ICBC Law

BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Erik MagrakenThis Blog is authored by British Columbia ICBC injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Erik is a partner with the British Columbia personal injury law-firm MacIsaac & Company. He restricts his practice exclusively to plaintiff-only personal injury claims with a particular emphasis on ICBC injury claims involving orthopaedic injuries and complex soft tissue injuries. Please visit often for the latest developments in matters concerning BC personal injury claims and ICBC claims

Erik Magraken does not work for and is not affiliated in any way with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Please note that this blog is for information only and is not claim-specific legal advice.  Erik can only provide legal advice to clients. Please click here to arrange a free consultation.

$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic PTSD

November 28th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for post traumatic stress disorder as a result of a vehicle collision.

In today’s case, (Harmati v. Williams) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 rear end collision that the Defendant accepted fault for.  She suffered PTSD and a generalized anxiety disorder following the crash and the Court accepted these conditions were caused by the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Madam Justice Choi provided the following reasons:

[48]         Dr. O’Shaughnessy was steadfast in his opinion when he testified that Ms. Harmati’s PTSD was as a result of the accident. He wavered on cross examination that the generalized anxiety was a result of the accident. I accept Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s testimony and diagnosis and found him to be a forthright and helpful expert witness…

[70]         On a balance of probabilities, I find that Ms. Harmati’s present disability, both physical and psychological, is a result of the accident. I accept Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s opinion that the PTSD was triggered by the accident, and I am satisfied that there is a substantial connection between the injuries Ms. Harmati suffered in this accident and her present symptoms sufficient to impose liability on the Defendants. Just as the Defendants are liable for any physical injuries caused to Ms. Harmati, they are too liable for any psychological injuries that arose from this accident.

[71]         I find that but for the accident, Ms. Harmati would not have suffered from pain in the neck, head and back or post-traumatic stress disorder. While Ms. Harmati may have had a more extreme reaction to the accident than most, she is better described as a “thin skull” than a crumbling one. The injuries she has suffered were not inherent in her original position and would not have occurred had the accident not happened…

[81]         A few lay witnesses testified as to Ms. Harmati’s ongoing limitations.

[82]         Mr. Gosling testified that Ms. Harmati is responsible for most of the cleaning, but that they don’t keep a clean house, and that Ms. Harmati is responsible for most of the cooking. She does more now than she did when they first cohabited because she is no longer working. I found Mr. Gosling a measured and careful witness, whose evidence I found credible.

[83]         Mr. Gosling testified that Ms. Harmati does not want to be a burden, so she will insist on performing tasks that then require her to rest, such as carrying groceries and pots of boiling water.

[84]         Mr. Derek Carswell worked with Ms. Harmati at Electronics Art. They were both hired on the same day in 2010 and became friends. Prior to the accident, he described her as “bubbly, enthusiastic and lots of energy”. After the energy, he testified that she was “subdued, lacking vital energy”. He said they played video games with their respective partners and that after the accident, she could not play video games for long because she needed to rest and due to nausea. Mr. Carswell testified that some video games are virtual reality games, involving wearing a headset and a screen which wraps around your face, and is an immersive gaming experience. Ms. Harmati has been unable to participate in this type of game since the accident…

[88]         Having considered the evidence and cases, it is my view that an award of non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $100,000 is appropriate.


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Persistent Neck and Back Injuries

November 27th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for persistent back and neck injuries.

In the recent case (Lally v. He) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 intersection collision that the Defendant accepted fault for.  The collision resulted in soft tissue injuries and symptoms persisted to the time of trial.  The Court assessed non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 but reduced these by 10% for the Plaintiff’s failure to follow through with an active rehab program that could have helped improve the symptoms.  In reaching this assessment Madam Justice Warren provided the following reasons:

[93]         I have concluded that as a result of the accident, Ms. Lally has suffered pain and a loss of enjoyment of life, and that will continue to some extent, into the foreseeable future.

[94]         As a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident, Ms. Lally suffered from severe pain in her neck, back and shoulder for several months.  The neck pain triggered headaches that, at times, were severe.  Although the pain gradually improved, she has been left with less severe but persistent neck and shoulder pain as well as occasional low back pain.  While she is likely to experience improvement in her symptoms with active rehabilitation, particularly with respect to the low back and shoulder, even with sustained, active rehabilitation, she will likely continue to suffer from occasional pain in her neck and, to a lesser extent, her low back and shoulder.

