Court Holds Diminished Capacity To Care For Loved Ones Not Forseeable Unless Care "taking place or contemplated" at the time of the tort

It is a well recognized principle that if a spouse needs to provide extraordinary services in caring for an injured loved one harmed by the negligence of others that this time can be compensated as an ‘in trust claim’ in the Plaintiff’s personal injury action.
What if the tables are turned, however, and the Plaintiff cares for a loved one but due to injuries to the Plaintiff he/she becomes unable to provide the care they otherwise would for their spouse?  The BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement, in a two one split, finding that such damages for such a loss are not ‘foreseeable’ unless they are taking place or contemplated at the time of the tort.
In this week’s case (Milliken v. Rowe) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.   These had long term limiting consequences.  Subsequent to the collision the Plaintiff’s husband became ill.  The evidence proved that but for the injuries the Plaintiff would have cared for her husband.  The Court compensated the Plaintiff $30,000 for this loss.  In overturning this award, the BC Court of Appeal held it was not a foreseeable loss as this care was not “taking place or contemplated” at the time of the crash.  The majority provided the following reasons:
[31]         With respect, I disagree that the loss in this case reasonably could be foreseeable even under that standard. At its core, the award here is based merely on the fact that, at the time of the tort, the respondent and her husband were married with a possibility that at some future date the husband might require care of some kind. This did not make such care reasonably foreseeable at law. It might never occur: the respondent could die before care was required; the need for care might never arise; her surgery could eliminate the problem or diminish it significantly; or, her full-time employment may have eliminated or diminished her ability to provide care regardless of the accident. While plainly foreseeable as a theoretical, factual outcome in hindsight, this possibility was not a “real risk” in “the mind of a reasonable man in the position of the defendan[t]”.
[32]         In my view, the costs associated with caring for the respondent’s husband are too remote to be recoverable. As aptly stated by the Chief Justice in Mustapha, recoverability is based on reasonable foresight, not insurance.
[33]         The appellant also argued that even if damages were recoverable for the respondent’s diminished ability to care for her husband, as not too remote, as they were in Lynn, they would be recoverable under the heading of non-pecuniary damages and not as damages for loss of future care. I need not address this issue and leave it for a case in which it is engaged.
[34]         In my view, costs arising from the diminished ability to care for a disabled spouse of a plaintiff where no such care is required or contemplated at the time of the tort are not foreseeable at law; they are too remote.
[35]         I would allow this appeal and reduce the award of damages for the costs of future care by $30,000.
The decision also includes a well reasoned dissenting decision by Mr. Justice Donald which can be found starting at paragraph 36.
 

forseeability, in trust claims, Milliken v. Rowe, remoteness

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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