Thursday, 22 May 2008

Sanity in the Supreme Court

Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Waddah (Martin) Mustapha is not entitled to damages for psychological damages as a result of seeing a fly in his unopened bottle of drinking water.

I have long been amazed at what trivialities courts consider worthy of hefty damages, although amazed is perhaps too nice a word.
In a 9-0 ruling issued Thursday, the Supreme Court decided that his reaction was exaggerated and that a "person of normal fortitude, a more reasonable person, would have had a more reasonable reaction," the CBC's Rosemary Barton reported from Ottawa.

"[The court ruled] it would have been impossible for Culligan Canada, the supplier of the water bottle, to foresee this sort of extreme reaction that Waddah Mustapha had," Barton said.

The court decided the psychological damages suffered by Mustapha were "too remote" to justify more than $300,000 in compensation Mustapha was seeking, and ordered him to pay the company's court costs.

In this precedent-setting ruling, the Supreme Court has effectively and unanimously declared that psychological damage has to be foreseeable before someone can be held accountable for inflicting it.

A few more rulings like this and perhaps our legal system will actually speed up as the backlog of trivial cases is cleared out and genuinely important cases have a little breathing room.

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Janna Qualman said...

How very inane. But, I commend the Supreme Court, especially for having made the man pay court costs after the fact. It's about time a silly case like this gets treated as such!

Thanks for sharing. This was interesting!

Anonymous said...

Screw the guy. But why were there flies in the water? God, the water-packer should be run out of business. Too bad -- a fine like this would have helped.

Janet said...

Jenna, I hope it happens a little more often.

Anonymous, I certainly would be happy to see more inspectors on Culligan's case for sure. But the guy in question never even opened the bottle, but claimed he developed a water phobia as a result, having difficulty drinking coffee and taking showers. Most of us would have just made a phone call and cancelled our contract with the company, and maybe called the Department of Health if we were really ticked off. That would have been a justified response.

While Culligan has won its case, I still don't think this has been the greatest publicity for them. Now the whole country knows (or those who follow the news) there was a fly in their water. They might lose enough business out of this to equal a good fine.


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