Proving Mental Injury

In its recent decision of Saadati v. Moorhead, 2017 SCC 28, the Supreme Court of Canada held that courts may award damages for mental injury based on the testimony of lay witnesses and without expert evidence establishing an identifiable medical diagnosis or condition.

The plaintiff was injured when his tractor-truck was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. The plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence, claiming he had suffered mental injury from the accident.

At the trial level, the BC Supreme Court found the accident had indeed caused the plaintiff’s psychological injury, including a personality change and cognitive difficulties. This finding was not based on an identified medical cause or expert evidence, but rather on the testimony of the plaintiff’s friends and family. These lay witnesses testified that the plaintiff was a funny, energetic, and charming individual prior to the accident, but had become sullen and prone to mood swings. His close relationships with others had deteriorated. The BC Supreme Court awarded the plaintiff $100,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

On appeal, the BC Court of Appeal reversed the trial judge’s decision, finding that the plaintiff’s claim could not succeed, as he had not demonstrated with expert evidence a medically recognized psychiatric or psychological injury.

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) restored the trial judge’s decision on the basis that a finding of legally compensable mental injury need not rest, in whole or in part, on the claimant proving a recognized psychiatric injury through expert evidence.

The law of negligence accords identical treatment to mental and physical injury.   As with physical injury, a plaintiff alleging mental injury still needs satisfy the criteria applicable to any successful action in negligence – i.e. the existence of a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, a breach of that duty, and resulting harm to the plaintiff causally connected to the breach. In the case of mental injuries specifically, the plaintiff must also demonstrate that the injury is serious, prolonged, and rises above the ordinary annoyances, anxieties, and fears that come with living in civil society.

In Saadati, the SCC emphasized that a court adjudicating a claim of mental injury should not be concerned with diagnosis, but rather symptoms and their effects. There is no necessary relationship between reasonably foreseeable mental injury and a diagnostic classification scheme; rather, the court’s inquiry should be directed to the level of harm that the claimant’s particular symptoms represent, not whether a label could be attached to them. While expert evidence can assist in determining whether or not a mental injury has been shown, such evidence is not necessary, and a court can find mental injury based on other evidence, including the testimony of family and friends.

It remains open to the defendant, in rebutting a claim, to call expert evidence establishing that the accident cannot have caused any mental injury, or at least any mental injury known to psychiatry.

Based on the foregoing principles, the SCC found no legal error in the trial judge’s treatment of the lay witness testimony concerning the plaintiff’s mental symptoms, even in the absence of expert testimony associating them with an identified condition. The SCC restored the trial judge’s award of $100,000.

Feuding Neighbours: Facebook Defamation

A defendant’s liability for posting defamatory content on social media forms the subject of a number of recent court decisions, and encompasses potential vicarious liability for responding comments or replies posted by others.

In the recent case of Pritchard v. Van Nes, 2016 BCSC 686, the Supreme Court of British Columbia awarded the Plaintiff, a teacher, significant damages against his next door neighbour for posting defamatory comments on the Facebook social media network.

The parties’ acrimonious relationship began in 2011, when the Defendant installed a fish pond along the property line. In June 2014, the Defendant made several Facebook postings about the Plaintiff, accusing him of setting up a 24-hour surveillance system to monitor her backyard and children. The postings could be viewed by all Facebook users, including her 2,000 Facebook “friends”. Her remarks, along with her friends’ replies, implied that that the Plaintiff was a pedophile.

One of the Defendant’s friends forwarded the Defendant’s initial post to the principal of the school where the Plaintiff taught. This caused the Plaintiff to suffer serious professional and personal consequences.

The Defendant did not defend the action, and the Plaintiff obtained default judgment for damages and costs to be assessed.

The court found the Defendant liable for defamation. Her Facebook posts and subsequent replies to her friends’ comments, together and by innuendo, implied that the Plaintiff was a pedophile unfit to teach, and were therefore defamatory in nature. The postings were completely false, unjustified, and resulted in serious damage to the Plaintiff’s reputation. Though the Defendant deleted the posts from her own Facebook page after a day, the Defendant did not offer a retraction or apology, and did nothing to counteract the effect of her posts having “gone viral” through her friends.

The Defendant was found liable for her friends’ republication of her defamatory postings, as republication was the natural and probable result of her posts.

The Court also found the Defendant liable for her friends’ defamatory replies to her postings. It was apparent that her Facebook page was being constantly viewed but she did not actively monitor and control the comments. She failed to delete them within a reasonable time given the gravity of the remarks and the ease with which deletion could be accomplished – i.e. immediately.

The Defendant’s liability also accounted for the actions of her friend who sent the defamatory post to the Plaintiff’s school principal. Her friend had previously advised on Facebook that he would “let the world know” about the Plaintiff, and the Court found that the Defendant’s silence effectively served as authorization for republication. She failed to warn him to not take measures on his own.

The court found that the Defendant’s thoughtless and reckless actions effectively destroyed the Plaintiff’s reputation as a teacher. He was entitled to significant general ($50,000) and punitive ($15,000) damages.

While the outcome of each case is ultimately fact specific, Pritchard showcases the heightened responsibility borne by users of social media, whose comments may be widely circulated by others and prompt dialogue that is itself defamatory and likely to attract liability on the part of the author of a defamatory ‘thread’ or remark.   The result is, in effect, to impose a positive duty on the part of social media users – to exercise care in published statements but also to monitor and curtail the responding comments of others having access to online comments, including one’s so-called “friends” to whom defamatory posts may be accessible.

