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.

Archive for the ‘ICBC Head Injury Cases’ Category

A Drunken Push Leads to Over $500,000 in Consequences

October 1st, 2015

In a stark example of the profound consequences that can come from a modest confrontation, damages of $553,000 were ordered to be paid after an intoxicated groom to be pushed a man that was teasing him.

In today’s case (Robinson v. Bud’s Bar Inc) the Defendant, a groom to be who was “exotically dressed and wearing a ball and chain” following a bachelor party, was approached by the Plaintiff and teased about his upcoming marriage.  Both parties were intoxicated.  The Defendant responded by pushing the plaintiff who fell down, struck his head on the ground, and suffered a permanent brain injury.

The Court assessed damages at $790,000 but then reduced these by 30% for the Plaintiff’s contributory negligence and provocation.  In reaching this split of fault Mr. Justice Sigurdson provided the following reasons:

[140]     I find on the evidence that both men were intoxicated. I find that the plaintiff came up to the defendant Leelund Turner and teased him and persisted to do so despite being told to leave and being asked by his friend or friends to get going. I do not conclude that the defendant Leelund Turner held the plaintiff before pushing him as counsel suggested. I find the plaintiff had a reasonable opportunity to extricate himself from the situation. The plaintiff could easily have walked away but the plaintiff persisted to tease Leelund Turner. The push was sudden and careless but it followed the Leelund Turner’s plea to Mr. Robinson to leave him alone.

[141]     I find that in these particular circumstances the defendant Leelund Turner has satisfied me that the plaintiff was both contributorily negligent and provoked the negligent push. In these particular circumstances the concepts overlap to a degree. While I recognize that alcohol consumption is not itself negligence, here I find that the plaintiff was intoxicated to the extent that he persisted to be rude to the defendant Leelund Turner in close quarters despite being told to back away by Leelund Turner and being told by his friend that he should leave. I find that for Mr. Robinson to persist as he did to tease the defendant Leelund Turner at close quarters, he was partly at fault for the injury.

[142]     I think that the conduct of the plaintiff also amounted to provocation. While the plaintiff’s counsel says that the conduct does not meet the definition of provocation, I think in the circumstances of this case that it can easily be inferred from the evidence that the persistence of the plaintiff at close quarters that was rude and aggressive caused the defendant Leelund Turner to momentarily lose his power of self control and push the plaintiff abruptly, forcibly and carelessly away, resulting in the fall.

[143]     While I do not find that the defendant Leelund Turner has proven that had Mr. Robinson not been intoxicated, the drastic results of the fall would have been avoided, I think that Mr. Robinson must bear some responsibility because of his fault in approaching the defendant Leelund Turner and persistently teasing him at close quarters.

[144]     Accordingly although I find the defendant Leelund Turner liable, I find that both contributory negligence and provocation have been proven by the defendant Leelund Turner and that the damages incurred by the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s negligence must be reduced by 30%.


BC Court of Appeal Discusses Forseeability Limits With Psychiatric Injuries

June 8th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal succinctly highlighting some of the limits of the forseeability defence to personal injury lawsuits.

In today’s case (Hussack v. Chilliwack School District No. 33) the Plaintiff sustained a concussion when struck in the head with a field hockey stick as he approached another player.  He was a student in grade 7 at the time and the game was being supervised by a PE teacher.  Madam Justice Boyd of the BC Supreme Court held that the School District was responsible for this event because the teacher permitted the Plaintiff to play before he “learned any of the basic skills or even how to play the game” and that doing so breached the standard of care that the school should have exercised.

The Plaintiff developed serious psychological issues following his concussion.   At trial the Plaintiff was awarded  just over $1.3 million for his injuries and loss.

The School District appealed for many reasons but were largely unsuccessful.  The BC Court of Appeal made some modest reductions to the wage loss awards but left the trial judgement largely intact.  One of the Defendant’s arguments was that the Plaintiff’s severe psychiatric dysfunction was not a forseeable consequence of the event.  The BC Court of Appeal rejected this argument and in doing so provided the following useful reminder of the limits of the forseeability defence:

[71] It is not necessary for the plaintiff to show that the precise injury or the full extent of the injury was reasonably foreseeable.  What he must show is that the type or kind of injury was reasonably foreseeable:  Hughes v. Lord Advocate, [1963] UKHL 1; Jolley v. Sutton London Borough Council, [2000] UKHL 31; Ontario (Minister of Highways) v. Côté, [1976] 1 S.C.R. 595….

[74] The principle of reasonable foreseeability in relation to psychiatric injury is subject to a qualification:  where the psychiatric injury is consequential to the physical injury for which the defendant is responsible, the defendant is also responsible for the psychiatric injury even if this injury was unforeseeable.  See White v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, [1999] 2 A.C. 455 at 470, Varga v. John Labbatt, [1956] O.R. 1007, 6 D.L.R. (2d) 336 (H.C.);  Yoshikawa v. Yu (1996) 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 318, 73 B.C.A.C. (C.A.);  Edwards v. Marsden, 2004 BCSC 590; Samuel v. Levi, 2008 BCSC 1447.


