Columbia Center for Occupational and Forensic Psychiatry - Washington, D.C. - Dr. David J. Fischer, M.D. Medical Director

COLUMBIA CENTER FOR
OCCUPATIONAL & FORENSIC PSYCHIATRY

DAVID J. FISCHER, MD MEDICAL DIRECTOR

PHONE: 202-363-4333
PHONE: 202-686-0114
 

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EGGSHELL SKULL

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A tort is a wrong that involves a breach of a civil duty owed to someone else. It is a civil wrong arising from an act or failure to act, independently of any contract, for which an action for personal injury or property damages may be brought. It is an act that injures someone in some way, and for which the injured person may sue the wrongdoer for damages. It is differentiated from criminal wrongdoing which involves a breach of a duty owed to society, and also does not include breach of contract.

A person who suffers legal damage may be able to use tort law to receive damages, usually monetary compensation, from someone who is responsible or liable for those injuries. Generally speaking, tort law defines what is a legal injury and what is not. A person may be held liable for another's injury caused by them. A person who suffers legal damage may be able to use tort law to receive damages, monetary compensation, from someone who is responsible or liable for those injuries. Generally speaking, tort law defines what is a legal injury and what is not. A person may be held liable for another's injury caused by them.

The eggshell skull rule is a legal doctrine that says the wrongdoer takes the victim in the condition he/she finds him. There is no allowance for an already weakened state of the injured party. If a defendant negligently injures someone, the defendant is responsible for all the consequences, whether they were foreseeable or not. The rule is applied in tort and criminal cases involving a plaintiff in a vulnerable, weakened state or suffering from a medical condition.

A doctrine of American tort and personal injury law that a tort-feasor or wrongdoer takes his victim as he finds him. This means a tort victim's compensation or damages are not discounted because of any pre-existing vulnerability.

In Rardin v. T & D Mach. Handling Inc. 890 F.2d 24:

“The injurer takes his victim as he finds him and is therefore liable for the full extent of the injury even if unforeseeable ... even if ... (the plaintiff), because of a pre-existing injury sustains a much greater loss than the average victim would have.”

THE CRUMBLING SKULL RULE

A rebuttal to the eggshell skull rule is the crumbling skull rule. This rule argues that the harm suffered by the victim was inevitable and the defendant's acts only had a minimal effect upon the already deteriorating circumstances.

CRUMBLING SKULL RULE

A legal theory, companion to the thin skull rule, which limits a tort defendant’s exposure to a plaintiff’s injuries to the plaintiff’s condition at the time of the tort. In 1996, in Athley v Leonati, the Supreme Court used these words to describe and distinguish the crumbling skull rule:

Eggshell Law and teh Crumbling Skull RuleThe defendant need not put the plaintiff in a position better than his or her original position.  The defendant is liable for the injuries caused, even if they are extreme, but need not compensate the plaintiff for any debilitating effects of the pre-existing condition, which the plaintiff would have experienced anyway.  The defendant is liable for the additional damage but not the pre-existing damage.

The distinction between a thin skull case and a crumbling skull case is that in the thin skull, the skull, although thinner than the average skull, is in a stable condition before the accident and, but for the accident, would have remained so.

The crumbling skull is where the skull, whether thick or thin, is not in a stable condition before the accident but in a state of continuing deterioration, which the accident has merely accelerated.

In the crumbling skull, the Defendant is not to be held responsible for the whole of the post-accident condition of the skull.  The Defendant's actions are not to be treated as having been the sole cause of the entire post-accident condition of the Plaintiff.  The Defendant's actions are viewed as merely an aggravating cause.  Depending upon the circumstances, the degree of aggravation may range from very substantial to very slight.



 
 
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