Supreme Court



Damages in tort

No necessary relationship between reasonably foreseeable mental injury and diagnostic classification

Plaintiff, through his litigation guardian, brought action for damages for injuries suffered in motor vehicle accident. Liability was admitted. Trial judge awarded $100,000 in non-pecuniary damages for psychological injury, including personality change and cognitive difficulties, sustained as result of accident. Defendants successfully appealed. Appellate court agreed with defendant that trial judge erred by awarding damages for mental injury where plaintiff had not proven medically recognized psychiatric or psychological illness or condition and added that such illness must be demonstrated by expert medical opinion evidence. Appellate court observed that trial judge erred by deciding case on basis neither pleaded nor argued by plaintiff. Plaintiff appealed. Appeal allowed and trial judge’s award restored. It was implicit in 2008 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ordinary duty of care analysis was to be applied to claims for negligently caused mental injury. It was unnecessary and futile to re-structure that analysis so as to mandate formal, separate consideration of certain dimensions of proximity. Confining compensable mental injury to conditions that were identifiable with reference to diagnostic tools was inherently suspect as matter of legal methodology. There was no necessary relationship between reasonably foreseeable mental injury and diagnostic classification scheme. View that recognizable psychiatric illness requirement was necessary to prevent indeterminate liability was untenable. Robust application of elements of cause of action of negligence should be sufficient to address concerns for indeterminate liability. No cogent basis had been offered for erecting distinct rules which operated to preclude liability in cases of mental injury, but not in cases of physical injury. Requiring claimants who alleged one form of personal injury (mental) to prove that their condition met threshold of “recognizable psychiatric illness” while not imposing corresponding requirement upon claimants alleging another form of personal injury (physical) to show that their condition carried certain classificatory label was inconsistent with prior statements of this Court. There was no legal error in trial judge’s treatment of evidence of plaintiff’s symptoms as supporting finding of mental injury.

Saadati v. Moorhead (2017), 2017 CarswellBC 1446, 2017 CarswellBC 1447, 2017 SCC 28, 2017 CSC 28, McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., Côté J., Brown J., and Rowe J. (S.C.C.); reversed (2015), 2015 CarswellBC 2694, 2015 BCCA 393, Saunders J.A., Chiasson J.A., and Frankel J.A. (B.C. C.A.).


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