To win a judgment in a Maryland personal injury action, the plaintiff must present proof of actual damages. A plaintiff cannot recover damages that are speculative, remote, or uncertain. Damages for lost earning capacity compensate the plaintiff for their reduced ability to earn money in the future, due to the injury caused by the defendant. Damages due to lost earning capacity can be difficult to establish in some cases, however, because they primarily rely on future probabilities.
In a June 24, 2019 lead-based paint case, the plaintiff succeeded in establishing his damages, including lost earning capacity, due to the defendants’ reported negligence. Ultimately, the jury awarded him a total of almost two million dollars, which was reduced to the maximum limit of Maryland’s damages cap.
The defendant appealed the judgment, and the case came before the Court of Appeals of Maryland. On appeal, the defendant asserted that the plaintiff’s experts lacked a sufficient factual basis for their testimony regarding the plaintiff’s lost earning capacity. The defendant argued that without utilizing a standardized, reliable methodology for analyzing data, the experts’ opinions were too speculative to support the award.
At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony from two experts: a vocation rehabilitation expert and an economic expert. The vocational rehabilitation expert testified that due to the cognitive deficits caused by lead-exposure, the plaintiff would have the earning capacity of someone without a twelfth-grade education. The vocational rehabilitation expert also said that without the cognitive deficits caused by lead-exposure, the plaintiff would have been able to graduate high school and attend a community or vocational technical college. Relying on the vocational rehabilitation expert’s conclusions, the economic expert then testified that the plaintiff’s loss of earning capacity over his lifetime was just over one million dollars.
The appeals court explained that because the value of future earning power depends on probabilities, and therefore cannot be reduced to a reasonable certainty, courts do not scrutinize the sufficiency of proof of lost earning capacity to the same extent as other types of damages. The court went on to find that the vocational rehabilitation expert’s opinion regarding the plaintiff’s vocational and educational attainment, both with and without cognitive deficits, was supported by a sufficient factual basis. As such, the appeals court ruled that the trial court did not err by allowing the plaintiff’s experts to testify and affirmed the jury verdict.
The court noted that in a lead-based paint case, there is no requirement that an expert must have statistical data or specific studies to establish a factual basis for their testimony regarding the plaintiff’s vocational and educational attainment. Rather, the court concluded that the factual basis for the expert’s opinion is sufficient if it is grounded in the expert’s detailed and individualized assessment of information about the plaintiff, coupled with the expert’s experience and training.
At Foran & Foran, P.A, our Maryland injury attorneys work tirelessly to pursue compensation for negligence victims and their family members. If you are seeking guidance after a car wreck, faulty medical care, premises liability accident, or other injury caused by negligence, we can help. Discuss your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer by calling Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online and requesting a free consultation.