Southcott Estates Inc. v. Toronto Catholic District School Board, 2012 SCC 51 is an important decision on mitigation of damages. It upholds the modern law requiring mitigation in contract in almost all circumstances and makes clear specific performance will rarely be ordered.
The main issue was whether a single-purpose corporation was excused from mitigating its losses when the vendor breached the agreement of purchase and sale, and particularly when it had promptly brought an action for specific performance. Even single purpose corporations are required to mitigate by making diligent efforts to find a substitute property. Those who choose the benefits of incorporation must bear the corresponding burdens. One such responsibility is to take steps to mitigate losses. A plaintiff cannot recover losses that could reasonably have been avoided. If single-purpose corporations were not required to mitigate their losses, this could expose defendants contracting with such corporations to higher damage awards.
There may be situations in which a plaintiff's inaction is justifiable notwithstanding its failure to obtain an order for specific performance. If the plaintiff has a "fair, real, and substantial justification" or a "substantial and legitimate interest" in specific performance, its refusal to purchase other property may be reasonable, depending upon the circumstances of the case. A plaintiff deprived of an investment property does not have a "fair, real and substantial justification" or a "substantial and legitimate" interest in specific performance unless he can show that money is not a complete remedy because the land has "a peculiar and special value" to him. Where it is alleged that the plaintiff has failed to mitigate, the defendant bears the burden of proving that the plaintiff has failed to make reasonable efforts to mitigate and that mitigation was possible. Whether or not there were comparable properties and whether they are profitable is a finding of fact. The Court writes:
IV. Mitigation ? General Principles
 This Court in Asamera Oil Corp. v. Seal Oil & General Corp.,  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.,  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.
 In British Columbia v. Canadian Forest Products Ltd., 2004 SCC 38,  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 been 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,  2 S.C.R. 324; Asamera; Evans v. Teamsters Local Union No. 31, 2008 SCC 20,  1 S.C.R. 661, at para. 30).
 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" (1991-92), 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),  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.
A. Should a Single-Purpose Company Mitigate its Losses?
 Southcott argues that the Court of Appeal failed to recognize the unique circumstance of a single-purpose corporation in mitigating contractual loss; as a single-purpose company, it was impecunious and unable to mitigate without significant capital investment of the parent company or without the corporate mandate to do so. Further, it submits that it would be reasonably foreseeable to those contracting with a single-purpose corporation that such an entity would have finite resources and a confined corporate mandate. In this case, Southcott acted reasonably, within its ordinary course of business and promptly brought this lawsuit.
 Southcott sought specific performance and was therefore ready to complete the purchase. In any event, its alternative claim for consequential damages was predicated upon its access to capital to complete the agreement of purchase and sale. As such, both claims were premised upon resources, resources that were not tied up as a result of the breach alleged. Indeed, the alleged breach in this case did not affect Southcott's ability to obtain capital. Southcott can hardly argue that the same money would not have been available for mitigation.
 Further, the question is factual and it was not suggested at trial that Southcott had no access to capital or that borrowing money would have been unreasonably risky or costly. Southcott did not argue that it was impecunious at trial.
 In the absence of actual evidence of impecuniosity, finding that losses cannot be reasonably avoided, simply because it is a single-purpose corporation within a larger group of companies, would give an unfair advantage to those conducting business through single-purpose corporations. In addition, not requiring single-purpose corporations to mitigate would expose defendants contracting with such corporations to higher damage awards than those reasonably claimed by other plaintiffs, based solely upon their limited assets.
 The trial judge found that the purchases of development land by other corporations within the Ballantry Group did not in fact mitigate Southcott's loss; that finding is not challenged here. As noted above, he found that the other properties purchased by other members of the Ballantry group were "collateral" in the sense that the purchases would have occurred whether or not the defendant had breached its contract with Southcott (para. 143). However, because Southcott is a separate legal entity, purchases by other Ballantry corporations of other comparable property did not make those properties "unavailable" for mitigation. As a separate legal entity, Southcott was required to mitigate by making diligent efforts to find a substitute property. Those who choose the benefits of incorporation must bear the corresponding burdens: Kosmopoulos v. Constitution Insurance Co.,  1 S.C.R. 2, at pp. 10-12. Southcott is entitled to the benefits of limited liability, but it is also saddled with the responsibilities that all legal entities have. The requirement to take steps to mitigate losses is one such responsibility. A plaintiff cannot recover losses that could reasonably have been avoided. The overriding issue here is whether Southcott's inaction was reasonable, and if not, whether it could have reasonably mitigated if it had tried to do so.
