BC Court of Appeal Strips Modest Diminished Capacity Award "As a Matter of Principle"
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal stripping a Plaintiff of modest damages awarded for diminished earning capacity.
In today’s case (Kim v. Morier) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages. Despite her injuries she was able to work 12-15 hour days as a floor plan technician. She had no lost income by the time of trial. Her injuries lingered and were expected to indefinitely though the “degree of disability would be mild, that her level of disability is “fairly small” “.
In overturning the $10,000 damage assessment for this loss the BC Court of Appeal provided the following comments on the evidentiary foundation needed for diminished earning capacity damages:
 On appeal, the defendant submits that the Court erred in making an award under this head in the absence of a finding of a “real and substantial possibility” that Ms. Kim’s earnings in future would be impaired. The defendant relies in particular on Roberts v. Kidd (1998), 52 B.C.L.R. (3d) (C.A.), where Mr. Justice Hollinrake for the majority noted that it is not sufficient for an award under this head for the plaintiff to testify as to a loss of confidence or ability to project herself without showing a “functional” element. (Mr. Justice Lambert dissented on this point.) In the result in Roberts, this Court set aside the award for diminished income and incapacity.
 More recently, in Perren v. Lalari, 2010 BCCA 140, 3 B.C.L.R. (5th) 303, this court emphasized at paras. 21, 32, and 33 the requirement for the plaintiff to meet the onus of showing at least a “real possibility” of future loss, as opposed to a theoretical loss. Similarly, in Steward v. Berezan, 2007 BCCA 150, 64 B.C.L.R. (4th) 152, the Court discussed the comment of Madam Justice Southin in Palmer v. Goodall (1991), 53 B.C.L.R. (2d) 44, to the effect that it was “impossible to say” the plaintiff in that instance would not suffer reduced earning capacity in the future. Mr. Justice Donald wrote in Steward at para. 17
But the language in question there was used in the context of appellate review and, with respect, it cannot be transposed to an original analysis at the trial level. The claimant bears the onus to prove at trial a substantial possibility of a future event leading to an income loss, and the court must then award compensation on an estimation of the chance that the event will occur: Parypa v. Wickware, 1998 BCCA 88, 169 D.L.R. (4th) 661¶ 65.
This is not a heavy onus, but it must be met for a pecuniary award to be justified.
 In my view, the trial judge here did err in equating the loss of capital asset here with the plaintiff’s own perception. As the cases demonstrate, that is not enough. The plaintiff must show that it is a realistic possibility she will be less able to compete in the marketplace – with economic consequences, not merely psychological ones. In my view as well, the trial judge’s statement made after the award was pronounced, that Ms. Kim “may” be less capable of maintaining her disciplined approach to work also fell short. As we suggested to counsel this morning, the word “may” is essentially speculative and does not equate to a finding of a real possibility.
 Mr. Carta said all that could be said in support of the award, but I agree with the defendants that as a matter of principle the findings here did not support an award for loss of earning capacity.
 I would allow the appeal and set aside the award under this head. I would also order that the parties bear their own costs, given that this appeal was brought as a matter of principle.