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October 29, 2014

The Importance of Certainty When Pursuing the Deduction of Collateral Benefits

The jury in Gilbert v. South et al., 2014 ONSC 3485 (CanLII), awarded the plaintiff general damages, future care costs and damages for past and future income loss and loss of housekeeping.

The plaintiff had been injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2010. The plaintiff’s injuries were non-catastrophic. He was entitled to certain statutory accident benefits including up to $100,000 for medical and rehabilitation, subject to a 10-year time period.

The plaintiff had received some medical benefits totalling $14,822.50 and housekeeping benefits totaling $14,822.50. The plaintiff had neither applied for nor received income replacement benefits or attendant care benefits and the time period to receive same had expired. The time period had also expired for the plaintiff to receive future housekeeping benefits. The defendant did not seek relief in relation to the benefits that may have been available to the plaintiff but were not pursued.

Prior to judgment being formally entered, the defendant brought a motion seeking various forms of relief relating to “certain future statutory accident benefits and other collateral benefits” received or to be received by the plaintiff.

The defendant relied on s.267.8 of the Insurance Act which in certain prescribed circumstances imposes trust, payment and assignment obligations on plaintiffs who in motor vehicle accident cases obtain certain types of litigated recovery for losses which also may be addressed by certain collateral benefits (para 8).

Justice Leach set out the general principals relating to the application of this section, including the following (pars 9):

·         the object of these provisions is to prevent “double recovery” by the plaintiff. The provisions assume that the plaintiff has obtained, through litigation, damages covering the same loss otherwise covered by the collateral benefits;


·         concern of double-recovery is balanced by concern that a plaintiff should receive full compensation and not recover less than that to which he is entitled. Statutory provisions of this nature are strictly interpreted and applied;


·         deductions from a plaintiff’s damage award to prevent double-recovery will be made only if it is absolutely clear that the plaintiff’s entitlement to such collateral benefits is certain, and the plaintiff received compensation for the same benefits in the tort judgment. Evidence of “likelihood” and “probability” is not enough to warrant a deduction. A “very strict onus of proof” applies in relation to such matters, and it must be “patently clear” that the preconditions for an appropriate deduction have been established.

Justice Leach held that there were too many uncertainties as to entitlement and overlap to grant the relief requested and the defendant’s motion was denied. There was no evidence as to the total amount or the nature of statutory accident benefits the plaintiff would definitely receive.

A further obstacle to the relief requested by the defendant was that the jury awarded the plaintiff $57,250.00 for “future care costs” but the jury did not indicate, and was not asked to indicate, the extent to which any of this amount was allocated to the time period during which the plaintiff may be entitled to medical and rehabilitation benefits. Of importance, Justice Leach notes that this uncertainty may have been avoided by the posing of more specific questions to the jury.
This decision stresses the importance of quantifying future entitlement to collateral benefits in advance of trial and the importance of taking care to ask the necessary questions of the jury in order to identify any overlap between the tort award and collateral benefits.

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