The Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave in the decision of
Moorhead, which addresses the law surrounding compensable
damages for psychiatric or psychological illness. The Supreme
Court's granting of leave may signal a desire to clarify the
law on whether or not such damages are compensable in the absence
of a medically recognized and diagnosed illness or condition.
On July 5, 2005, Mr. Saadati was driving a tractor-trailer,
without the trailer, when his vehicle was impacted by a large SUV
(the "Accident"). Mr. Saadati was assessed at the scene
by paramedics but not transported to hospital. The Accident was one
of five Mr. Saadati was involved in between January 2003 and March
2009. Mr. Saadati commenced a lawsuit as a result of the Accident
alleging physical and brain injuries.
The trial judge awarded Mr. Saadati $100,000 in damages. The
trial judge found that Mr. Saadati had not experienced either
physical injury or brain injury as a result of the Accident.
Rather, the trial judge found Mr. Saadati experienced psychological
injury for which he should be compensated. This finding was based
solely on the evidence of Mr. Saadati's various family members
who testified he was a changed man after the Accident.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed the action siding
with the Appellant. The Appellant argued the law was clear - in
order for damages for psychiatric or psychological illness to be
compensable a plaintiff must first prove he or she suffers from a
medically recognized psychiatric or psychological illness or
condition. The Court of Appeal went on to reject Mr. Saadati's
counterargument that the law was changed as a result of the Supreme
Court's ruling in Mustafa v. Culligan of Canada
Ltd. ("Mustafa"). Mr. Saadati argued
Mustafa had lowered the threshold for establishing
psychiatric damages by not requiring a plaintiff to show his or her
condition was medically recognized.
The Court of Appeal also commented on the issue of procedural
fairness stating that the trial judge should not have decided the
case on the basis of matters not pled nor argued.
The Supreme Court's granting of leave suggests a desire to
clarify the law surrounding compensable damages for psychiatric or
psychological illness and the evidentiary requirements associated
with such allegations.
We will continue to monitor this appeal and report back on the
Supreme Court's decision once released.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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