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 Soft Tissue Injury Cases’ Category

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for 7 Year Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries

May 5th, 2016

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

In today’s case (Gordon v. Ahn) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to her low back.  Some symptoms persisted to the time of trial and were expected to linger to “ for some period of time into the future“.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Bowden provided the following reasons:

63]         There is no dispute that the plaintiff suffered physical injuries from the motor vehicle accident in August 2009. The defendants accept that the plaintiff suffered soft tissue injury to her neck, back and shoulder areas. The defendants also accept that the plaintiff suffered a disc herniation which came on about one month after the accident but appeared to improve clinically by January 2010…

[82]         While I find that the plaintiff’s physical injuries had largely resolved by the summer of 2011, I accept Dr. Badii’s opinion that she will experience some degree of lower back pain for some period of time into the future. However, it does not appear that the lower back pain will limit her functioning in a material way either at work or recreationally…

[111]     In light of my conclusions regarding the plaintiff’s injuries, including their severity, the resolution of the most severe injuries, the impact of her injuries on her lifestyle and general well-being, I have concluded than an award of $50,000 is reasonable.

[112]     In arriving at that amount I have considered that the plaintiff failed in some respects to mitigate her damages. She discontinued physiotherapy and did little by way of an exercise program as recommended by her treating physicians. She also did not take anti-depressants as recommended and increased her use of marihuana. However, I do accept that the plaintiff did take some steps that may have contributed to her substantial recovery in 2011.


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Grade 2 Soft Tissue Injuries With Unknown Prognosis

April 19th, 2016

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

In today’s case (Cyr v. Kopp) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2011.  Fault was admitted on behalf of the rear driver.  The Plaintiff sustained Grade 2 soft tissue injuries to his neck and these also effected a pre-existing shoulder injury caused in an altercation with police.  The prognosis was not known as the Court accepted that the Plaintiff was not compliant with all suggested treatments and accordingly his injury may still be subject to improvement.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 then reducing this figure to $60,000 on account of the Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:

 

[119]     The plaintiff is 39 years old. 

[120]     The medical experts are in agreement, and I find, that the plaintiff likely suffered a grade 2 whiplash injury as a result of the MVA.  That injury affected the plaintiff’s right cervicothoracic region, extending to the right shoulder.  He also experienced the onset of migraine headaches.

[121]     I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that these MVA-related injuries continue to persist.  I also accept Dr. Bowlsby’s opinion that, while they should have healed long ago, the pain fibers in some people do not turn off over time and sometimes get worse.  Dr. Bowlsby opined that, in his experience, approximately 10% of people who suffer whiplash injuries prove to be difficult to treat and those injuries can be a source of significant and sometimes permanent disability.

[122]     I am unable to conclude that the plaintiff is one of those 10% because he refused to initiate the physiotherapy treatments that were repeatedly recommended by his medical practitioners.  This is a case of a patient thinking that he knows better than his health practitioners: Middleton v. Morcke, 2007 BCSC 804 at para. 49…

[131]     Here, the plaintiff’s pre-existing right shoulder injury was continuing to cause him pain and discomfort at the time of the MVA.  The MVA caused him to suffer an upper body soft tissue injury which continues to persist.  His prognosis for recovery continues to be unknown.

[132]     After having considered all of the foregoing evidence, the submissions of counsel and the case authorities they have cited, I consider that, subject to an adjustment for his failure to mitigate, which I will deal with in the paragraphs that follow, an award of $75,000 fairly compensates the plaintiff for his pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life and amenities…

[139]     The defendants are entitled to an adjustment in the plaintiff’s damages to account for my finding of fact that he would have recovered from his MVA-related injuries sooner if he had implemented and maintained the recommended physiotherapy programs.  I am satisfied that a deduction of 20% is appropriate. 

[140]     Accordingly, the plaintiff is entitled to an award for non-pecuniary damages equal to $75,000 x 80% = $60,000.