The Significant Role of Expert Evidence in Personal Injury Trials

May 10th, 2011

When presenting a claim at trial dealing with future loss it is vital to have appropriate expert evidence to justify sought damages.  Failure to do so can result in a dismissal of the sought damages even if they are unopposed.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry highlighting the importance of medico-legal evidence in personal injury trials.

In this week’s case (Moore v. Briggs) the Plaintiff suffered a fractured skull (fractured left temporal bone) and a brain injury in a 2003 assault.

The Plaintiff sued those he claimed were responsible for the assault.  One of the Defendant’s did not respond to the lawsuit and the Plaintiff obtained default judgement against him.  The Plaintiff asked the Court to award substantial damages including an award for diminished earning capacity.  Despite the Plaintiff’s assessment of damages being unopposed the Plaintiff was only awarded a fraction of his claimed damages and he received nothing for future loss.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 and dismissing the claim for diminished earning capacity Madam Justice Dillon provided the following reasons:

[11] As a result of the assault, the plaintiff continues to have some problem with memory. This has improved over time such that it does not interfere with work or enjoyment of life, but still lingers. He also has difficulty with attention span and focus. He continues to have almost daily headaches. These often interrupt his sleep. He noticed that eye near the indentation in his temple was “lazy”, a couple of times a week at first and now hardly noticeable.

[12] For about four years after the assault, the plaintiff had problems with balance such that he could not walk a straight line and was dizzy when he looked down. He wanted to obtain employment as a greenhand on the log booms but did not consider that he could do the job. This would have increased his hourly pay to $24. Few details were provided about this job prospect. There was no medical evidence to support this inability and the plaintiff testified that any problems with balance had now resolved…

[17] Here, there is evidence of a small depressed comminuted fracture of the left temporal bone that resulted in some memory and motor impairment. From the testimony of the plaintiff, it appears that the motor impairment has resolved over time. There continue to be memory problems, the exact nature of which has not been assessed on a current basis. There are also some continuing headaches that are attributed to the fracture in 2003. The plaintiff lost about two months work and has successfully resumed his career and achieved advancement. His social life appears stable and normal. Any present loss of enjoyment of activities is because of lack of interest as opposed to ability…

[22] After consideration of these authorities and in consideration of the plaintiff’s description of his injury, and given the lack of medical information, non-pecuniary damages are assessed at $40,000…

[24] The plaintiff also claims loss of future earning capacity because of inability to obtain employment on the log booms. He calculated this amount based upon expectations of work life to age 65 at the remuneration rate that he said he would have received as a greenhand. This is contrary to the capital asset approach which has been adopted in this Court (Parypa v. Wickware, 1999 BCCA 88 at para. 63). However, the evidence on this aspect of the claim is scant and unsupported by any medical or actuarial evidence. Further, the plaintiff had successfully advanced in his work at present and said that this is his employment of choice. Further, there was no evidence that his employment aggravated his symptoms. The plaintiff must establish that there is a real and substantial possibility that his earning capacity has been impaired to some degree as a result of the injuries sustained in the assault (Romanchych v. Vallianatos, 2010 BCCA 20 at para. 10). In my view, there is little likelihood of any substantial possibility of an actual income loss in the circumstances here. There is nothing to suggest that the plaintiff will be unable to perform the tasks required in his work of choice. Nothing is awarded under this head of damage.


"Demystifying" Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

December 29th, 2010

(Update: the Defendant’s Appeal of the below judgement was dismissed by the BC Court of Appeal on February 7, 2012)

Many of you may be aware of ICBC’s current “demystifying” campaign.   There are many misunderstood topics related to injury lawsuits and one of the most prominent is that of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).  Reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, demystifying some of the arguments that are commonly raised in opposition to these claims.

In today’s case (Madill v. Sithivong) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2004 BC motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck on the passenger side by the Defendant’s vehicle.  The issue of fault was admitted by the Defendant with the trial largely focussing on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.

The collision was not significant, from a vehicle damage perspective, causing little over $1,700 in damage to the Plaintiff vehicle.   Despite this the Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash.  ICBC argued that the injuries were not serious in part because the vehicle damage was modest, the Plaintiff had a ‘normal‘ Glasgow Coma Scale score of 15/15 noted on the ambulance crew report and that the hospital records relating to the treatment of the Plaintiff noted that he suffered from “No LOC (loss of consciousness)” and “zero amnesia“.

The Plaintiff called evidence from Dr. Hunt, a well respected neurosurgeon, who gave evidence that the above facts were not determinative of whether the Plaintiff suffered from serious consequences related to MTBI.  Madam Justice Morrison was persuaded by Dr. Hunts’ evidence and accepted that the Plaintiff suffered from long term consequences as a result of an acquired brain injury.  In rejecting the defence arguments Madam Justice Morrison provided the following ‘demystifying‘ reasons:

[112]     Dr. Hunt said he tries to concentrate on the individual.  He finds it helpful to see the notes of the family doctor, which deal with initial complaints, as do the notes of the ER doctor and responders.  But he notes that those doctors are very busy, and things get overlooked.  The same is true with an ambulance crew.  Dr. Hunt stated there may be no loss of consciousness, but there may be a loss of awareness.  An ambulance crew may give a 15 score for the Glasgow scale, indicating normal, but that could be misleading.  He also noted that someone may be described as being in good health pre-accident, but that would not mean he would not have issues.

[113]     Dr. Hunt disagreed that the best evidence of whether the plaintiff was an amnesiac, were notes at the hospital of “no LOC” and “zero amnesia”.  It was the evidence of Dr. Hunt that no matter how many times you see those terms, that a patient is alert and wide awake, that sometimes in looking at crew reports, the necessary information is not there.  A person does not need to strike his head for a concussion to have occurred.  It need only have been a shaking.

[114]     It is important to explain what a mild traumatic brain injury is, he stressed; Dr. Hunt referred to the many concussions in sports.  He said it is important to look at what happened following the accident, what symptoms have occurred and are continuing to occur.  Patients often deny a loss of consciousness or a loss of awareness, and it may be so fleeting that they may well be unaware.  But if the head has been shaken or jarred enough, this will equal a concussion, which is the same as a mild traumatic brain injury.  There may be no indication of bruises on the head, but it still could be a concussion.  Dr. Hunt noted that something prevented the plaintiff from exiting the vehicle, so the Jaws of Life was used.

[115]     Dr. Hunt noted that Dr. Tessler agreed that the plaintiff had a cerebral concussion in his initial report, but it was the opinion of Dr. Hunt that Dr. Tessler was not up to date on mild traumatic brain injuries.

[116]     In his evidence, Dr. Hunt listed some of the symptoms that are compatible with a concussion having occurred:  headaches, altered vision, balance difficulties, general fatigue, anxiety, memory disturbance, inability to manage stress.  “A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury.  We no longer grade concussions.”

[117]     I found Dr. Hunt to be an excellent witness.  He was cautious, detailed, thoughtful, low key, thorough and utterly professional.  In cross-examination, he gave a minor clinic on mild traumatic brain injuries.  He was subjected to a rigorous, lengthy and skilful cross-examination, which only served to expand upon and magnify his report and opinions.

[118]     He commented on the history of Mr. Madill prior to the accident, pointing to a number of things that may have caused excessive jarring or shaking of the head, even if there had been no symptoms of concussion.  He believes that the first responders’ observations are not always accurate as to what actually happened.  He said he himself may not have identified problems of concussion at the scene of the accident.  Ninety percent of people with concussions have headaches.  They have difficulty describing the headaches, and they are not the same as migraine or tension headaches.

[119]     Dr. Hunt was further critical of Dr. Tessler in opining that Dr. Tessler had diluted his opinion, and that he had concerns with the report of Dr. Tessler.  He felt that Dr. Tessler was still “in the dark ages” with regard to mild traumatic brain injuries, that he has not had the advantages that Dr. Hunt has had in working with sports brain injuries.  “Concussion is cumulative.”

[120]     I found the report and the evidence of Dr. Hunt persuasive.  He came across as an advocate of a better understanding of concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries, not as an advocate on behalf of the plaintiff.

In addition to the above, two other topics were of interest in todays’ case.  Evidence was presented by ICBC though private investigtors they hired who conducted video surveillance of the Plaintiff.  The Court found that this evidence was of little value but prior to doing so Madam Justice Morrison made the following critical observations:

[74] Much of the videotaping occurred while both the plaintiff and the private investigator were moving on streets and highways, driving at the speed of other traffic.  The investigators testified they drove with one hand on the wheel and the other hand operating the video camera, up at the side of their head, to allow them to view through the camera what they were taping.  That continues to be their practice today, according to at least one of the investigators, which was interesting, considering from whom they receive their instructions, a corporation dedicated to road safety.

Lastly, this case is worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of diminished earning capacity.  In short the Plaintiff was self employed with his spouse.  Despite his injuries he was able to continue working but his spouse took on greater responsibility following the collision.  The Court recognized that the Plaintiff suffered from a diminisehd earning capacity and awarded $650,000 for this loss.  Paragraphgs 193-210 of the judgement contain the Court’s discussion of this topic.


Useful Insight into Cross-Examination in an ICBC Brain Injury Claim

September 14th, 2009

When involved in an ICBC Injury Claim it is natural to want to know what the trial experience can be like. The best way to experience what the Court process is like is to actually attend a live trial and watch the evidence play out before you.  This is easy enough to do, particularly in larger centres around the Province, like in Vancouver or New Westminster, as an injury trial is occurring on almost any given day.

If you can’t do this you can read past court judgements to get a feel for the ways these claims can proceed at trial.  While this is not nearly as enlightening as witnessing a live trial some useful insight can still be gleaned.  If you are looking for a court judgement giving insight into the court process Reasons for judgement were released today reproducing extensive portions of a Plaintiff’s cross examination in an ICBC Brain Injury Claim that are worth reviewing in full.

In today’s case (Trevitt v. Tobin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 Motorcycle Accident in Surrey, BC.    The Defendant pulled into the Plaintiff’s line of travel while making a left hand turn.  The Defendant ultimately conceded the issue of fault.

The trial focused on the injuries the Plaintiff had the the appropriate award for compensation.  The Plaintiff alleged that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and as a result would suffer a serious ongoing disability.  The Plaintiff sought over $1.5 million dollars in total damages.

