Robert W. Johnson & Associates was retained to provide economic testimony quantifying the present cash value of the economic support and household services that the decedent would have contributed to his family.
Location: Monterey, California
Case: McCormack, et al., vs. G & H Farms, et al.
Court: Monterey, California Superior Court, No.CV115446
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: James R. Murphy , Arroyo Grande, California
Case Synopsis: On May 14,1998, Ted McCormack, a 62-year-old part-time dry-land farmer and full-time farm manager, was driving home when a truck driven by the defendant lost a load of drainage pipe. The pipe crashed thru the windshield of Mr. McCormack’s car killing him. He was survived by his wife and adult children.
Mr. McCormack worked two jobs. First, he share-cropped land and managed additional acreage for the owner. He was paid a portion of the crop and given free housing. Second, he would hire himself out as a farm manager at $15/hour. His average earnings when he share-cropped were approximately $36,800 per year. His alternative average earnings capacity when he was a farm manager was $45,000. As a jack-of-all-trades, Mr. McCormack performed household services significantly above average. It was Mr. McCormack’s intent to work to age 70.
Expert Consultation: Mr. Johnson testified that a bracketed analysis would best represent Mr. McCormack’s loss. Mr. Johnson testified that if you just considered Mr. McCormack’s earnings as a share-cropper/manager then his support to his family was $338,009. On the other hand, if you considered Mr. McCormack’s earnings as an independent farm manager his contribution to his family was over $432,000. Mr. Johnson relied on local data for farm manager pay rates and the value of free housing.
Results: Defendant offered $5,000 prior to trial. The defendant’s economist testified that there was only a negligible economic loss. The jury awarded Mrs. McCormack $1,397,437.
Attorney Comments: “Special damages were a challenge because of the cash and carry nature of the share-cropper farming and the fact that many services he performed were done on a barter basis. The Schedule “C” tax returns did not capture his full earnings capacity. Your filling in the blanks with conservative, valid and reasonable data help the jury get a more complete picture of Mr. McCormack’s true earnings capacity.”