Legally Speaking: What is the obligation to minimize one’s damages?

Legally Speaking: What is the obligation to minimize one’s damages?


Here is the 10th in a series of legal columns by Quebec law firm  Joli-Cœur Lacasse Avocats.

Everyone likely knows someone who has suffered from water damage in their home or who has seen a tenant abandon the dwelling and leave the premises in a deplorable condition. In such a situation, what should a victim of the events do to avoid seeing its issues increase?

Section 1479 of the Civil Code of Quebec stipulates that “A person who is bound to make reparation for an injury is not liable for any aggravation of the injury that the victim could have avoided.”

What does this mean? It means that if you are an individual who has suffered a loss, you have an obligation to take all reasonable measures to prevent the situation from deteriorating. The objective of the law is “to ensure fairness and to avoid any abuse committed by a creditor (the victim) in bad faith who would neglect in minimizing his damages because he is assured to be indemnified” by the person in charge who created the damage. The individual in charge is obliged to indemnify only what arises directly and immediately from its fault.

In order to obtain compensation for damages, three elements must be combined: (1) a fault, (2) a damage and (3) a link of causality between the fault and the damage. If the victim fails to mitigate its damages, the link of causality is broken. The consequence for the victim is that the person in charge may refuse to indemnify for damages resulting from its inaction or from its actions.

This victim’s obligation does not have an unlimited scope. The victim is not required to an obligation of result, but only to an obligation of means, which means that the victim has to take all reasonable measures that a reasonable, careful and diligent person would have taken in the same circumstances. Consequently, the victim does not have to impose itself a burden that is beyond its capabilities or unattainable.

To illustrate this obligation, let’s take as an example the water damage mentioned in our introduction. The victim must take the initiative to undertake drainage measures in order to prevent contamination or mould to settle in the walls.

The victim is left with the obligation to take measures to prevent amplification of costs. In the example of a tenant who leaves the premises in a cavalier manner, the owner has to undertake all necessary measures to rent the premises with the aim of reducing the vacancy period.

To do this, the house needs to be shown available for rent on the Internet or in a newspaper or an announcement posted on the building itself. However, it is not required to successfully rent the premises quickly, but only to take all necessary means in doing so.

If you find yourself in this situation, do not hesitate to contact us in order to know what your obligations are.


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Categories: General, Opinion

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Jolicoeur Lacasse Avocats

Notre cabinet qui regroupe une centaine d'avocats présents à Québec, Trois-Rivières et Montréal, est reconnu pour offrir, à des coûts avantageux, des services juridiques efficaces et efficients. Nos professionnels sont compétents, imaginatifs et désireux de vous permettre d’atteindre vos objectifs dans un environnement de partenariat et de convivialité. Ils sont en mesure d’identifier et d’anticiper vos besoins et, le moment venu, ils sauront agir de manière proactive et entamer des démarches novatrices et sécurisantes, afin de vous offrir un service adapté à votre réalité.

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