Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Emotional Distress Claim Related to Fears of Inability to Work in Future Ruled Inadmissible

William J. Nealon Federal Courthouse
Scranton, PA

In his recent decision in the case of  Lazar v. Cedar Lake Camp,  3:13 CV 973, 2014 U.S. Dist. Lexis 100112 (M.D. Pa. July 23, 2014 Munley, J), Judge James Munley of the Federal Middle District Court of Pennsylvania granted a Defendant's Motion in Limine to preclude the Plaintiff's proposed testimony/evidence in support of a claim of fear of losing his job due to personal injuries impacting his ability to work.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff became stuck on a sliding board that extended into a lake at a camp.  The Plaintiff was instructed by the lifeguard to jump from the slide and into the water.  The water was too shallow and the Plaintiff broke his ankle in the jump. 

The Plaintiff sued the camp and, as part of the claim, produced an expert medical witness who was prepared to testify, in part and in effect, that although the Plaintiff's injuries had not affected his current employment status due to the flexibility of the Plaintiff's employer, if the Plaintiff were to lose this job, he would be a less desirable potential employee for other employers.

The Plaintiff was employed as a senior marketing director of a company.

The defense sought to preclude this testimony on the grounds that it was unduly speculative, irrelevant, and prejudicial.  The defense pointed out that no wage loss claims were presented and that the Plaintiff was incorrectly attempting to have the doctor testify as a vocational expert would.

The Plaintiff countered with the argument that the doctor's evidence supported the Plaintiff's claims for non-economic such as increased anxiety at the dire prospects for re-employment due to his accident-related injuries should he lose his current job.

Judge Munley reasoned that where the plaintiff has not lost his job due to injury and has no wage loss claim, testimony about plaintiff’s alleged emotional distress from fear of losing his job is "too attenuated to be admissible."  Accordingly, the court granted the Motion in Limine and excluded the Plaintiff's proposed vocational evidence from his medical expert in this regard.

Judge Munley's Memorandum in Lazar can be viewed  HERE  and the accompanying Order HERE.

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