Law Student Awarded $2.75 Million for Capacity Loss Despite Delaying Law Career

Law Student Awarded $2.75 Million for Capacity Loss Despite Delaying Law Career

After a July/August 2020 trial, Richard Parsons and Greg Hoff of Collette Parsons Corrin LLP obtained a $3.3 million verdict for a plaintiff who took a significant period of time away from her career to raise her young family.

Background

Ms. Rachel Orregaard was a promising young woman who planned a career as a lawyer. She delayed her law career to allow her husband to achieve success in his career and raise her young family. Ms. Orregaard was keen to begin her much-anticipated law career in the fall of 2016 but those plans were derailed by an auto accident in March of 2016.

Ms. Orregaard was a star student who studied cell biology and genetics at the University of British Columbia (“UBC”). In the final year of her undergraduate studies, she began to consider a law career. After graduating, she worked full time for ICBC and took the LSAT and received a high score. She was accepted to law school at UBC and started in the fall of 1999. She continued to work part time while in law school.

Ms. Orregaard met her husband at the end of her first year of law school and the couple married the following year. After they wed, they discussed wanting to have two children relatively close in age. Mr. Orregaard had originally planned a career as a teacher, but became interested in a career with the RCMP.

At the beginning of her final semester of law school, Ms. Orregaard discovered she was pregnant. When her daughter was born in September of 2003, Ms. Orregaard took a year off of law school and work. Right after her daughter was born, Mr. Orregaard found out he was selected for RCMP training and went to the 6 month course in Regina. After his training, he was placed in the Langley detachment.

Ms. Orregaard returned to law school in the fall of 2004 and maintained exceptional grades. She became pregnant that year and gave birth to her son in 2005. In her last year of law school, she received an ‘A’ in tax law and did a directed research project on reproductive technology and parental rights.

Mr. Orregaard’s work schedule was unrelenting and took significant time away from his young family and he didn’t have a real opportunity to transfer to a less demanding position in the beginning of his career. The family decided Ms. Orregaard would delay her articling due to the demands of her husband’s job. In the following years, Mr. Orregaard was successful in his job, which resulted in him being assigned to a supervisory position. At that point, the young family decided Ms. Orregaard would delay her articling until her children were in grades 6 and 8 (Fall 2016) and could be independent. They wanted to be a good support to their children and didn’t feel they could achieve that if both parents were working extensive hours.

Ms. Orregaard’s father knew the principal of a local boutique family law firm, Ms. Janzen, and had contacted her about the possibility of Ms. Orregaard articling for her when she was able to. Ms. Janzen was interested in articling Ms. Orregaard and told her father to have Ms. Orregaard contact her when she was ready.

Unfortunately, Ms. Orregaard never had the opportunity to article. On March 18, 2016, she was involved in a motor vehicle accident. As a result of the accident, Ms. Orregaard suffered debilitating headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain. The headaches caused the most trouble, as Ms. Orregaard was unable to spend any length of time at a computer or reading, which would be troubling for a career in law.

At trial, experts testified that Ms. Orregaard would have had an 80-100 percent chance of securing articles with a boutique family law firm had she not been involved in the accident.

Verdict

Based on the above facts and expert testimony, the court found that Ms. Orregaard would have secured an articling positon in a boutique family law firm, which would have started at the beginning of 2017. The court also found that, following her articling, she would have gone on to be a successful associate and later partner at a boutique family law firm. Relying on expert testimony regarding the anticipated salaries Ms. Orregaard would have earned and assuming she would have worked until age 70 absent the accident, the court awarded Ms. Orregaard $2.75 million in future loss of income. The court rejected the defendants’ argument that Ms. Orregaard would have not been successful in obtaining a law career due to her delay in seeking articles, noting that Ms. Orregaard made an educated decision on what was best for her family and that she would have successfully secured articles and gone on to be a successful lawyer.

Orregaard v. Clapci, 2020 BCSC 1726

https://canlii.ca/t/jbm9m