Saadati v. Moorhead, 2017 SCC 28

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently held that a plaintiff is not required to be diagnosed by an expert with a specific psychological injury in an action for damages.

The trial Judge found that the plaintiff had suffered psychological injuries, based on the witness testimony of friends and family, that the plaintiff’s personality had changed and that he demonstrated cognitive difficulties following his injury. The finding of injury was not based on any specific medical diagnoses. The trial Judge determined that this evidence was satisfactory in demonstrating impairment. The defendant appealed, and the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal on the grounds that the plaintiff had not demonstrated, by expert opinion, evidence of a medically recognized psychiatric or psychological injury. The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada which disagreed with the Court of Appeal that an expert’s diagnosis of a specific impairment was required in order to recover damages.

On behalf of the Supreme Court, Justice Brown held:

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..…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.