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A wrongfully injured  person  is  not  entitled  to  damages  for  any  physical  or emotional  condition  that  he or she  had  before wrongdoing conduct  occurred.  However,  if  person  had  a  physical or  emotional  condition  that  was  made  worse  by  wrongful  conduct,  the injured person is entitled to damages that  will reasonably  and  fairly  compensate  him or her  for  the  effect  on  that condition. Hastie v.  Handeland  (1969)  274  Cal.App.2d  599,  604; Ng  v.  Hudson  (1977)  75 Cal.App.3d  250,  255; C.A.C.I. No. 3927


A pre-existing injury, condition, or disease is a condition that existed before the time of an accident or occurrence.

When a preexisting injury, condition, or disease (whether dormant or active) is aggravated or accelerated by an event caused from the defendant's negligence, such negligence may be held a proximate or legal cause of the injured person's condition (Campbell v. Los Angeles Traction Co. (1902) 137 Cal. 565, 568-569; Smith v.Schumacker (1938) 30 Cal App. 2d 251, 263.

The negligent party may be liable for the resulting harm to another even though a physical condition of the other, which is unforeseeable (i.e., neither known nor should be known) to the negligent party, makes the injury greater than that which the negligent party (as a reasonable person), should have foreseen as a probable result of his or her conduct. Sloane v. Southern C.R. Co. (1896) 111 Cal. 668; Hagy v. Allied Chemical & Dye Corp. (1954) 122 Cal. App. 2d 361.

For example, a man intentionally or even negligently moderately slugs a victim in the skull.  The victim, unbeknownst to the assailant, had a rare condition making his skull paper-thin, resulting in unexpected multiple fractures of the skull due to the punch to the skull.  Even though the assailant could not foresee that his modest punch would fracture the egg-shell thin skull into pieces, and even if he did not intend or foresee such harm, the assailant is, nevertheless, liable for the injuries caused by the blow to the skull.

Therefore, a negligent party takes the risk that his liability will be increased by reason of the actual pre-existing physical condition of the person to whom the negligent act was committed.  Fox v. San Francisco (1975) 47 Cal. App. 3d 164. 


Thus, even though a person incurred greater injuries due to his or her preexisting degenerative neck, back or other condition, the negligent party is liable for such injuries, because of the "egg-shell skull" rule (“thin-skull” rule).  This rules makes negligent tortfeasor liable for the aggravation of pre-existing injuries aggravated by said tortfeasor’s acts or omissions.  Such rule applies to tortuous negligence, intentional acts, or strict liability.

In other words, “you take the plaintiff victim as you find him or her.”

If you've been injured, even if you had a pre-existing condition, contact Christian lawyer, Matthew B. Tozer for a free consultation.

The information provided in this article is informational, only. The subject matter and applicable law is evolving and/or constant state of change.  This advice is based on California law.  No legal advice is given and no attorney/client or other relationship is established or intended.  The information provided is from general sources, and I cannot represent, guarantee or warrant that the information contained in this website is accurate, current, or is appropriate for the usage of any reader. It is recommend that readers of this information consult with their own counsel prior to relying on any information on this website.

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