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Flannery v. United States
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
297 S.E.2d 433 (1982)
Michael Flannery (plaintiff) was 22 years old when an accident left him semicomatose. Flannery was not likely to improve and had a life expectancy of 30 years if he received good nursing care. Flannery sued the United States (defendant). The United States argued that the law does not permit double recovery for the same damages. Following a bench trial, the court held that it was speculative whether Flannery could experience any pain or suffering, or pleasure, but that it was clear that Flannery was wholly deprived of the capacity to enjoy life. The court further held that Flannery was not sentient, and that therefore pain and suffering were not capable of proof. However, that fact established Flannery’s right to recover for his nonsentient condition, for his loss of the ability to enjoy life. The court awarded Flannery damages for hospital, medical, and nursing expenses incurred prior to trial; future nursing expenses based on a 30-year life expectancy; impairment of earning capacity, including both wages and fringe benefits; and loss of ability to enjoy life. The total damage award was $2.2 million. The court did not award any amount for pain and suffering nor for permanent disability. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals certified the question of whether a plaintiff in a personal-injury action who was left permanently semicomatose is entitled to recover for the impairment of his capacity to enjoy life.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Miller, C.J.)
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