Yikes, there is a fly in my bottled water – can I sue?

In Canada, if you suffer a personal injury because of someone else’s negligence you are entitled to compensation.

Manufacturers have a duty to take reasonable care to protect the consumers of their products from harm. If a manufacturer negligently makes a defective and dangerous product, the manufacturer is obliged to compensate any consumer who has an injury that would foreseeably flow from the defect.

What happens if a consumer suffers an extreme psychological reaction to seeing a fly in a bottle of water? The Supreme Court of Canada dealt with this issue in a case called Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada. In that case, Mr. Mustapha saw a dead fly and part of another dead fly in a water bottle he was about to drink from. He became obsessed with the event and developed a major depressive disorder.

The Supreme Court found that Mr. Mustapha’s reaction to the incident was an unusual and extreme one. The Court found that it was not “reasonably foreseeable” that a person would develop serious psychological injuries from seeing a fly in a water bottle (even though that is exactly what happened to Mr. Mustapha). Mr. Mustapha’s injuries were found to be too remote. In other words, a reasonable manufacturer would not contemplate that there was a real risk of such an injury flowing from leaving a dead fly in a water bottle.

Our law compensates real injuries that foreseeably flow from a defendant’s negligence. You cannot sue for something that annoys you or causes you temporary feelings of disgust. You can only sue for real injuries that would reasonably be expected to flow from the defendant’s conduct.

About the Authors

TROY square box final

Troy Lehman joined Oatley Vigmond in 2006 and became a partner in 2010. As a personal injury lawyer, his greatest satisfaction comes from helping people through to the other side of a difficult time in their lives. “We’re here to help and relieve stress,” Troy says. “When I walk into a first meeting with a client, people are often scared and anxious. And for me, the best thing that can happen at the end of the meeting is that they say, ‘I feel so much better.’

To learn more about Troy, please click here.