Elizabeth Grace comments on cash award caps for successful plaintiffs

A cap on cash entitlements for successful plaintiffs who receive benefits under the Ontario Works program or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) leaves the poor and disabled with an unfairly small portion of their total cost awards, Toronto personal injury lawyer Elizabeth Grace says in Law Times.

Those receiving benefits from Ontario Works are allowed to keep only $25,000 when they win a lawsuit or arrive at a settlement, the article says, noting the rest must be handed over to the government.

For those who receive benefits under ODSP, the cap on cash awards is $100,000, the article adds.

“Either they (plaintiffs) have to pay back anything over $100,000, or they’ll be cut off from any future entitlements to ODSP benefits,” Grace, a partner with Lerners LLP who often represents victims of sexual abuse, says in Law Times.

“These are already people who are obviously living on a shoestring and are economically impoverished by definition in order to get ODSP,” says Grace. “And if they have been wronged in some way … there’s further hardship on them. Right away that creates an obstacle for that group of people from basically getting the justice they’re entitled to.”

The cap may even discourage plaintiffs from seeking recourse, says Grace.

“It certainly creates a concern for me taking on those clients and acting for them because it’s a lot of work to bring those cases forward – and to think that my client may be very damaged and they may only be able to keep $100,000,” she says in the article.

The $25,000 cash cap for Ontario Works recipients has been in place since 1990, and the $100,000 cap for ODSP recipients has been in place since 1998. Neither cap has ever been increased, even to account for inflation.

This article originally appeared AdvocateDaily.com
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