[95]         Ms. Lally’s pain is exacerbated by repetitive activities, heavy lifting or working at a level higher than her shoulders.  She cannot sit still for long.  When driving she has difficulty moving her head from side to side.  When she watches television, reads or uses a computer she has to move her neck or it becomes stiff.  Household chores and physical duties at work exacerbate the pain and when the neck pain is particularly bad it develops into a headache.  This happens between two and five times a week and the headache lasts up to eight or nine hours.  The neck pain disturbs her sleep.

[96]         The pain has affected Ms. Lally’s mood.  Before the accident, her mood was good and she enjoyed spending time with her family.  For the first few months after the accident she was quiet and spent most of her time resting because of the pain.  She continues to spend much of her non-working time resting at home using a massager and heat pad.

[97]         Ms. Lally used to do the majority of the housework before the accident.  Since the accident she has been limited to light housework such as cooking and doing dishes.  She did not testify about any other impacts on her lifestyle…

[100]     Having considered all the authorities and the factors discussed in Stapley, I assess Ms. Lally’s non-pecuniary damages at $75,000, prior to any adjustment for her failure to mitigate.  For the reasons already expressed, I reduce that amount by 10% to reflect her failure to have participated in a regular, sustained program of active rehabilitation.


$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Shoulder Tendinopathy

November 23rd, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a shoulder injury caused by a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Rogers v. Situ) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 rear end collision the Defendant admitted fault for.  The Plaintiff sustained an onset of symptoms related to shoulder tendinopathy as a result of the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Butler provided the following reasons:

[21]         I find that the accident did trigger the onset of his symptoms associated with the tendinopathy. There is no basis on which I could conclude that it would have become symptomatic without the accident. As a result, I conclude that the accident caused the injury and that there is no basis to reduce the award on the basis of the prior shoulder injury.

[39]         Dr. Ezekiel summarizes the course of the injury as follows:

…The accident resulted in the onset of pain in the patient’s left shoulder, which was subsequently found to be due to tendinopathy of the supraspinatus muscle. Mr. Rogers was treated initially with anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy but eventually underwent a surgical procedure to decompress the tendon. At the present time, Mr. Rogers has improved considerably but still finds he is unable to do some activities that are more physically demanding.

[40]         In summary, I find that the plaintiff suffered an injury to his left shoulder which has caused pain and has impacted his ability to carry on some of his recreational and daily activities. He will continue to suffer some pain and restriction in his activities. However, the impact of the shoulder injury is much less than the plaintiff contends. He sought little in the way of medical attention for the condition until the end of 2012. I conclude he was more concerned with his other medical difficulties; both the pre-existing chronic pain and the ruptured tendon and pulmonary embolism. His activities were impacted initially and will continue to be impacted by the shoulder injury but not to the extent he alleges.

[45]         I agree that the plaintiff’s pre-accident status is relevant. He was suffering from chronic pain which restricted his activities. His evidence regarding the level of his activities prior to the accident was misleading. He made no mention of his other painful conditions. When I take those into account, along with the other unrelated medical conditions that have impacted his enjoyment of life since the accident, I conclude that a fair award for non-pecuniary damages is $50,000.


ICBC’s “Checkered Record” of Funding Treatments Impacts Part 7 Deduction Request

November 21st, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, scrutinizing ICBC’s “checkered record” of paying for a plaintiff’s medical treatments.

In today’s case (Olson v. Farran) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and was awarded just over $92,000 in damages including special damages and funds for future care costs.  The Defendant, who was insured with ICBC, requested certain damages to be deducted because of the overlapping coverage for some expenses under the Plaintiff’s own ICBC policy.

Mr. Justice Pearlman denied aspects of the request raising concern about ICBC’s “past partial and disrupted” payments.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons.

[71]         The onus of showing that a deduction should be made is on the defendant.  I must estimate the amount to which Ms. Olson is entitled, exercising caution and taking into account any uncertainty concerning whether the benefits will be paid.  Any such uncertainty must be resolved in favour of the plaintiff.

