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$67,500 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries With Depression

Reasons for judgement were released today assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries with secondary depression following a collision.

In today’s case (Dhanji v. Holland) the Plaintiff pedestrian was struck in a marked cross walk by a vehicle driven by the Defendant.  The Defendant admitted fault for the collision.

The Plaintiff suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries, some of which were chronic in nature and developed depression secondary to this.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $67,500 (a figure which was arrived at following a 10% deduction in damages for the Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages by refusing to attend recommended counselling) Mr. Justice Pearlman provided the following reasons:

[108]     The plaintiff is 39 years old.  As a result of the soft tissue injuries she sustained in the accident, Ms. Dhanji has experienced constant back pain, usually of mild to moderate intensity, but at times severe.  While her low back pain had substantially resolved within 14 months of the accident, she continues to suffer from neck pain, which at times is severe.  According to Dr. O’Connor, whose opinion I accept, the plaintiff will probably experience mild to occasionally moderate mid back pain indefinitely.  If she is able to maintain an active exercise regime, and improve her mood through the treatment of her depression, she may realize some reduction in pain.  There is however a very real chance that if her mood and conditioning do not improve, her pain may persist in the moderate to occasionally severe range.  It is more probable than not that Ms. Dhanji will have to cope with mild to occasionally moderate chronic mid back pain throughout her life.

[109]      As a result of her chronic pain, the plaintiff has experienced persistent mild to moderate depression since the accident.  With the benefit of psychological counselling there will likely be some improvement in the plaintiff’s mood, and her ability to manage her pain.  However, given the persistence of her symptoms of depression over the past three and a half years, there is a real possibility that she will experience intermittent bouts of depression or low mood indefinitely.  

[110]     The pain and discomfort the plaintiff experiences during prolonged periods of sitting required her to undertake a graduated return to work over a six-month period. Ms. Dhanji is capable of working full-time with the accommodations available to her at the forensic lab.  Through the use of an ergonomic chair, the application of heat, and taking short breaks during long periods of sitting, she is able to manage the pain and discomfort she experiences during the workday. However, by the end of the week she is fatigued and requires the weekends to recover.  Ms. Dhanji is resilient and dedicated to her work.  However, the pain and discomfort she experiences during the work day have diminished her enjoyment of her work.

[111]     While the plaintiff’s contact with some of her friends has reduced as a result of changes in their lives, I find Ms. Dhanji’s chronic mid back and neck pain has also impaired her social life.  As a result of her fatigue, she tends to stay at home more on the weekends.  Her friends, Ms. Woodall, Ms. Hutchinson and Ms. Ostenall all corroborated Ms. Dhanji’s evidence that she has been less outgoing since the accident.  Although she continues to host dinners from time to time, and to travel with her friends, she does so at a diminished level.

[112]     With respect to physical activities, she is capable of exercising but her tolerance for repetitive activities involving the use of her shoulders and arms is reduced.  Her recreational activities are restricted.  Ms. Dhanji no longer hikes.  She found that activity aggravated her back pain…

[124]     Taking into account the plaintiff’s particular circumstances; all of the Stapley factors, including the probability that the plaintiff will live with chronic mid back pain indefinitely; my finding that her depression is largely but not entirely caused by the defendant’s negligence; and after considering all of the authorities cited by counsel, I assess the plaintiff’s damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life in the amount of $75,000.  I reduce that amount by 10% for the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate and award Ms. Dhanji non-pecuniary damages of $67,500.

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