No Reduction of Maximum Non-pecuniary Damages In Face of Large Pecuniary Damages Award

In the well-known case of Sandhu v. Wellington Place Apartments, the jury awarded to the plaintiff non-pecuniary general damages of $311,000. This is the current value of the $100,000 maximum award established by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1970’s. The jury also awarded damages for income loss in the amount of $1,166,283 and $10,942,908.00 for the cost of future care.

The defendants asked the trial judge, Madam Justice Carolyn Horkins, to strike several parts of the jury’s decision. In relation to the non-pecuniary damages, they argued that “[the plaintiff’s] future care award will improve the quality of his life and for this reason the defendants say that he no longer qualifies as one of the worst cases entitled to receive the maximum amount for non-pecuniary damages”. Justice Horkins rejected the argument as “unsupportable”, saying that “[t]he defendants’ position suggests that only a plaintiff who is in a vegetative state and unaware of the care provided would qualify for the upper limit. Everyone else would be able to appreciate and enjoy the benefit of the future care award and according to the defendants should receive something less.”

The defence also challenged the very large future care award, pointing out that it exceeded even the highest of three options put to the jury at trial by plaintiff’s counsel. However, Justice Horkins also refused to give effect to this submission. She said that the jury had “been given the tools” to make the calculation and had done so. She noted that the jury had not been given a maximum figure.

Finally, Her Honour poured a lot of cold water on the defendants’ request, that she re-assess the disputed damages, even if she dismissed the motion to strike the jury’s decision. She felt that this would call into question the entire system of trial by jury.

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