B. Southcott Was Required to Mitigate Losses Despite its Claim for Specific Performance
 Specific performance is an equitable remedy that is difficult to reconcile with the principle of mitigation. Obviously, if Southcott had purchased a property in mitigation, it may not have been able to complete its agreement of purchase and sale of the Board's surplus land if ultimately successful in its claim for specific performance. When can a plaintiff seeking specific performance justify inaction and recover losses which may otherwise have been classified as avoidable?
 The trial judge found that Southcott did not have a viable claim for specific performance. He found that while the business opportunity may have been unique, the property itself was not. The trial judge found that what was at issue here was a straightforward business plan, the failure of which could be measured in damages (para. 132). The Court of Appeal agreed. The trial judge's decision not to order specific performance is not challenged in this appeal.
 However, Southcott submits that even though it was unsuccessful in its claim for specific performance, it proceeded expeditiously and the claim had real substance because the property was a unique opportunity, given its location and the rarity of such properties in the GTA. As a result, it says that it was not reasonable to attempt to mitigate; the remedy of specific performance would become illusory.
 Southcott suggests that there are two separate questions that a court must ask in cases where a plaintiff seeks specific performance: (1) should specific performance be awarded? And if the answer is no, (2) is this plaintiff justified in its mitigatory inaction? Southcott says that the trial judge conflated these two questions and did not consider whether it was justified in failing to mitigate.
 This Court dealt with this issue in Asamera, at pp. 668-69:
Before a plaintiff can rely on a claim to specific performance so as to insulate himself from the consequences of failing to procure alternate property in mitigation of his losses, some fair, real, and substantial justification for his claim to performance must be found. . . .
Where . . . circumstances reveal a substantial and legitimate interest in seeking [specific] performance as opposed to damages, then a plaintiff will be able to justify his inaction and on failing in his plea for specific performance might then [be able to] recover losses which in other circumstances might be classified as avoidable and thus unrecoverable.
 This Court thus recognized that there may be situations in which a plaintiff's inaction is justifiable notwithstanding its failure to obtain an order for specific performance where circumstances reveal "some fair, real, and substantial justification" for his claim or "a substantial and legitimate interest" in seeking specific performance. (Asamera, at pp. 668-69 (emphasis added)) This does not mean that a plaintiff with such a claim should not attempt to mitigate; rather it recognizes that such a claim for specific performance informs what is reasonable behaviour for the plaintiff in mitigation. See N. Siebrasse, "Damages in Lieu of Specific Performance: Semelhago v. Paramadevan" (1997), 76 Can. Bar Rev. 551.
 Asamera set out the general principles governing mitigation: was the plaintiff's inaction reasonable in the circumstances, and could the plaintiff have mitigated if it chose to do so. Those principles apply to a plaintiff seeking specific performance. If the plaintiff has a "substantial justification" or a "substantial and legitimate interest" in specific performance, its refusal to purchase other property may be reasonable, depending upon the circumstances of the case.
 The statements in Asamera dealing with specific performance and the determination of what is reasonable conduct must be read in light of Semelhago v. Paramadevan,  2 S.C.R. 415. In that case, the Court acknowledged that "[w]hile at one time the common law regarded every piece of real estate to be unique, with the progress of modern real estate development this is no longer the case" (para. 20). The Court thus found that it "cannot be assumed that damages for breach of contract for the purchase and sale of real estate will be an inadequate remedy in all cases" (para. 21). Specific performance will be available only where money cannot compensate fully for the loss, because of some "peculiar and special value" of the land to the plaintiff" (para. 21, citing Adderley v. Dixon (1824), 1 Sim. & St. 607, 57 E.R. 239, at p. 240).
 The overriding issue is therefore whether Southcott's inaction was reasonable. Southcott argued at trial that the fact that the property was uniquely well situated gives it the unique character required to constitute a fair justification for specific performance (para. 119 of the trial judge's decision).
 I agree with the courts below that this is not a case where the plaintiff could reasonably refuse to mitigate. The trial judge made clear findings that the land was nothing more unique to Southcott than a singularly good investment and that this was not a case in which damages were too speculative or uncertain to be a satisfactory remedy. The unique qualities related solely to the profitability of the development for which damages were an adequate remedy (paras. 126 and 128). The calculation of profits was not conjectural or speculative as the proposed development was not complex, and the only disagreement between the parties regarding the quantum of damages related to the timing and rate of sale of completed units (paras. 130 and 132).
 A plaintiff deprived of an investment property does not have a "fair, real, and substantial justification" or a "substantial and legitimate" interest in specific performance (Asamera, at pp. 668-69) unless he can show that money is not a complete remedy because the land has "a peculiar and special value" to him (Semelhago, at para. 21, citing Adderley, at p. 240). Southcott could not make such a claim. It was engaged in a commercial transaction for the purpose of making a profit. The property's particular qualities were only of value due to their ability to further profitability. Southcott cannot therefore justify its inaction.