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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

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Archive for the ‘ICBC Psychological Injury Cases’ Category

$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries with Anxiety and Depression

July 5th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Ponsart v. Kong) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 collisions for which the Defendants were responsible.  These resulted in chronic soft tissue injuries to her neck and back with some psychological overlay.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Butler made the following findings and provided these reasons:

[76]         With these conclusions in mind, I make the following specific findings about the nature and extent of Ms. Ponsart’s injuries and symptoms:

·       She suffered a Grade II strain of her neck and low back in the First Accident. At the time of the First Accident, she had recovered from the injuries suffered in the May 2011 accident. The pain in her thoracic spine around that time was primarily caused by breast enlargement that was alleviated by the surgery in 2013.

·       The First Accident also caused the plaintiff to experience significant anxiety and depression, which affected her ability to take part in work and leisure activities. Nevertheless, as her physical condition improved, she was able to take part in many activities. By 2013, she was doing strenuous training. While she functioned marginally at times, that was primarily a result of her psychological condition.

·       Her anxious nature predisposed her to experiencing anxiety and depression. However, there is no evidence suggesting that she would have experienced the emotional problems she faced without the First Accident.

·       The plaintiff was functioning reasonably well before the Second Accident, although she was still experiencing some neck and low back pain. Her emotional condition had improved from the summer of 2014.

·       The Second Accident aggravated the plaintiff’s soft tissue strain to the cervical and lumbar spine. The injury was not as serious as what she experienced in the First Accident, although she was partially disabled for two to three months. The Second Accident had a significant impact on her emotional well-being. It caused additional anxiety and depression, although not to the extent of a major depressive disorder.

·       By the time of the Third Accident, the plaintiff’s physical condition was manageable, although she was still experiencing minor neck and low back pain, which by that time had become chronic.

·       The Third Accident caused a further aggravation of the injuries from the two prior accidents. It had a significant impact on her, both physically and emotionally because of her increased headaches. She now suffers from chronic headaches including severe migraines. The exacerbation of her neck and back symptoms lasted for approximately six months before returning to the pre-accident status.

·       As a result of the accidents, the plaintiff is left with a minor degree of chronic neck and low back pain. She is able to manage all tasks of daily living and most of her recreational pursuits most of the time. However, because of the accidents, she is more susceptible to anxiety and depression than she was before the First Accident.

·       As will be evident from these conclusions, much of the plaintiff’s suffering was emotional. As I have described, there is no doubt it was caused by the First and Second Accidents.

[84]         As I have described, a major component of the plaintiff’s injury is emotional or mental. As the Supreme Court of Canada recently affirmed in Saadati v. Moorhead, 2017 SCC 28, such losses are compensable where, quoting Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., 2008 SCC 27, they are “’serious and prolonged and rise above the ordinary annoyances, anxieties and fears’ that come with living in civil society”. The plaintiff has clearly met the burden of proving serious and prolonged disturbance to her emotional well-being arising from the injuries in the First and Second Accidents.

[85]         When I consider the facts I have found about the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, I conclude that a fair award for non-pecuniary loss is $85,000. This award does not include any amount for two discrete injuries or symptoms: the exacerbation of the plaintiff’s neck and shoulder pain that occurred in the six-month period after the Third Accident; and the headache symptoms that the plaintiff suffered after that accident.


Supreme Court of Canada – Mental Injury Compensable Without “Recognized Psychiatric Condition”

June 2nd, 2017

Important reasons for judgement were published today by the Supreme Court of Canada discussing the legal threshold in lawsuits seeking damages for mental injuries caused by the negligence of others.

In today’s case (Saadati v. Moorhead)  the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages alleging brain injury.  The trial judge rejected this claim but found that the Plaintiff “was a “changed man” after the accident” and awarded $100,000 in non-pecuniary damages for a psychological injury.  The BC Court of Appeal overturned the judgement and dismissed the claim finding the test of proving “a recognizable psychiatric (or psychological) condition” was not met.