$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Persistent but Not Disabling Soft Tissue Injuries

April 12th, 2016

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

In today’s case (Matharu v. Gill) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision which the Defendant was found liable for.  She suffered moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulder which persisted to the time of trial and were expected to linger for sometime after although the ultimate prognosis was generally favorable.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Mr. Justice Butler provided the following reasons:

[30]         When I consider the medical opinions and the evidence regarding the nature and duration of Ms. Matharu’s symptoms, I arrive at the following conclusions:

a)       Ms. Matharu suffered a moderate soft tissue strain to her neck and shoulders. She also suffered a mild low back strain.

b)       Ms. Matharu’s pre-existing conditions have affected the length of time it has taken and will take for her to recover from the injuries. In particular, the inflammatory polyarthropathy made her more susceptible to persistent soft tissue pain. Her mild anxiety condition has also had some impact on the persistence of her symptoms.

c)       In spite of persistent pain for three years, Ms. Matharu has continued with most activities at home and at work. She has managed to do this with the assistance of family, friends and work colleagues. She can fairly be described as somewhat stoic.

d)       Ms. Matharu did not follow Dr. Sanghera’s recommendations to continue with physiotherapy and active rehabilitation for about 12 months. Similarly, prior to the accident, she did not take part in recommended regular exercise. Her failure to do so for a period of time after the accident has likely resulted in some prolongation of symptoms. However, it is unlikely her symptoms would have resolved by trial, even if she had continued with the recommended therapy.

f)        Ms. Matharu continues to experience symptoms related to the injuries suffered in the accident. The symptoms will continue to resolve and there is a good chance they will fully resolve within the next one to two years.

[37]         When I examine the circumstances in this case and the factors highlighted in Stapley, the important factors here are the length of time Ms. Matharu has suffered ongoing soft tissue pain, the extent of that pain, and the impact it has had on her ongoing activities. In that regard, I accept that she is stoic and has continued to do most things. However, I also find that she was frail and somewhat limited in what she could do before the accident. Accordingly, the injuries have imposed a limitation on her activities and lifestyle which has impacted her more than such injuries would have done to someone who was more vigorous and did not suffer from inflammatory polyarthropathy.

[38]         In all of the circumstances, I conclude that a fair award for non-pecuniary damages is $45,000. However, that does not end the matter. Ms. Matharu did not follow Dr. Sanghera’s recommendations and I have accepted his evidence that had she done so she would likely have had some improvement in her symptoms. Accordingly, I find the defendant has satisfied the onus to prove that Ms. Matharu failed to mitigate her loss. I would accordingly reduce the non-pecuniary damage award by 10%.


$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Neck and Back Soft Tissue Injuries

March 31st, 2016

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

In today’s case (Niijar v. Hill) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions, the first in 2010 the second in 2012.  The Defendants admitted fault for both.  As a result she suffered from chronic neck and back soft tissue injuries which lingered to the time of trial and were expected to continue into the future.  The Court assessed non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 but reduced this number by 15% finding the Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages by following some of her physicians advice.  In reaching this assessment Madam Justice Baker provided the following reasons:

[147]     I conclude that Ms. Nijjar suffered soft tissue injuries to the muscles of her neck and back in both the first and the second accident.  The injuries caused by the second accident were more significant and Ms. Nijjar experienced more intensive pain and discomfort of longer duration following the second accident.  She also had pain on the left side of her face, jaw and some left arm pain caused by the inflation of the air bag on her left side and also reported some hip pain.  These complaints resolved within a short time.  Her most significant ongoing symptoms were pain in her neck and upper back; and in her lower back.

[148]     I conclude that Ms. Nijjar made a good recovery following the first accident, although she continued to experience mild symptoms of discomfort, aggravated by certain activities, up to the time of the second accident.   She did not miss work as a security guard after the first accident.  She did take time off from a job with Sears for a period of about two months and did not do any janitorial work for a period of about three months.  She was sufficiently recovered to travel to India three months after the accident and remained there for about two months.  On her return from India she resumed working as a security guard and doing janitorial work.  She attempted to return to the Sears job but was not re-hired.

[149]     Ms. Nijjar had more severe symptoms following the second accident and continued to be symptomatic at time of trial.  Dr. Hershler opined that she suffered soft tissue injuries involving both muscles and ligaments; and a right-sided small cervical disc protrusion caused by the accident that may be contributing to her symptoms; although this remains a matter of uncertainty.  Ms. Nijjar also continues to experience periodic headache which Dr. Hershler believes is cervicogenic.

[150]     The symptoms Ms. Nijjar experienced were not severe enough to cause her to seek relief from prescription medications for more than a couple of months following the May 23, 2012 accident and at times she has not required the use of even non-prescription medication to manage her symptoms.

