A Jury's Determination of an Award for Loss of Future Earning Capacity

In the State of Florida a plaintiff who is injured as a result of the negligence of another is entitled to recover compensation by way of a personal injury claim. One area of compensation addresses the loss or reduction of future earning capacity. Florida case law establishes that the purpose of an award for lost future earning capacity is to compensate the plaintiff for loss of capacity to earn income. W.R. Grace & Company-Conn v. Pyke, 661 So.2d 1301 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1995).

In the Pyke decision the Third District Court of Appeal addressed the role of the jury's determination for an award of lost future earning capacity. The Third DCA held that a plaintiff must demonstrate a "reasonable certainty" of damages and must present evidence which will allow a jury to reasonable calculate lost future capacity.

The Third DCA went on to rule that once sufficient evidence is presented, "the measure of damages is the loss of capacity to earn by virtue of any impairment found by the jury and the jury must base its decision on all relevant factors including the plaintiff's age, health, habits, occupation, surroundings, and earnings before and after the injury."

Because the jury is the trier of fact, case law supports that the plaintiff is entitled to an instruction on loss of ability to earn money in the future where there is evidence of an injury and evidence which is sufficiently detailed to allow the trier of fact (the jury) to quantify the loss of earning capacity. Thus, during a personal injury case or similar matter where future earning capacity is at issue, it will be the jury who is responsible for determining an award of loss of future earning capacity.