Pedestrian Liability

If a pedestrian is injured by a motor vehicle, one would assume that the driver will be held liable, right?

In fact, depending on the circumstances, a pedestrian may be found partially or even completely responsible for the accident. The Alberta Traffic Safety Act sets out the legal standard in this respect.

Pursuant to section 186 of the Act, the driver bears the onus to establish that the pedestrian’s injury did not entirely or solely arise through the driver’s negligence or improper conduct. As the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench found in Yurchi v Johnston, 2006 ABQB 25, this section creates a rebuttable presumption of driver liability. The driver can rebut the presumption if the evidence demonstrates that the pedestrian contributed in a material way to the accident, and that the driver could not have avoided it by exercise of reasonable care.

In Murhula v Yetman, 2010 ABQB 655, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench held that a driver must anticipate reasonably apparent risks and exercise reasonable care in the circumstances. A pedestrian not following the rules of the road is not enough on its own to absolve the driver of this responsibility. However, the standard is not one of perfection.

There are several examples in Alberta case law where a pedestrian has been held partially or fully responsible for an accident.

The accident in Yurchi occurred at an intersection during heavy rush hour traffic. The pedestrian was wearing dark clothing, and neither he nor the driver saw each other before impact. He was rushing across the street to catch a bus and walked into the side of the driver’s vehicle. The court found the driver 2/3 liable and the pedestrian 1/3 liable. The pedestrian was in an unmarked crosswalk at the time of the collision, and the driver was preoccupied by navigating around a bus. He did not pay adequate attention to the potential of a pedestrian crossing. The pedestrian, by walking quickly in dark conditions without adequate attention to his surroundings, materially contributed to the accident.

Murhula involved a pedestrian who hit the side of a vehicle after alighting from a bus and rushing across the middle of a street without looking. The collision took place at night, and the passenger was wearing dark clothing. The court dismissed the action, finding that the driver discharged the onus under the Act. She was driving with care, it was impossible for her to see the pedestrian, and there was nothing she could have done to prevent the collision. Even if she had seen the pedestrian and stopped, he still would have struck her vehicle. Had the pedestrian looked for oncoming traffic before rushing across the street, he would have seen the driver.

The pedestrian in Bouchard (Estate of) v Chalifoux, 2004 ABQB 877, tried to run across a busy highway without looking. He was hit by the driver at high speed, sadly killing him. The court found that due to the volume and speed of the traffic, it was a vital responsibility for the pedestrian to carefully assess the traffic flow before crossing. The driver exercised reasonable care in the circumstances. When he saw the pedestrian’s car parked on the shoulder, he slowed down but did not see the pedestrian until the last possible moment. Consequently, the Court concluded that the driver was not even partially responsible for the accident.

Judgment links

Yurchi v. Johnston
Murhula v Yetman:
Bouchard (Estate of) v Chalifoux


The NJMCDirect is an online platform that allows the residents of New Jersey to pay for their traffic tickets online without the need for a manual visit to pay. NJMCDirect is owned by and operated by NJ Municipal Courts. Anyone who has violated traffic rules in New Jersey state is handed over a traffic violation ticket. Previously, the offender had to visit the New Jersey Municipal Courts and pay the fine against the ticket. This often involved waiting in long queues and albeit, it is quite embarrassing. Now, with NJMCDirect, offenders no longer need to visit the NJ Municipal Courts. They can simply visit the website, login, and pay the NJMCDirect Traffic Tickets right from the comfort of their homes.

Njmcdirect Payment Options

Once you have submitted the details of your ticket and vehicle, you will be directed to a different window where you have to submit your payment details.

NJMCDirect accepts payments from all debit and credit cards backed by popular payment gateways such as Mastercard, VSA, and Discover. However, a service fee of 3% is applicable on all payments made using the above methods.
If none of these options are viable to you, please check the reverse of your traffic ticket to find an option that best suits you.
You can check the details of your transaction on the portal which are available for the next 90 days. In case of any mishaps during the payment, contact the customer service, and lodge a complaint. Keep the complaint number handy for future reference in case you get handed a surcharge for not paying in time.

NJMCDirect Portal Payment Timings

It should be noted that the NJMCDirect portal for online payments of traffic offenses doesn’t operate 24/7. You can pay your tickets only during these stipulated payment window timings.

  • Mondays-Thursdays:0430 hours-2315 hours (EST)
  • Fridays Mondays-Thursdays:0430 hours-2215 hours (EST)
  • Saturdays:0430 hours-1515 hours (EST)
  • Sundays:1300 hours-2315 hours (EST)

Advantages of NJMC Direct

Here are some of the advantages of NJMCDirect:

  • It offers quickest online transactions.
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How to pay a parking ticket online?

Just before we get into the details of paying online through njmcdirect, I want to let you know that you can also pay your fine through in-person, mail, and online. NJMC direct is the easiest way to pay for your ticket.

Follow the step by step instructions

  • Visit the official NJMC direct site.
  • Now choose the service “ Pay a Parking Ticket.”
  • Now you need to choose the link “ pay a parking or camera violation online.”
  • Now you need to enter your license plate number or violation number.
  • Enter the state of your car registration and your car type
  • Once you give all these details, you can proceed for payment information
  • Enter payment information
  • Click submit
  • Once you submit your payment, it will get posted in 2 to 4 business days