The Florida Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether an injured housewife with no prior history of earnings was entitled to an award of damages for impairment of her future earning capacity. The court stated that it was “not primarily concerned with the loss of earnings but with loss of power to earn”.
The Fourth District affirmed the jury verdict and stated that an award of damages for the loss of earning capacity is not dependent upon the plaintiff’s actual earnings, either before or after the accident. The court further noted that a claim for loss of earning capacity is not precluded even when the plaintiff has resumed work after suffering the injury or is working at the time of trial.
Testimony of inflationary trends is admissible.
The court concluded that a loss of future earning capacity may exist whether or not the injured plaintiff has moved into a more profitable line of work or is continuing to work in the same line of employment without any actual reduction of earnings.
Basis for calculating inflation and discount rates.
The fact that plaintiff at the time of trial is earning as much or more than she did prior to the injury does not preclude her from asking the jury to consider the loss of future earning capacity. Such circumstances may make her a burden of persuasion more difficult, but they do not defeat her opportunity to try. The court further noted that by instructing the jury on loss of earning capacity, the jury may look beyond the plaintiff’s less-than-guaranteed present employment and determine the effect of the impairment on the plaintiff’s future earning capacity.
The third district concluded that the plaintiff’s testimony reflecting his need for assistance in performing his work was sufficient to support an award for loss of future earning capacity, regardless of the plaintiff’s present earnings.
Only future damages available relative to income are damages for loss of earning capacity, which is measured by plaintiff’s diminished ability to earn money in the future; jury is not to be concerned with actual future loss of earnings but with loss of power to earn.
In fixing damages for accrued loss of earning or for impairment of future earning capacity because of personal injury, the income tax consequences of the injury and the award should not be taken into consideration; on the contrary, the award should be based on the plaintiff’s gross earnings or earning capacity.