What is an “Eggshell Plaintiff”?

 

You may have heard the descriptive legal term “eggshell plaintiff” and wondered what that meant.  It conjures up a vision of Humpty Dumpty sitting on the witness stand.  But think about the characteristics of an eggshell … as evidenced by Mr. Dumpty’s notorious fall, eggshells are notoriously fragile – and essentially that is what the term refers to, a fragile, or more easily injured, plaintiff.

The eggshell plaintiff is a concept found in civil proceedings, where a person (“the plaintiff”) can sue another (“the defendant”) based on a negligent or intentional act that caused damage.  A simple example is if a person is not paying attention to the road and rear-ends another vehicle, causing injury to the person driving the rear-ended vehicle, the injured driver can sue the negligent driver for monetary damages.

Now, take the same situation above – what if the injured driver suffered a relatively minor laceration during the crash, but because he or she was a hemophiliac, the minor laceration caused the injured person to bleed to death.  Could the negligent driver then be sued by the decedent’s family for wrongful death?

The eggshell plaintiff theory says yes.  It means that a negligent party “takes the plaintiff as he comes” and is liable for damages caused by the negligence, even if those damages were
unforeseeable.

The hemophiliac example, though commonly used to illustrate this theory, is very unlikely to occur, as that disease is fairly rare.  However, if a person sustains neck and back injuries in a car accident and the injured party had prior injuries or weaknesses to his or her neck or back, the same concept applies.

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Automobile Accident Attorney with the primary accident information site on the web, AutoAccident.com.

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