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The Eggshell Skull Rule

The Eggshell Skull Rule

The “Eggshell Skull Rule” is a tort doctrine that proclaims the tortfeasor takes the plaintiff as he or she finds the plaintiff. According to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, the Eggshell Skull Rule is a “doctrine that makes a defendant liable for the plaintiff’s unforeseeable and uncommon reactions to the defendant’s negligent or intentional tort. If the defendant commits a tort against the plaintiff without a complete defense, the defendant becomes liable for any injury that is magnified by the plaintiff’s peculiar characteristics.” As one can understand, the Eggshell Skull Rule is an important concept in tort-based claims. 

As the above definition articulates, the defendant will be liable for the plaintiff’s responses to the defendant’s actions -- even if the reactions were not foreseeable to the defendant at the time he or she committed the negligent act. Simply, the defendant will be liable for the entire extent of the injury caused to the plaintiff due to his or her intentional or negligent actions. 1 Summ. Pa. Jur. 2d Torts § 9:30 (2d ed.).

An example of a situation where the Eggshell Skull Rule would apply is where a plaintiff is negligently injured, but the plaintiff sustains uncommonly severe and high damages because of a particular preexisting ailment. Although the defendant’s actions would not normally result in such a high amount of damages, if the plaintiff did not have the preexisting condition, the defendant is liable for all the damages he or she caused. As such, that is why it is said the tortfeasor takes the victim as he or she finds the victim.


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