The Supreme Court of Canada reinstated the trial award noting the Court of Appeal was in error and that a recognized psychiatric condition is not a pre-requisite to compensation for mental injury.  In reaching this conclusion Canada’s highest court provided the following reasons addressing compensable mental injury in negligence litigation:

[35]                          In short, no cogent basis has been offered to this Court for erecting distinct rules which operate to preclude liability in cases of mental injury, but not in cases of physical injury. Indeed, there is good reason to recognize the law of negligence as already according each of these different forms of personal injury — mental and physical — identical treatment. As the Court observed in Mustapha (at para. 8), the distinction between physical and mental injury is “elusive and arguably artificial in the context of tort”. Continuing (and citing Page v. Smith, at p. 188), the Court explained that, “[i]n an age when medical knowledge is expanding fast, and psychiatric knowledge with it, it would not be sensible to commit the law to a distinction between physical and psychiatric injury, which may . . . soon be altogether outmoded. Nothing will be gained by treating them as different ‘kinds’ of personal injury, so as to require the application of different tests in law” (emphasis in original; see also S. Deakin, A. Johnston and B. Markesinis, Markesinis and Deakin’s Tort Law (7th ed. 2013), at p. 124). This is entirely consistent with the Court’s longstanding view, expressed over a century ago, by Fitzpatrick C.J. in Toronto Railway, at pp. 269-70:

It would appear somewhat difficult to distinguish between the injury caused to the human frame by the impact and that resulting to the nervous system in consequence of the shock . . . . The nature of the mysterious relation which exists between the nervous system and the passive tissues of the human body has been the subject of much learned speculation, but I am not aware that the extent to which the one acts and reacts upon the other has yet been definitely ascertained. . . . I cannot find the line of demarcation between the damage resulting to the human [body] . . . and that which may flow from the disturbance of the nervous system . . . . The latter may well be the result of a derangement of the relation existing between the bones, the sinews, the arteries and the nerves. In any event the resultant effect is the same. The victim is incapacitated . . . .

Or, as Davies J. (as he then was) added in Toronto Railways (at p. 275), “[t]he nervous system is just as much a part of man’s physical being as the muscular or other parts”. In a similar vein, Lord Macmillan, in Bourhill v. Young (at p. 103), said “[t]he distinction between mental shock and bodily injury was never a scientific one, for mental shock is presumably in all cases the result of, or at least accompanied by, some physical disturbance in the sufferer’s system.”

[36]                          It follows that requiring claimants who allege one form of personal injury (mental) to prove that their condition meets the threshold of “recognizable psychiatric illness”, while not imposing a corresponding requirement upon claimants alleging another form of personal injury (physical) to show that their condition carries a certain classificatory label, is inconsistent with prior statements of this Court, among others. It accords unequal — that is, less — protection to victims of mental injury. And it does so for no principled reason (Beever, at p. 410).  I would not endorse it.

[37]                          None of this is to suggest that mental injury is always as readily demonstrable as physical injury. While allegations of injury to muscular tissue may sometimes pose challenges to triers of fact, many physical conditions such as lacerations and broken bones are objectively verifiable. Mental injury, however, will often not be as readily apparent. Further, and as Mustapha makes clear, mental injury is not proven by the existence of mere psychological upset. While, therefore, tort law protects persons from negligent interference with their mental health, there is no legally cognizable right to happiness. Claimants must, therefore, show much more — that the disturbance suffered by the claimant is “serious and prolonged and rise[s] above the ordinary annoyances, anxieties and fears” that come with living in civil society (Mustapha, at para. 9). To be clear, this does not denote distinct legal treatment of mental injury relative to physical injury; rather, it goes to the prior legal question of what constitutes “mental injury”. Ultimately, the claimant’s task in establishing a mental injury is to show the requisite degree of disturbance (although not, as the respondents say, to show its classification as a recognized psychiatric illness).

[38]                          Nor should any of this be taken as suggesting that expert evidence cannot assist in determining whether or not a mental injury has been shown. In assessing whether the claimant has succeeded, it will often be important to consider, for example, how seriously the claimant’s cognitive functions and participation in daily activities were impaired, the length of such impairment and the nature and effect of any treatment (Mulheron, at p. 109). To the extent that claimants do not adduce relevant expert evidence to assist triers of fact in applying these and any other relevant considerations, they run a risk of being found to have fallen short. As Thomas J. observed in van Soest (at para. 103), “[c]ourts can be informed by the expert opinion of modern medical knowledge”, “without needing to address the question whether the mental suffering is a recognisable psychiatric illness or not”. To be clear, however: while relevant expert evidence will often be helpful in determining whether the claimant has proven a mental injury, it is not required as a matter of law. Where a psychiatric diagnosis is unavailable, it remains open to a trier of fact to find on other evidence adduced by the claimant that he or she has proven on a balance of probabilities the occurrence of mental injury. And, of course, it also remains open to the defendant, in rebutting a claim, to call expert evidence establishing that the accident cannot have caused any mental injury, or at least any mental injury known to psychiatry. While, for the reasons I have given, the lack of a diagnosis cannot on its own be dispositive, it is something that the trier of fact can choose to weigh against evidence supporting the existence of a mental injury.


