The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule
Some people, because of their circumstances, are more susceptible to injuries than others. The law protects these people via the eggshell plaintiff rule. The eggshell plaintiff rule holds that a tortfeasor takes his victim as he finds him. Buchalski v. Universal Marine Corp., 393 F. Supp. 246, 248 (W.D. Wash. 1975) (“It is a well-established precept of tort law that a tortfeasor takes his victim as he finds him, and must bear liability for the manner and degree in which his fault manifests itself on the individual physiology of the victim.” Id.) It is well established in Washington law. See, e.g., Reeder v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 41 Wn.2d 550, 556-57, 250 P.2d 518 (1952).
A potential example of an eggshell plaintiff is a person who is a previous victim of violence or abuse. Many times such persons are more susceptible to emotional distress injury if they are subsequently the target of verbal or physical abuse at work. In such a case--a hostile work environment case--the severity of the plaintiff's emotional distress injuries may be greater than a person who was not a prior victim of violence or abuse. The eggshell plaintiff rule protects this person, and permits a recovery for the more severe emotional distress injuries.
Another potential example of an eggshell plaintiff could be a person who suffered a physical injury of some sort previously, and because of this prior injury to their body, they are at risk for greater harm than someone without this history. If such a person is in an automobile accident and suffers a greater injury because of the prior injury, the eggshell plaintiff rule protects them and affords a path to recover on the greater injury.
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