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$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Aggravation of Chronic, Disabling Pre-Existing Condition

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a collision which aggravated long-standing pre-existing health complications.

In today’s case (Cheema v. Khan) the Plaintiff was disabled since 2003 due to arthritis and depression.  She was involved in a 2012 collision that the Defendants admitted fault for.  The collision aggravated her pre-existing issues.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Chief Justice Hinkson provided the following reasons:

[103]     There is no question that Ms. Cheema was unemployable after 2003. She had been on long-term disability from employment as a linen worker since 2004 due to rheumatoid arthritis and major depressive disorder. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the 1990s. The pain was in her neck initially, followed by bilateral hand pain since 2000. Her rheumatoid arthritis affected her hands, wrists, feet, ankles and shoulders. In the month preceding the Collision, the plaintiff had a flare up of her rheumatoid arthritis. Since 2000, the plaintiff had also suffered from longstanding, severe and chronic major depressive disorder, chronic anxiety and panic attacks leading up to the Collision.

[104]     I am unable to accept the plaintiff’s submission that her condition prior to the Collision was stable. She suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, Morton’s neuromas and a severe major depressive disorder prior to the Collision, and these conditions compromised her ability to ambulate, cook, clean and perform other household activities. I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s severe rheumatoid arthritis and severe depression waxed and waned prior to the Collision, but overall were worsening, and would have continued to worsen even if she had not been involved in the Collision.

[105]     I find, however, that the Collision caused an aggravation of her pre-Collision neck, back and shoulder pain and headaches, and likely had a negative effect on the symptoms arising from her rheumatoid arthritis.

[106]     I conclude that the plaintiff’s neck, back and shoulder pain and headaches were worsened by the Collision and that without the accident she would not have suffered from those difficulties as much as she has for the four years that have followed the Collision.

[107]     I accept the evidence of Dr. Shuckett that stress has a negative effect on someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and has had such an effect on the plaintiff and accelerated the progress of her disease.

[108]     I am also persuaded that the Collision had a negative effect on the plaintiff’s psychiatric state that has resulted in a downward spiralling effect causing the plaintiff to brood about her physical condition and limit her activities, in turn worsening her depression, in turn compromising her participation in certain activities and so on…

[133]     I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $75,000.

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