$120,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Pain with Somatization Issues

May 2nd, 2017

Adding to this site’s archived postings of ICBC chronic pain cases, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic pain in a Plaintiff pre-disposed to somatization.

In the recent case (Alafianpour-Esfahani v. Jolliffe) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2012 rear end collision that the Defendant was responsible for.  The Plaintiff alleged brain injury altogether this claim was not proven at trial.  The court found the plaintiff was pre-disposed to somatization and suffered from a chronic pain disorder following the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $120,000 Madam Justice Sharma provided the following reasons:

[123]     In light of the following factors, I find Ms. Alafianpour-Esfahani is entitled to $120,000 in non-pecuniary damages:

a)    the accident caused soft tissue injuries to her neck, back and shoulder that resulted in headaches and developed (in combination with her predisposition to somatization) into chronic pain;

b)    she has not likely reached maximum medical improvement of her physical symptoms, but any further improvement depends upon the success of addressing the reactivity of her nervous system, which will be challenging;

c)     her physical symptoms have been prolonged because of her psychiatric condition characterization by a vulnerability to somatization and pathological nervous system reactivity;

d)    her prognosis for improving her condition by following a thorough program of desensitization is fair, but that is tempered by the chronicity of her condition because it has been left untreated fro 3 ½ years;

e)    the accident has negatively impacted all aspects of her life, including her relationship with her family, her social interaction, her ability to work, her recreational activities, her ability to maintain her home and yard, her ability to cook for family and friends; her ability to provide emotional support to her children, especially her daughter and her ability to travel.


$110,000 Non Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Pain and Major Depressive Disorder

April 3rd, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic injuries sustained in three separate collisions.

In today’s case (Parhar v. Clarke) the Plaintiff was injured in three collisions that the Defendants accepted blame for.  She suffered chronic physical and psychological injuries as a result including thoracic outlet syndrome, chronic pain,  major depression and anxiety.  Her prognosis for further improvement was guarded.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Mr. Justice Pearlman provided the following reasons:

[215]     Ms. Parhar was 27 years old at the time of the first accident and 35 at the time of trial.

[216]     The injuries she suffered in the accidents include injuries to the muscles of her neck, shoulder girdle and back with attendant muscle spasm, low back pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, persistent headaches, TMJ pain and dysfunction and soft tissue injuries to her knees and right hip.

[217]     In addition, as a result of the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiff sustained a chronic pain disorder, a major depressive disorder, a generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD.

[218]     Although there has been some improvement in the plaintiff’s condition, Ms. Parhar’s prognosis is guarded in light of the persistence of her symptoms of pain and her psychological conditions.

[219]     Further psychological counselling would assist Ms. Parhar in coping with chronic pain and managing the functions of daily living. Exercise and conditioning will probably produce further improvements to her symptoms of neck, shoulder and back pain, and may also alleviate her headaches. However, after eight years of chronic pain, it is unlikely the plaintiff will make a full recovery and probable that she will experience flares of her back and neck pain, anxiety and depressive moods indefinitely.

[227]     Taking into account the Stapley v. Hejslet factors, all of the authorities cited by counsel, the risk that the plaintiff would have suffered a recurrence of depression in any event of the accidents, and all of Ms. Parhar’s particular circumstances, I would assess her damages for pain and suffering and loss of amenities and enjoyment of life in the amount of $110,000…


$175,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Fibromyalgia and Somtatic Disorder

December 28th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic physical and psychiatric injuries caused by a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Kim v. Lin) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 collision the Defendants admitted fault for. She suffered soft tissue injuries and eventually developed fibromyalgia and a somatic disorder.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $175,000 Mr. Justice Sewell provided the following reasons:

[128]     I am satisfied, based on all of the evidence that I accept, that Ms. Kim has suffered soft tissue injuries to her back and SI joints as a result of the Accident, which have caused her considerable pain and discomfort. I am also satisfied that as a result of a combination of Ms. Kim’s physical pain and her personal circumstances, Ms. Kim developed the psychiatric disorders diagnosed by Dr. Shane and the fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome diagnosed by Dr. Krassioukov.

