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Recovering Damages for Psychological Injuries

After experiencing a tragic and life-altering accident, individuals often experience nightmares, flashbacks, fears, anxiety, disturbed sleep, exhaustion, and depression. In certain cases, individuals suffering from any of the aforementioned post-traumatic ailments may be entitled to compensation. In the landmark Supreme Court of Canada case, Mustapha v. Culligan, the Plaintiff claimed psychological damages after he found a fly in his water bottle. Chief Justice McLachlin, writing for the majority of the Court, found that although the Plaintiff was owed a duty of care and the Defendant breached this duty, the nature of the purported psychiatric illness was not reasonably foreseeable “in a person of ordinary fortitude”.

This case cemented the threshold for claiming any psychological damages. A Plaintiff must establish the following two (2) elements in order to recover psychological damages:

1) The psychiatric damage suffered was a foreseeable consequence of the negligent conduct; and

2) The psychiatric damage was so serious that it resulted in a recognizable psychiatric illness.

Unfortunately for Mr. Mustapha, his psychiatric damage was not a foreseeable consequence of seeing a fly in a water bottle.

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