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Plaintiff Compensated Two Years Salary for "Delayed Graduation" Claim

Just as loss of wages are compensable in personal injury claims, if an injury delays a person’s entry into the workforce the law in BC recognizes that the financial repercussions that flow from this are recoverable.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this principle.
In last week’s case (Rezaei v. Piedale) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  Fault was admitted.  Due to the Plaintiff’s injuries she scaled back from intended full time courses to a part time course load at University.  As a result her graduation, and expected entry into the workforce was delayed by two years.  The Court addressed this by awarding damages equivalent to two years income.  In doing so Mr. Justice Voith provided the following comments regarding delayed graduation claims:
[87]         The plaintiff’s former high school principal, Mr. Li, testified that he recalled Ms. Rezaei and that she was a good student who was engaged in her high school. She was a likely scholarship candidate. He said that there was no reason she would not have been able to take a full course load at university and that most students with her academic background did. In her first and second terms of Grade 12, she had an 85% and 83.75% overall average, respectively. In her third term, after the Accident, her average was 53.25%. She ultimately graduated with a 78.1% average for her Grade 12 year. Both the plaintiff and Ms. Toghiani-Risi said that the plaintiff had expected to take a full course load when she went to university. I accept the foregoing evidence and consider that this was an entirely realistic expectation on the part of the plaintiff.
[88]         In the ensuing years at Simon Fraser University, the plaintiff has generally taken a part-time course load. She has often taken additional courses at the outset of an academic term only to later drop them. She has had to repeat certain courses to improve her grades. The details of what has happened from term to term are of no moment. The fact is that, at this point, her graduation has been delayed by at least one year and seven months, from May 2013 to December 2014. She requires 120 credits to graduate; she currently has 67 credits.
[89]         The plaintiff’s anticipated graduation date is premised on her taking and carrying a full-time course load henceforth, something she has not yet done. It is further premised on her studying in the summers, or at least part of them, and on being able to take the courses that she requires in the summer. If she is unable to graduate by April 2015, her plans to go to graduate school and obtain a Master’s Degree would be further delayed.
[90]         Ms. Rezaei presently plans to work in public health or health administration. The expert report of Mr. Peever, an economist, establishes that $35,000 per annum represents an average salary for the jobs that the plaintiff might be suited for when she graduates. No objection was taken to that figure.
[91]         The defendants sought to argue that the plaintiff could have made up some time by taking more courses in the summer. The plaintiff did say that she has, at times, chosen to work during the summer rather than study. She also said that she felt she needed a break. Dr. Frank has opined that “her persistence in schooling even though she was significantly disabled has been impressive”. Dr. Robinson stated that “[h]er accident related symptoms have been an impediment in pursuing her postsecondary education.”
[92]         Counsel for the defendants, in his submissions, said that he did not question the plaintiff’s efforts to reasonably mitigate her losses. Yet, the foregoing submission directly engages the issue of mitigation. The onus of establishing that a plaintiff has not acted reasonably to mitigate his or her losses falls on the defendant. In this case, the defendants have not satisfied that onus. I would also observe that this issue is somewhat artificial. Had the plaintiff gone to school during the summers, her summer wage loss claim would have increased. The amount that she originally anticipated earning while working at her mother’s daycare approximates the amount that she hopes to earn on graduation.
[93]         The plaintiff’s present claim, in conceptual terms, is supported by each of Pelkinen v. Unrau, 2008 BCSC 375 at para. 98; and Williams v. Nekrasoff, 2008 BCSC 1520 at para. 36.
[94]         The plaintiff’s graduation has already been delayed. I find this delay was caused by the Accident. I also consider that there is a real and substantial possibility that her graduation may be further delayed. I consider that a total delay of two years is likely for the plaintiff’s graduation. Accordingly, I award the sum of $70,000 for this head of loss.

bc injury law, Delayed Graduation, Mr. Justice Voith, Rezaei v. Piedale

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