[129]     I find that Ms. Kim would not have developed the psychiatric and somatic disorders diagnosed by Drs. Shane and Krassioukov but for the injuries she suffered in the Accident. I therefore find that there is a substantial connection between the tortious conduct of the defendants and the damages and injuries from which Ms. Kim suffers.

[130]     I also find that there is no credible evidence that at the time of the Accident Ms. Kim was suffering from a pre-existing condition that would have had an adverse effect on her future health or capacity. I therefore find that there is no basis for making any deduction from her damages based on any substantial possibility that her health or capacity would have declined in any event…

[152]     In this case, I am satisfied that Ms. Kim’s disability is permanent, in the sense that it is more probable than not that she will continue to suffer from the injuries caused by the Accident for the foreseeable future. Ms. Kim has, however, not suffered any degree of cognitive impairment. The evidence does indicate that there has been some improvement in her overall condition since she moved to Nanaimo and that she has benefitted from counselling with Miyoung Cho, a Korean-speaking psychologist.

[153]     Taking all of the circumstances into account, I assess non-pecuniary damages at $175,000.


$175,000 Non Pecuniary Assessment for Fractured Pelvis and Psychological Injuries

December 12th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for serious injuries caused by a two vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Kweon v. Roy) the Plaintiff was a passenger in a 2010 collision.  Both motorists were found liable for the crash. The Plaintiff suffered multiple fractures to her pelvis, a mild traumatic brain injury, and depression linked to her physical injuries.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $175,000 Mr. Justice Skolrood provided the following reasons:

[179]     The evidence is uniform that Ms. Kweon suffered multiple fractures to her pelvis as a result of the accident, which were initially totally disabling. While the fractures have healed, the evidence also establishes that Ms. Kweon is likely to continue to experience pain in her pelvic and lower back areas into the future, which would disable her from any occupation involving heavy labour.

[180]     Ms. Kweon also suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulders. Dr. Kim noted that these injuries have progressed well, although Ms. Kweon continues to experience periodic pain. Part of the problem is the fact that Ms. Kweon has not engaged in an active rehabilitation program and I agree with Dr. O’Connor that there is an element of deconditioning. I also agree with Dr. Leith that these injuries are likely to resolve and will not result in any long term disability.

[181]     With respect to Ms. Kweon’s psychological condition, I accept the evidence of Drs. Cameron, O’Connor and Wilkinson that Ms. Kweon likely suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) in the accident, however I also agree with Drs. O’Connor and Wilkinson that any ongoing cognitive issues are related to her psychological issues rather than any lingering impacts of the brain injury.

[182]     On this point, there is not a great deal of difference in the opinions of the two psychiatrists, Dr. Patton and Dr. O’Shaughnessy. Both agree that Ms. Kweon has experienced a major depressive disorder. While they disagree about whether Ms. Kweon meets the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, not much turns on that in terms of assessing Ms. Kweon’s prognosis.

[183]     Where Dr. O’Shaughnessy and Dr. Patton agree is that Ms. Kweon’s psychological condition has not been adequately treated, as a result of which her prognosis is uncertain: Dr. Patton states in her second report:

I must again defer my final opinion on Ms. Kweon’s prognosis as her mood and anxiety disorders have still not been adequately treated.

[184]     Dr. O’Shaughnessy is somewhat more positive:

Overall, I regard her prognosis as relatively positive although, in fairness, we never fully know how she will respond until she has had an adequate clinical trial of medications and cognitive-behavioural therapy.

[185]     Both psychiatrists note the relationship of Ms. Kweon’s pain to her psychological and emotional issues. As noted above, her soft tissue injuries are expected to resolve which, combined with a more aggressive approach to treating her psychological illness, is likely to lead to an overall improvement in her condition. While the prognosis is again somewhat uncertain, the evidence does not establish that she will be permanently impaired by reason of her psychological condition.

