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McDougald v. Garber

(1989)

New York Court of Appeals - 73 N.Y.2d 246

tl;dr:

The jury awarded damages for loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering to Plaintiff in a coma; Court holds that both should be considered under pain and suffering, and that recovery requires an aware Plaintiff.

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Facts & HoldingMcDougald v. Garber case brief facts & holding

Facts:Defendant's malpractice left Plaintiff Emma McDougald in a "permanently comatose...

Holding:The New York Court of Appeals reversed.The Court notes that...

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McDougald v. Garber | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: Chief Judge Wachtler.
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This medical malpractice case involves a plaintiff who suffered severe brain damage during a Caesarean section and tubal ligation, resulting in a permanent comatose condition. The court determined that cognitive awareness is necessary for recovery of loss of enjoyment of life, but damages for loss of enjoyment of life should not be awarded separately from damages for pain and suffering. The defendants were found liable and the plaintiff was awarded $4,796,728 in damages after the Trial Judge reduced the initial award of $9,650,102. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision and granted defendants leave to appeal to the court. The dispute centers on whether the plaintiff was capable of experiencing pain or appreciating her condition, and the jury was instructed to determine the level of the plaintiff's cognitive abilities and perception to determine damages for pain and suffering.

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Dissenting opinion, author: Titone, J.
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The dissenting judge in a tort case argues that loss of enjoyment of life should be compensated separately from conscious pain and suffering. The trial court's instruction allowing separate awards for loss of enjoyment of life is supported by the dissenting judge. The injured party is entitled to a monetary award as a substitute to restore them to the position they would have been in had the wrong not occurred. The majority's requirement for awareness is based on subjective value judgments that have no place in tort recovery law. The compensation for loss of enjoyment of life may benefit third parties, but this does not change the nature of the damages. The author believes that loss of enjoyment of life is a distinct damage item that can be recovered separately from conscious pain and suffering.

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