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:
 Mr. Hans’ injuries were life altering in every respect.
 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.
 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”.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Mr. Hans is now emotionally and socially a shell of his former self.
 His gregariousness has been replaced by isolation and withdrawal from contact with friends and family.
 His love of fun has been replaced by depression, agitation and volatile bursts of anger.
 Competitiveness has been replaced by lethargy.
 Ambition has turned to resentment and the blaming of those he believes have ruined his life.
 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.
 Mr. Hans’ capacity for and love of hard work have been replaced by indolence and despair.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 He has attempted suicide three times each of which has seen him hospitalized for extended periods.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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…
 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.