United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROBERT D. HUBER, JR., Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
S. CHUTKAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the court are the parties’
recommendations for quantum of damages, ECF Nos. 49 & 50.
Based on the court’s findings of fact and conclusions
of law, ECF No. 48, and both partiesâ recommendations, the
court will award Plaintiff damages in the amount of
Robert D. Huber, Jr. filed his lawsuit against the United
States under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671
et seq., following a traffic collision between him
and a federal employee driving a Government Services
Administration vehicle in the course and scope of his
employment with the United States Department of the Army. The
court held a five-day bench trial in January 2018. On April
16, 2019, this court issued its findings of fact and
conclusions of law, entered judgment in Plaintiff’s
favor, and concluded that Plaintiff sustained his burden of
proof on his negligence claim and that the accident was the
proximate cause of his injuries. ECF No. 48, Mem. Op. at 1,
(II)(2)(B). However, the court was unable to determine an
appropriate quantum of damages because “not all of
Huber’s psychological problems have been shown to be
the result of the accident.” Id. at 11. The
court ordered both parties to submit supplemental briefing on
the issue of damages and to provide suggested calculations
and the basis for those calculations. Id. at
recommends a damages award of $1,297,087.82-$72,087.86 for
past medical costs and $1,225,000 for pain and suffering.
See generally Pl.’s Recommendation, ECF No.
49. Defendant recommends a damages award of no greater than
$86,007.82-$71,007.82 for past medical costs and $15,000 for
pain and suffering. See generally Def.’s
Recommendation, ECF No. 50.
fundamental principle for determining the amount of damages
to be awarded to a plaintiff stems from the seminal case,
Story Parchment Co. v. Paterson Parchment Paper Co.,
282 U.S. 555 (1931). See Hill v. Republic of Iraq,
328 F.3d 680, 684 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (noting that Story
Parchment Co. “states the American rule on
damages[.]”). In Story Parchment Co., the
Supreme Court stated that “while the damages may not be
determined by mere speculation or guess, it will be enough if
the evidence show the extent of damages as a matter of just
and reasonable inference, although the result be only
approximate.” 282 U.S. at 563.
amount of damages requires only a reasonable estimate.
See Samaritan Inns, Inc. v. District of Columbia,
114 F.3d 1227, 1235 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (Plaintiff must
“prove the fact of injury with reasonable certainty,
[and prove] the amount of damages . . . based on a reasonable
estimate.”); Wood v. Day, 859 F.2d 1490, 1493
(D.C. Cir. 1988) (Plaintiff must provide only “some
reasonable basis on which to estimate damages.”)
(quoting Romer v. District of Columbia, 449 A.2d
1097, 1100 (D.C. 1982)). Thus, the court’s task is to
“make a just and reasonable estimate of the damage
based on relevant data.” United States ex rel.
Miller v. Bill Harbert Int’l Constr.,
Inc., 608 F.3d 871, 905 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (quoting
Bigelow v. RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., 327 U.S. 251,
264 (1946)). The relevant data may include “probable
and inferential, as well as direct and positive proof.”
Bigelow, 327 U.S. at 264 (quoting Story
Parchment Co., 282 U.S. at 561). Damages “may not
be determined by mere speculation or guess . . . although the
result be only approximate.” Hill, 328 F.3d at
684 (quoting Story Parchment Co., 282 U.S. at 563).
District of Columbia, “[a]n award of damages must . . .
avoid extravagant awards that bear little or no relation to
the actual injury involved.” Campbell–Crane
& Assocs. v. Stamenkovic, 44 A.3d 924, 945 (D.C.
2012) (internal citations omitted). The damages award
“must be proportional to the harm actually
suffered.” Phillips v. District of Columbia,
458 A.2d 722, 726 (D.C. 1983).
the “court must explain the reasons for the
determination of the damages award and tether these reasons
to the record.” Rhodes v. United States, 967
F.Supp.2d 246, 314(D.D.C. 2013); see also Eureka Inv.
Corp., N.V. v. Chicago Title Ins. Co., 743 F.2d 932, 940
(D.C. Cir. 1984) (“[I]t is essential that the trial
court give sufficient indication of how it computed the
amount so that the reviewing court can determine whether it
is supported by the record.”) (citation omitted).
seeks $72,087.86 in economic damages for medical bills and
$1,225,000 in non-economic damages for pain and suffering.
See generally Pl.’s Recommendation.
Specifically, Plaintiff requests non-economic damages that
include: $700,000 for the extent and duration of his physical
injuries; $250,000 for the effects his physical injuries have
on his overall physical and emotional well-being; $100,000
for acute pain and $100,000 for chronic headaches; and
$75,000 for inconveniences he has experienced in the past or
may experience in the future. See id at 2, 4, 6, 7.
bases his request on five factors from the District of
Columbia Standardized Civil Jury Instructions § 13.01,
1–7: (1) the extent and duration of plaintiff’s
injuries; (2) the effects that any physical injuries have on
plaintiff’s overall physical and emotional well-being;
(3) any physical pain and emotional distress that the
plaintiff has suffered in the past or may suffer in the
future; (4) any inconvenience the plaintiff has experienced
in the past or may experience in the future; and (5) past and
future medical expenses. See Pl.’s
Recommendation at 2–8.
Defendant contends this court is not bound by the D.C. jury
instructions, see Def.’s Recommendation at 4
(citing to 8th Circuit cases), judges in the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia may use these jury
instructions as a “useful reference” when
considering a damages award. See Rhodes, 967
F.Supp.2d at 324–25 (referring to the D.C. Standardized
Civil Jury Instruction § 13.01, 1–7 in its damages
analysis). Because Plaintiff has ...