Impact of Life Expectancy On Non-Pecuniary Damages?
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing whether a Plaintiff’s life expectancy should influence the non-pecuniary damages awarded in a personal injury claim.
In today’s case (Mathroo v. Edge-Partington) the Plaintiff pedestrian was injured when struck by the Defendant’s vehicle. The Defendant was found wholly at fault. The Plaintiff suffered “a fracture to his right elbow, which required surgery to insert a plate and screws into his arm.“. He had ongoing issues at the time of trial.
The Plaintiff was 83 years old and argued that the ‘golden years’ doctrine should apply in assessing damages. The Defendant argued the opposite noting “that the limited remaining life expectancy of a person in Mr. Mathroo’s situation justifies a lower award than would otherwise result.“.
The Court was not comfortable with the Defendant’s submission and noted the following:
 The golden years doctrine has some limited applicability here, in that Mr. Mathroo has experienced a decrease in his willingness to walk because of the effect of his injuries on his perceptions of his physical condition and his feelings of safety when walking, but I take the point made by Mr. Edge-Partington’s counsel that he was not involved in that many activities beforehand, other than going to the temple and gardening, so the curtailment of them has been more limited than in other cases cited on his behalf.
 I do not feel comfortable relying on Olesik to reduce the non-pecuniary damages on the basis of Mr. Mathroo’s limited remaining life expectancy, as urged by Mr. Edge-Partington’s counsel. Its applicability on that issue has been questioned by other decisions of this Court. In Giles v. Attorney General of Canada,  B.C.J. No. 3212 (S.C.) varied on other grounds (1996) 71 B.C.A.C. 319, Mr. Justice Fraser held that the principle described in Olesik and the golden years doctrine essentially balanced each other out, so that advanced age should not be a factor either way in arriving at an appropriate award. This view was adopted more recently inDuifhuis v. Bloom, 2013 BCSC 1180.
 In all the circumstances, before dealing with whether an amount should be added to reflect a loss of Mr. Mathroo’s housekeeping capacity, I would make an award of non-pecuniary damages of $60,000.