Articles Posted in Lost Income

Lee Newsome sustained a serious injury to his right foot when a rail hanging from a crane fell on him. He was working for the Wisconsin Central Railroad. Newsome sued the railroad under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) claiming that his injuries caused him a “loss of future earning capacity.” Wisconsin Central moved for partial summary judgment on Newsome’s loss of future earning capacity, arguing that the evidence did not support his claim. The U.S. Magistrate Judge handling this case denied Wisconsin Central’s motion, holding that there was a fact question for the jury.  According to the Magistrate Judge’s decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the FELA allows for the awarding of damages for impairment of earning capacity.

“The FELA is a broad remedial statute to be construed liberally in order to effectuate its purpose. In addition to compensation for pain and suffering, the FELA allows damages for economic harms such as loss of past and future wages and impairment of earning capacity that result from injury.” Grunenthal v. Long Island RR Co., 393 U.S. 156, 160-62 (1968).”

There were no 7th Circuit Court of Appeals cases for the Magistrate Judge to rely on. However, there were other federal circuit court cases that stated that proofs necessary to recover future loss of earning capacity is allowed in the FELA context.

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Robert Kinstner was a forklift and machine operator employed by a masonry subcontractor working at the construction site for a new police station at 3600 N. Halsted St. in Chicago. The defendant in this case was Harbour Contractors Inc., which was the general contractor for the construction of this building. On Feb. 9, 2010, Kinstner, 42, slipped and fell on a deep rut that was covered with ice and snow. Kinstner suffered a broken ankle with disruption of the syndesmosis joint, requiring open reduction internal fixation followed by arthroscopic surgery eight months later.

He claimed that he developed complex regional pain syndrome shortly after his injury, which prevented him from working in any capacity since the date of this occurrence. He stated that because of the injury he was unable to stand and walk for any length of time. Kinstner asserted that he lost earnings and benefits of between $751,000 and nearly $2 million. He also made a claim for more than $3 million in future loss of earnings and benefits.

Kinstner maintained that the unsafe and uneven ground conditions at the work site had existed for several weeks before his injury.  He claimed that the area was a means of access for machinery and equipment but it had not been properly stoned or leveled for workers’ safety by the general contractor. Photographs of the scene taken shortly after the incident showed the presence of the ruts and uneven ground.

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On Oct. 30, 2009, Filberto Meza, 37, was traveling eastbound on 25th Street at Central in Cicero, Ill., when his car crashed into the rear end of a stopped motor vehicle.  Juan Magana and Raquel Magana were driver and passenger in that car.  Juan Magana, 27, a custodian, suffered aggravation of a pre-existing herniated disc at L5-S1, his low back and sacrum.  He had been receiving treatment for that herniation during the previous year. He had undergone physical therapy and was scheduled to be discharged from care after his next scheduled appointment three days later.

Because of this crash, Juan returned to “square one,” which required additional medical treatments including injections.  Juan’s wife, Raquel, suffered soft tissue injuries in the crash.

The defendant, Meza, admitted that he was negligent, but maintained that both Juan and Raquel were not injured to the extent that they claimed.  At the close of evidence, the jury deliberated for two hours before reaching a verdict of $14,809.  $10,947 was the verdict for Juan made up of the following damages:

On Dec. 15, 2000, Patrick Broderick was driving southbound on Schoolhouse Road when icy conditions caused him to lose control of his car.  His vehicle came to a rest on a snow bank on the east side of the road.  A good Samaritan stopped at the scene to help Broderick, parking his car in the northbound lane of traffic.  Supposedly, the good Samaritan’s hazard lights were on and working, but that fact was disputed.

Caroline Semanic was traveling northbound on Schoolhouse Road when she approached the scene.  Semanic said she saw no flashing headlights on the good Samaritan’s vehicle and testified under oath that she saw only tail lights that she thought were attached to a moving vehicle.  Semanic’s car slid into the good Samaritan’s car while attempting to avoid crashing into that parked car, pushing the vehicle into the plaintiff Broderick, who was standing in the roadway with his back to northbound traffic.

Broderick maintained that the force of the impact caused him to be thrown 75 feet.  The thrust of the impact resulted in a closed head injury, mild traumatic brain injury and soft tissue neck injury.  Broderick claimed that he now has impaired cognitive function, loss of prior math skills, inability to concentrate, memory deficits, altered personality, word-finding difficulties, post-traumatic stress disorder, inability to follow directions, chronic insomnia, increased flare ups of temper, headaches, neck pain and depression. He is currently working as a fraud analyst.

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Nasrath Sawa-Malik, 52, was driving northbound on Interstate 55 (Stevenson Expressway) on June 18, 2010 when her car was rear-ended by a car driven by the defendant, Terry Cornwell, which struck Sawa-Malik’s car at a high rate of speed.  The impact caused Sawa-Malik to crash into the vehicle ahead of her.

The plaintiff sustained soft tissue injury to her neck and back.  She underwent injections recommended for pain.  Sawa-Malik maintained that before this car crash and her injuries, she accepted a contract to work as an Arabic interpreter for a U.S. defense contractor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Sawa-Malik said she was about to start the new job at the time of the crash but was unable to do so because of her injuries.

Cornwell admitted liability, but argued that Sawa-Malik could not prove her lost income for the translator job that she had never started.  Cornwell did not attend the trial.

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