[186]     I would add that I do not accept ICBC’s submission that Ms. Kweon’s principal problem is a lack of motivation. It is well established on the evidence that Ms. Kweon is suffering from a psychological disorder which has impeded her ability to take steps towards recovery. In this regard, it is unreasonable to examine the actions of a person suffering from a mental illness through the lens of someone who is not and expect them to act the same. Put another way, it is not sufficient to simply say that Ms. Kweon needs to get on with her life if it is her illness that is limiting her ability to do so. Rather, it is the proper treatment of that illness that will enable her to move forward…

[192]     Considering the impacts of the accident on Ms. Kweon, the principles emanating from Stapley and the case authorities cited, I find that a reasonable award of non-pecuniary damages is $175,000.


$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic PTSD

November 28th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for post traumatic stress disorder as a result of a vehicle collision.

In today’s case, (Harmati v. Williams) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 rear end collision that the Defendant accepted fault for.  She suffered PTSD and a generalized anxiety disorder following the crash and the Court accepted these conditions were caused by the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Madam Justice Choi provided the following reasons:

[48]         Dr. O’Shaughnessy was steadfast in his opinion when he testified that Ms. Harmati’s PTSD was as a result of the accident. He wavered on cross examination that the generalized anxiety was a result of the accident. I accept Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s testimony and diagnosis and found him to be a forthright and helpful expert witness…

[70]         On a balance of probabilities, I find that Ms. Harmati’s present disability, both physical and psychological, is a result of the accident. I accept Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s opinion that the PTSD was triggered by the accident, and I am satisfied that there is a substantial connection between the injuries Ms. Harmati suffered in this accident and her present symptoms sufficient to impose liability on the Defendants. Just as the Defendants are liable for any physical injuries caused to Ms. Harmati, they are too liable for any psychological injuries that arose from this accident.

[71]         I find that but for the accident, Ms. Harmati would not have suffered from pain in the neck, head and back or post-traumatic stress disorder. While Ms. Harmati may have had a more extreme reaction to the accident than most, she is better described as a “thin skull” than a crumbling one. The injuries she has suffered were not inherent in her original position and would not have occurred had the accident not happened…

[81]         A few lay witnesses testified as to Ms. Harmati’s ongoing limitations.

[82]         Mr. Gosling testified that Ms. Harmati is responsible for most of the cleaning, but that they don’t keep a clean house, and that Ms. Harmati is responsible for most of the cooking. She does more now than she did when they first cohabited because she is no longer working. I found Mr. Gosling a measured and careful witness, whose evidence I found credible.

[83]         Mr. Gosling testified that Ms. Harmati does not want to be a burden, so she will insist on performing tasks that then require her to rest, such as carrying groceries and pots of boiling water.

[84]         Mr. Derek Carswell worked with Ms. Harmati at Electronics Art. They were both hired on the same day in 2010 and became friends. Prior to the accident, he described her as “bubbly, enthusiastic and lots of energy”. After the energy, he testified that she was “subdued, lacking vital energy”. He said they played video games with their respective partners and that after the accident, she could not play video games for long because she needed to rest and due to nausea. Mr. Carswell testified that some video games are virtual reality games, involving wearing a headset and a screen which wraps around your face, and is an immersive gaming experience. Ms. Harmati has been unable to participate in this type of game since the accident…

[88]         Having considered the evidence and cases, it is my view that an award of non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $100,000 is appropriate.


$135,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Ruptured Breast Implant, Chronic Physical and Psychological Injuries

September 9th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry assessing damages for numerous injuries sustained by a pedestrian struck by a vehicle.

In today’s case (Starchuk v. Hannig) the Plaintiff was a customer standing in a store “when a vehicle driven by the defendant, Helmutt Hannig, crashed into it. Ms. Starchuk was pushed into the wall of the deli, breaking the drywall.”

The Plaintiff suffered a host of psychological and physical injuries including a breast implant capsular tear requiring surgical repair.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $135,000 Mr. Madam Justice Brown made the following findings:

[101]     In summary, I am satisfied that as a result of the motor vehicle accident of May 13, 2013, Ms. Starchuk has suffered soft tissue injury to her neck, shoulders, upper limbs, back, chest, and right foot; a capsular tear of her breast implant which required surgery and has left her with postoperative pain and loss of nipple sensation; chronic mechanical neck and shoulder pain; soft tissue injuries to her arms with persisting forearm and hand pain, numbness and tingling; posttraumatic stress disorder, somatic symptom disorder, chronic pain, and a mild traumatic brain injury. I accept that Ms. Starchuk:

1.       will remain at risk for a potential reduction in capacity due to her psychiatric diagnoses because of exacerbation from stress or other triggers; increased risk of developing another psychiatric diagnosis; and increased risk of developing fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome;

2.       would likely benefit from further therapy for her soft tissue injuries within the next year, but that she will be left with ongoing pain and activity restrictions related to neck, back, chest, arms and hands which will likely be permanent and enduring; and

3.       has had a good result from her breast revision surgery, but is left with pain and lack of sensation and the result is not aesthetically satisfying to her…

[103]     I have considered the cases provided to me by each of the parties. It is trite to state that no two injuries and no two plaintiffs are the same (Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146 at para. 42). Considering the factors set out in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, in my view the appropriate award for damages for Ms. Starchuk’s pain and suffering is $135,000.


Failure to Mitigate Cuts Pain and Suffering Award in Half

September 8th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, cutting a Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damage award in half due a failure to mitigate loss.

In today’s case (Mullens v. Toor) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2012 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered physical and psychological injuries and the Court concluded the Plaintiff’s recovery could have been improved had she more diligently followed medical advice.  As a result the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary assessment of $140,000 was reduced by 50%.  In reaching this result Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

[116]     She has been unreasonably resistant and reluctant to accepting that her psychological condition requires medical treatment, including the use of anti-depressant medication, and psychiatric treatment. She was resistant to the early advice of Dr. Chu about anti-depressant medication in August 2012. She resisted the advice of Dr. Hanson until finally relenting in December 2012 only when he insisted. She testified that she was concerned that a diagnosis of depression and taking anti-depressant medications could have some negative consequences, such as for insurance. She did not give much detail about this. This could justify some degree of reluctance but no more. Embarrassment about accepting treatment for a mental injury is not a valid excuse. ..

[121]     In sum, the plaintiff ought reasonably have begun use of anti-depressant medication earlier than she did initially.  She could have resumed use of Pristiq or other suitable anti-depressant medication by July 2015 when she stopped breastfeeding, if not earlier. She ought to have been treated by a psychiatrist. Better engagement with medical and psychiatric treatment would have also increased the chances of a successful attempt to return to work which could have been attempted in early 2013 and again in 2015, and 2016.

[122]     I doubt that the plaintiff has engaged in physical exercise to the extent recommended. Physical exercise has been consistently recommended to her. In examination in chief she testified that she followed the exercise advice of Dr. Chu and of her physiotherapist to the greatest extent possible.  However on cross examination she was vague and evasive about the extent to which she had followed this advice. She testified that she tried to do what was recommended but could not recall exactly. Currently she participates in pilates at a local facility 3 to 4 times per week. Her husband candidly acknowledged that she was not doing much exercise other than attending pilates. However the evidence concerning exercise does not allow me to derive sufficiently firm conclusions that would be necessary to conclude that the defendant has met its burden to establish a failure to mitigate in this respect.

[123]      A question is whether the plaintiff’s refusal to attempt to return to work and her reluctance to accept and failure to obtain full psychiatric treatment is rooted in her accident injuries, such that a deduction for failure to mitigate would not be appropriate. However there is no basis for such a finding in the medical or other evidence. The plaintiff is highly educated and intelligent. There is some evidence that she has experienced some cognitive difficulties but these are not severe. She displayed considerable intelligence in giving her evidence, especially in describing her previous work. I do not accept that the plaintiff was impaired in her rational decision-making capacity in relation to her career and her treatment…

[216]     Based on all of the circumstances of this case, including consideration of the cases cited to me my both counsel, in my view a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary loss is $140,000

[217]     I reduce this by 50% to $70,000 on the basis of failure to mitigate loss.


$265,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder

June 27th, 2016

In what is one of the highest non-pecuniary awards in Canadian history for psychiatric injuries, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $265,000 for psychological injuries stemming from a collision.

In last week’s case (Hans v. Volvo Trucks North America Inc) the Plaintiff was operating a fully-loaded tractor trailer when, without warning, all electrical power failed and the vehicle started to jack-knife.  The trailer struck the cab of the truck and forced the vehicle off the road.

