Ontario Court of Appeal Tries to Bring Clarity to Calculating Loss of Housekeeping Claims

by John McKiggan

Landmark Ruling Regarding Loss of Housekeeping Capacity

In the 1991 decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in Fobel v. Dean, the court confirmed that loss of housekeeping capacity has value and an injured plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for the loss of that capacity.

Nova Scotia Confirms Claims for Loss of Housekeeping

In 1998, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal confirmed that the loss of housekeeping capacity is a separate and distinct head of pecuniary damages and must be compensated for accordingly. In Carter v. Anderson, Justice Roscoe stated:

“Future loss of capacity, where proved, should be compensated separately, whether or not replacement help has been paid in the past … the partial or total loss of that ability has economic value which should be recognized.”

In the 11 years since the Carter v. Anderson decision there has been a tremendous amount of confusion experienced by lawyers, insurance companies and the courts as to how to properly calculate a loss of housekeeping capacity.

Groundbreaking Decision in Ontario

The National Post has reported on a recent “groundbreaking” decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that helps to provide some clarity. In McIntyre v. Docherty the Court of Appeal stated that in order:

“…to avoid this kind of confusion in future cases where different scenarios of housekeeping losses arise, it will be helpful if the jury can be specifically instructed regarding the type of loss at issue and the evidence in support of that loss.”

Three Types of Housekeeping Losses

The court goes on to classify three different types of housekeeping losses.

Pre-trial: Work Left Undone

Justice Susan E. Lang for the Court of Appeal:

“Where the injured plaintiff is unable to perform some or all housekeeping tasks, and where a third party [i.e. a housekeeper] does not do the work in the injured person’s stead, work will be left undone…In that situation, the injured plaintiff will experience two sorts of intangible losses compensable in an award of non-pecuniary [i.e. general] damages.”

Pre-trial: Work Can Be Done, But with Difficulty/Pain

“A plaintiff may continue to undertake housekeeping but may experience pain or difficulty in doing so…He or she may be required to work more hours post-accident to accomplish the same amount of pre-accident housekeeping. If a plaintiff thus works ‘inefficiently,’ he or his non-pecuniary award would be increased to reflect any increased pain and suffering.”

Pre-Trial: Work Done by Third Parties

“The law is well-established that where a plaintiff incurs a pre-trial, out-of-pocket loss by hiring a replacement homemaker, the plaintiff may claim the reasonable replacement costs of that homemaker as special [i.e. pecuniary] damages.”

Decision Provides Clarity

The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal is reasonable and, for the most part, mirrors the approach taken by most judges in the Nova Scotia courts. However, this decision is the first one that I have seen that clearly explains how to appropriately calculate different types of loss of housekeeping capacity.

I have been representing victims of serious personal injuries for 18 years. I wrote The Consumers Guide to Car Accident Claims in Nova Scotia and The Consumers Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada to help injured victims get fair compensation.

You can get a free copy of either the book by contacting me through this blog, visiting my website at www.apmlawyers.com or by calling me toll free at 1-877-891-1664.

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