A recent British Columbia supreme court decision considered a claim for loss of opportunity to marry.  The case of Wilhelmson v. Dumma concerned the female plaintiff’s claim for damages after she suffered significant injuries in a motor vehicle accident.  Her claim and the resulting decision concerned a number of interesting legal issues in the assessment of damages following catastrophic injury.  One of the claims considered was a claim for the loss of opportunity to marry.  Madam Justice Sharma explained that this claim is for damages for the loss of forming an interdependent relationship that would be expected to produce financial benefits.  The test for establishing the claim is has the plaintiff established that there is a real and substantial possibility that the plaintiff has been impaired in her ability to enter into a permanent relationship.  An award for the loss of opportunity to marry is a recognition that with the loss of interdependency comes a loss of the benefit of increased income, shared expenses and shared homemaking.  An award for the loss of opportunity to marry is not meant to compensate a plaintiff for the loss of a particular relationship.

Madam Justice Sharma’s conclusions with respect to the claim for loss of opportunity to marry are found at paragraph 340 where she states the following:

[340]  Given that her psychiatric prognosis is guarded, I find the evidence does prove on a balance of probabilities that her ability to form a permanent interdependent relationship has been impaired.  The test is only that she establish that there is a real and substantial possibility she will be impaired; she does not have to prove she will not enter an interdependent relationship, but only that her capacity and ability to do so has been impaired.  The evidence easily and clearly meets that test.  She is entitled to an award to compensate her for that loss.

Madam Justice Sharma then took into consideration expert evidence to assist her in calculating the loss associated with the loss of opportunity to marry.  This evidence analyzed different family incomes and the impact of jointly shared expenses that is associated with an interdependent relationship.  This formed the basis of her assessment of the additional income that would be necessary for the plaintiff to achieve the income she would have enjoyed had she been in an interdependent relationship.  An award of $325,000 for this loss was assessed.