[72]         Based on the Dr. Garbuz’s opinion, and the defendant’s position at trial that Ms. Olson would benefit from a three to six-month exercise program under the supervision of a physiotherapist, I am satisfied that a portion of the physiotherapy will be paid. I estimate that amount to be $500 and order that the amount to be deducted with respect to the physiotherapy is $500.

[73]         In light of the Corporation’s past partial and disrupted payment for kinesiology, there is no certainty that the Corporation will pay for any further kinesiology treatments. I therefore decline to deduct any portion of the $800 sought by the defendant for kinesiology sessions.

[74]         Similarly, there is no certainty that the insurer will pay for future massage therapy treatments, particularly where such treatments may only provide temporary relief to Ms. Olson, rather than a lasting improvement in her condition.  Again, I decline to deduct any portion of the $920 sought by the defendant for massage therapy.

[75]         The defendant also seeks a deduction of $870 for psychological services. Psychological therapy is a benefit payable in the Corporation’s sole discretion under s. 88(2)(f) of the Regulation.

[76]         The defendant submits the Court should conclude from ICBC’s past funding for physiotherapy and active rehabilitation that there is no uncertainty about whether the Corporation will fund psychological therapy for the plaintiff.  

[77]         I disagree.  The Corporation’s checkered record of funding the plaintiff’s treatment before trial raises significant uncertainty about whether this benefit will be paid. Further, Mr. Phan, the Corporation’s representative, offers no assurance in his affidavit that ICBC will pay for psychological therapy for Ms. Olson.  Nor is there any opinion from the Corporation’s medical advisor, as required under s. 88(2), that the psychological services are likely to promote the rehabilitation of the insured. The uncertainty concerning whether this benefit will be paid must be resolved in favour of the plaintiff. I am not satisfied the Corporation will pay any portion of this benefit. Accordingly, there will be no deduction for psychological therapy.

[78]         The deductions from the award of costs of future care for Part 7 benefits total $4000.


BC Chief Justice – Indivisible Injury Assessment Applies for Charter Damages as Well

November 16th, 2016

Today the Chief Justice of the BC Supreme Court published reasons for judgement finding that the ‘indivisible injury’ assessment that developed under tort law is equally applicable when damages are being assessed for a Charter breach.

In today’s case (Henry v. British Columbia) the Court awarded the Plaintiff over $8 million in damages for a wrongful conviction and some 27 years of incarceration.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff settled with other Defendants.  The Province sought to have those settlements deducted from the awarded damages arguing they all covered a single indivisible harm.  Chief Justice Hinkson agreed and in ordering that the principles of ‘indivisible injury’ assessment apply to Charter damages provided the following reasons:

[33]        The plaintiff alleged that but for the separate actions or inactions of the City employees and provincial Crown counsel, he would not have been convicted and incarcerated for almost 27 years, and that but for the action or inaction of Canada he would have been released far sooner than he was.

[34]        In tort law, where there are multiple causes of injuries, the Court must determine whether the injuries are divisible or indivisible when assessing whether double recovery principles will apply: Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458 and E.D.G. v. Hammer, 2003 SCC 52. I see no reason why such an approach is not equally applicable to an award of Charter damages.

[35]        While the allegations against the Settling Defendants and non-settling defendants were based upon different allegations of fault, the relief sought was essentially the same: compensation for a wrongful conviction and some 27 years of incarceration. I find that the results alleged to have occurred from the causes of action pleaded against the City and the Province were indivisible.

[36]        While the ambit of the compensation sought from the City defendants and the Province was broader than that sought from Canada, the compensation sought from Canada was in large measure subsumed in the award the plaintiff recovered against the Province. Thus, these claims are also indivisible.

[37]        I am mindful of the fact that the plaintiff was obliged to proceed to trial by all of the original defendants and obliged by the Province to proceed to judgment before recovering any damages from it. The Alberta Court of Appeal in Bedard rejected that factor as a basis for not deducting settlement proceeds from damages awarded at trial. At para. 13, the Court confirmed the prevailing principle that the plaintiff cannot receive more in damages than the court awarded at trial.

