ICBC Law

BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

$140,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Permanent Low Back Nerve Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing damages for a permanent low back nerve injury with accompanying depression.

In today’s case (Bellaisac v. Mara) the Plaintiff, who was described by the Court as “an uncomplicated man who enjoys life’s simple pleasures, including those of hard physical labour” was injured in a 2009 rear end collision.  The crash caused L5-S1 Disc Injury which impacted and permanently injured the S1 nerve root.  In describing the injury and prognosis the Court accepted the following medical evidence –

[36]         Dr. J. Fuller was called by the plaintiff. Dr. Fuller’s key opinions with respect to the plaintiff’s back are set forth in paragraphs 41 and 43 of his March 18, 2014 report:

41. With reference to the low back, the primary finding remains a significant L5-S1 disc protrusion now detected both on CT scan taken at Surrey Memorial Hospital on February 22nd and further MRI of the lumbosacral spine taken at Surrey Memorial Hospital on July 7, 2012. He also presents with a further CT scan of the lumbosacral spine taken at Jim Pattison Outpatient Clinic October 17, 2012. These further investigations merely confirmed the presence of the L5-S1 disc with probable compromise to the S1 roots. His clinical presentation at this juncture is more suggestive of compromise to the left S1 root in that he presents with weakness of calf musculature. He demonstrates at this juncture a degree of root tension on the left, probably involving the left S1 root. There is the probable hyperactivity of the left ankle reflex. There is also numbness of the sole of the left foot and weakness of plantar flexion/pointing the foot downward. All these signs involve the S1 root. There therefore appears to be little reasonable discussion as to the cause of his persistent symptoms.

43. As has been previously discussed, he has really exhausted conservative/nonoperative therapeutic options. On the other hand, he is a poor candidate for surgical intervention. It is now four years and eight months since the motor vehicle accident of July 6, 2009. His symptoms can therefore be considered to be established and it is probable that the trauma to the left S1 root is irreversible. It is also significant that his primary concern has been low back pain. The results of discectomy/removal of a protruding disc are less successful when directed towards low back pain as opposed to severe sciatic pain. He can therefore be considered to have reached maximal medical recovery as was indicated in my previous report of April 13, 2012 page nine, paragraph 45. I would in fact strongly oppose surgical intervention at this juncture in that the prognosis for success is indeed poor.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $140,000 Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:

[71]         The Court will award the plaintiff $140,000 in non-pecuniary damages. In considering the various factors, the Court has placed particular weight on the plaintiff’s age, which favours an award larger than if he were much older. He will be living with chronic back pain and fluctuating chronic depression for the rest of his life.

[72]         In making the award, the Court considered the fact that Dr. Fisher, in his March 12, 2014 report, mentions the possibility of surgery. As noted, in his April 13, 2012 report Dr. Fuller states:

43. As has been previously discussed, he has really exhausted conservative/nonoperative therapeutic options. On the other hand, he is a poor candidate for surgical intervention. It is now four years and eight months since the motor vehicle accident of July 6, 2009. His symptoms can therefore be considered to be established and it is probable that the trauma to the left S1 root is irreversible. It is also significant that his primary concern has been low back pain. The results of discectomy/removal of a protruding disc are less successful when directed towards low back pain as opposed to severe sciatic pain. He can therefore be considered to have reached maximal medical recovery as was indicated in my previous report of April 13, 2012 page nine, paragraph 45. I would in fact strongly oppose surgical intervention at this juncture in that the prognosis for success is indeed poor.

[73]         With Dr. Fuller’s opinion in mind the Court finds that the future possibility of lower back surgery is not a real and substantial possibility.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , ,