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Rodriguez v. McDonnell Douglas Corporation

California Court of Appeal
151 Cal. Rptr. 399 (1978)


Facts

In 1970, Richard Rodriguez (plaintiff) was 22 years old and healthy. Rodriguez had been married to his wife, Mary Anne, for 16 months. Rodriguez was an apprentice sprinkler fitter. Rodriguez was working on a project to modify a hangar for the McDonnell Douglas Corp. (defendant) when a 630-pound pipe fell on him. The pipe hit Rodriguez’s helmet, back, and legs. Rodriguez became triplegic; meaning paralyzed from the chest down and lacking bladder, bowel, and sexual function. Rodriguez underwent surgeries to address complications involving his stomach, hand, arm, and bladder. Rodriguez received around-the-clock care from his wife. Rodriguez required help to dress and undress, bathe, change his artificial bladder, and attend to skin sores. Rodriguez sued McDonnell Douglas, together with the project’s general contractor and a subcontractor (defendants). At trial, Rodriguez submitted evidence about his loss of future earnings, and an economist testified as to Rodriguez’s likely earnings trajectory. The jury found the contractors negligent and awarded Rodriguez general damages of over $4 million. The defendants appealed, alleging that the damages were so large that the jury must have acted out of passion and prejudice.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Jefferson, J.)

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