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The eggshell plaintiff doctrine states that where a tort is committed, and injury may reasonably be anticipated, the wrongdoer is liable for the proximate results of that injury, although the consequences are more serious than they would have been, had the injured person been in perfect health. The eggshell plaintiff doctrine is not a mechanism to shift the burden of proof to the defendant; rather, it makes the defendant responsible for all damages that the defendant legally caused even if the plaintiff was more susceptible to injury because of a pre-existing condition or injury. Under this doctrine, the eggshell plaintiff still has to prove the nature and probable duration of the injuries sustained.
Plaintiff was treating for back pain and underwent an MRI. The physician recommended to continue doing exercises on her own as she has finished with her physical therapy. But if her pain gets worse then she would be a candidate for an epidural injection. In July 2010, plaintiff Joanne Simeonidis visited Foxwoods Resort and Casino which was operated by defendant Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise. Plaintiff and approached a slot machine with an attached chair. At some point, plaintiff moved in the chair and the seat gave way, causing her to twist and injure her back. She was immediately in pain and summoned the casino staff. Thereafter, plaintiff was transported by ambulance to the hospital for treatment. Plaintiff reported that she was experiencing back and leg pain and was given muscle relaxers and pain medication. At trial, the defendant conceded liability, subject to any comparative negligence that the court may find.
Should all the medical costs related to treatment of the plaintiff's back be included in an award of damages?
The court held that the plaintiff was entitled to actual damages in the amount of the reasonable value of her medical care up to the time of her spinal fusion surgery, but not including the surgery itself or subsequent care. That, under the eggshell plaintiff rule, defendant was liable for the proximate results of the plaintiff's injury at the casino, even though the consequences were more serious that may have been due to the plaintiff's pre-existing disability. Thus, plaintiff was entitled to recovery to the extent that her back condition was aggravated, but bears the burden of proving the nature and probable duration of the injury she sustained. The court held that since plaintiff had shown that the incident at the casino had an immediate aggravating impact on her back condition; she was entitled to recovery for those costs. However, she has not proven that the spinal fusion surgery was necessary due to the aggravation of her pre-existing back condition. Therefore, the court held that plaintiff's recovery was limited to the reasonable value of her medical expenses prior to the surgery.