Griesser v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation – Case Brief Summary (Pennsylvania)

In Griesser v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, 2000 PA Super 313, 761 A.2d 606 (Pa. Super. 2000), a FELA case, the computation of future lost wages was a key factor in the assessment of damages.

The injured employee was 45 years of age. His economic expert's calculation as to future lost earning capacity was based on an expected retirement age of either 65 or 70.

The defendant railroad sought to counter that evidence by showing that the employee would be eligible to retire at age 60 with full pension benefits.

The trial judge admitted that evidence as an exception to the collateral source rule.

In reversing the trial court, the Pennsylvania intermediate appellate court posed the issue:

Appellant argues that because he is permanently disabled, he is entitled to lost wages until the usual age of retirement (either 65 or 70). Implicit in this argument is that, but for the injury, Appellant would have worked until age 65 or 70. Amtrak presented evidence that if Appellant had continued working at Amtrak until age 60, he would have been able to retire with benefits equivalent to a full salary. Thus, Appellant had an incentive to retire at age 60 even if he had not been injured. Consequently, Amtrak argues, the assumption that he would have worked until age 65 or 70 is faulty. (761 A.2d at 610.)

The Pennsylvania court held squarely that evidence of future retirement benefits offered to show that the employee had a motive to retire before age 65 was inadmissible by virtue of the collateral source rule.

We conclude that evidence of Appellant's future retirement benefits was inadmissible to show that Appellant had an economic incentive to retire before age 65, because of the danger that the jury would use this evidence for the improper purpose of mitigating Appellant's damages or reducing Amtrak's liability. In this way, we adhere to the underlying purpose of the collateral source rule in light of the strong policy against the admission of collateral benefits in FELA cases. (Id. at 612-13.)