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Frankel v. United States

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
321 F. Supp. 1331 (1970)


Facts

At the age of 20 years, Marilyn Heym sustained serious, irreversible injuries in a collision with a car driven by an employee of the United States Department of the Army. Alvin Frankel (plaintiff), who was Marilyn’s guardian, and Mary Heym (plaintiff), who was Marilyn’s mother, instituted a negligence suit against the United States (Government) (defendant) under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671 et seq., seeking damages for lost earnings, personal injuries, and medical expenses. Evidence was presented regarding Marilyn’s earning capacity through the age of 65 years, which was $125,000. Evidence was also presented regarding Marilyn’s pain and suffering, including (1) responding to painful stimuli while comatose or semi-comatose; (2) recognizing family while being unable to communicate with them; (3) frequently falling with no ability to break the fall; (4) feeling pain from her arm, prosthesis, and therapy; (5) experiencing uncontrollable outbursts and resulting feelings of regret; and (6) having an inability to engage in her prior art career or horseback-riding hobby. Among the items of damages sought were future hospitalization and private institutional care, as Marilyn was expected to live out her life expectancy of 54.7 years and would require personalized institutional care throughout her life. Frankel argued that the award for future institutional care should reflect inflation and should not be reduced to its present worth. The Government argued that the award for future institutional care should not be a lump sum, but rather should create a trust fund from which disbursements would be made. The Government further argued that this award should be reduced to its present worth.

Rule of Law

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Holding and Reasoning (Sheridan, C.J.)

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