[38]        In Hogarth v. Rocky Mountain Slate Inc., 2013 ABCA 57, leave to appeal ref’d [2013] S.C.C.A. No. 160, the point was made even more starkly:

[164]    The effect of Bedard is that the risk of a Pierringer agreement falls on the plaintiff. If it settles and “under-recovers” from the settling defendant, it will not be able to make up that shortfall from the non-settling defendants. On the other hand, if it “over-recovers” from the settling defendant (as in Bedard) it will not be allowed to keep the windfall.

[39]        I conclude that Hogarth correctly summarizes the effect of the decisions in Dos Santos and Bedard. In the result, I find that at least some of the settlement funds paid by the Settling Defendants to the plaintiff must be deducted from the damages that I have found the plaintiff is owed by the Province.  


BC Court of Appeal Finds ICBC Part 7 Benefits Not Repayable in Contractual Subrogated Claim

November 15th, 2016

Interesting reasons were released today by the BC Court of Appeal limiting the scope of a contractual subrogated claim to exclude part 7 benefits a plaintiff recovered in an ICBC claim settlement.

In today’s case (Brugger v. The Trustees of the IWA) the Plaintiff was ordered to repay over $40,000 of a personal injury settlement he obtained to the Defendant’s due to a contractual subrogated claim they enjoyed.  The Plaintiff appealed arguing the scope of the subrogated claim could not apply to ICBC part 7 benefits.  The BC Court of Appeal agreed and reduced the ordered repayment accordingly.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:

[44]         The Trustees have a broad discretion to establish and change the terms upon which benefits are paid but are entrusted to pay the benefits described in the Plan.

[45]         Section 9 of the Plan describes the Disabled Employee’s obligation to reimburse the Plan. It is applicable where a Disabled Employee “recovers compensation from a Third Party [a person whose acts have caused or are alleged to have caused the Disability] or receives a Settlement [the conclusion of a Disabled Employee’s claim for monetary compensation against a Third Party]”. A Settlement is deemed to include payment of compensation by ICBC for damages arising out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

[46]         Gross Compensation is defined by the Plan to be the total of sums paid or payable upon Settlement or contingent upon Settlement.

[47]         The Reimbursement Agreement binds the appellant to make the repayment called for in the Plan, hence, repayment of a portion of any lump sum cash payment made upon or contingent upon resolution of a claim for compensation made against a Third Party.

[48]         In my view, Part 7 benefits should not be included in Gross Compensation or calculation of the reimbursement obligation. Such benefits are not paid by or on behalf of a person whose acts or omissions have caused or are alleged to have caused the disability. They are not paid pursuant to Part 6 of the Regulation, which describes third-party liability insurance coverage; they are paid, rather, by the Disabled Employee’s insurer as first-party benefits. Pursuant to s. 79 of the Regulation, they are paid “to an insured in respect of death or injury caused by an accident that arises out of the use or operation of a vehicle” regardless of fault.

[49]         The Insurance (Vehicle) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 231, draws a distinction between Part 7 benefits and a tort claim for damages. Subsection 83(2) states:

A person who has a claim for damages and who receives or is entitled to receive benefits respecting the loss on which the claim is based, is deemed to have released the claim to the extent of the benefits.

“Benefits” are defined in the Act as “the prescribed benefits”, including Part 7 benefits.

[50]         The fact that Part 7 benefits are distinct from and form no part of a tort claim, and that disputes with respect to entitlement to Part 7 benefits must be addressed by separate proceedings, was noted by this Court in Baart v. Kumar (1985), 66 B.C.L.R. 1 (C.A.). The Court there observed, at p. 12:

The enactments with which we are concerned have been changed from time to time. The general purpose of them, to shift responsibility from the person at fault to a body that provides insurance regardless of fault, has continued. The shift necessarily takes away the right to claim against a person other than the insuring body. That is a common feature in no-fault plans; the workers’ compensation scheme is a familiar example. This Court recognized that shift in Fisher v. Wabischewich (1978), 5 B.C.L.R. 335, 85 D.L.R. (3d) 106.

[51]         While the Trustees are given authority to set the terms upon which Plan Members are entitled to benefits, and have broad discretion to determine what portion of Gross Compensation represents compensation for wage loss, they have established a Plan and must abide by its terms. Without amending the Plan, they do not have discretion to include in Gross Compensation amounts received by the member that are not paid by or on behalf of a tortfeasor.

