would be, the defendant is still liable for all the damages that occur... even if he would have had to pay much less had he injured someone else.

What is an Eggshell Plaintiff?

Tort law is a body of law designed to ensure that a person pays for and is held legally liable for damages he causes either intentionally or negligently. When a defendant is sued in tort, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant either acted intentionally or negligently (although in some cases, such as product liability, other legal standards apply). The plaintiff must also prove the defendant's actions were the proximate or direct cause of injury, and that injury actually occurred.

The defendant is then required by law to pay for the damages suffered by the plaintiff. Those damages include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and in some cases emotional distress and punitive damages. If the victim dies from the tort, the defendant can be sued under a wrongful death lawsuit and may have to pay for the lost wages the person would have made over the course of his life, among other damages.

The eggshell plaintiff rule is an additional legal doctrine that applies in tort cases to determine the extent of a defendant's liability. Some plaintiffs may be more susceptible to injury than others. As such, the cost that a defendant may have to pay if he hurts that particular plaintiff can be much higher than it would have been had he hurt a different plaintiff. Some may believe that the defendant should not have to pay those extra costs... however, the court says that since the defendant breached his duty, he is responsible for all costs that come from that breach, even if they weren't foreseen.

Assume, for example, that a defendant wasn't paying attention and was texting while driving and caused a minor accident. In most cases, the fender bender might be settled quickly and wouldn't cost the defendant a lot of money. However, if he hit a hemophiliac and that person lost a ton of blood and needed expensive emergency surgery and still died from the blood loss, that same defendant could be liable for wrongful death. The eggshell plaintiff rule essentially says that you take the victim as you find him, and it is designed to encourage care and punish negligence.

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