[151]     I accept that Ms. Nijjar continued to experience neck and lower back pain at time of trial.  Although I have concluded that she exaggerated the severity of her symptoms when testifying at trial, I accept that she continues to have symptoms from time to time.  I accept that she will continue to experience symptoms in future, although I accept Dr. Arthur’s opinion that there will be further improvement with the passage of time; and that the symptoms will also lessen if Ms. Nijjar engages in a regular exercise program designed to improve her back and core body strength.  I conclude that the symptoms in future will generally be mild and episodic and that Ms. Nijjar will be able to alleviate most or all of the symptoms with use of non-prescription analgesic medications…

[194]     Having considered all of the evidence and the range of damages suggested by these authorities, I conclude that an award of $90,000, before deduction for a failure to mitigate, is warranted.  I reduce that award by 15% for the failure to mitigate, and award the sum of $76,500. 


$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Partially Disabling Chronic Pain

March 9th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic pain following a motor vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Swieczko v. Nehme) the Plaintiff was involved in an intersection collision in 2011.  The Plaintiff committed to the intersection on a green light but could not turn due to oncoming traffic.  The Plaintiff waited until the light turned a stale yellow and began the turn.  The Defendant, who was in the oncoming curb lane, came through on what was likely a red light and the vehicles collided.  The Court found the Defendant fully liable for the collision.

The Plaintiff sustained  soft tissue injuries which resulted in chronic symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Madam Justice Koenigsberg provided the following reasons:

[40]         Mr. Swieczko suffered significant soft tissue injuries as a result of the accident.  The clear medical evidence from the plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. G.M. McKensie, is that Mr. Swieczko’s soft tissue injuries are now chronic and permanent, presenting as moderate to severe pain in the neck, mid-back and lower back with persistent flare-ups as a result of overtime work, attempts at physically interacting with his growing one-year-old daughter and attempts to reintegrate previously enjoyed recreational activities.  His prognosis is poor.  Dr. McKensie testified that while there are some positive prognostic indicators, such as the likelihood that his function will improve with an appropriate pain/activity program; these are outweighed by the negative indicators, such as length of time Mr. Swieczko has experienced pain and the fact that his body has become sensitized to it.

[41]         Dr. Ashleigh Stelzer-Chilton, Mr. Swieczko’s general practitioner, testified that Mr. Swieczko will never return to his pre-accident baseline.  She believes he can improve his function and in that sense she hopes for a decrease in his pain with some activities.

[42]         Mr. Swieczko was 27 years old at the time of the Accident.  He is now 31.  He has been engaged in the video game industry for close to nine years.  He began as a “quality assurance” tester.  This is a sedentary job, essentially playing games to ferret out problems before the games are released to the public.  It requires concentration and repetitive tasks.  It was described as being a form of detective work.  The work often requires overtime as projects reach launching time; that is, 10-to 16-hour days.  This career is generally somewhat insecure, as most of the employment is on contract.  Mr. Swieczko has been laid off and re-hired several times.

[43]         Mr. Swieczko’s ambition has been to be a game designer and currently he has landed his dream job.  Mr. Swieczko is obviously a talented, hard-working, ambitious young man.  He appears to have an above average ability to get re-hired as needed at his places of employment and lately has been promoted.  However, all of the medical evidence indicates that he will have difficulty maintaining and progressing in his career to the extent that it relies on individuals having the stamina to intermittently work long days.  Mr. Swieczko has on occasion been unable to work the required overtime and when he has done so, he can only do it for a day or so without resorting to strong pain medication such as Tylenol 3s.  Further, Mr. Swieczko has been at risk in the past of medicating himself with alcohol, although he appears at this point to have that risk under control.

[44]         Mr. Swieczko and his partner, Ms. Philips, have a child who is just over one year old now.  While providing both of them a great deal of joy, this has resulted in two complicating factors because each is suffering from chronic pain from the Accident.  The first is that, given Mr. Swieczko’s demanding career, which requires that he must utilize (at this point) all of his stamina to maintain, he has become more limited in what time and activity he can devote to his daughter.  However, the evidence is clear that Ms. Philips has been and still is unable to do several necessary tasks associated with housekeeping and child care – such as physically lifting and holding their child.  Thus, up to now Mr. Swieczko has shouldered more of those tasks than he would have, which apparently limits the downtime his neck and back need to recover from strain.  This in turn has required more pain medication and led to frustration.

