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Diminished Housekeeping Capacity Claim Assessed for “Fastidious Housekeeper”

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for diminished housekeeping capacity for a plaintiff with ‘fastidious’ housekeeping standards.

In today’s case (Broomfield v. Lof) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2014 rear end collision. Liability was admitted.   The crash resulted in a variety of injuries the most serious of which were chronic depression and somatic symptom disorder.  These resulted in a period of total disability followed by the Plaintiff being able to return to work but on a reduced basis.

The Plaintiff had restrictions in her housekeeping abilities and these were medically supported.  The Defendant opposed damages for diminished housekeeping capacity in part because the plaintiff admitted that “she was able to do what she wanted if she pushed through the pain“.  Despite this admission the court found the evidence justified damages for diminished housekeeping capacity and awarded just over $100,000 for past and future losses.  In reaching this assessment Madam Justice Young provided the following reasons:

[101]     The plaintiff seeks a substantial award for loss of housekeeping capacity. She seeks compensation for four hours of housekeeping services at $25 per hour per week which equals $5,200 per year. She is seeking housekeeping services to the end of her life expectancy which is 38.4 years. Using the present value calculator of 26.4406, the plaintiff seeks a total loss of housekeeping capacity of $137,491.12.

[102]     The plaintiff relies on the case of Amini v. Mondragaon, 2014 BCSC 1590 where Justice Greyell said at para. 138 that it is well recognized that damages for loss of housekeeping capacity may be awarded even if housekeeping services are gratuitously replaced by a family member.

[103]     The evidence is that the plaintiff was a fastidious housekeeper prior to the accident. This is confirmed by her neighbour, her boyfriend, her mother and her long-time friend.

[104]     The plaintiff originally estimated that she relied on other people to assist her 30 hours per week during her initial recovery. This included driving her to and from doctors’ appointments and lawyers’ appointments and walking her dog as well as doing grocery shopping and housekeeping services. She required this level of assistance for the first 26 weeks after the accident. She estimates that her housekeeping service requirements decreased to 20 hours per week for the next 26 weeks, 15 hours for year two, and five hours per week from January 7, 2016 to the date of trial. Her total past lost of domestic capacity equals $71,000 if a mathematical calculation is done.

[105]     The defendants submit that this is a gross exaggeration for someone living in a one-bedroom apartment. It is clear from Dr. Helper’s opinion that the plaintiff had moderate limitations of her activities of daily living which fit in the category of discomfort or mild limitation period.

[106]     The medical experts agree that the plaintiff’s limitations are permanent and that she will need assistance with housekeeping duties. Their opinions vary as to the extent of that assistance. I accept Dr. Neufeld’s opinion that two hours’ assistance per week is reasonable.

[107]     The plaintiff did depose at her examination for discovery that she was able to do what she wanted if she pushed through the pain. The defendants assert that the plaintiff has not established a sufficient ground for loss of future housekeeping capacity.

[108]     I accept the plaintiff’s testimony that for the first 26 weeks after the accident she was incapacitated. She could not drive or walk her dog. She could not unload the dishwasher, do her laundry, take care of her condo, or buy her groceries. She was heavily dependent on her neighbour and her mother. Of those 26 weeks, I am prepared to award her 25 hours per week.

[109]     I rely on this court’s endorsement in Amini v Mondragaon, 2014 BCSC 1590, para. 198 and Hrnic v Bero Investments Ltd., 2018 BCSC 1880, that $25 per hour is a reasonable hourly rate for housekeeping services which accords with my own experience.

[110]     For the first 26 weeks post-accident, I award to the plaintiff $16,250 for housekeeping services provided by others.

[111]     I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that she gradually increased her strength and tolerance, but during this time, her depression was worse and she had low energy to do anything. Her evidence is that she could do some household chores, but she could not vacuum or mop. She could load and unload the dishwasher with some difficulty. She still had help from her parents and her friends, Heather and Marie. By then she was dating Nick who testified at trial. He assisted her with household chores and shopping. During this time, I find that it would be appropriate to award the plaintiff five hours per week at $25 per hour for 26 weeks which is $3,250.

[112]     From 12 months after the accident to the present time, the plaintiff has gradually increased her pain tolerance and her depression has improved to some extent. She is now living in a one-bedroom basement suite which should not take a substantial amount of time to clean. Nick provided her with a great deal of help moving into this suite. During this time, I find it appropriate to award the plaintiff two hours per week cleaning services and once every six months an additional six hours for deeper cleaning services such as window or blind washing, cupboards, walls and baseboard washing. In addition, I award $500 for 20 hours of assistance with her move.

[113]     The past award is for $2,900 per year for 4.4 years in addition to $19,500 for the first year. I award $32,760 for past loss of housekeeping capacity.

[114]     I make an ongoing housekeeping award of $3,000 per year for the plaintiff’s life expectancy of 38.4 years. According to the Law and Equity Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 253, s. 56(2)(b) and Reg. 352/81, 2.0% must be used to calculate future losses (other than income). Section 56 (2)(b) stipulates that the discount rate is deemed to be the future difference between the investment rate of interest and the rate of general price inflation.

[115]     The appropriate multiplier is therefore 26.4406. I award future loss of housekeeping capacity award of $80,000.

bc injury law, Broomfield v. Lof, Chronic Depression, diminished housekeeping capacity, Madam Justice Young, Somatic symptom disorder