The Plaintiff’s claim with respect to his injuries and the extent of disability was largely rejected with Mr. Justice McEwan finding that “the physical evidence does not account for a head injury or concussion“.  In the end the Court found that the Plaintiff suffered from “general bruising and shaking up in the accident” and following a setback in his career ambitions he suffered from “ongoing difficulties with headaches, tinnitus and some balance issues“.  The Court found that these issues were ongoing by the time of trial (some 5 years later).  The Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) was valued at $60,000.

The Court heard from many very qualified physicians who gave opinion evidence with respect to the Plaintiff’s medical condition.  As is often the case in ICBC Injury Claims the court heard competing expert evidence from physicians called by the Plaintiff and the Defendant.  In determining which experts had the more useful evidence Mr. Justice McEwan pointed out that “what any given doctor ‘believes’ is only helpful to the extent taht the underlying information is plausible by the standards of the court“.

To this end, the The Plaintiff’s credibility and reliability were put squarely at issue in this trial.    The Defence lawyer argued that credibility was central to this case and engaged in an extensive cross examination relating to the Plaintiff’s credibility as a witness.  Portions of this cross examination are set out in paragraphs 15-18 and these give good insight into what cross-examination can be like in Injury Litigation.   Ultimately Mr. Justice McEwan held that the plaintiff gave some “unusual” and “inconsistent” evidence and that “he quite clearly cannot be relied upon for the accuracy of his observations about his condition“.


A Busy day with ICBC Injury Claims

February 19th, 2009

Several Judgements were released today by the BC Supreme Court addressing quantum of damages in ICBC Injury Claims.  Here are the highlights of these judgements

In Guilbault v. Purser, Mr. Justice Blair from Kamloops, BC awarded a Plaintiff $75,500 in total damages as a result of an ICBC Claim arising from a August 2004 collision.  The key findings of fact were as follows:

30]            Ms. Guilbault describes the complaints which she attributes to the August 29, 2004 accident as including her right hip, neck and shoulder pain and her headaches as having slowed her down and preventing her from doing things that she has wanted to do.  Her horse breaking and wakeboarding activities have largely ended because both activities cause her neck problems.  Ms. Guilbault also testified that although her participation in many other outdoor pursuits has been diminished as a result of the injuries she has been able over time to return to those activities, just not as actively as before.  She continues to suffer some neck pain and headaches, but not to the same extent as previously and she appears to have developed mechanisms to cope with and diminish her neck pain and headaches.

[31]            I am satisfied that as a result of the August 29, 2004 accident Ms. Guilbault suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, shoulder and right hip.  I accept that her right hip complaint was an exacerbation of a pre-existing condition which followed her being kicked by a horse approximately 10 years before.  I also find that as a result of the accident, Ms. Guilbault suffered from particularly distressing headaches.  However, I also conclude that over time the complaints emanating from the accident have been largely resolved, although she continues to suffer the occasional headache and some neck pain.

[32]            Ms. Guilbault has taken her pleasure in life from the outdoors and has enjoyed a physically active life, whether in her recreational or her employment pursuits.  I consider it likely that those interests developed in part because of her dyslexia and attention deficit disorder which made scholastic endeavours difficult to pursue, but that had no or little impact on her ability to perform and thrive on physically demanding work around her family’s farm and her recreational pursuits.  Her complaints following the August 2004 accident have impacted, I conclude, on her physical capabilities over the past four and a half years and will continue to impact on those capabilities to some degree into the future.  To Ms. Guilbault, who so relies on her physical capacities for her enjoyment of life, such injuries have a more significant impact than on those whose lifestyle is more sedentary.  The greater impact of the injuries to Ms. Guilbault and her lifestyle must be reflected in the measure of the non-pecuniary damages to which she is entitled.

The following damages were awarded:

Non-pecuniary damages:

$35,000.00

Special damages:

$8,500.00

Past loss of wages:

$12,000.00

Loss of capacity:

$20,000.00

TOTAL:

$75,500.00


 

In another ICBC Injury Claim Judgement released today (Haag v. Serry) Just over $120,000 in total damages were awarded to a Plaintiff injured in a 2005 collision which occurred in Surrey, BC.  

The Injuries included soft tissue injuries and the onset of symptoms in the Plaintiff’s arthritic facet joints.  Damages were awarded as follows:

[109]        In summary, my conclusions are as follows:

(a)        The accident on October 9, 2005 caused Mr. Haag to suffer soft tissue injuries and activated facet joint arthritis which has resulted in Mr. Haag suffering chronic lower back pain.

(b)        I award Mr. Haag non-pecuniary damages in the sum of $63,000, which takes into account a reduction to reflect my conclusion that Mr. Haag comes within the “crumbling skull” rule.

(c)        Mr. Haag’s claim for past income loss is dismissed.

(d)        I award Mr. Haag $60,000 for loss of earning capacity.

(e)        Mr. Haag is entitled to recover special damages in relation to the cost of physiotherapy treatments (including mileage) and for mileage in relation to his visits to Dr. Rebeyka up to the end of 2007 only.  I will leave counsel to calculate the dollar amount.  The claims for the cost of physiotherapy treatments (including mileage) and mileage in relation to Mr. Haag’s visits to Dr. Rebeyka in 2008 are dismissed.

(f)        With respect of the balance of special damages claimed, Mr. Haag is entitled to recover these amounts. 

