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Loss of Earnings for Wrongful Confinement and Wrongful Sterilization: The Case of Leilani Muir

by Christopher Bruce

This article first appeared in the spring 1996 issue of the Expert Witness.

In Muir v. Alberta damages were awarded to the plaintiff on two grounds: first, that she was wrongfully confined, at the age of 10, in a home for the mentally defective; and, second, that while so confined, she was wrongfully sterilized. On the first of these claims, she was awarded $250,000 plus $115,500 interest for pain and suffering but was denied both aggravated damages and damages for loss of income. On the second claim, she was awarded $250,280 for pain and suffering and $125,000 for aggravated damages but was denied punitive damages.

Madam Justice Veit denied the claim for loss of earnings primarily on the ground that Ms. Muir had come from a dysfunctional family, leading her to suffer from severe emotional problems prior to her wrongful confinement. The confinement itself was found not to have exacerbated these problems.

Does this imply that all individuals in Ms. Muir's situation will be denied damages for loss of earnings? We think not. Three sources of claims for lost earnings appear to have survived the decision in Muir.

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Christopher Bruce is the President of Economica and a Professor of Economics at the University of Calgary. He is also the author of Assessment of Personal Injury Damages (Butterworths, 2004).

Overview

In this article Christopher Bruce offers a brief comment on the case Muir v. Alberta, in which damages were awarded to the plaintiff because she was wrongfully confined in a home for the mentally defective and was wrongfully sterilized. However, the court denied her loss of earnings claim.

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