Foundational legal issues

"It happened on 19th April 1964.  It was bluebell time in Kent"

This is the opening line of Lord Denning's judgment in Hinz v. Berry, [1970] 2 Q.B. 40, [1970] 2 W.L.R. 684, [1970] 1 All E.R. 1074. This case dealt with the issue of damages for nervous shock or post traumatic stress disorder.



  • The All England law reports – on-site at Courthouse Libraries
  • "Torts". By William Binchy, 6 Ottawa Law Review 511 (1973-1974) – on-site at Courthouse Libraries through HeinOnline

The Damages Trilogy is a reference to three Supreme Court of Canada decisions from 1978, all of which involved catastrophically injured youths. These decisions helped shape the law regarding personal injury compensation in Canada. They created a rough upper monetary limit for non-pecuniary damages, but established that pecuniary damages were not subject to such ceilings. Except in exceptional circumstances, the limit for non-pecuniary damages was set at $100,000. This figure has since been increased to take inflation into account and now sits in the $350,000 range.

The three judgments that make up the Damages Trilogy:

Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd. 

Young adult rendered quardriplegic in a traffic accident - Principles in the assessment of damages

Arnold v. Teno 

Young child struck by car while recrossing street after purchasing ice cream from vending truck - Apportionment of liability - Assessment of damages

Thorton v. Prince George School District No. 57 

Teenager rendered quardriplegic in an accident in a physical education class - Principles in the assessment of damages


Sometimes referred to as "the castle principle", the origins of the phrase “a man’s home is his castle” can be traced back to the English case Semayne's Case, which discusses sheriffs entering a house to seize goods.

A Supreme Court of Canada Case that refers to the Semayne Case and deals with the same issues is R. v. Colet. This case concerns a property owner refusing entry to police with a warrant to seize firearms.


  • Semayne's Case, (1604) 77 E.R. 194 – on-site at Courthouse Libraries and through HeinOnline 
  • R. v. Colet, [1981] 1 S.C.R. 2 

In Lloyd, DeBeck & Partners Ltd. v. Cumis Life Insurance Company, 1984 CanLII 744 (BC CA) the court held that when calculating the time limit for bringing an appeal, if a judgment is not pronounced in open court, it is considered pronounced on the date the judge's written reasons are filed in the registry in which the matter commenced. Court of Appeal Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 77, s. 14(1) discusses the time limit for bringing an appeal.



Thin skull and crumbling skull cases deal with plaintiffs that have pre-existing medical conditions.

The thin skull rule makes the defendant liable for the plaintiff's injuries even if the injuries are unexpectedly severe owing to a pre-exisiting yet stable condition.  The defendant must take the victim as they find them with whatever peculiar weaknesses and predispositions they might have, and is liable even though the plaintiff's losses are more dramatic than they would be for the average person.

The crumbling skull rule deals with a plaintiff that has an unstable pre-existing condition.  The defendant need not compensate the plaintiff for the effects of their condition, which they would have experienced anyway.  The defendant is liable for additional damage, but not the pre-existing damage.

Key cases