The third ICBC Injury Claim judgement released by the BC Supreme Court today (Majewska v. Partyka) involved a 2007 collision which occurred in Coquitlam, BC.   The Plaintiff suffered a soft tissue injury to her neck, lower back and a concussion.   Her syptmoms improved by about 80% by the time of trial.  The court was unable to conclude whether the symptoms would fully recover or not.

General Damages were assessed as follows:

 

(a)

Non-Pecuniary Damages

$30,000

(b)

Loss of Income to Trial

$15,000

(c)

Loss of Earning Capacity

$15,000

(d)

Future Care

$     500

The last auto injury judgement released by the BC Supeme Court today was Moore v. Brown from the Victoria Registry.  This case involved serious orthopaedic and soft tissue injuries in a 2005 motorcycle accident.   Damages were assessed as follows:

1.

Pain and suffering

$115,000

2.

Past wage loss (gross)

$75,000

3.

Impairment of earning capacity

$262,000

4.

Special damages

$47,400

5.

Future care

$75,000

Whew!  Now back to work.


Over $250,000 Awarded for Serious Injuries in ICBC Claim

February 12th, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today (Tchao v. Bourdon) in an ICBC Injury Tort Claim awarding $276,504.46 in total damages as a result of injuries suffered in a 2004 collision in the Lower Mainland. 

I am still in trial still and only have time for bare bones reporting.  In this case it appears the Plaintiff suffered significant injuries including a mild traumatic brain injury, significant soft tissue injuries, PTSD, depression and a lumbar facet syndrome.  The court’s key analysis of injuries is set out below:

[73]                  I am satisfied that, as a result of the accident at issue in this action, the plaintiff suffered a knee injury that recovered within approximately a month, a significant soft tissue injury to the neck and upper back that recovered within approximately seven months but which has left the plaintiff more vulnerable to degenerative changes in the neck, a concussion with post-concussion syndrome that still causes headaches once or twice a week, but is likely to resolve, a mild post-traumatic stress disorder that is resolving but remains problematic, and a depressed mood.

[74]                  Counsel for the defendant suggested that the plaintiff did not suffer a concussion because there was no clear evidence of loss of memory.  There is, however, evidence of a loss of awareness, a blow to the head, and ongoing symptoms consistent with post-concussion syndrome.  Dr. Duncan, the treating GP, Dr. Bozek, the treating neurologist, and Dr. Hunt were all of the view that Mr. Tchao indeed suffered a concussion and post-concussion syndrome, and I find that conclusion to be consistent with all of the evidence.

[75]                  That brings us to the most serious of Mr. Tchao’s ongoing difficulties, his lower back.

[76]                  Counsel for the defendant conceded that Mr. Tchao suffered a soft tissue injury to his lower back in the accident, but submitted that Mr. Tchao had recovered from that injury by some point in 2005, and that his ongoing symptoms relate to his pre-existing degenerative condition.  He based this argument on the absence from Dr. Duncan’s clinical record of any notes of complaints from the plaintiff about his lower back, as opposed to his upper back and neck, in the relevant period.  I observe, however, that throughout that period, the plaintiff was attending at CBI undergoing rehabilitation therapy for his lower back, and I do not find it surprising that during the course of that treatment, he did not raise lower back issues with his GP.

[77]                  Defendant’s counsel also urged me to treat Dr. Hunt’s opinion with great caution because of his apparent advocacy.  I find that the passages defence counsel brought to my attention in this regard are more consistent with a certain degree of impatience and curmudgeonliness on the part of a very senior and experienced surgeon, than with improper advocacy.  There are nevertheless aspects of Dr. Hunt’s opinion that I am not prepared to accept.  In particular, I do not accept his suggestion that Mr. Tchao possibly suffered a hiatus hernia in the accident, nor do I accept his opinion that Mr. Tchao may require surgery in the future as a result of the motor vehicle accident – although to be fair, Dr. Hunt raised these as possibilities, not probabilities.

[78]                  I do accept, however, Dr. Hunt’s opinion that Mr. Tchao’s pre-existing degenerative condition made him more vulnerable to injury in the motor vehicle accident (no expert disagrees with this), and that as a result of the effect of the accident on Mr. Tchao’s pre-existing condition, Mr. Tchao suffers from bilateral lumbar facet syndrome.  This is supported by Dr. Purtzki’s findings of “predominately mechanical back pain due to a facet joint dysfunction”, and by Dr. Adrian’s impression of mechanical low back pain with radicular features.  None of the pre-accident investigations demonstrated any facet joint issues.

[79]                  I observe further that regardless of how one characterizes the effect of the accident on Mr. Tchao’s pre-existing condition, there is no question that the accident aggravated it as noted by the defence expert, Dr. Arthur.  There is also no doubt that, as reported by both Dr. Arthur and by Dr. Hunt, the plaintiff’s prognosis remains guarded.

[80]                  That the accident has had a significant and lasting impact on Mr. Tchao is also consistent with his own evidence.  This brings me to the issue of his credibility.  In general, I found the plaintiff to be a believable witness.  I observed nothing that would suggest malingering or exaggeration on his part, and there is nothing in any of the medical records or reports, including those submitted by the defence, that would suggest that I may be mistaken in my impression.

