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O'Shea v. Riverway Towing Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
677 F.2d 1194 (7th Cir. 1982)


Facts

Margaret O’Shea (plaintiff) was a cook on a tugboat on the Mississippi River. One day as she was coming off duty, she caught a harbor boat operated by Riverway Towing Co. (Riverway) (defendant) to take her to shore. As she stepped off the Riverway boat, O’Shea fell and injured herself. O’Shea brought suit against Riverway for damages. The jury found O’Shea free from contributory negligence and assessed damages in excess of $150,000. Part of this award included damages for lost future wages. The trial court calculated damages based on the fact that O’Shea’s job paid her $40 per day, with a schedule of working thirty consecutive days and having thirty days off. This amounted to $7,200 per year, although O’Shea had never made that much in one year. She testified that when the accident occurred, she was about to take a job making $60 per day ($10,800 per year), and was planning to stay at that job until at least age seventy. O’Shea presented an economist as an expert who calculated her lost future wages based on a percentage increase per year, discounted to present value. This yielded a range of possible future wages between $50,000 and $114,000 per year. The trial judge awarded an amount of $86,033 for lost future wages based on a point in the middle of this range. Riverway appealed on the trial court’s finding of no contributory negligence and the calculation of lost future wages. Riverway argued that although O’Shea might not be able to continue working as a cook on a boat due to her injuries, she could likely get a job doing something else and thus earn some wages.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Posner, J.)

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