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DePass v. United States

721 F.2d 203 (1983)

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DePass v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

721 F.2d 203 (1983)

Facts

James DePass (plaintiff) was hit by a car driven by an employee of the United States (defendant), resulting in traumatic amputation of DePass’s left leg below the knee. DePass sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging increased risk of cardiovascular disease and loss of life expectancy. The United States admitted liability, and the case was tried as to damages only. Dr. Jerome Cohen testified regarding an article by Zdenek Hrubec and Richard Ryder, which referenced a government-supported study establishing a statistical connection between traumatic limb amputations and future cardiovascular problems and decreased life expectancy. Dr. Cohen did not testify that DePass would develop cardiovascular disease or that his life would be shorter, only that DePass was at a greater risk of both events. On cross-examination, Dr. Cohen testified that he knew of other studies that contradicted the Hrubec and Ryder study but that he had not reviewed them. Dr. Cohen testified that no one knew whether the Hrubec and Ryder study was correct, and that the study said Congress’s stringent deadlines for completion of the study made it impossible to establish a reason for the statistical relationship between traumatic limb amputation and decreased life expectancy. In a bench trial, the district court awarded DePass damages for the nature and extent of his injuries and for his past and future pain and suffering but held that DePass did not prove his loss of life expectancy, reasoning that Dr. Cohen’s testimony dealt with possibilities and speculation. DePass appealed, arguing that the district court’s finding of fact was clearly erroneous. DePass also argued that the United States was bound by the Hrubec and Ryder study as an admission by the government. The United States argued that the evidence at best established only DePass’s increased risk, which was not compensable in Illinois.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Flaum, J.)

Dissent (Posner, J.)

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