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3.4-1 Damages - General

Revised to March 23, 2012 (modified April 5, 2012)

The rule of damages is as follows. Insofar as money can do it, the plaintiff is to receive fair, just and reasonable compensation for all injuries and losses, past and future, which are proximately caused by the defendant's proven negligence. Under this rule, the purpose of an award of damages is not to punish or penalize the defendant for (his/her) negligence, but to compensate the plaintiff for (his/her) resulting injuries and losses. You must attempt to put the plaintiff in the same position, as far as money can do it, that (he/she) would have been in had the defendant not been negligent. 

Our laws impose certain rules to govern the award of damages in any case where liability is proven. Just as the plaintiff has the burden of proving liability by a fair preponderance of the evidence, (he/she) has the burden of proving (his/her) entitlement to recover damages by a fair preponderance of the evidence. To that end, the plaintiff must prove both the nature and extent of each particular loss or injury for which (he/she) seeks to recover damages and that the loss or injury in question was proximately caused by the defendant's negligence. You may not guess or speculate as to the nature or extent of the plaintiff’s losses or injuries. Your decision must be based on reasonable probabilities in light of the evidence presented at trial.  Injuries and losses for which the plaintiff should be compensated include those (he/she) has suffered up to and including the present time and those (he/she) is reasonably likely to suffer in the future as a proximate result of the defendant's negligence. Negligence, as I previously instructed you, is a proximate cause of a loss or injury if it is a substantial factor in bringing that loss or injury about. 

Once the plaintiff has proved the nature and extent of (his/her) compensable injuries and losses, it becomes your job to determine what is fair, just and reasonable compensation for those injuries and losses. There is often no mathematical formula in making this determination. Instead, you must use human experience and apply sound common sense in determining the amount of your verdict. 

In a personal injury action, there are two general types of damages with which you must be concerned: economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are monies awarded as compensation for monetary losses and expenses which the plaintiff has incurred, or is reasonably likely to incur in the future, as a result of the defendant's negligence. They are awarded for such things as the cost of reasonable and necessary medical care and lost earnings. Noneconomic damages are monies awarded as compensation for non-monetary losses and injuries which the plaintiff has suffered, or is reasonably likely to suffer in the future, as a result of the defendant's negligence. They are awarded for such things as physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional pain and suffering, and loss or diminution of the ability to enjoy life's pleasures. 

I will now instruct you more particularly on economic damages.  In this case, the plaintiff seeks to recover economic damages for each of the following types of monetary losses or expenses: <Here list each type of monetary loss or expense for which the plaintiff seeks, and the evidence potentially supports, an award of economic damages. Then, proceed to instruct on each such claim under the appropriate paragraph(s) below.> 

The plaintiff is entitled to recover the reasonable value of medical care and expenses incurred for the treatment of injuries sustained as a result of the defendant's negligence. The plaintiff must prove that the expenses (he/she) claims were reasonably necessary and proximately caused by the defendant's negligence. 

The plaintiff is also entitled to recover any loss of earnings or earning capacity that (he/she) proves to have been proximately caused by the defendant's negligence. With respect to lost earnings up to the present time, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant's negligence has prevented (him/her) from receiving the earnings for which (he/she) seeks compensation. (He/She) must do so by establishing a reasonable probability that (his/her) injury brought about a loss of earnings. The evidence must establish a basis for a reasonable estimate of that loss. 

The plaintiff is also entitled to damages for the loss of future earnings based upon the evidence as to what (he/she) probably could have earned but for the harm caused by the defendant's negligence and as to what the plaintiff can now earn through the earning period of (his/her) life. 

Let me now turn to noneconomic damages. In this case, the plaintiff seeks to recover noneconomic damages for each of the following types of non-monetary losses or injuries: <Here list each type of non-monetary loss or injury for which the plaintiff seeks, and the evidence potentially supports, an award of noneconomic damages. Then, proceed to instruct on each such claim under the appropriate paragraph(s) below.> 

A plaintiff who is injured by the negligence of another is entitled to be compensated for all physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional suffering, loss of the ability to enjoy life's pleasures, and permanent impairment or loss of function that (he/she) proves by a fair preponderance of the evidence to have been proximately caused by the defendant's negligence. As far as money can compensate the plaintiff for such injuries and their consequences, you must award a fair, just, and reasonable sum. You simply have to use your own good judgment in awarding damages in this category. You should consider the nature and duration of any pain and suffering that you find. 

A plaintiff who is injured by the negligence of another is entitled to be compensated for mental suffering caused by the defendant's negligence for the results which proximately flow from it in the same manner as (he/she) is for physical suffering. 

You should consider, as a separate category for awarding damages in this case, the length of time the plaintiff was, or will probably be, disabled from engaging in activities which (he/she) enjoys. 

If you find that it is reasonably probable that (he/she) has suffered permanent physical harm, loss of function or disfigurement, the plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for that category of injury. Your award should be in accordance with the nature and extent of such physical impairment, loss of function or disfigurement and the length of time (he/she) is reasonably expected to endure its negative consequences. <Here it may be appropriate to instruct the jury as to the use of any evidence of life expectancy that has been introduced.>

The plaintiff is entitled to full compensation for all injuries and losses proximately caused by the defendant's negligence even though those injuries and losses are more serious than they otherwise would have been because of a pre-existing condition. You may not compensate the plaintiff for the pre-existing injury itself. However, the aggravation of such an injury, proximately caused by the defendant's negligence, is a proper item of noneconomic damages.

 

The plaintiff alleges that, before the accident occurred, (he/she) had a preexisting medical condition but that condition was not causing the plaintiff to suffer any symptoms. If you find that the plaintiff had a preexisting condition from which (he/she) was suffering no symptoms and that the condition was aggravated by an injury caused by the defendant's negligence, the plaintiff is entitled to recover full compensation for those symptoms, even though the symptoms are greater than if the plaintiff had not suffered from this preexisting condition. 

Authority 

Tuite v. Stop & Shop Cos., 45 Conn. App. 305, 310-11 n.2 (1997). 

Notes 

Only the portions of the charge pertinent to damages sought by the plaintiff and supported by the evidence should be given. In cases involving numerous categories of claimed economic damages, it is a good practice to provide the jury with an overview of the particular types of damages that (if appropriate) are not being sought. 

If relevant, a life expectancy charge should be given at this time if it wasn't given at the time that the evidence was introduced. 

Cases involving claims of fear of the possibility of future medical treatment and disability will require specialized instruction. See Goodmaster v. Houser, 225 Conn. 637, 645-47 (1993); Petriello v. Kalman, 215 Conn. 377, 395-98 (1990).


 

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