DAMAGES- In Woods v. Hall, First Circuit, 2015-CA-1162 (4/20/16), the Louisiana First Circuit overturned an award for lost wages after finding that the proof offered was speculative and insufficient to justify the award. Following an auto accident, the plaintiff in Woods (who had received a doctorate in music with a concentration in opera) claimed lost earnings from a missed opportunity to attend an audition in New York populated with opera representatives from all over the world. According to plaintiff, missing the audition left her unable to work the entire 2013 opera season. Based solely on the plaintiff’s testimony, the Trial Judge awarded $35,000 in “lost income and/or lost opportunity of income.”
In considering this award, the First Circuit re-stated the principles governing lost wage or earnings awards. As to past lost wages, the Woods Court commented that a plaintiff must present “proof sufficient” to establish the claim “to a degree of reasonable certainty.” As to future income or a loss of earning capacity, Woods added that such awards are “inherently speculative,” “intrinsically incapable of being calculated with mathematical certainty,” and cannot be based upon “speculation, conjecture, and probabilities.”
After re-stating the law, the Woods Court applied these principles to find the plaintiff’s proof lacking. Case facts revealed that the plaintiff was not guaranteed employment from attending the audition, had not purchased tickets to the audition, and could present no documentary evidence that she had even registered. On this basis, the award for lost income was vacated.