Hergott: Courts recognize domestic duties should be valued

Does our legal system provide for some sort of compensation for lost capability to do unpaid domestic chores?

A text from my wife: “Paul…We’ve been together for almost 17 years now…And I feel like I should tell you something…The beer fridge does not refill itself.  It’s true—all these years I’ve been doing it—in the morning I take the beer off the shelf and put it in the fridge to make it cold.”

What’s next? Does the laundry not do itself; dinner not self-prepare; house not keep itself clean and orderly?

Other work, the paid work we do outside of the home, is acknowledged by a paycheque, which values that work at some hourly rate for every hour worked.

Perhaps if my wife kept a time card and billed me by the hour I would not take this important “domestic” work for granted. I might also have to get a second job!

What about if she was injured in a car crash, an injury that prevented her from being reasonably able to do some of this unpaid work?

What if our children or extended family members, perhaps a friend from time to time, stepped in to do the things she had otherwise done, also without pay?

Does our legal system provide for some sort of compensation for that lost capability even though it was not earning any dollars before the crash and hasn’t cost anything because of the free help provided since?

A very recent decision of our British Columbia Supreme Court has affirmed that the courts and our legal system value domestic duties and a loss of the capability of doing domestic work.

The judgment for Liu v. Bains, 2015 BCSC 486, was issued by Madam Justice Gray on March 31, 2015.

The person bringing the claim for fair financial compensation, Ms. Liu, had been injured in three separate motor vehicle crashes.

A hard working immigrant, Ms. Liu had worked in a commercial laundry as well as looked after the family home.

The crashes caused soft tissue injury related chronic pain that had eliminated her ability to work and to carry on with looking after the home.

The domestic duties were taken over by her relatives, primarily two daughters.

Citing well established legal precedents, Madam Justice Gray noted that fair financial compensation “…may be awarded for loss of housekeeping capacity even if the plaintiff has not incurred any actual expenses for hired services.”

Ms. Liu’s lawyer argued that, estimated conservatively, it took approximately 12 hours per week to maintain the household, an estimate which the court accepted.

How were these hours valued? Not having any evidence of what paid domestic services actually would have cost to purchase, Madam Justice Gray used the same $11.15 per hour Ms. Liu had been earning at the commercial laundry before the first crash.

The award of fair financial compensation for her loss of ability to do domestic work during the approximately five years before trial was $35,000.

Her ongoing loss of that ability in the future was separately assessed at another $35,000, for a total of $70,000 compensation for these elements of loss.

Most people with chronic pain are able to continue performing domestic work to maintain the home by pacing that work and changing how certain tasks are done so as to minimize aggravations of that pain.

For some, though, this is not reasonably achievable and justice demands that this loss of ability be fairly compensated.

Just Posted

Smoke rising from Okanagan Mountain Park hills

Lightning may have sparked a fire in the hills across from Peachland

Lightning strikes across B.C. Interior

Residents are being asked to go inside until last rumble of thunder

UPDATE: Crews battle wildfire near Big White Road

Joe Rich Fire Department responding alongside Big White Fire Department and provincial crews.

Lovesick cabaret hopes to captivate Kelowna

The one night only show is on Thursday

Half-priced cat adoptions at the Kelowna SPCA

Adult cats are 50 per cent off until July 29 at the Kelowna shelter

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

Crews attend lightning-caused fire above Summerland

Fire occurred Tuesday shortly after 7 p.m.

Hub for mental health and addictions treatment opens at B.C. hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital HUB is an acute medical unit that includes 10 patient beds

Pike Mountain fire continues to grow – quadruples in 24 hours

Fire threatens area consumed in 2017 by a 3,500 hectare blaze

Vernon Knights hire Van Horlick

New head coach of Junior B franchise in Armstrong

St. Albert knocks down Canadians

Finals of Valley of the Champions

Restaurant Brands International to review policy over poaching employees

One of Canada’s largest fast-food company to review ‘no-poach’ franchise agreements

Calgary family’s vacation ends in tragedy on Texas highway

Three people died and four others were injured in the crash

Union construction cost competitive, B.C. Building Trades say

Non-union firms can bid on infrastructure, but employees have to join international unions

Most Read