1/3 Damage Reduction For Plaintiff's "Failure to Mitigate"
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, reducing a Plaintiff’s damages following a motor vehicle collision for failure to follow medical advice.
In this week’s case (Hsu v. Williams) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 rear-end collision. The Plaintiff suffered from chronic pre-existing pain. The Court accepted that the collision aggravated this condition and further that the collision caused a sacroiliac joint injury. Mr. Justice Savage assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $30,000 then reduced this award by 1/3 for the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate’. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
 In Graham v. Rogers, 2001 BCCA 432 (application for leave to appeal dismissed,  S.C.C.A. No. 467), Rowles J.A.(Huddart J.A. concurring) said at para. 35:
Mitigation goes to limit recovery based on an unreasonable failure of the injured party to take reasonable steps to limit his or her loss. A plaintiff in a personal injury action has a positive duty to mitigate but if a defendant’s position is that a plaintiff could reasonably have avoided some part of the loss, the defendant bears the onus of proof on that issue. Red Deer College v. Michaels(1975),  2 S.C.R. 324 at 331, 57 D.L.R. (3d) 386 at 390, and Asamera Oil Corp. v. Sea Oil & General Corp. (1978),  1 S.C.R. 633, 89 D.L.R. (3d) 1, provide support for that proposition. In this case, the appellant argues that the respondent did not meet the onus of proof by showing or establishing that the appellant could reasonably have avoided his income or employment losses.
 In his very thorough report, Dr. Armstrong gave treatment recommendations. Although he applied a caveat, that “my remarks are my opinions and should not be understood as directives for the provisions of Ms. Hsu’s care” as that would be “at the discretion of her treating physicians and other care providers”, his report is the only medical opinion before the court. Those recommendations included (1) a focused and carefully supervised program of rehabilitative exercise aimed at correcting her sacroiliac joint problem; (2) minimizing passive therapies; (3) supervised stretching and posture improvement under the guidance of a physiotherapist; (4) a progressive program of exercise under the supervision of a physiotherapist to strengthen her core muscles; (5) counselling sessions with a clinical psychologist familiar with chronic pain management; (6) a progressive walking program; and (7) time off work to pursue rehabilitation.
 The plaintiff has largely not followed these recommendations. There is no evidence, for example, that she embarked on a supervised program of rehabilitative exercise, counselling sessions, or has worked on stretching and posture improvement under a professional’s guidance. She did not embark on a progressive program to strengthen core muscles. There is no evidence that she has sought out a clinical psychologist to assist her in chronic pain management. Hsu did not take time off work to pursue rehabilitation. Hsu also continued with, and seeks compensation for, continuing passive therapies.
 For example, Hsu claims as special damages acupuncture treatments covering a period from March 2007 to June 5, 2011 ($1,050); massage therapy treatments from 2008-2010 ($1,419); massage treatments in Taiwan ($13,150); massage treatments and a one year gym pass paid for in 2010 ($1,800); acupressure and acupuncture treatments in 2011 ($670.24); undescribed “rehabilitation treatments” ($760); and various prescription medications ($194.72).
 Dr. Armstrong’s report was introduced in evidence by the plaintiff. Although Dr. Armstrong says that the opinions are not directives for future care, and that future care should be at the discretion of her treating physicians and other care providers, there are no opinions of those treating physicians or care providers in evidence. So there is no evidence that those treatment recommendations should not have been carried out.
 The importance of carrying out those recommendations is significant. Dr. Armstrong opined that the longer chronic sacroiliac joint dysfunction persists, the less favourable is the chance for significant improvement. Although his prognosis if the recommendations were carried out was guarded, in my view the plaintiff should have undertaken the recommendations by the witness she called to give evidence. In the circumstances, the plaintiff has failed to mitigate her damages. I would reduce the general damages award by one-third to account for this factor.
For more recent BC case summaries addressing failure to mitigate you can click here to access my archived posts and here for more recent case summaries addressing pain and suffering awards for sacroiliac joint injuries.