Skip to main content

Loss of Housekeeping Capacity in BC Personal Injury Claims

When an injured person is less able to perform their usual tasks in and around the home they will often be awarded a higher amount for their Non-Pecuniary Damages and this loss can also be accounted for in awards for Special DamagesCost of Future Care and Loss of Future Earning Capacity. However, British Columbia Courts have sometimes recognized the loss of past housekeeping capacity as a separate head of damage and award extra money for this specific loss.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing this area of law.
In today’s case (Campbell v.  Banman) the Plaintiff was awarded damages as a result of injuries and loss from 2 BC Car Crashes.  The award for damages included just over $22,000 for ‘loss of housekeeping capacity“.  The defendants appealed this award arguing it was not reasonable.  The BCCA disagreed and dismissed the appeal.  In doing so Madam Justice Saunders provided the following useful discussion of the law of diminished housekeeping capacity in BC Personal Injury Claims:

[11] The award for loss of housekeeping capacity is made in the shade provided by Kroeker v. Jansen (1995), 123 D.L.R. (4th) 652, 4 B.C.L.R. (3d) 178 (C.A.). In Kroeker this Court, in a majority decision authored by Mr. Justice Gibbs sitting on a five judge division, without characterizing the nature of the award as pecuniary or non-pecuniary, affirmed the availability of an award for loss of housekeeping capacity. In reaching that conclusion Mr. Justice Gibbs said, in a passage said by the appellants to establish a mandatory judicial attitude of restraint:

[29]      There is much merit in the contention that the court ought to be cautious in approving what appears to be an addition to the heads of compensable injury lest it unleash a flood of excessive claims. But as the law has developed it would not be appropriate to deny to plaintiffs in this province a common law remedy available to plaintiffs in other provinces and in other common law jurisdictions. It will be the duty of trial judges and this Court to restrain awards for this type of claim to an amount of compensation commensurate with the loss. With respect to other heads of loss which are predicated upon the uncertain happening of future events measures have been devised to prevent the awards from being excessive. It would be reasonable to expect that a similar regime of reasonableness will develop in respect of the kind of claim at issue in this case.

[12] The Court in Kroeker reviewed the award for loss of housekeeping capacity in the amount of $23,000, found it was inordinately high where the loss was assessed at 130 hours a year, decreasing over time (at an hourly rate of $10), and reduced the award to $7,000.

[13] This Court addressed the issue of loss of housekeeping capacity again in McTavish v. Mac Gillvray, 2000 BCCA 164, 74 B.C.L.R. (3d) 281. In McTavish the trial judge had awarded $20,000 for past loss of housekeeping capacity and $43,170 for future loss of housekeeping capacity, sums arrived at by reference to the cost of replacement services for 10 hours each week until age 60, at an hourly cost of $10 an hour. This Court dismissed the appeal, finding there was evidence family members replaced the housework Ms. McTavish formerly had performed, and she was not required to prove she would hire someone to perform the duties in order to be fully compensated for the loss of her ability to perform the tasks herself. In the majority reasons for judgment I observed as to Kroeker:

[73]      This Court, in Kroeker v. Jansen (1995), 123 D.L.R. (4th) 652; (1995) 4 B.C.L.R. (3d) 178; [1995] 6 W.W.R. 5 (C.A.) recognized that damages for past and future loss of housekeeping capacity may be awarded by a trial judge, even though housekeeping services were gratuitously replaced by a family member. Further, it recognized that, depending on the facts, this compensation may be by pecuniary or non-pecuniary damages, and if non-pecuniary, that there was no reason these damages could not be segregated.

[14] In my view, this case bears many of the same hallmarks as McTavish, although the extent of incapacity here is less and the damage award is accordingly attenuated.

[15] In particular, and notwithstanding the submissions of the appellants, there is evidence from Ms. Campbell and her common law husband that she had been, and still was at the time of trial, restricted in her ability to perform certain repetitive motions and those involving a certain degree of strength. Likewise Ms. Campbell and her common law husband testified he had accordingly assumed those tasks. It was open to the trial judge to accept that evidence. Further, there was no finding that the husband’s assumption of tasks formerly performed by Ms. Campbell was matched to any degree in a reallocation of duties between them…

[25] Last, the appellants are critical of the award for loss of housekeeping services on the basis it reflects an exercise in arithmetic and not an assessment.

[26] There is some force to the submission that the award should have been arrived at by assessment rather than arithmetic. An arithmetical calculation where, as here, there has not been any actual expenditure and the judge is simply estimating the value of the loss, suggests the order is untempered by judgment, and results in an award expressed in terms of precision beyond the courts faculty. To that extent, I would agree that the figures $8,132 and $10,920, awarded for past loss of housekeeping capacity are overly precise, and the award should have been expressed in more global terms. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the scale of damages is not something with which we should interfere, and thus any adjustment to the award to take account of the principle of assessment would be minor. Given this conclusion, I would not interfere with the order made.

[27] For these reasons I would dismiss the appeal.

assessment of damages, bc personal injury claims, Campbell v. Banman, dimished housekeeping capacity, Loss of Housekeeping Capcity