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Mitigation of Damages and Chronic Obesity

When a Plaintiff fails to take reasonable steps to recover from injury their right to compensation can be reduced accordingly.  Reasons for judgement were released yesterday addressing this topic in the context of pre-existing obesity.
In yesterday’s case (Deligilgio v. British Columbia (Puclic Safety and Solicitor General)) the Plaintiff suffered a back injury as a result of a 2009 collision.  The Plaintiff struggled with obesity.  The evidence suggested that weight loss could help reduce the Plaintiff’s back symptoms.  The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff’s damages should be reduced due to the Plaintiff’s failure to lose weight.
Madam Justice Gropper rejected this argument finding the Plaintiff made “contextually reasonable and sincere efforts” to deal with his weight issues.  In rejecting the Defendant’s argument the Court provided the following sensible reasons:

[87] Once the plaintiff establishes that the defendant is liable for his injuries, the burden shifts to the defendant. In order to prove that the plaintiff did not meet his duty to mitigate, the defence must prove that he acted unreasonably and that reasonable conduct would have reduced or eliminated the loss. Whether the plaintiff acted reasonably is a factual question: Gilbert v. Bottle, 2011 BCSC 1389 at para. 202. Gilbert continues at para. 203:

A relevant circumstance in cases such as this is the plaintiff’s personality and condition before and after the accident. The law does not require a plaintiff to do that which cannot be controlled, nor does it require perfection in the pursuit of rehabilitation. In addition, the defendant must take the victim as found, which may affect what is to be reasonably expected. For example, a person who has struggled with life-long obesity may not be expected to lose substantial weight to discharge the duty to mitigate, even though weight loss would assist recovery. What the law requires is that the plaintiff makes contextually reasonable and sincere efforts to limit his or her damages and loss [citations omitted].

[emphasis added]

[88] The evidence is clear that Mr. Del Giglio has struggled with lifelong obesity. He has attempted to lose weight in accordance with his doctor’s advice and has been somewhat successful. The plaintiff asserts that with assistance, including physiotherapy, kinesiology, the healthy heart program, a dietician and a gym membership he will likely lose weight and build his core strength.

[89] I find that Mr. Del Giglio has made “contextually reasonable and sincere efforts” to lose weight, but would benefit considerably from professional assistance. I disagree with the defendants that his damages should be reduced to reflect his reflected failure to mitigate. The defendants have not proven a failure to mitigate.

bc injury law, Deligiglio v. British Columbia (Public Safety and Solic, failure to mitigate, Madam Justice Gropper, Obesity