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Rheumatoid Arthritis Claim Rejected Following Low Velocity Collision

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, rejecting the allegation that a collision caused a Plaintiff to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

In today’s case (Kabani v. Lee)  the Plaintiff was involved in a relatively modest collision in 2010.  The Defendant was responsible for the crash.  The Plaintiff argued that the collision caused her to develop rheumatoid arthritis, a “painful auto-immune disease that bilaterally attacks the joints in the human body“.  In rejecting this argument Mr. Justice Ball provided the following reasons:

[25]         In Hunt v. Ugre, 2012 BCSC 1704 at para. 121, Justice Dardi notes that the court must be cautious when inferring causation from a temporal sequence (i.e. from a consideration of pre-accident and post-accident condition). Dardi J. states:

In cases where causation is asserted primarily on a temporal relationship between the negligent conduct and [the] injury in question, the authorities mandate that a “close scrutiny of the evidence is required because the inference from a temporal sequence to a causal connection is not always reliable”.

[26]         The potential for a link between trauma and rheumatoid arthritis was canvassed in a medical discussion paper (mentioned above) entitled “Trauma and Inflammatory Arthritis” prepared by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal in September 2008 by Dr. Dafna D. Gladman, an acknowledged expert in rheumatology and internal medicine with a particular interest in inflammatory arthritis (filed as Exhibit 7 at trial). Dr. Gladman’s publications and teachings were referred to and relied upon by Dr. Yorke in his evidence. At page 2 of the paper, Dr. Gladman discusses the etiology and pathogenesis of the disease. Dr. Gladman notes at the outset that “[t]he cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown.”  At page 5, under the heading “Role of Trauma”, Dr. Gladman states “… a specific role for trauma in the development of rheumatoid arthritis has not been proven.”

[27]         Dr. Yorke presents a clear opinion against trauma being capable of causing rheumatoid arthritis. It is of some interest that his scientific opinion in this regard has changed over the years, evidenced by the expert opinion he rendered in Charbonneau v. ICBC, 1991 New Westminster Registry C890102 (B.C.S.C.), where Justice Mackinnon stated that Dr. York was “emphatic” that the plaintiff had rheumatoid arthritis and that it was precipitated by an accident.

[28]         The only medical evidence suggesting a link between the Accident and the onset of rheumatoid arthritis is Dr. Watterson’s opinion that the trauma from the Accident played a “possible role” in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. A “possible role”, when considered alongside the other medical evidence indicating that a link between trauma and rheumatoid arthritis has not been proven, does not satisfy me that the Accident caused or contributed to Ms. Kabani’s rheumatoid arthritis.

[29]         Regardless of any temporal link, there is simply no medical opinion upon which the Court can rely in this case to establish on a balance of probabilities the necessary causal link between the Accident and Ms. Kabani’s rheumatoid arthritis. The reports received by Dr. Witherspoon from Dr. Kelsall support the conclusion that the Accident did not cause Ms. Kabani’s rheumatoid arthritis.

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