Thornton v. Board of School Trustees of School District No. 57 (Prince George) et al., (1978) 19 N.R. 552 (SCC)

JudgeLaskin, C.J.C., Martland, Judson, Ritchie, Spence, Pigeon, Dickson, Beetz and de Grandpré, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court of Canada
Case DateJanuary 19, 1978
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(1978), 19 N.R. 552 (SCC);[1978] 1 WWR 607;83 DLR (3d) 480;[1978] CarswellBC 370;[1978] SCJ No 7 (QL);3 CCLT 257;19 NR 552;AZ-78111099;[1978] 2 SCR 267;1978 CanLII 12 (SCC)

Thornton v. Prince George Sch. Bd. (1978), 19 N.R. 552 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

Thornton et al. v. The Board of School Trustees of School District No. 57 et al.

Indexed As: Thornton v. Board of School Trustees of School District No. 57 (Prince George) et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

Laskin, C.J.C., Martland, Judson, Ritchie, Spence, Pigeon, Dickson, Beetz and de Grandpré, JJ.

January 19, 1978.

Summary:

This case arose out of a claim for damages for personal injuries arising out of a gymnasium accident. The plaintiff 18 year old boy suffered a fractured spine resulting in quadriplegia. The British Columbia Supreme Court in a judgment reported [1975] 3 W.W.R. 622, awarded the plaintiff $1,122,571.00 for general damages for personal injuries. The defendant appealed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which reduced the award to $210,000.00 in a judgment reported [1976] 5 W.W.R. 240. The reduction had the practical effect of committing the plaintiff to institutional care, which the medical evidence opposed. The plaintiff appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal and awarded the plaintiff $810,000.00 general damages for personal injuries. The Supreme Court of Canada applied the principles of the assessment of damages which it set out in Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd. (1978), 19 N.R. 50; 8 A.R. 102.

Damage Awards - Topic 67

Personal injuries and death - Body injuries - Fracture of spine resulting in quadriplegia - 18 year old school boy - The Supreme Court of Canada awarded the plaintiff $810,000.00 general damages for personal injuries including $65,000.00 for the purchase of a home, special motor vehicle and home care equipment, $586,989.00 for the cost of future care, $61,254.00 for loss of future earnings and $100,000.00 for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment and expectation of life - See paragraphs 19 to 41.

Damage Awards - Topic 580

Torts affecting third parties - General damages for personal care of injured person - The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed an award of $7,500.00 to a mother for the care of her quadriplegic son - See paragraph 40.

Damages - Topic 63

General principles - Considerations in assessing damages - Ability of tortfeasor to pay - The Supreme Court of Canada held that the ability of a tortfeasor to pay was not a consideration in assessing damages for personal injuries - The Supreme Court stated that fairness to the tortfeasor is achieved not by a reduction for ability to pay or an arbitrary slashing of the award but by assuring that the plaintiff's claims are legitimate and justifiable - See paragraph 21.

Damages - Topic 1008

Mitigation - Consideration of speculative remedial measures - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that in an adversary system it is the parties themselves and not the court who must come forward with claims for mitigation and with credible evidence to support those claims - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that the court should not conjure up of its own accord possibilities which have not been mooted at trial, particularly when those possibilities find no support in the evidence either on practicability or cost - See paragraph 20.

Damages - Topic 1288

Losses by third parties - Recoverable losses - General damages for personal care of injured person - The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed an award of $7,500.00 to a mother for the care of her quadriplegic son - See paragraph 40.

Damages - Topic 1502

General damages for personal injuries - General principles - Purpose or object of general damages - Quadriplegic - The Supreme Court of Canada discussed the object of an award of general damages for personal injuries with particular reference to the case of a quadriplegic - The Supreme Court of Canada noted that the revolution in rehabilitative and physical medicine of recent years had resulted in the current enlightened concept about quadriplegics, which dignified and accepted the gravely injured person as a continuing, useful member of the human race, to whom every assistance should be afforded with a view to his re-integration in society - The Supreme Court of Canada noted that formerly such persons were relegated to institutions, where they could look forward only to an early death - See paragraphs 15 to 16 and 21.

