Using a Vocational Expert in a Premises Liability Personal Injury Case

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A vocational expert is an important addition to a case where past and future lost earnings are being asserted. For example, the following case illustration demonstrates how a plaintiff in a personal injury and premises liability case used a vocational expert to demonstrate his damages from an apartment fire. Edmond Provder, owner of Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. (OAS) served as the vocational expert on the case.

The plaintiff was a 30-year-old self-employed automobile mechanic at the time of the accident. He testified that one night he placed a pot of food on a low flame on his stove and went into his bedroom while the food cooked. The next thing he knew, his apartment was filled with smoke. He ran into the kitchen where he saw that the top of the stove was enveloped in flames. Allegedly, after six attempts to put out the fire with a bucket of water, he was overcome by smoke.

The plaintiff had sublet the apartment from the tenant of record without the landlord’s approval. Evidence indicated that the landlord had been cited two years before by the New York City Housing Preservation & Development Code Enforcement for failing to provide a smoke detector in the unit and for allowing an illegal, locked window gate in the kitchen over the fire escape window. These violations were never certified as corrected.

Two firemen testified for the plaintiff. Both said there were no smoke detectors in the apartment and that the window gate was locked at the time of the fire.

The plaintiff suffered second and third degree burns over 46% of his body, burns to his throat cartilage requiring placement of a permanent tracheotomy tube, chemical burns of the lungs resulting in reduced pulmonary capacity, and scars to the stomach and back. He required eight skin graft procedures. The plaintiff also claimed that he is unable to climb even one flight of stairs without becoming short of breath.

The plaintiff claimed that he can no longer work as an automobile mechanic and, because he cannot speak English and has minimal education, he is unemployable in any other field. This assertion was supported by the testimony of a vocational expert who used demonstrative evidence, including economic charts, to show that the plaintiff’s claim was accurate.

A jury awarded the plaintiff $1,504,000, which was reduced to $1,128,000 for 25% comparative negligence of the plaintiff. Of this award, $4000,000 was for past pain and suffering, $500,000 was for future pain and suffering, $39,000 was for past lost earnings, $312,000 was for future lost earnings, $103,000 was for past medical expenses, and $150,000 was for future medical expenses.

OAS
Edmond Provder, owner of Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. (OAS), is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who has worked as a vocational expert witness for over forty years. Mr. Provder has extensive experience documenting the earning capacity and employability of injured plaintiffs in a variety of circumstances. Contact OAS at 800-292-1919 to discuss how we can help in your case.