Zeke* called. He tripped over a beer case and fell down the stairs, and was banged and bruised as a result. Further inquiry revealed that he tripped over the beer case because he hadn’t paid the hydro bill and it was therefore dark… and yes, he had indeed been drinking some at the time. (*his name wasn’t Zeke – I re-named him because I think it suits him better. If your name is Zeke, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. If you are the person that called, this story is not about you.)
Does Zeke have a case?
Let me count the ways:
- Liability. Zeke is the author of his own misfortune. Nobody except Zeke played a role in this incident. In order to proceed – someone else must be at fault. You can proceed if you are partially at fault and someone else is partially at fault – but your damages will be reduced by that portion for which you are responsible. In Zeke’s case, he is 100% at fault and his damages are reduced to zero.
- Injury. Zeke’s bangs and bruises will heal quickly and he’ll be fine. These injuries are trivial in nature and will not attract an award of damages. Certainly, the expense of pursuing the claim will be prohibitive. (I’m not sure I’d even buy Zeke a beer for his troubles if I heard this story at the pub.)
- Causation. It is necessary to be able to prove that the incident caused the injury complained of, in order to proceed. This is not always straight-forward. For example, a person sustains a fractured ankle in a car accident and is laid up for 2 weeks. They later form a blood clot that causes further difficulty. Is the blood clot related to the incident, directly or indirectly? Tough question – and one the person will have to prove, through medical evidence, if he wants damages for the clot-related impairments as well as the ankle. In Zeke’s case, the bumps and bruises he sustained directly relate to / were caused by the fall incident. Sadly, while Zeke can establish causation, he failed on the liability and injury tests and has no claim.
When assessing every claim, we have to consider liability, injury and causation. You have to have a solid case on all three grounds in order to proceed.
Sorry, Zeke. Hope this is helpful to the rest of you.Heidi