[81]                  As previously noted, the CBI discharge report considered that his perceived functional ability was the same as his actual, demonstrated ability, and that there was maximal effort on his behalf.  Ms. Jodi Fischer, who carried out a Functional/Work Capacity Evaluation, administered a number of tests from which she was able to conclude that Mr. Tchao was devoting his best efforts to the evaluation, and was reliably reporting his levels of pain and disability.  There were no non-organic findings.  I found Ms. Fischer to be a compelling witness.

[82]                  In these circumstances, I conclude that, as a result of the effect of this accident on his pre-existing degenerative condition, the plaintiff has suffered a significant injury in the form of a lumbar facet syndrome that causes him ongoing pain and disability, and which has left him with a guarded prognosis.

[83]                  There was very little evidence concerning what lower back problems the plaintiff would likely have suffered in the future as a result of his pre-existing degenerative condition, in the absence of the accident.  Dr. Arthur, the defendant’s expert in orthopaedic surgery, was silent on this point.  I nevertheless find that, as conceded by Dr. Hunt, problems of the sort that plagued Mr. Tchao before the accident would likely have recurred in the future.  There is no evidence, however, that they would have been as disabling as the condition in which Mr. Tchao now finds himself.  As I will explore further below, he was able to carry on with physical labour at his jobs at Safeway, Nexus and The Blox in the past, but is no longer able to do physical labour of any kind.  No expert witness, including Dr. Arthur, has suggested that Mr. Tchao is presently capable of more than light and sedentary duties.

Damages were assessed as follows:

D.        CONCLUSION

[127]              I find the defendant 100% liable for the plaintiff’s damages.  Those damages are assessed as follows:

non-pecuniary damages:                                   $70,000.00

past loss of income:                                          $67,500.00

loss of income earning capacity:                     $120,000.00

future care costs:                                               $17,317.00

special damages:                                                $1,687.46

Total:                                                               $276,504.46

 


$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for MTBI and PTSD

October 14th, 2008

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff damages as a result of a signficicant motor vehicle accident which occurred in Burnaby, BC in 2005.

The Defendant lost control of a garbage truck which tipped over and landed on the Plaintiff’s Honda Civic.  A photo of the collision is included at paragraph 2 of the reasons for judgement and this is worth glancing at to get a feel for the severity of this impact.

The Plaintiff was knocked unconsious as a result of the crash.  His Glasgo Coma Scale was 9 by the time the ambulance crew arrived and this qucikly rebounded to 15 by the time the Plaintiff arrived at hospital.

There was no dispute that the Plaintiff suffered various injuries as a result of this crash, what was at issue was the ‘nature and extent of the Plaintiff’s current condiction and the degree to which improvement may occur in the future’.

After hearing various medical evidence the court found as follows:

[35]            (The Plaintiff) has clearly suffered physical and psychiatric injury as a result of the August 19, 2005 collision.  I accept that his injuries caused him headaches, back pain and neck pain and pain in his shoulder.  Likely, he would have had some neck and shoulder problems from his previous condition without the August 2005 injury, however that injury clearly either initiated them anew or made them worse.  The physical problems |(the Plaintiff) suffered because of the August 19, 2005 collision have, by the date of the trial almost three years later, largely resolved as documented in the medical records, however his psychiatric ones have not, and there is an issue that he may still be suffering symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury in addition to his PTSD and major depressive disorder.  (the Plaintiff) was clearly rendered unconscious by some degree of impact to his head as evidenced by the ambulance crew reports, Mr. Touffaha’s observations and the glass found embedded in his scalp.  I find that (the Plaintiff) probably suffered a mild traumatic injury to his brain at the time of the collision.

[36]            Whether or not (the Plaintiff) still is affected by his mild traumatic brain injury is not clear, particularly because his psychiatric condition can produce the same symptoms at this point.  On the balance of probabilities, I accept the opinion of Dr. Teal, the neurologist, that (the Plaintiff) has not sustained persisting cognitive impairment as a result of traumatic brain injury, and will not have any long-term cognitive sequelae as a result of a neurological injury.

[37]            I also find, on the balance of probabilities that while (the Plaintiff) was initially rendered essentially catatonic for the first six months following the collision, he has since that time made significant improvement, and I accept the opinion of Dr. Wiseman that with a course of cognitive behavioural therapy conducted by a specialist in that field, he will continue to make improvements.  On the other hand, I accept that he will likely continue to have problems and symptoms from his PTSD and depression for the rest of his life.  I find that it is highly unlikely that (the Plaintiff)will be able to return to his employment at Coastal Ford or any other competitive employment.  The medical evidence is that to the date of trial he has been unfit for employment.  He is now 67 years old, an age at which neither the body nor the brain is particularly resilient.  His mental state in my opinion is and will remain too fragile for him to be competitively employed.

[38]            The result of this collision and its consequent injuries to (the Plaintiff) is that he has lost a large measure of who he was.  While human identity is partially associated with physical ability, it is much more related to a person’s mental state and abilities.  (the Plaintiff) is quite simply not the man he was.  Rather than being energetically and happily employed as the lease manager for Coastal Ford, he is unemployed.  Rather than being the social outgoing man he was, he is socially withdrawn and has little or no interest in conversing about anything.  Rather than being the patriarch supporting his family, he is dependent upon them in a way that corrodes his relationship with his wife and children.  I find there is a real likelihood he will make progress in these areas so that his life is more enjoyable, however I do not think that will extend to re-employment.

