What Does Duty to Mitigate Mean?

The Duty to Mitigate Is the Requirement Within the Law to Take Reasonable Steps to Minimize Losses Rather Than Needlessly Allowing Losses to Accrue.

Understanding the Duty to Mitigate By Minimizing Losses Including the Required Standard of Efforts to Do So

Lawsuit Document Within a society that despises waste, the law requires those who are harmed by the wrongful conduct of others to take reasonable steps to minimize the resulting loss in what is known as the duty to mitigate. The duty to mitigate arises in all realms of law, such as contract law, consumer law, construction law, employment law, tort law, among all others.

The Law

The doctrine of mitigation was explained well whereas it was said in general by the Supreme Court in Southcott Estates Inc. v. Toronto Catholic District School Board[2012] 2 S.C.R. 675 that:

[23] This Court in Asamera Oil Corp. v. Seal Oil & General Corp., 1978 CanLII 16 (SCC), [1979] 1 S.C.R. 633, cited (at pp.  660-61) with approval the statement of Viscount Haldane L.C.  in British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co.  v. Underground Electric Railways Company of London, Ltd., [1912] A.C.  673, at p.  689:

The fundamental basis is thus compensation for pecuniary loss naturally flowing from the breach; but this first principle is qualified by a second, which imposes on a plaintiff the duty of taking all reasonable steps to mitigate the loss consequent on the breach, and debars him from claiming any part of the damage which is due to his neglect to take such steps.

[24] In British Columbia v. Canadian Forest Products Ltd., 2004 SCC 38 (CanLII), [2004] 2 S.C.R.  74, at para. 176, this Court explained that “[l]osses that could reasonably have been avoided are, in effect, caused by the plaintiff’s inaction, rather than the defendant’s wrong.” As a general rule, a plaintiff will not be able to recover for those losses which he could have avoided by taking reasonable steps.  Where it is alleged that the plaintiff has failed to mitigate, the burden of proof is on the defendant, who needs to prove both that the plaintiff has failed to make reasonable efforts to mitigate and that mitigation was possible (Red Deer College v. Michaels, 1975 CanLII 15 (SCC), [1976] 2 S.C.R. 324; Asamera; Evans v. Teamsters Local Union No.  31, 2008 SCC 20 (CanLII), [2008] 1 S.C.R.  661, at para. 30).

[25] On the other hand, a plaintiff who does take reasonable steps to mitigate loss may recover, as damages, the costs and expenses incurred in taking those reasonable steps, provided that the costs and expenses are reasonable and were truly incurred in mitigation of damages (see P.  Bates, “Mitigation of Damages: A Matter of Commercial Common Sense” (1992), 13 Advocates’ Q.  273).  The valuation of damages is therefore a balancing process: as the Federal Court of Appeal stated in Redpath Industries Ltd.  v. Cisco (The), 1993 CanLII 3025 (FCA), [1994] 2 F.C.  279, at p.  302: “The Court must make sure that the victim is compensated for his loss; but it must at the same time make sure that the wrongdoer is not abused.” Mitigation is a doctrine based on fairness and common sense, which seeks to do justice between the parties in the particular circumstances of the case.

Accordingly, mitigation requires the minimizing of harm. Failure to minimize the harm is a failure to mitigate and may reduce sums that a wrongdoer owes to the person harmed whereas when a failure to mitigate occurs, it is the person who was harmed and failed to reasonably minimize loss that caused some of the harm.  The wrongdoer is liable only for the portion of harm caused by the wrongdoer. Examples of mitigation include, among other things, the reasonable efforts of a wrongfully dismissed employee to seek fresh employment or for the victim of an injury to attend rehabilitation rather than to allow injuries to fester while loss of income for time off work accrues needlessly. 

Summary Comment

The law required that a Plaintiff (or a Defendant within a counterclaim against the Plaintiff) took reasonable steps to mitigate, meaning reduce, losses.  When a person failed to take reasonable steps to mitigate (reduce losses), the law will disallow claims, or the amounts within claims, that arose because of the failure to mitigate whereas the law views the losses that arise from the failure to mitigate as caused by the inaction of the victim rather than by the action of the wrongdoer. When a Defendant to a lawsuit seeks to argue failure to mitigate as a defence strategy, the Defendant must include such an allegation with the defence pleading documents and it is the Defendant that must prove that the Plaintiff had a reasonable opportunity to mitigate the losses and failed to do so. However, the Plaintiff is without a requirement to mitigate perfectly and must only take such steps that are reasonable at the time that the loss is occurring rather than as may appear possible at a later date through hindsight.

Learn More About

Need Help? Let's Get Started Today

ATTENTION: Do not send any confidential information through this web form.  Use this web form only to make an introduction.

KLP Paralegal Servicesis an affordable Paralegal in:

For more information, fill out the form below to send a direct inquiry to KLP Paralegal Services

ATTENTION: Confidential details about your case must not be sent through this website.  Use of this website does not establish a legal-representative/client relationship.  Do not include confidential details about your case by email or phone.  Use this website only for an introduction with a KLP Paralegal Services representative.
KLP Paralegal Services
Professional Corporation

Unit 600, The East Mall, PO 11577
Toronto, Ontario,
M9B 4B1

P: (416) 570-6378
P: (905) 629-8630
E: klp@klparalegal.com


9:00AM – 5:00PM
9:00AM – 5:00PM
9:00AM – 5:00PM
9:00AM – 5:00PM
9:00AM – 5:00PM

By appointment only.  Call for details.
Messages may be left anytime.