Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for a chronic low back soft tissue injury with a pre-existing complicating factor.
In the recent case (MacIntosh v. Davison) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2009. He had injuries from previous collisions which were recovered. He also underwent back surgery many years prior. Although he had no symptoms related to this his back was at risk of suffering exacerbation of back injuries. The Court assessed non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 but then reduced these by 20% to account for the plaintiff’s original position. In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Davies provided the following reasons:
On balance, having considered the totality of the evidence I consider reliable, I have concluded that after consideration of the measurable risk of future back problems inherent in Mr. MacIntosh’s “original” position but considering also the increased risk of further exacerbation of his present post-accident condition because of the defendants’ negligence in the 2009 collision, a reduction of 20% of the award of damages that would otherwise appropriately compensate Mr. MacIntosh for the injuries he has endured since October 2009 is necessary to ensure that he is only compensated for the difference between his “original” and his “injured” condition…
1) Mr. MacIntosh’s testimony and that of the medical and lay witnesses establishes that although injuries arising from the collision other than his low back injuries were largely resolved within one year, the low back injuries suffered in the collision have continued with only limited and sporadic abatement over time.
2) I accept the opinions of Drs. Kates, Quirke and O’Connor that Mr. MacIntosh’s condition has now “plateaued” and will not likely deteriorate further, except for occasional flare-up of more intense and debilitating pain.
3) However, the “plateau” which Mr. MacIntosh has reached renders him a far different person than the one he was prior to the collision.
4) Mr. MacIntosh’s life in the four years since the collision has been dominated by the effects of the collision as he has followed all of the medical advice he has received to attempt to regain his health.
5) While he has continued to golf regularly, his enjoyment of the game is much lessened. He also now golfs at significant rehabilitative cost and discomfort requiring much ongoing physical therapy.
6) In that regard, while I note Dr. MacPherson’s opinion that the golfing exacerbates Mr. MacIntosh’s condition, I also note that his treating physicians have encouraged him to attempt to golf and undertake therapy as necessary to alleviate more acute symptomology related to it.
7) I accept that to be a reasonable course of both advice and treatment because if Mr. MacIntosh had to restrict his golfing more than he has done, the result would be a larger award for non-pecuniary losses related to his ability to enjoy that which he previously enjoyed before the collision.
8) The medical “plateau” at which Mr. MacIntosh now finds himself and which will likely endure for the balance of his active life also includes an inability to exercise as rigorously as he once did or hike with the enjoyment he once had. He is also far more irritable due to sleep deprivation caused by his injuries. That has an impact on his social life as he has become more reclusive than before.
9) All of those aspects of his present life significantly negatively impact his overall enjoyment of life not only physically but also socially and emotionally. Coping with and trying to ameliorate the lasting effects of those injuries now are the focus of his daily life in place of the healthy and well-rounded physical, emotional and social life he previously enjoyed.
 In all of the circumstances I find that an award of $90,000 would appropriately compensate Mr. MacIntosh for his past, present, and future pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. By application of the 20% reduction I have previously found to be necessary to compensate him only for the change from his “original” position that arises from the defendants’ negligence, I award Mr. MacIntosh $72,000 to compensate him for his non-pecuniary losses.