Damages-Compensation for Curtailment of Life Expectancy as a Separate Element of Damages-Downie v. United States Lines Co.

While plaintiff was aboard ship as an employee of the defendant, he suffered a heart attack which was aggravated by the negligence of one of defendant’s employees. In suing under the Jones Act for damages caused by this aggravation of his condition, plaintiff sought recovery for the eight year curtailment of his life expectancy as a separate and distinct item of damages, independent of the economic loss sustained as a result of such curtailment. The jury made a general award of $86,900 of which $25,000 was a special award for the curtailment of plaintiff’s life. On defendant’s motion, the trial judge eliminated this special award and entered judgment on the verdict as modified. On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, held, reversed and remanded for a new trial on the issue of damages because of inadequate instructions. Diminution of life expectancy is not of itself a separately compensable item of damages, but may be considered by the jurors in measuring other areas of damages.