[39]            I assess general damages for the loss (the Plaintiff) has suffered consequent upon the collision for which the defendants are responsible at $200,000.

 


Appeal of $70,000 Soft Tissue Injury Claim Dismissed

October 14th, 2008

In reasons for judgement released today, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of a $70,000 award of damages as a result of 2004 BC car accident.

The case possibly fit into ICBC’s LVI criteria based on the fact that the trial judge found that the ‘force applied to the Plaintiff as a resultof the collisions to her rear was actually very little indeed.’

The Plaintiff sued claiming various injuries including soft tissue injury, depression, anxiety, irremediable personality change, brain damage, concussion, post-consussion syndromne, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain syndrome.  The Trial Judge recjected the medical diasnoses of brain injury, PTSD and post-concussion Syndrome.  In rejecting some of the alleged injuries the trial judge found that the Plaintiff was ‘unreliable’ as a witness.

The Plaintiff sought damages of over $1.7 Million.  Given the trial judges findings a total of $70,000 in damages was awarded.

The Plaintiff appealed arguing tha the trial judge disregarded the evidence of four lay witnesses and three expert witnesses.  The Plaintiff also argued that the trial judge should have confronted the Plaintiff during the trial to address the court’s concerns with her reliability.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.  In doing so the court found that the trial judge did not disregard the evidence and had this to say about ‘confronting’ the Plaintiff

(a)  Confronting the Plaintiff

[33]            The plaintiff maintains that the rule established in the case of Browne v. Dunn (1893), 6 R. 67 (H.L.) applies to trial judges as well as opposing parties.  The rule is that “if you intend to impeach a witness you are bound, whilst he is in the box, to give him an opportunity of making any explanation which is open to him” (at 70).  The plaintiff says that, before determining that the plaintiff was lying, the trial judge was required to put that proposition to the plaintiff while she was testifying.

[34]            The plaintiff cites no authority to the effect that the rule in Browne v. Dunn applies to judges.  This is hardly surprising because such a rule would be antithetical to the role of a judge in Canada.  In this country, we have an adversarial system, not an inquisitorial one.

[35]            Such a rule would be unworkable with respect to judges in our system.  Judges are required to be fair and impartial, and are expected to hear all of the evidence before making final decisions on the credibility of witnesses.  They should not be required to confront a witness if they are concerned that there is any possibility that, after hearing all of the evidence, they may not accept all of the testimony given by the witness.

[36]            The rule in Browne v. Dunn is not suited for application to judges.  The rule stipulates that if the opposing party is intending to introduce evidence contradicting the testimony of a witness, such evidence should be put to the witness so that he or she will have an opportunity to provide an explanation.  What is being suggested in this case is not that anticipated evidence be put to the witness, but that the judge should confront the witness with the possibility that the judge may conclude that the witness is not credible.  That is not the rule in Browne v. Dunn – the rule does not require opposing counsel to confront a witness with the proposition that the witness is being untruthful before making submissions to the judge at the end of the trial that the witness should be found not to be credible.

[37]            In addition, the rule in Browne v. Dunn has not been treated as an absolute rule.  Evidence contradicting a witness’s testimony may be admitted despite a failure to put it to the witness, and the failure goes to the weight to be given to the evidence.  This feature of the rule is not adaptable to judges.

[38]            The plaintiff says the case of Volzhenin v. Haile, 2007 BCCA 317, 70 B.C.L.R. (4th) 15, is an example of what a trial judge is supposed to do in confronting a witness about whose credibility the judge has reservations.  The ground of appeal in that case was that the plaintiff had not been given a fair trial because, among other things, “the trial judge intervened excessively, thus giving an inquisitorial aspect to the trial that detracted from the disinterested and impartial hearing to which he was entitled” (paragraph 14).  In dismissing the appeal, this Court was not recommending the approach taken by the judge in that case.  It simply held that the judge had not “improperly interjected himself into the hearing, or otherwise created an appearance of an unfair trial” (paragraph 25).  Indeed, Volzhenin v. Haile illustrates the type of problem that could arise if judges were required to confront witnesses about their veracity.

 


A Busy Day – 3 Car Crash Cases Released by BC Supreme Court

October 2nd, 2008

There is a lot to blog about today so I will have to keep these case summaries short.  The BC Supreme Court released 3 cases today that may be of interest to people advancing ICBC claims.

The first deals with the choice of forum of where to sue.  The Plaintiff was in a collision with a tractor trailer in 2007.  The crash happened in Alberta.  The Plaintiff lived in BC and the owner of the tractor trailer had a registered business office in BC.  The Plaintiff started the lawsuit in BC and the Defendant brought a motion that the case should be dismissed or stayed because the lawsuit should have been started in Alberta.

After summarizing the applicable law the court sided largely with the Defendants finding that:

[27] The purpose of this statement is encapsulated in British Columbia in s. 11(2)(f) of the CJPTA.

