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Washington v. American Community Stores Corporation - 196 Neb. 624, 244 N.W.2d 286 (Neb. 1976)

Rule:

Impairment of earning capacity is an item of general damage and one may prove it under general allegations of injury and damage. Proof of an actual loss of earnings or wages is not essential to recovery for loss of earning capacity.

Facts:

On April 11, 1972, plaintiff Melvin J. Washington was injured when in an automobile collision between his vehicle and a vehicle owned by defendant American Community Stores Corporation ("American"). Washington later filed a lawsuit against Nebraska state court seeking to recover damages for his injuries. At trial, it was undisputed that Washington suffered permanent back injuries that rendered him unable to pursue the sport of wrestling sport. American did not call a qualified orthopedic surgeon of its choice to dispute the permanency, the causation, or the fact that the physical injury ended the Washington's sports career. The trial court entered a  directed verdict against American on the issue of liability. After trial on the issue of damages, a jury rendered a verdict for Washington and awarded him $76,000 in damages. Judgment was entered on the verdict, and American appealed, arguing that the trial court should not have submitted Washington's loss of earning capacity as an element of damages to the jury.

Issue:

Was it error to instruct the jury on the issue of loss of earning capacity resulting to the inability of Washington to pursue a wrestling career?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the judgment in favor of Washington. The court ruled that the evidence proved that Washington's permanent disability would remain for life and eliminated his career as a wrestler. The court held that there was ample evidence to sustain the jury's findings as to Washington's talents, skill, experience, training, and career, and therefore evidence of loss of earning capacity was properly submitted to the jury.

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