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Loth v. Truck-A-Way Corp.

California Court of Appeal
70 Cal. Rptr.2d 571 (1998)


Shereen Loth (plaintiff) was on a business trip driving on an interstate highway when her vehicle was struck by a 24-wheel tractor-trailer rig owned by Truck-A-Way Corporation (Truck-A-Way) (defendant), pushed sideways across three lanes of traffic, and struck by another car. Loth filed suit against Truck-A-Way and the driver of the truck for personal injuries, property damage, and lost earnings. Defendants conceded liability and the only issue at trial was the amount of damages. At trial, evidence was presented that prior to the accident, Loth worked long hours as a waitress, played sports, and exercised daily. After the accident, however, at the age of 27, Loth could no longer work as a waitress, could not play sports or participate in other physical activities without being in constant pain. Loth asked for $208,479 in special damages, comprised of past and future medical costs of $27,635; temporary lost earnings of $147,675, and property damage and miscellaneous expenses of $3,507. [Those figures do not total $208,479, but that is what the jury was told orally and in writing.] Loth also presented expert Stanley Smith, an economist who provided testimony on hedonic damages. Smith testified that an average person’s remaining 44-year life expectancy was worth $2.3 million. Smith then adjusted the figure to account for Loth’s longer-than-average remaining life expectancy of 53 years. Smith then multiplied the adjusted baseline figure by various percentages reflecting Loth’s possible degrees of disability to calculate hedonic damage awards: a 33 percent loss of enjoyment would be worth over $1.6 million; a 10 percent loss would be worth $510,000; and a 5 percent loss would be worth $255,000. Smith provided the jury a table to assist it in making its mathematical calculations. Truck-A-Way did not refute Smith’s testimony. The jury held for Loth and awarded her $890,000 in damages. Truck-A-Way appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Ortega, J.)

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