Legal Memorandum: Jury Instruction – Thin Skull Doctrine

Issue: Under Colorado law, how do courts instruct a jury in personal injury matters concerning the ‘thin skull’ doctrine?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Jury instruction; Personal injury; Thin skull doctrine
Jurisdiction: Colorado
Cited Cases: 942 P.2d 1283; 12 P.3d 839; 955 P.2d 1008; 64 P.3d 230; 831 P.2d 897; 970 P.2d 478
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 11/01/2013

Colorado Jury Instruction-Civ. 6:7 states:

6:7 Personal Injuries—Non-Reduction of Damages—”Thin Skull” Doctrine


In determining the amount of plaintiff’s actual damages, you cannot reduce the amount of or refuse to award any such damages because of any (insert appropriate description, e.g., physical frailties, mental condition, illness, etc.) of the plaintiff that may have made (him) (her) more susceptible to injury, disability, or impairment than an average or normal person.


The notes on use further explains the law applicable to this situation, stating:

This instruction should be given when the defendant seeks to avoid or limit liability for plaintiff’s injuries by asserting that the injuries would not have occurred or would have been less severe if the plaintiff had been a normal or average person. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Peiffer, 955 P.2d 1008 (Colo. 1998); Schafer v. Hoffman, 831 P.2d 897 (Colo. 1992); Giampapa v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 12 P.3d 839 (Colo. App. 2000), rev’d on other grounds, 64 P.3d 230 (Colo. 2003); Loza v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 970 P.2d 478 (Colo. App.) cert. denied (1998); Kildahl v. Tagge, 942 P.2d 1283 (Colo. App. 1996) cert. denied (1997). The “thin skull” doctrine is not limited to preexisting bodily conditions, but also applies if a plaintiff is predisposed or more susceptible to injury […]


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