Mains Practice Question


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What is the ‘eggshell skull’ rule? What Supreme Court has said with reference to this rule?
A Simple Introduction about ‘eggshell skull’ rule

The eggshell skull rule is a common law principle in civil litigation. It holds that an offender is accountable for all harms exacerbated by the victim’s unique characteristics, even if the offender was unaware of them. For instance, a defendant is liable for the full extent of injury to a person with a delicate skull, even if a "normal person" would not have been as severely impacted. This rule allows for claiming enhanced compensation for damage greater than ordinarily anticipated due to the defendant's actions.


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The Jyoti Devi Case

The Supreme Court's recent judgment in the Jyoti Devi case sheds light on the application of the eggshell skull rule in medical negligence claims.

Jyoti Devi underwent an appendectomy in a Himachal Pradesh hospital in 2005. However, she continued to experience abdominal pain after the surgery. Following a series of consultations over four years, doctors at PGIMS Chandigarh discovered a foreign object (a needle) left behind in her abdomen, necessitating further surgery.

Compensation Dispute

Jyoti Devi filed a consumer forum complaint seeking compensation for medical negligence. The district forum awarded Rs. 5 lakh, but the state forum reduced it to Rs. 1 lakh. On appeal, the NCDRC increased it to Rs. 2 lakh.

Supreme Court's Ruling

The Supreme Court reinstated the district forum's initial Rs. 5 lakh compensation, stating that the lower courts awarded "paltry" and "unjust" sums. However, the court clarified that the eggshell skull rule did not apply in this case.

Reasoning Behind Non-Application of Eggshell Rule

The Supreme Court ruled that the eggshell skull rule wouldn't apply in Jyoti Devi's case because the facts presented no evidence of a "pre-existing vulnerability or medical condition" that might have caused her to suffer "unusual damage."


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This case emphasizes the importance of considering all aspects when awarding compensation for medical negligence. While the eggshell skull rule protects vulnerable patients, it's not a blanket principle. The specific circumstances of each case determine its applicability.


Other Points to Consider 

Origin of the eggshell skull rule

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC)


Previous Year Questions

1. The most significant achievement of modern law in India is the constitutionalisation of environmental problems by the Supreme Court.” Discuss this statement with the help of relevant case laws. (2022)
2. Whether the Supreme Court Judgment (July 2018) can settle the political tussle between the Lt. Governor and elected government of Delhi? Examine. (2018)


21-May 2024