Canadian Supremes Throw Out Fly-in-Water Case

Windsor, Ontario hairdresser Waddah Mustapha became depressed and phobic after finding a dead fly in his Culligan water bottle. (who wouldn't?) So he sued the company and won, getting $341,775. The Globe and Mail notes of the first trial: Evidence showed that he became edgy, argumentative and depressed, could not sleep and refused even to drink coffee because it contained water. Obsessed with his fears, Mr. Mustapha had nightmares and great difficulty engaging in any activity that involved water — from drinking to taking showers.

Unfortunately, the Culligan Man appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed the decision. "Mustapha failed to show that it was foreseeable that a person of ordinary fortitude would suffer serious injury from seeing the flies in the bottle of water he was about to install," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote for the Court. "Unusual or extreme reactions to events caused by negligence are imaginable, but not reasonably foreseeable."

So the Culligan Man got off, possibly setting a dangerous precedent for those who care about what they drink. ::Globe and Mail

More from da judge:

Chief Justice McLachlin provided a partial definition of psychological harm in Thursday's judgment: "Psychological disturbance that rises to the level of personal injury must be distinguished from psychological upset," she said. "Personal injury at law connotes serious trauma or illness.

"The law does not recognize upset, disgust, anxiety, agitation or other mental states that fall short of injury," the Chief Justice added. "I would not purport to define compensable injury exhaustively, except to say that it must be serious and prolonged and rise above the ordinary annoyances, anxieties and fears that people living in society routinely, if sometimes reluctantly, accept."

According to medical evidence at the Mustapha trial, she said, the plaintiff developed "a major depressive disorder with associated phobia and anxiety. This psychiatric illness was debilitating and had a significant impact on his life; it qualifies as a personal injury at law. It follows that Mr. Mustapha has established that he sustained damage."

Related Content on