The Canadian Supreme Court overturned the lower court C$341,000 decision in Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada, but it’s worth noting that the result would have been different in the United States. To recap, Waddah “Martin” Mustapha saw (but did not consume) a fly in a bottled water. As Yoni Goldstein memorably recounts:
[Mustapha] proceeded to vomit all over his house, and later experienced problems drinking anything with water in it, showering (because that also involves water) and going to work and having sex (where, presumably, water was involved in some major, incapacitating way).
Culligan did not contest that it was negligent; it did not even contest that the sight of the fly caused Mustapha’s injuries. It simply argued that Mustapha’s idiosyncratic reaction was not its concern, and that it should only be liable for the reaction of the reasonable person who had seen a fly in a bottle of water. In the US, that argument does not fly: basic 1L Torts teaches the “eggshell plaintiff” rule–you take the plaintiff as you find him or her. Canada differs. “The law expects reasonable fortitude and robustness of its citizens and will not impose liability for the exceptional frailty of certain individuals.” Canada is thus less prone to the sort of absurd claims that Mustapha raised than the United States is, as, if the courts follow the law, there is less incentive to exaggerate the scope of injury. In a US case, the defendant would have to engage in expensive pre-trial discovery to demonstrate that Mustapha’s psychological disorders were not caused by the incident, and would still have to go to a jury if Mustapha could produce an expert for hire who would testify differently. According to the Canadian Supreme Court, the appropriate approach is to simply use common sense and toss the case. But, as the lower court decision shows, there are certainly some in the judiciary who wish to move the Canadian model closer to the disastrous American one.