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Athey v Leonati [1996] 3 SCR 458, 140 DLR (4th) 235

Facts:

P suffered back injuries from two motor accidents, a precondition and ultimately a disc herniation during a mild stretching exercise.

Issue(s):

Where there is non-tortious conduct, how much is the tortfeaser responsible for?

Ratio:

All of it, apportionment is not appropriate here because the ultimate goal of torts is to compensate the victim for their full damages.

Analysis:

Generally, we use the “but for” test, where that is unworkable, we ask whether the tortious conduct “materially contributed” to the occurrence of the injury.
-Really, there are always multiple contributing causes to an injury some of which may be non-tortious
-Apportionment is appropriate in these cases but not where one contributor is not tortious because:
--Multiple tortfeasers: There apportionment is justified by statutes, and ultimately each tortfeaser is responsible for the full sum anyway
--Divisible Injuries: This is not truly apportionment because the contributions are to different whole injuries
--Adjustment for Contingencies: This is not apportionment, rather it is a way of discounting future potential damages based on their likelihood of occurrence. Past contributions are treated as certain (i.e. 100%) once they are proven beyond a balance of probabilities
--Intervening Act: In the case of an independent condition unaffected by the accident (e.g. Jobling), it can be factored into P’s “original position” that tort damages must return them to; however, where the accident is a contributing factor to another injury, then it is not part of the original position but stems from the tort.
--Thin Skull: You only award damages for the injury caused above and beyond what the pre-existing condition would have already caused, or might have likely led to.
--Loss of Chance Doctrine: P may be compensated if their only loss is a loss of chance to get a good opportunity or avoid a bad one. Here though there wasn’t only a contribution to the risk of injury but an actual contribution to the injury itself.
-“If the injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accidents caused or contributed to the disk herniation, then the defendants are fully liable for the damages flowing from the herniation.
--If it was necessary it definitely qualifies for causation
--If it was a sufficient, but a pre-existing condition was also sufficient, then the judgement must decide on a balance of probabilities whether the injury made a material contribution
---In this case, although the pre-existing condition played a much larger rule, the injuries still made a material contribution.

Holding:

D responsible for all the damages.


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