[28] I do not consider that as between British Columbia and Alberta there is no one forum that is not clearly more appropriate than the other. I am satisfied that, while there may be some advantage to the plaintiff in pursuing his claim in British Columbia, Alberta is the forum with the closest connection to the subject matter of the proposed litigation and that the facts upon which the proceeding against the non-resident defendant is based arise in that jurisdiction. I conclude that Alberta is clearly the more appropriate forum in which to litigate the proposed action.

[29] I was advised by counsel for the plaintiff that as yet there have been no proceedings commenced in Alberta. Neither counsel were able to advise me whether the plaintiff faced any statutory defences, such as a limitation defence, in Alberta. As there may be defences against the plaintiff’s claim in Alberta if proceedings are brought there which would not be available in British Columbia, I am not prepared to dismiss the plaintiff’s action in this jurisdiction.

[30] In the result, I will, however, direct that the plaintiff’s action in British Columbia be stayed, pending further order of this Court, should an action in Alberta be met with defences that are not available in British Columbia, or in the event that the plaintiff’s claim is resolved in Alberta.

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The second case released today dealt with Court Costs.  Typically when a case succeeds in Supreme Court the winner is entitled to court ‘costs’.  In theory this is to compensate the winner for having to trigger the judicial process to get whats fair.

After an 11 day trial as a result of a car accident the Plaintiff was awarded $81,694 in damages for injuries and loss.  In the trial the Plaintiff’s claim for past wage loss and cost of future care were dismissed.

The Defendant brought a motion asking the court to award the defendant ‘costs and disbursements for that portion of the proceedings ralted to the cloaims fr past income loss and cost of future care’ amongst other relief.  The motion was brought further to Rules 57(9) which states

Subject to subrule (12), costs of and incidental to a proceeding shall follow the event unless the court otherwise orders.

And rule 57(15) which states

The court may award costs that relate to some particular issue or part of the proceeding or may award costs except so far as they relate to some particular issue or part of the proceeding.

The court granted the motion stating that:

Analysis and Decision

[22] After analyzing the submissions of the plaintiff and the defendant, I reiterate that the plaintiff’s claims in this action were very exaggerated.  I am satisfied that the defendant has established that there are discrete issues upon which he succeeded at trial.  I agree that the defendant should receive his costs and disbursements related to the issues of past wage loss and the cost of future care and, conversely, that the plaintiff should be denied her costs and disbursements related to those issues.

[23] I also agree with the defendant that many of the witnesses testified entirely, or primarily, in relation to the two issues on which the plaintiff was unsuccessful.  I agree that the evidence of Mr. Scott, Mr. Parcher and Ms. Keller all concerned the issue of past wage loss.  In addition, much of Mr. Johnson’s evidence concerned an alleged lost employment opportunity.  I also agree, based on the clerk’s notes, that these witnesses accounted for approximately one day of trial.  In addition, I agree that half of the evidence of Mr. McNeil and the two reports submitted by Mr. Carson related to the claim for cost of future care, and that Mr. McNeil testified for more than one day and Mr. Carson for 45 minutes.

[24] Lastly, I am of the view that there was divided success in this action and I find that the apportionment of costs would therefore produce a just result.

Conclusion

[25] On the basis of the foregoing, I order that the plaintiff be denied her costs associated with two days of trial, and her disbursements associated with the issues of past wage loss and cost of future care, including the cost of care reports of Mr. McNeil and Mr. Carson.  In addition, the defendant is awarded his costs and disbursements for two days of trial.

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The third case of interest released today dealt with a car accident from 2003 which allegedly caused severe psychological injuries.

The crash occurred at an intersection in Surrey.  The Plaintiff was turning left on a green light.  The defendant entered the intersection approaching from the Plaintiff’s left.  The Defendant had a red light.  The accident then occurred.  The Defendant was found 90% at fault and the Plaintiff was found 10% at fault for failing the see the defendant’s vehicle which was ‘there to be seen’

The most contentious alleged injuries were brain injury and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).  The plaintiff did seem to suffer from DID, the question was whether the car crash caused this.

The court made the following findings with respect to injuries:

[159] The accident caused the plaintiff’s PTSD, various soft tissue injuries, a pain disorder, depression, tinnitus, and a visual vestibular mismatch which results in dizziness.  The accident dramatically reduced her enjoyment of life and caused the loss of various amenities of life.  At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was a highly functional mother of three with an apparently limitless future.  In the aftermath of the accident, her life has been devastated.  She can no longer look after herself or her children.  She lives in an assisted living facility.  She is separated from her husband. Her future prospects are grim.

[160] While some of the plaintiff’s loss arises from her DID and is not subject to compensation, I find the plaintiff has suffered grievously as a direct result of the accident.  The accident clearly terrified her.  Much of her loss of enjoyment of life has been caused by her levels of anxiety and depression as she focused on what she could no longer do.  She was told that she had suffered a serious brain injury.  This led her to believe there was nothing she could do to improve her condition and contributed to her downward spiral.  Her tinnitus and dizziness are likely permanent.  The prognoses for her TMJ problems are guarded.  There is some optimism that her pain disorder will improve given her recent change in medication.  Similarly, over time her depression should respond to treatment.  Her PTSD, although serious in years immediately subsequent to the accident, now appears to be in partial remission.  Absent her DID, the plaintiff would now be on the road to recovery.  DID plays a major role in her present situation and limits, at least for the next few years, her future opportunities.

$150,000 was awarded for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life)