Calculating loss of future earning capacity is often a complex task for BC courts. The B.C Court of Appeal recently sought to provide some guidance on the issue in Layes decision, when faced with calculating loss of future earning capacity that is difficult to predict.
The plaintiff suffered serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident. She was in her mid-twenties and did not have a settled pattern of employment.
At trial, although the trial judge accepted that the plaintiff lost some earning capacity generally, the trial judge concluded that the evidence did not establish that the plaintiff’s injuries caused her inability to retain employment in her chosen career field, journalism.
The trial judge ultimately awarded $200,000 to the plaintiff for loss of future earning capacity.
The plaintiff appealed the awarded, citing it was inordinately low and argued that the trial judge erred law by relying on case law instead of the particular facts and evidence presented at trial.
Decision & Findings
On appeal, the Court found there was no error made by the trial judge in relying on case law to determine the amount of loss.
The plaintiff's lack of a settled pattern of employment and career path did not support the fact specific approach to loss of future earning capacity as suggested by the plaintiff.
The Court also concluded that the trial judge (properly) determined that there was no reliable factual mathematical basis to calculate the plaintiff’s loss of future earning capacity for specific employment positions, as the trial judge found no causal link between the plaintiff injuries and her inability to keep positions in her chosen career field.
The Court noted that in these types of cases, where loss of future earning capacity is difficult to predict, a global (holistic) approach should be adopted.
The Court found no error in the global approach or the amount of the award adopted by the trial judge in this case. The court rejected the proposition that awards for future loss of earning capacity and awards for past wage loss must bear some numerical or directly proportional relationship to each other. The Court stated that while trial judge concluded that although there may be some duties that the plaintiff could not perform, the key finding (not challenged on appeal) was that the plaintiff was able to work full-time and had numerous jobs available to her.
The full decision can be found here:
Layes v. Stevens, 2018 BCCA 415