Assessment of damages in wrongful birth cases

Gerald Robertson is a Professor of Law at the University of Alberta, and a practising barrister and solicitor in the areas of civil litigation and personal injury. He is co-author of Legal Liability of Doctors and Hospitals in Canada (3rd ed.). He is also a director of the Robertson Personal Injury Newsletter, an on-line weekly digest of all personal injury judgments in Canada decided over the previous week, along with current developments in the area of personal injury litigation. More information about the Robertson Personal Injury Newsletter can be found at www.rpin.ca.

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Experience-Rating of Automobile Insurance: A Good Idea that Won’t Work

In this article Christopher Bruce identifies some of the weaknesses of legislation that requires automobile insurance companies to use “experience rating” – a system in which the only factor that determines your premiums is your driving record.

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Duty to Care for Orphaned Minors

In this article Christopher Bruce considers cases in which the courts have been asked to calculate the loss of dependency of orphaned minors – who have been taken into the care of close relatives. The important issue that is raised by this arrangement is whether the expenditures incurred by the surrogate parents should be set off against the children’s loss of dependency on their natural parent(s).

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Destruction of evidence

In this article Christopher Bruce discusses situations in which information required to establish negligence remains in the possession of one of the parties. In the absence of any penalties, a party who believes that this evidence may suggest that he or she should be held liable will have an incentive to destroy the evidence.

The purpose of Dr. Bruce’s article is to develop a model of the legal process that will offer insight into the determination of legal remedies for the destruction of evidence by a defendant. He bases this model on the assumption that the first role of such remedies must be to discourage the defendant from destroying any information that might reasonably be expected to assist the court in the determination of liability.

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The awarding of costs and payment of legal fees in a case brought before the Court: is there a potential injustice?

This article shows that there may be a potential injustice due to the tax treatment of an employee-plaintiff versus a corporate-defendant. We show that the costs imposed on a losing employee-plaintiff impose a greater burden than the same level of costs imposed on a losing corporate defendant. This is because the employee-plaintiff must such pay costs with after-tax dollars, but the corporate defendant can use before-tax dollars.

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Case Comment: Boston v. Boston

The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled in the case of Boston v. Boston. This was a case involving the variation of spousal support at the time of the husband’s retirement. He retired in 1997 and began to receive his pension. He applied to have the original support payment reduced, on the grounds that he was now paying support from his pension, which had already been considered in the original division of assets. It was argued that the wife had traded off her right to half the pension, and in return had received the bulk of the physical and other assets. He succeeded in having the monthly payment lowered from $3,200 to $950, but the Ontario Court of Appeal increased the figure back to $2,000. The husband was appealing that last OCA decision in the Supreme Court.

The SCC’s decision allowed the husband’s appeal and restored the motions judge’s decision to reduce support to $950 per month. This was in my view correct, as it would appear to be unjust that the wife should receive half of an asset at separation, and then be allowed to claim part of the husband’s half of that asset later.

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Case Comment: Madge v. Meyer

This article concerns a case in which there was no apparent loss of income following a farm owner’s injury. Mr. Beesley notes that it is critical to separate the farm income generated through the assistance of a friend or family member from the income earned by the injured farm owner. If the income generated by an unpaid (or underpaid) worker is attributed to the injured owner then the injured person’s loss of income could be greatly underestimated.

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Applying Economic Analysis to Tort Law

In this article Christopher Bruce expands the use of economic analysis in tort law. Dr. Bruce identifies the distinguishing characteristics of the economic approach versus the more traditional methods of legal analysis. This is the first of a series of articles to follow regarding the economic analysis of torts.

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The Role of the Expert Witness in Developing “New” Law

In this article Christopher Bruce explores the role of the expert witness. He delineates both the advantages and disadvantages to the legal system when an expert adopts a “constructive” rather than a “passive” approach. While recognising the pitfalls with either approach, he points out the potential benefits that may accrue when the specialist is allowed to bring his/her expertise to bear, shedding light upon the complexities of personal injury litigation.

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D’Amato v. Badger – Complications Arising when the Plaintiff is a Business Partner

In this article Christopher Bruce and Scott Beesley bring clarity to some of the complex issues that surround the loss of income which arises when the proprietor of a small business is injured. In particular, they deal with the situation encountered in the recent Supreme Court decision of D’Amato v. Badger, in which D’Amato was a partner in a small business. The issue of compensation became clouded because D’Amato, through his partner’s generosity, was in receipt of a wage post-accident that exceeded the value of his contribution, given his compromised condition.

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The “Lost Years” Deduction

In this article Christopher Bruce deals with the current issue of appropriate compensation for the “lost years” of a plaintiff with reduced life expectancy. One of the approaches discussed includes the view that the plaintiff should be compensated for the lost earnings which remain after the cost of necessities is deducted. Further clarification is required on this issue to establish an estimated cost for “necessities.”

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Distinguishing Between Loss of Income and Loss of Earning Capacity: The B.C. Case of Pallos v. I.C.B.C.

In this article Scott Beesley provides an analysis of the implications of the British Columbia case, Pallos v. I.C.B.C. In Pallos, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that although the plaintiff had returned to his former employer, earning as much as he had prior to the accident, his injuries acted to reduce his future “earning capacity.” He was awarded $40,000 on this head of damages. Mr. Beesley shows that the approach adopted in Pallos is an extension of a widely-used concept, “weighted average.”

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Shortened Life Expectency: The “Lost Years” Calculation

In this article Scott Beesley analyses the impact which a reduced life expectancy has on the plaintiff’s claim for loss of future earnings – the “lost years deduction.” In a future issue, this discussion will be extended to the calculation of losses in fatal accident actions in which the deceased has left no dependents – following from the Alberta decisions in Galand and Duncan.

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Loss of Earnings for Wrongful Confinement and Wrongful Sterilization: The Case of Leilani Muir

In this article Christopher Bruce offers a brief comment on the case Muir v. Alberta, in which damages were awarded to the plaintiff because she was wrongfully confined in a home for the mentally defective and was wrongfully sterilized. However, the court denied her loss of earnings claim.

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