Schulz v. St. Mary's Hosp
In Schulz v. St. Mary's Hosp., 81 Wis. 2d 638, 655-59, 260 N.W.2d 783 (1978), the plaintiff had worked part-time as a typing and shorthand teacher. She testified that after her injury she suffered from fatigue requiring her to take daily naps. See 81 Wis. 2d at 655-56.
The plaintiff's treating physician "testified that this fatigue could interfere with her capacity to earn a living." Id. at 656.
The physician also testified that the plaintiff's injuries would reduce her earning capacity because she would continue to suffer fatigue and face potential difficulties in the future. See id.
The jury awarded the plaintiff damages for lost earning capacity. The supreme court reversed the award, explaining that the issue raised by the evidence was not whether the plaintiff lost a portion of her earning capacity, but whether there was sufficient "evidence to enable the jury to measure the loss sustained." Id.
The court stated:
The process of ascertaining the amount of compensation to be awarded requires (1) the determination of the extent to which such capacity has been diminished, and (2) the fixing of the amount of money which will compensate for the determined extent of impairment.
The extent of the diminution or impairment of earning capacity is generally to be arrived at by comparing what the injured party was capable of earning at or before the time of the injury with what he was capable of earning after it occurred. (Id. at 656.)
The court termed these the "basic requirements" for an award for lost earning capacity. See id. at 657. However, the court concluded that the basic requirements were not satisfied because there was no evidence showing what the plaintiff's previous earning history was or what the salary expectations for similarly situated employees would likely be in the future. See Id.