Tag: Cortisone injections

BC Court of Appeal Discusses Mitigation of Damages in Injury Claims


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal providing a useful summary of the law of mitigation of damages in the context of a personal injury lawsuit.
In this week’s case (Gregory v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision in White Rock, BC.  She was injured and sued for damages.  At trial her damages were assessed at just over $140,000 and then reduced by 10% for an alleged ‘failure to mitigate‘.  In short the trial judge held that the Plaintiff unreasonably failed to follow her doctor’s recommendation to have cortisone injections.
The Plaintiff appealed this deduction arguing that there was no evidence before the Court that these injections would have improved the Plaintiff’s symptoms.  The BC Court of Appeal agreed and overturned this deduction.  In doing so Madam Justice Garson provide the following short but useful discussion of the law of mitigation of damages in personal injury lawsuits:

[53] In Chiu v. Chiu, 2002 BCCA 618 at para. 57, this Court set out the test for failure to mitigate as follows:

[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.

[56] I would describe the mitigation test as a subjective/objective test.  That is whether the reasonable patient, having all the information at hand that the plaintiff possessed, ought reasonably to have undergone the recommended treatment.  The second aspect of the test is “the extent, if any to which the plaintiff’s damages would have been reduced” by that treatment.  The Turner case, on which the trial judge relies, uses slightly different language than this Court’s judgment in Chiu: “there is some likelihood that he or she would have received substantial benefit from it …”.

[57] In this case the trial judge found as a fact that the cortisone shots were “not necessarily curative, they reduce the inflammation… Sometimes the relief is only temporary but sometimes the injections bring long term benefits”.  She did not find that the treatment would have reduced the symptoms.  In addition there is the fact that the plaintiff reasonably believed the diagnosis was a tear and that the injections would have no healing effect on a tear.

[58] Regardless of whether the trial judge erred in finding on the evidence that it was objectively reasonable for the plaintiff to undergo the injections, I conclude that she erred in her application of the correct test, as articulated in Chiu.  The physicians testified only that it was a reasonable treatment to try, and it might afford some relief.  In my view such an opinion does not meet the threshold for reducing an award as described in Chiu.

[59] I would accede to this ground of appeal and reverse the judge’s decision to reduce the award by 10%.

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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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