[52]         The chambers judge proceeded on the basis that the payment of the no-fault insurance benefits established by the statutory scheme of universal compulsory insurance could properly be considered to be compensation as defined by the Plan. Appellate courts must exercise caution in identifying errors of law in disputes arising from contractual interpretation: Sattva Capital Corp. v. Creston Moly Corp., 2014 SCC 53, [2014] 2 S.C.R. 633. However, in my view, the issue of whether Part 7 benefits constitute monetary compensation paid by or on behalf of a person whose acts are alleged to have caused the disability is a question of law requiring consideration of the legal distinction between first-party no-fault insurance benefits and tort damages.


Court Declines To Reduce Care Award Where “Health Benefits Program for Aboriginal Persons” May Cover Expenses

November 14th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether a cost of future care award for a First Nation’s plaintiff can be reduced where the federal government’s health benefits program for Aboriginal persons may cover the needed treatments.

In today’s case (Watkins v. Harder) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2012 rear-end collision that the Defendants accepted blame for.  The Plaintiff was injured and was awarded damages for chronic soft tissue injuries at trial.  These included damages for future care costs.  The Defendants argued that these should be reduced by the amount of any payments that could be claimed under the health benefits program for Aboriginal persons.  Mr. Justice Gaul refused to make the deduction and in doing so provided the following reasons:

[75]         Mr. Benning estimates that the present day value of the costs of Ms. Watkins’ Tylenol 3 and Extra Strength Advil amount to approximately $12,500. The defendants do not challenge these costs but argue that, like the physiotherapy costs, the costs for these medications will likely be paid by the federal government under its health benefits program for Aboriginal persons. Consequently, to avoid Ms. Watkins’ unjustified double recovery, the defendants contend these costs should be deducted from any cost of future care award.

[76]         Ms. Watkins argues that to deduct her anticipated physiotherapy costs and her medication costs from a cost of future care award would be to force her into a position where she is reliant solely on the state to pay for these expenses when they are more properly attributable to the defendants’ admittedly negligent conduct. In this regard she relies on Harrington v. Sangha, 2011 BCSC 1035, which addressed the deductibility of benefits provided under the PharmaCare program. In that case, Mr. Justice Willcock found there was no risk of double recovery as the evidence showed that the program was intended to be an insurer of last resort and would not provide benefits where a tort award provided compensation for those costs. To deduct the costs from an award would be to presume the plaintiff would make a fraudulent claim for PharmaCare benefits. It was noted, however, that PharmaCare had made submissions on this issue and so was aware of any potential tort award, making double recovery unlikely (see: paras. 160-162).

[77]         In Mitchell v. We Care Health Services Inc. et al., 2004 BCSC 902, the plaintiff, a member of the Kwumut Lelum First Nation, was rendered a quadriplegic in a motor vehicle accident. On account of her injuries and as a part of her ongoing treatment, Ms. Mitchell used a variety of prescription and non-prescription medications. At trial the defendants argued the costs associated with those medications should not form part of any award for the costs of future care because they would be paid for under the federal government’s health benefits program for First Nations persons. Mr. Justice Kelleher declined to make any deduction on the basis that the plaintiff would not be eligible for the benefits program because of the tort claim compensation. A factor that distinguishes this case from Ms. Watkins’ is that Justice Kelleher had evidence before him from the acting manager of the health benefits program on that specific point (para. 124).

[78]         Other decisions not referred to by counsel indicate these benefits are generally not deducted from tort awards. In Whetung v. West Fraser Real Estate Holdings Ltd., 2007 BCSC 990, Mr. Justice Grist refused to make a deduction for health benefits received as a result of the plaintiff’s Aboriginal status. He noted at para. 71 that the “defendant’s obligation should not be put aside on the basis of possible double coverage where the social source is only prepared to be called on should any prior obligation fail”. Again, unlike the present case, there was evidence before Justice Grist that the coverage under this program only extended where no other source of funding was available.

[79]         In Cottrelle v Gerrard, [2001] O.J. No. 5472 (S.C.J.) the court took the opportunity to summarize the evidence on the nature of the health benefits program for Aboriginal persons. Madam Justice Leitch concluded at para. 103 that the publicly-funded benefits program was a matter of policy and, as such, even though there was no evidence to suggest the program would be terminated or the benefits would be reduced, there was no guarantee the benefits would continue. On this basis, the court did not deduct such benefits from the damage award. The decision was later overturned on the issue of liability and the issue of deductibility was not considered (Cottrelle v. Gerrard, [2003] O.J. No. 4194 (C.A.)).

