Law School Case Brief
Martin v. United States - 471 F. Supp. 6 (D. Ariz. 1979)
In calculating proper awards for damages in a negligence claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C.S. §§ 1346, 2674, the following elements are properly considered: 1) past medical expenses and future medical expenses; 3) present value of lost future earning capacity; 4) pain and suffering, and interference with normal and usual activities.
Plaintiffs J.T.M. and M.B., minor grade school students, were riding home from school on a motorbike at about 6:00 P.M. on Sept. 21, 1977, when they struck a sagging or "down" power line. J.T.M. was operating the bike, and M.B. was the rear passenger. Each suffered tragically severe and permanent injuries. J.T.M. and M.B., by and through their next of friends and personal representatives, filed an action against in federal district court against defendant United States ("Government") under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the government negligently maintained the power line. In a prior proceeding, the district court judge found in favor of J.T.M. and M.B. on the issue of the Government's negligence; in addition, the judge found against the Government on the issue of contributory negligence. The matter was before the court for a determination of each minor's damages.
In awarding damages in a negligence claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, should various elements be taken into consideration?
The court found that the damage elements for J.T.M. and M.B. were: 1) past medical expenses and future medical expenses; 3) present value of lost future earning capacity; 4) pain and suffering, and interference with normal and usual activities. Based upon the testimony and the expertise and credibility of the witnesses, the court concluded that the minors would probably have held certain positions as adults. Therefore, the court calculated the likely earnings each minor would have enjoyed, but for the accident. The court then made calculations regarding the likely amount of interest on the money, taking into consideration the annual rate of wage inflation. Thus, the court issued an award for loss of the minor's earning capacity amounts. Moreover, the court issued an award for pain and suffering for each minor.
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