[45]         It must be recognized that this state of affairs is costing Mr. Swieczko psychologically.  He is far less able to socialize and enjoy family get-togethers – or physical activity that he enjoyed before the Accident.  Thus, Mr. Swieczko is struggling with frustration and emotional despondency from time to time as he contemplates the immediate future, wherein he may not be able to be an active participant in his daughter’s physical recreational life.  It was clear from Mr. Swieczko’s evidence that he was taken aback by receiving his poor prognosis in relation to living relatively pain-free and being able to do what he did before.  In particular, he had ambitions of participating in such physical activities as karate with his daughter as she matures.  He is now very unlikely to be able to do this…

The most significant factor in this case making the assessment of general damages suggested by the plaintiff more appropriate than that suggested by the defendant is the severity and chronicity of pain, which combines with Mr. Swieczko’s increasing emotional struggle over the impairments to his family, marital and social relationships.  Adding to this is Mr. Swieczko’s stoicism, which, in this case, has meant he has and continues to work longer and harder to achieve his career goals, but at a significant cost in pain and resort to strong medications.

[52]         I assess his non-pecuniary damages at $90,000.


$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries

February 16th, 2016

Adding to this site’s archived soft tissue injury database, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $60,000 for lingering upper body soft tissue injuries.

In this week’s case (Olson v. Yelland) the plaintiff was involved in a 2012 rear end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries to her neck, mid back and shoulders which continued to pose problems at the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:

[117]     On the whole of the evidence, I accept that the plaintiff received soft tissue injuries to her neck, trapezius muscles and mid-back and headaches that continue to negatively affect her function to some degree.

[118]     I find that her pre-Accident lower back and left knee conditions would have significantly affected her ability to function at home and at work in any event of the Accident.

[119]     I find that prior to the Accident and in any event of the Accident, her competitive employability and ability to perform homemaking tasks had already been significantly compromised. The soft tissue injuries she received from the Accident were superimposed on her Original Position and made it more difficult for her to manage her day-to-day activities.

[120]     I find that the plaintiff has made significant recovery from the effects of the Accident within the past three years, but has been left with ongoing neck, mid-back, trapezius pain and related headaches.

[121]     The injuries the plaintiff is left with, and that I accept, are soft tissue injuries to her neck, mid-back and trapezius muscles. They have caused increased frequency and intensity of headaches.

[122]     I accept that these issues continue to affect her, and likely will continue for two to three more years. However, I find that the Accident related injuries pale in comparison to the unrelated issues she has with her low back and left knee…

[132]     In the circumstances, and following the principles set out in Stapley, I find that a reasonable award for general damages is $60,000. As will be seen below, within this sum I have included the plaintiff’s claim for reduced homemaking abilities.


$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Neck and Back Soft Tissue Injuries

February 3rd, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 for chronic soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Suthakar v. Humble) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2011.  She sustained soft tissue injuries to neck, low back and shoulder.  The court accepted that the low back injury likely involved her sacroiliac complex.  The Plaintiff remained symptomatic at the time of trial  and her symptoms were expected to persist causing some interference in her daily functioning.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Madam Justice Ballance provided the following reasons:

[118]     For several years now Ms. Suthakar has struggled with residual symptoms in her neck, left shoulder and low back.  Although her symptoms have improved over time and she may enjoy some modest additional improvement in the next while, they have nonetheless persisted and are susceptible to being exacerbated as a result of her work activities and daily domestic duties.  Her nagging pain leaves her exhausted at the end of her work shift.  When she arrives home, she is usually not able to do much of anything beyond taking a hot shower and resting on the couch with a hot pack.  Fortunately for Ms. Suthakar, her symptoms are manageable without medication on her days off.

[119]     The ill‑effects of the Accident have adversely impacted the quality and enjoyment of Ms. Suthakar’s interactions with her sons.  She is not able to play with them in the same way as before and is quick to anger.  Also of significance for this young woman is that her injuries have interfered with her intimate relationship with her husband.

[120]     In prior cases, I have observed that enduring pain, even when it is intermittent and mostly low-grade, can compel unwelcome adjustments to one’s work life and lifestyle and cloud the pleasures of life, as it has in Ms. Suthakar’s case.  Working in pain during the majority of her shifts has become part of Ms. Suthakar’s everyday work life and is likely to continue for many years to come, if not indefinitely.

[121]     I have reviewed the authorities placed before me by counsel.  The cases submitted by Ms. Suthakar’s counsel are more instructive than those relied on by the defendants.  In any event, the case law only provides general guidelines for what is, at its core, a highly individualized assessment.

