Eggshells and Plaintiffs?: The “Eggshell Plaintiff”

by jmachie on June 20, 2013

An eggshell is the hard covering that protects eggs. We crack it to scramble eggs or to eat eggs that have already been boiled. And, eggshells are easy to crack due to their chemical make-up, too.

Plaintiffs are the people who file lawsuits. Depending on the area of the law the lawsuit is filed in, plaintiffs have a good chance of either winning or losing their lawsuits. However, its almost always better to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit, not a defendant.

Wait, what? Eggshells and plaintiffs? What do they have in common? You might be asking these questions right now, and I can tell you– there isn’t much that the two have in common. However, putting these two words together produces an interesting result: “eggshell plaintiffs.”

Eggshell plaintiffs are an interesting part of the law, especially personal injury law, which addresses when plaintiffs deserve compensation for the injuries they suffered as a result of someone else’s negligence– and more relevantly to an eggshell plaintiff, just how much a defendant has to compensate the plaintiff for.

The Eggshell Plaintiff

Based on what you just read, you might (or you might not) surmise that an eggshell plaintiff is a plaintiff that is “easy to crack.” This means that they are easily injured due to their make-up– be it a previous injury or present disease– be it youth or age.

Still confused and wondering why this matters in personal injury law? Well, if a plaintiff is easily injured because of their make-up, then one could argue that they are partially to blame for their injury. This puts defendants in a better position, because they should only be responsible for the injuries that they negligently caused, right? Wrong.

The law is alway a tricky thing, and the eggshell plaintiff doctrine goes in the opposite direction from what one might expect– a complete 180 degree turn, in fact: Defendants have to take their plaintiffs as they find them. It just doesn’t matter whether or not a plaintiff was “easy to crack,” thereby contributing to the injury caused by the defendant, who will still be liable for any and all injuries that occurred as a result of the accident they negligently caused.

Lets go through some examples to help this all make more sense. While doing so, ask yourself and answer the following questions:

  • Do you agree with the eggshell plaintiff doctrine?

  • If yes, why? If no, why not?

  • And, is there anything you would like to change about the eggshell plaintiff doctrine?

  • If yes, why? If no, why not?

Examples of Eggshell Plaintiffs

You get into an accident because you were negligently texting while driving. However, the victim has a blood disease. Although the injuries are minor, they bleed to death because of the disease they already have. What would have been a minor personal injury case for a car accident suddenly turns into a wrongful death case– and yes, you are responsible for his or her death and compensating the family for it.

In Sum

You have to take your plaintiffs as you find them– eggshell and “easy to crack” or not.

Jennifer Machie writes for Matt Kyle of the Kyle Law Firm.


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