What Is The Eggshell Rule?
The “eggshell skull rule” can be complicated to understand. Also commonly referred to as the “thin skull rule,” this refers to taking an injury victim as you find them. In other words, the frailty or prior condition of a person who sustains an injury cannot be used as part of the defense as a reason to limit how much liability the at-fault party has for the claim.
We understand that the eggshell skull rule can be confusing. Here, we want to delve a little further into how this rule applies and how it can affect personal injury cases in Chicago.
The Basics of the Eggshell Skull Rule
When looking at why the eggshell skull rule exists, we can see that the goal is to ensure that injury victims receive compensation for the harm they have sustained caused by other parties, regardless of whether or not the injury victim had a condition that made it more likely that they would be severely injured.
The basis of all personal injury cases revolves around the fact that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. Of course, the duty of care owed to a person will look different depending on the type of case we are dealing with. For example, a grocery store owner has a responsibility to keep their premises safe for shoppers. A vehicle driver has the responsibility to operate safely to ensure that no other driver or passenger on the roadway is harmed by their actions.
The eggshell skull rule means that the same duty of care applies in every situation, regardless of a person’s predisposition to sustaining more severe injuries. Additionally, we want to point out that defendants in these cases have no obligation to provide a higher duty of care in cases involving an eggshell plaintiff. The same duty of care will exist regardless of the type of situation the plaintiff and defendant are involved in.
An Example of How This Rule Would Apply
Perhaps the best way to properly explain how the eggshell rule applies is to look at a theoretical example. Suppose that Joseph goes to the grocery store. When he is there, Joseph reaches for a box of macaroni off of the shelf but slips on a wet patch on the floor. As a result of these slip, Joseph falls to the floor. Let us suppose that Joseph suffers from a rare bone disease that makes his bones weaker than most other peoples’. As a result of the slip and fall, Joseph suffered a severe break in his left femur, which caused his bones to puncture through his skin. Let us say that Joseph lost a significant amount of blood and needed extensive surgeries and physical therapy in order to walk correctly again.
Now, will the grocery store be responsible for Joseph’s injuries? In a traditional slip and fall case, the grocery store would likely be held liable if it can be shown that they knew about the wet spot and failed to take steps to remedy the hazard. In this case, will the grocery store owe less money because of Joseph’s condition?
Here, the eggshell skull rule would apply. We take Joseph as he is, meaning that the grocery store would still be held liable regardless of whether or not Joseph had a rare bone disease that made the injury much worse. The grocery store has a responsibility to keep every patron safe, regardless of whether or not they have any conditions that could make the situation worse.