[80]         In H.L. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2001 SKQB 233, at para. 71 the health benefits provided to Aboriginal persons were deducted from a tort award. The fact that the defendant government of Canada was both the tortfeasor as well as the benefits provider is an important distinguishing feature of that case. On appeal the court overuled the trial judge’s decision, concluding that the intensive therapy required by the plaintiff would not be covered under the benefits program and should therefore be compensated through the tort award (H.L. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2002 SKCA 131 at paras. 259-63).

[81]         Neither party has provided any evidence with regards to the nature of the benefits Ms. Watkins is entitled to as a result of her status as an Aboriginal person. I have no evidence before me regarding her continued entitlement or the certainty of the benefits provided under the program, or on the eligibility for benefits when an alternative source of funding, such as a tort award, is available.

[82]         In these circumstances I cannot conclude that the cost of the treatments and medications in question should be deducted from the award Ms. Watkins is entitled to for her future care costs. As was noted in Harrington, without any evidence to suggest it, I cannot presume that the plaintiff would make a fraudulent claim for publicly-funded health benefits. On this basis, I do not find that an award that provides for full compensation of these costs results in double-recovery for Ms. Watkins.


“Common Sense” Used to Uphold Diminished Earning Capacity Award

November 14th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal upholding an award for diminished earning capacity based on “common sense“.

In the recent case (Ali v. Glover) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions and suffered chronic aggravation of degenerative issues in his neck and back.  The Plaintiff was able to continue working with his long-standing employer although some accommodations were made for limitations his injuries caused.  At trial the Court awarded $110,000 for diminished earning capacity on the basis that the Plaintiff’s injuries were permanent and very well could impact earning capacity in the future should he lose his present employment.

ICBC appealed arguing this award was rooted in speculation.  The BC Court of Appeal disagree noting it is simply a matter of common sense.  In upholding the assessment the Court provided the following reasons:

[19]         Mr. Ali’s case for damages for a loss in his earning capacity was based on the injury to his back precluding him from finding employment that would otherwise be available to him should the need arise.  The company for which he has worked for over 20 years has made adjustments to accommodate his limitations such that he does not do much of the “heavy lifting” that he once did, but for one reason or another his employment may be reduced in terms of the work available that he can do or be terminated altogether.  His loss is essentially one of a capital asset in that, because of his injury, he is less capable of earning income from all types of employment, less marketable, less able to take advantage of all employment opportunities which, save for his injury, may have been available to him, and less valuable to himself as an income earner, all as discussed in Brown v. Golaiy (1985), 26 B.C.L.R. (3d) 353 (S.C.).  The judge concluded:

[157]    I am satisfied the plaintiff has proven there is a real and substantial possibility of loss of income earning capacity in the future. He has an accommodating employer but she may retire and sell or reduce his wage to one commensurate with the hours he is working on set up and supervising and not allow him to draw on a dwindling overtime bank. If he loses his job he is less valuable to himself and potential employers because he is not fully able to do physical work.

[20]         The appellants do not challenge the judge’s determination of the quantum of the award; they contend that no loss has been proven.  They maintain the judge’s conclusion is based entirely on speculation that Mr. Ali may not be able to continue working in his present capacity earning the salary he is paid.  But the fact remains, Mr. Ali’s marketability has been impaired by the injury he suffered; he is not capable of doing heavy physical work so some employment that would otherwise be available to him is now foreclosed.  The judge made no fundamental error in concluding, as she did, there was a real and substantial possibility of Mr. Ali being able to earn less income in the future and giving what amount to examples of why there is no assurance Mr. Ali will always be employed as he is earning the income he does.  What is said to be speculation devoid of evidentiary support is largely a matter of common sense. 

[21]         I would not give effect to the fifth ground of appeal.


$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Low Back Injury

November 7th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic low back injury.

