Ruling on Lost Earnings – Case Review


J.T. v. HHS, (Fed. Cl. Spec. Mstr. Oct. 13, 2015) (Millman, SM)

In this damages case, a dispute arose between the parties as to the appropriate methodology to calculate lost wages and they sought guidance from the special master. The Petitioner was preparing to embark on a new business venture when he became injured and wished to be compensated in line with his projected earnings, or $11 million. Respondent proposed compensating Petitioner based on his historical earnings. The special master ordered Respondent to file a “motion for ruling on lost wages” and briefing ensued.

The Court accepted respondent’s analysis of wage calculations, noting that 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-15(a)(3)(A), provides that a petitioner may receive “compensation for actual and anticipated loss of earnings determined in accordance with generally recognized actuarial principles and projections,” but does not envision that “anticipated loss of earnings” includes speculation.

The Court relied on the Restatement of Torts: “[b]ecause of a justifiable doubt as to the success of new and untried enterprises, more specific evidence of their probable profits is required than when the claim is for harm to an established business.” Restatement (Second) of Torts § 912 cmt. d (1979). Ultimately, the Court found that Petitioner’s evidence of future earnings was far too speculative.

The Court also held that since Petitioner stated he intended to work until age 70, Respondent’s calculations should be modified from an approximate 67-year work life expectancy to a 70-year work life expectancy.

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