Damages - Topic 1543

General damages for personal injuries - Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment and amenities of life and other nonpecuniary damages - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that an award of $100,000.00 for non-pecuniary damages for an 18 year old quadriplegic should be regarded as an upper limit for nonpecuniary loss for similar cases - See paragraphs 37 to 38.

Damages - Topic 1546

General damages for personal injuries - Discount or capitalization rate and present value of future payments - Calculation of future loss of earnings and cost of future care of a quadriplegic - The Supreme Court of Canada adopted a discount or capitalization rate of 7% in calculating the present value of future payments - See paragraph 25.

Damages - Topic 1556

General damages for personal injuries - Calculation and method of assessment - Deduction for contingencies - The Supreme Court of Canada ordered a deduction of 20% for contingencies from an award for the cost of future care of a quadriplegic - See paragraphs 26 and 32 - The Supreme Court of Canada ordered a deduction of 10% for contingencies from an award for loss of future earnings - See paragraph 24.

Damages - Topic 1565

General damages for personal injuries - Deductions or payments to be considered - Income tax liability - The Supreme Court of Canada made no allowance for income tax in an award for future cost of care and loss of prospective earnings - See paragraph 25.

Damages - Topic 1567

General damages for personal injuries - Future care and treatment - As a result of a gymnasium accident an 18 year old school boy fractured his spine, resulting in quadriplegia - The boy required constant care for the rest of his life - Medical evidence established that he should receive home care rather than institutional care - The Supreme Court of Canada held that the boy's claim for home care was reasonable even though its cost was much greater than the cost of institutional care - See paragraphs 3 to 12, 16, 19 to 24 and 28 to 71.

Damages - Topic 1567

General damages for personal injuries - Future care and treatment - The Supreme Court of Canada held that in assessing damages to a quadriplegic the cost of future basic necessities should be deducted from the award for loss of future income and not from the award of future care - See paragraphs 13, 23 and 33.

Cases Noticed:

Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd. (1978), 19 N.R. 50; 8 A.R. 182, appld. [para. 1].

Karas v. Roulett, [1944] S.C.R. 1, appld. [para. 20].

Counsel:

R. Cummings and D. Andrews, for the appellants;

C.C.I. Merritt, Q.C. and R.B. Wallace, for the respondents.

This case was heard on June 13, 14 and 15, 1977, at Ottawa, Ontario, before LASKIN, C.J.C., MARTLAND, JUDSON, RITCHIE, SPENCE, PIGEON, DICKSON, BEETZ and de GRANDPRE JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

On January 19, 1978, DICKSON, J., delivered the following judgment for the Supreme Court of Canada:

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    ...83 D.L.R.(3d) 609; 3 C.C.L.T. 372, refd to. [para. 167]. Thornton et al. v. Board of School Trustees of School District No. 57 et al., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 267; 19 N.R. 552; 83 D.L.R.(3d) 488; [1978] 1 W.W.R. 607; 3 C.C.L.T. 257, refd to. [para. 167]. Jill Fishing Ltd. v. Koranda Management Inc.......
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62 books & journal articles
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    • Irwin Books The Law of Torts. Sixth Edition
    • 25 Junio 2020
    ...354 Thornton v Prince George School District No 57, [1978] 2 SCR 267, 83 DLR (3d) 480 .......................................................................................... 124 Three Rivers District Council v Bank of England (No 3), [2000] 2 WLR 1220 (HL) .....................................
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    ...664, 5 C.C.L.I. 251 (H.C.J.) .................................................. 307 Thornton v. Prince George School District No. 57), [1978] 2 S.C.R. 267, 83 D.L.R. (3d) 480, [1978] 1 W.W.R. 607 ..................... 113, 120, 123–25, 143 , 167, 422, 430 Ticketnet Corp. v. Air Canada (1997......
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    ............................................................................. 351 Thornton v. Prince George School District No. 57, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 267, 83 D.L.R. (3d) 480 ...................................................... 124 Three Rivers District Council v. Bank of England (No. 3), [2000......
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