Mitigation of Damages – "The Law Does Not Encourage Indolence"

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, reducing a Plaintiff’s pain and suffering award by 20% for failure to take reasonable steps to mitigate damages.
In today’s case (Rasmussen v. Blower) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear end collision.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered “whiplash type injuries” with some symptoms persisting to the time of trial.  The Court found that the Plaintiff failed to follow reasonable treatments recommended to him.  In reducing his non-pecuniary damages by 20% as a result of this Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:

[38]         The law does not encourage indolence.  An injured party has a duty to mitigate:  see Graham v. Rogers, 2001 BCCA 432, at para. 35.  In this type of case, the plaintiff must seek and follow the advice of his or her physician with the goal of overall improvement and recovery.

[39]         Regarding lack of mitigation, plaintiff’s counsel submits that the plaintiff did not follow the recommended treatment of physiotherapy and massage, stating that the two sessions that he did attend were painful, that he was constantly travelling, and that he could not afford the treatments.

[40]         The Court rejects the plaintiff’s reasons for failure to mitigate.  Realistically speaking, perseverance is often the key to allowing medical treatments a chance to work.  During the approximately three months for which the plaintiff claims past wage loss, he could have attended physiotherapy and massage sessions.  The Court is satisfied that he had sufficient funds or, as noted by defence counsel, he could have claimed Part 7 benefits (Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation, B.C. Reg. 447/83, Part 7).

[41]         The defendant did not argue that, if the plaintiff had followed the medical advice he received, the plaintiff’s injuries would have resolved within “6 months to a year or so”:  Price, supra.  The defendant stated that the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary award should be reduced by 10%-20% in order to take into account the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.  The defendant has satisfied the two-pronged test in Chiu v. Chiu, 2002 BCCA 618, set forth by the late Mr. Justice Low, writing for our Court of Appeal:

[57]      The onus is on the defendant to prove that the plaintiff could have avoided all or a portion of his loss.  In a personal injury case in which the plaintiff has not pursued a course of medical treatment recommended to him by doctors, the defendant must prove two things: (1) that the plaintiff acted unreasonably in eschewing the recommended treatment, and (2) the extent, if any, to which the plaintiff’s damages would have been reduced had he acted reasonably. These principles are found in Janiak v. Ippolito, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 146.

[42]         The Court will reduce the non-pecuniary award it would otherwise have ordered by 20%.  The plaintiff failed to mitigate by not following the reasonable treatments recommended to him.  He also consumed alcohol in quantity which, pragmatically viewed, probably reduced or nullified the effectiveness of the prescribed medications.

bc injury law, failure to mitigate, mitigation of damages, Mr. Justice Funt, Rasmussen v. Blower

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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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