In today’s case (Truong v. Lu) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 collision the Defendant accepted fault for. The Court found the collision caused a chronic low back injury that was amplified by non-collision related depression.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Affleck provided the following reasons:

[78]         The termination of Mr. Truong’s employment, particularly at the age of 58 when other employment was difficult to find, was an emotionally catastrophic event for him. He believed erroneously but sincerely that the job loss must have been connected to his poor performance on the job, which had been caused by the accident injuries. He was naturally upset by the immediate effects of the accident and in that sense was depressed emotionally by those effects and by his fear that he might lose his job. After that loss occurred he descended into a major depression. I believe the precipitating event that caused the major depression was the loss of employment and thereby the loss of his self-respect. I accept Dr. Shaohua Lu’s evidence that the major depression would not have happened without the job loss.

[79]         Even without the depression I find Mr. Truong would have experienced physical pain and discomfort for some considerable time after the accident. I find the plaintiff’s low back pain, which travels into his left leg, as well as his neck pain, even in the absence of the major depression, would have continued but gradually diminished over the last five years. It will remain chronic indefinitely into the future, but with medication for pain relief will no longer limit his ability to function to any significant extent.

[80]         The defendant is critical of much of the plaintiff’s evidence as unreliable and accuses him of embellishment particularly for example when undergoing a functional capacity evaluation. I agree there was some embellishment but I believe it was not deliberate deceit. Mr. Truong genuinely believes he is severely disabled and adjusts his behaviour, without conscious thought, to fit the way he sees himself. He is also very reluctant to push his physical boundaries because of a fear of further injuries. In my view that fear is not justified and there is no risk of further injury if he becomes more active…

[86]         I have been referred by the parties to numerous cases in which non-pecuniary damages were awarded. I need not review those authorities in these reasons for judgment. I am persuaded a substantial award should be made under this head of damage largely because, apart from his work with C2 Imaging the plaintiff’s handyman role at home provided him with one of his main pleasures in life and in late middle age he has been deprived of that role for at least several years. I award $100,000 under this head of damages.


Limitation Period Dismisses Two ICBC Injury Claims

November 2nd, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, dismissing two ICBC injury claims for being brought beyond the applicable limitation period.

In the recent case (DeWolfe v. Jones) the Plaintiff spouses were both injured in a 2005 collision.  They dealt with ICBC directly but never reached settlement.  During a conversation the acting adjuster, in response to the Plaintiffs advising they were not prepared to settle at the time told them that “I am leaving on maternity leave at month end and he knows that he can call to settle if things improve at any point.”

The Plaintiffs failed to start a lawsuit in time and argued that this statement from ICBC should prevent them from raising the limitation defense.  Mr. Justice Gaul disagreed and dismissed the lawsuits.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:

[48]         In my opinion, Ms. Johal did not state or infer that liability had been accepted by the defendants to the extent that the only remaining issue was the quantum of damages. The parties had not entered into negotiations, only discussions in which Ms. Johal came to the conclusion that the plaintiffs did not want to consider settlement at that point.

[49]         Finally, even if the plaintiffs were able to establish that liability had been admitted and a promise made, I am of the view that they are unable to demonstrate they relied on such an assurance to waive the limitation period. In her examination for discovery, Mrs. DeWolfe admits that the main reasons why she did not commence her legal action earlier was that she simply did not realize there was a time frame in which she had to do so, and that “life just got busy”.

[50]         Although case authorities such as Esau v. Co-Operators Life Insurance Company Limited, 2006 BCCA 249, have commented on the advisability of insurers informing their clients of limitation periods, for better or worse the law remains unchanged. In my view, ICBC had no obligation or duty to raise the limitation period issue with the plaintiffs. Consequently, the plaintiffs’ assertion that they were unaware of that period is insufficient to ground a claim of promissory estoppel.

[51]         In my opinion, although the parties had discussed the possibility of settling the plaintiffs’ claims, there were no serious negotiations towards that end. At no point did ICBC concede to the plaintiffs that the defendants were responsible for the Accident and in my view there is no persuasive evidentiary foundation to infer that only the quantum of damages remained as an issue to be settled between them.

[52]         Finally, I am not convinced that the plaintiffs relied to their detriment on any assurances made by Ms. Johal or any other representative of ICBC.

[53]         In light of these findings, I conclude the defendants are not estopped from relying on the valid and complete defence that is available to them under the Limitation Act.

[54]         The defendants’ applications are granted and the plaintiffs’ actions are dismissed.