By Brent L. Handel Q.C.
In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.
In personal injury claims recent Alberta Judgments have clearly stated evidence from the victim about housekeeping chores is necessary to assess past, current, and future loss of housekeeping capacity. As a result, it becomes extremely important for personal injury counsel to instruct victims to keep diaries regarding how the injuries have affected their ability to perform daily activities so that there is a record of their daily activities in the past and present. This evidence is then presented in court through the mouth of the victim.
However, when it comes to projecting the housekeeping loss into the long-term future, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, in an act of cognitive dissonance, routinely TERMINATES the future loss of housekeeping claim at age 80 based upon defence counsel arguing that termination of housekeeping services at age 80 is supported by various studies and publications.
However, if the plaintiff gives evidence that he or she will continue to do household chores past age 80 on the basis that he or she currently has a parent, for example, a father aged 86 and a mother aged 83, who continue to take care of all of their housekeeping chores (albeit in a smaller place than when they were younger), then it is inconsistent for the court to rely upon statistics for terminating housekeeping chores at age 80 rather than relying on the actual evidence of the victim.
To put it another way, if the court expects and relies on actual evidence of the victim for the past loss of housekeeping chores, then the court should also accept and abide by this evidence for the future loss of housekeeping claim and not terminate it at age 80.
Alternatively, if studies and statistics are acceptable to the court for terminating the loss of housekeeping claim at age 80 and over, than those same studies and statistics with respect to typical housekeeping chores of the victim pursuant to their current age, gender, and socioeconomic status should also be acceptable for the past loss of housekeeping claim – without the necessity of actual evidence from the victim. To hold otherwise, which the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench routinely does, is an act of cognitive dissonance which has no place on the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.