Potential value: a challenge to the quantification of damages for loss of earning capacity for female and aboriginal plaintiffs


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




This thesis questions why young female and aboriginal plaintiffs consistently receive lower damage awards for loss of future earning capacity than young white male plaintiffs. I argue that due to the social construction of law, and specifically tort law, the dividing line between public and private law should be challenged. The effect of tort is partially "public" in nature due to the broad impact tort has on valuing the potential of individual plaintiffs. When damages for female and aboriginal plaintiffs are assessed on a reduced scale due to gender and race, a message is sent that the potential of these plaintiffs, and the potential of the groups to which they belong, is somehow less. Due to the "public" impacts of damages quantification, principles of equality derived from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be considered in the quantification process. I argue further, that the current practice of damages quantification has been the result of the court's over-reliance on "formalist" notions of tort law which has insulated the area from the social context of law. In addition, I suggest that the acceptance by courts of economic evidence, which is often reflective of discriminatory norms in the labour market and our society generally, has had the effect of de-valuing certain members of Canadian society; in particular women and aboriginal plaintiffs. I demonstrate this analysis through an examination of cases dealing with young, catastrophically injured, female and aboriginal plaintiffs. Finally, I suggest that, though an imperfect solution, currently the only equitable method of quantifying damages for loss of future earning capacity is to adopt white male earning tables for all young plaintiffs with no demonstrated earning history.


Damages -- Canada; Indigenous peoples-- Legal status, laws, etc.--Canada; Women--Legal status, laws, etc.--Canada.; Indigenous Peoples--Canada--Economic conditions; Women--Canada--Economic conditions

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