Monday, November 11, 2013

O’Shea v. Riverway Towing Co. case brief

O’Shea v. Riverway Towing Co. case brief summary
677 F.2d 1194 (7th Cir. 1982)

Plaintiff boat passenger filed a tort claim under admiralty jurisdiction after she was injured while disembarking from one of defendant company's harbor boats. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois entered a judgment for the boat passenger after finding that she was not contributorily negligent and awarded her damages for lost income without stating how the lower court arrived at the figure. The company appealed.


The boat passenger, who was a cook for a barge company, broke her leg while disembarking from the company's harbor boat. The company appealed the finding that the boat passenger was not contributorily negligent and the damage award for future lost income.


  • The court held that the boat passenger was not contributorily negligent because she disembarked from the boat under the specific directions of the company's employees. 
  • The court further held that the damage award was reasonable, but rebuked the lower court for not including a statement of its reasoning in reaching the amount of future lost wages. 
  • The award had to consider whether the boat passenger, by reasonable diligence, could find gainful employment, given the physical condition in which the accident left her. 
  • Further, previous wages did not put a cap on an award of lost future wages. 
  • Finally, inflation had to be factored into the award for lost future wages, but it was illogical and indefensible to build inflation into the discount rate, yet ignore it in calculating the lost future wages that were to be discounted.

The court affirmed the judgment for the boat passenger, but instructed the lower court to indicate the steps by which it arrived at damage awards for lost future earnings.

Suggested Study Aids For Tort Law

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