The Court found that the vehicle manufacturer was responsible for the collision because “Volvo was negligent in the installation of the hardware that was supplied by Norgren on the cab positive terminal of the Truck, and that the total loss of electrical power resulted from that negligent installation.

The Plaintiff, while not suffering significant physical injuries, sustained profound psychological consequences including PTSD and a major depressive disorder secondary to this.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $265,000 Mr. Justice Davies provided the following reasons:

[479]     Mr. Hans’ injuries were life altering in every respect.

[480]     The evidence of not only Mrs. Hans but also that of Mr. Hans’ daughter and his many friends who testified establishes that before the collision Mr. Hans was a gregarious, fun-loving, competitive, hard-working, ambitious and financially driven young man with boundless energy.

[481]     Although he had gained weight as a truck driver he was still a man with great strength and athletic ability resulting in a prodigious capacity for hard labour which he immensely enjoyed. His one-time employer Ron Collick described Mr. Hans as “a jolly giant”.

[482]     Mr. Hans lived a socially and emotionally rewarding life often centered on work but also often involving his family, his friends of many years and his love of travel which he shared with Mrs. Hans and their children both in North America and in India.

[483]     Mr. Hans shared a loving partnership with his wife as her husband, business partner, and as a father to their children.  He was a full participant with Mrs. Hans in all aspects of their children’s lives and in household responsibilities.

[484]     Mr. Hans was a proud man with a taste for good clothing who cared for his appearance. Socially he was often the center of attention – while dancing or even while playing with children.

[485]     Over the seven years since the collision all of that has changed drastically because of PTSD accompanied by Mr. Hans’ suffering from a Major Depressive Disorder that arose as a consequence of PTSD.

[486]     Mr. Hans is now emotionally and socially a shell of his former self.

[487]     His gregariousness has been replaced by isolation and withdrawal from contact with friends and family.

[488]     His love of fun has been replaced by depression, agitation and volatile bursts of anger. 

[489]     Competitiveness has been replaced by lethargy.

[490]     Ambition has turned to resentment and the blaming of those he believes have ruined his life.

[491]     Where he once ran and played sports he now walks aimlessly. Dr. Thinda reported that Mr. Hans has a slow gait due to psychomotor retardation or the effects of the medication he is prescribed for his psychiatric symptoms.

[492]     Mr. Hans’ capacity for and love of hard work have been replaced by indolence and despair.

[493]     He neglects his personal hygiene and cares little for his appearance. He is irritable and has significant problems with concentration and memory. He suffers from nightmares, sleeplessness and bad eating habits.

[494]     He has little interest in his children and must be coaxed to attend their activities. When he does, he is often uncomfortable, disinterested or both.

[495]     Mr. Hans is no longer active in the partnership that he and Mrs. Hans forged during the years of their marriage before the collision. He does not share in responsibility or workload but rather requires supervision and care.

[496]     He has attempted suicide three times each of which has seen him hospitalized for extended periods.

[497]     His life is now ruled by pharmaceutical intervention to attempt to overcome the symptoms of PTSD and Major Depression which dominate his existence. Without that medication his existence is further threatened.

[498]     Mr. Hans faces a future of continued pharmaceutical and psychiatric intervention as well as close supervision as his treating medical professionals, family and friends attempt to preclude the active manifestation of his suicidal ideation.

[499]     While it is a positive sign that Mr. Hans has not attempted suicide for more than 5 years since his last attempt, that must be measured against the medical intervention and supervision that has been necessary to attain that modest success.

[500]     Mr. Hans’ self-loathing and despair were starkly evidenced by his testimony at trial as well as by his anger and resentment at those whom he holds responsible for the loss of his capacity to care and provide for his family and enjoy life as he once did.

[501]     The totality of the medical evidence establishes that there is little prospect that Mr. Hans will ever recover socially, emotionally or mentally from the effects of the collision.

[502]     The prognosis for real progress after almost seven years of the debilitating effects of PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder from which Mr. Hans suffers is guarded at best and bleak at worst…

[528]     Considering that factor together with all of the other factors enumerated in Stapley to which I have alluded I have concluded that the appropriate award for Mr. Hans’ past and future pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life is $265,000.