[122]     Having regard to the Stapley factors and the other case authorities in the context of the evidence in the case at hand, in my opinion, a fair and reasonable award for Ms. Suthakar’s non-pecuniary damages is $70,000.


$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Lingering “Moderate” Soft Tissue Injuries

December 16th, 2015

Adding to this site’s archived case summaries of soft tissue injury damage awards, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for moderate soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Wong v. Toor) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 rear end collision.  He suffered a moderate soft tissue injury to his neck which was ongoing at the time of trial and posed some lingering difficulties which were expected to continue.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Madam Justice Young provided the following reasons:

[57]         I will analyse the factors before arriving at my conclusion:

(a)            The plaintiff was 69 years of age at the time of the accident and 71 at the time of trial.

(b)            He sustained a moderate soft tissue injury to the neck.

(c)            The pain has ranged between the mild to moderate range and I find that the residual effect of the accident is in the mild/intermittent range but is likely to be permanent.

(d)            There are intermittent periods of disability where the plaintiff only gets relief from lying down and resting.  He might get more effective relief if he were to take analgesics or pursue more acupuncture.

(e)            I find that Mr. Wong has residual discomfort with driving.  It is not completely debilitating.  He is able to drive but he still feels some ill ease at stop lights.

(f)              There has been some loss of enjoyment of life.  Mr. Wong enjoyed excellent health before the accident and now he suffers intermittently from neck pain that never goes away.  He has curtailed certain leisure activities that he used to enjoy and I find that the pain and fear of driving contributed to his decision to retire.

[58]         Given those findings, Mr. Wong is entitled to $45,000 for general damages.


$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Soft Tissue Injury With Associated Headaches

November 12th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $60,000 for chronic soft tissue injuries with associated headaches.

In today’s case (Hinder v. Yellow Cab Company Ltd) the Plaintiff was involved in an intersection collision.  The Defendant denied liability but was found fully at fault at trail.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries, some of which resolved.  She continued to have neck symptoms with associated headaches at the time of trial (some five years later) which were expected to linger into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey provided the following reasons:

[140]     The Plaintiff is a young woman, age 29 at the time of the accident. While her soft tissue injuries did not appear to be severe and some resolved, she has been left with neck pain and headaches that regularly progress to become very painful and disabling, forcing her to stop whatever she is doing. The medical evidence is that even with significant medical intervention, the neck pain and cervicogenic headaches are likely to continue into the foreseeable future. Debilitating headaches occur about every two weeks. The Plaintiff is not a complainer. She is stoic, a hard worker and she carries on despite the pain. Her home life and recreational activities have been impaired to a significantly lesser degree than likely would have been the case for a less strong and stalwart person. That does not mean, however, that she does not suffer while incapacitated by the neck pain and headaches; and she clearly misses pursuing her sports activities, particularly downhill mountain-biking, with her pre-accident intensity. She has maintained her family and social relationships because of her positive attitude and how well she generally manages her chores and commitments at home and at work in the face of her neck pain and headaches…

[149]     For these reasons, I find that an award of $60,000 in non-pecuniary damages is appropriate in the present case.


$20,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for 17 Month Long Soft Tissue Injury

November 9th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing $20,000 in non-pecuniary damages for recovered soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Scott v. Hoey) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff was 13 years old at the time of the collision and alleged she sustained injuries which permanently impacted her and sought significant damages.  The Court rejected much of the Plaintiff’s claim noting credibility concerns.  The Court did accept that the collision cause soft tissue injuries which fully resolved in 17 months.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages of $20,000 Mr. Justice Bowden provided the following reasons:

[169]     In my view the facts and reasoning of Barrow J. in Jensen v. Felker, 2008 BCSC 541, suggest that the amount of non-pecuniary damages awarded in that case approximate those that should be awarded in the case before me. After reviewing a number of authorities where short term injuries produced symptoms in the plaintiffs for 12 to 14 months, Barrow J. awarded non-pecuniary damages of $18,000.

[170]     While the evidence supports a finding that the plaintiff’s injuries resolved within a period of about six months following the accident I am prepared to assess non-pecuniary damages on the basis that some of her symptoms may have continued until November 2007, which is a period of about seventeen months after the accident.

[171]     I award the plaintiff $20,000 in non-pecuniary damages.