I have worked on a number of wrongful death cases involving various occupations over the course of my career, including one involving a dual US-foreign citizen. My experience has shown that when the future earning capacity of a decedent is highly uncertain, especially for a young person in the early stages of their career of whatever type, two structural choices for a loss of earnings report are most useful:
- Employ the concept of the “age-earnings cycle,” which for most careers allows an economist to project future earnings growth due to two separable phenomena: (a) rapid earnings growth in the early stages of one’s career associated with gaining skills and experience before such earnings taper off, and (b) future real earnings growth above inflation due to economy-wide factors such as future productivity gains for most workers, which accrue especially to those with higher education and/or special marketable skills
- Provide juries with a range of plausible scenarios for future earnings growth, rather than a single trajectory that implies greater certainty than is warranted by the facts of the case, especially for a plaintiff with a limited earnings record to date
Given the uncertainty of possible lifetime earnings of a decedent who was a prominent upcoming artist, my initial thought is that the inclusion of a vocational expert would greatly enhance the strength of any economist’s loss of earnings analysis — particularly an economist with experience handling cases of performing artists but who will not qualify as a vocational expert by U.S. courts based on formal training and/or holding a designation in the vocational field.