Barrie Lawyers Discuss: The Importance of Housekeeping and Home Maintenance Claims and the “Threshold”
Many victims of motor vehicle accidents may be surprised to hear that Ontario’s legislation requires them to show that their injuries meet certain requirements before the court can compensate them for their health care and rehabilitation expenses. These requirements are known in the legal community as “the threshold”. However, not all losses are subject to this threshold.
According to the Ontario Superior Court in Sabourin v Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co, plaintiffs’ injuries do not need to meet the threshold in order for the court to award damages for the value of losses in housekeeping and home maintenance services. (1) In other words, if a car accident diminishes a plaintiff’s ability to perform household and home maintenance tasks, then the plaintiff may still recover the value of these lost services even if the injury is not severe enough to meet the threshold requirements.
Section 267.5(3) of the Insurance Act states that victims of a motor vehicle collision can only sue for health care and rehabilitation expenses if their injuries meet the following standard:
(a) permanent serious disfigurement; or
(b) permanent serious impairment of an important physical, mental or psychological function. (2)
In other words, if a judge decides that a plaintiff’ s injuries are not severe enough to be 1) permanent, 2) serious, and 3) important, then the court cannot award any damages for any treatment or rehabilitation expenses. (3)
The purpose of this legislation was to reduce motor vehicle insurance premiums by limiting the number of smaller claims for which plaintiffs could recover losses. (4) The result has been that victims of motor vehicle accidents are barred from recovering any damages for their treatment and rehabilitation expenses unless they can establish that their resulting injuries are sufficiently severe.
The court in Sabourin, however, decided that plaintiffs’ injuries do not need to meet the threshold for all claims. In Sabourin, the plaintiff claimed that she had suffered injuries to the soft tissues in her neck and shoulder. She alleged that the accident rendered her unable to perform many of the tasks required for home maintenance and housekeeping, and she therefore sued for the value of the housekeeping and home maintenance services that she would be unable to perform over her lifetime. Her injuries, however, did not appear severe enough to meet the threshold. Defending counsel argued that she was essentially claiming compensation for her medical and rehabilitation expenses, and that she was barred from recovering these expenses. (5)
Valin J of the Ontario Superior Court decided that defense counsel’s argument was not persuasive. The plaintiff’s claim was not for her treatment and rehabilitation expenses, but for the value of household and home maintenance services that she could no longer perform. He argued that the Insurance Act and its related legislation had placed health care and rehabilitation expenses under a different heading than housekeeping and home maintenance losses. The Insurance Act only subjected medical and rehabilitation expenses to the threshold, but never said the same about housekeeping and home maintenance losses. Therefore, the legislature could not have intended for housekeeping and home maintenance losses to be subject to the threshold. The plaintiff was entitled to recover for the value of her losses in housekeeping and home maintenance services, and received $70,250 in damages. (6)
At a time that they need it most, the decision in Sabourin is favourable to plaintiffs in motor vehicle cases. Although Ontario’s legislation generally limits compensation for injuries that meet the “threshold”, Sabourin has established that the value of housekeeping services are not subject to this standard. An injury from a car accident need not be serious, permanent, and important before the plaintiff can recover for the loss of housekeeping and home maintenance services.
-  OJ No 1425, 176 ACWS (3d) 1034.
- See Insurance Act, RSO 1990 c I.8, s 267.5(3)
- Sabourin, paras 75-77.
- Ibid, para 74.
- Ibid, paras 102-105.
- Ibid, paras 106-112. For Valin J’s discussion on quantum of damages, see paras 121-130. See also Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, RRO 1990 Reg 672, ss 15(2) and 22.