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Norfolk & Western Railway v. Liepelt

Supreme Court of the United States
444 U.S. 490 (1980)


Facts

A fireman (the decedent) employed by Norfolk & Western Railway (the Railway) (defendant) was killed in a collision caused by the Railway’s negligence. The administratrix of the decedent’s estate (plaintiff) sued the Railway under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). An expert for the plaintiff testified regarding the gross income that the decedent would have received over the course of his expected lifetime and the value of the services that he would have performed for his family. The expert testified that the total value of the lost income and lost services, discounted to the present value, was $302,000. The Railway’s expert also testified and valued the lost wages and services at $138,327 based on differing assumptions and a deduction of expected income taxes that would have been paid on the wages. The Railway also requested a jury instruction that the award would not be subject to income taxes. The trial court denied the requested instruction, and the jury awarded $775,000 to the decedent’s estate.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Blackmun, J.)

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