Expert Evidence and Diagnosis Not Required to Prove Damages for Mental Illness

Posted June 6, 2017

The Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark decision on June 2, 2017, in the matter of Saadati v. Moorhead. In short, the Court held that Plaintiffs claiming damages arising from a mental or psychological illness are not required to adduce expert psychiatric evidence to receive compensation for their damages, nor must they have been diagnosed with a recognizable psychiatric illness.

The Court, as written by Brown J., unanimously stated:

This Court has, however, never required claimants to show a recognizable psychiatric illness as a precondition to recovery for mental injury. Nor, in my view, would it be desirable for it to do so now. Just as recovery for physical injury is not, as a matter of law, conditioned upon a claimant adducing expert diagnostic evidence in support, recovery for mental injury does not require proof of a recognizable psychiatric illness. This and other mechanisms by which some courts have historically sought to control recovery for mental injury are, in my respectful view, premised upon dubious perceptions of psychiatry and of mental illness in general, which Canadian tort law should repudiate. Further, the elements of the cause of action of negligence, together with the threshold stated by this Court in Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 114, at para. 9, for proving mental injury, furnish a sufficiently robust array of protections against unworthy claims. I, therefore, conclude that a finding of legally compensable mental injury need not rest, in whole or in part, on the claimant proving a recognized psychiatric illness.

Saadati marks a significant victory for personal injury victims of mental and psychological harm and their lawyers. It is a recognition that psychological injuries are no less real and can be no less devastating than physical injuries. It is also a denouncement of the stigma often attached to those who suffer from mental illness. The Court’s Judgment marks an important advancement in both personal injury law and in Canadian society, more generally.

If you have any questions, please contact personal injury lawyer Deanna Gilbert at 416-868-3205 or by EMAIL.

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