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.

Posts Tagged ‘Harder v. Poettcker’

$50,000 Assessment for 6 Years of Back Pain

February 27th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for soft tissue injuries arising from a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Harder v. Poettcker) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  The matter proceeded to jury trial where a jury found the Plaintiff 85% at fault for the crash with the Defendant shouldering the rest of the blame.

The Plaintiff suffered a back injury.  He suffered from pre-existing back problems and fibromyalgia.  The court found that while the Plaintiff’s symptoms lingered at the time of trial after the 6 year mark these symptoms were due to the pre-existing issues.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Sigurdson provided the following reasons:

[77]         The plaintiff suffered a moderate soft tissue injury to his lower back and neck in the motor vehicle accident. Those soft tissue injuries were more painful and discomforting to the plaintiff than they otherwise would have been because he has a troublesome back that had in the past required surgery on two occasions.

[78]         However, the evidence does not disclose that the accident caused the need for the plaintiff’s back surgery. In that respect I prefer the evidence of the surgeon Dr. Splawinski to the evidence of the rheumatologist.

[79]         I expect that Mr. Harder became more uncomfortable as a result of the accident and decided to have the surgery privately. I think that he had the surgery more quickly than he otherwise would have had it because of the soft tissue injuries he suffered. That finding is relevant to whether the cost of the private surgery with a shorter waiting list is recoverable.

[80]         I have also concluded that on the evidence the plaintiff has not demonstrated that his fibromyalgia was brought on by the trauma in the motor vehicle accident. However, like his pre-existing back condition, it was an aspect of his pre-existing condition that on the evidence waxed and waned in any event and I think was an aspect of his condition that probably made his injuries from the accident more uncomfortable and debilitating when he had fibromyalgia.

[81]         How long did the injuries from the accident to his lower back and his neck persist?

[82]         Dr. Shuckett thought (as she described in 2015) that they probably continued as he had probably achieved maximum medical improvement. Dr. Splawinski thought that he suffered a soft tissue injury to his neck and lower back and that the symptoms of neck and lower back pain settled down relatively quickly. Dr. Wade described his injury as a mild to moderate soft tissue injury.

[83]         I find that the injuries were soft tissue injuries suffered by the plaintiff that largely resolved by trial more than six years after the accident and any continuing discomfort that Mr. Harder suffers is largely related to his pre-existing back problem or his fibromyalgia which I find was not caused by the accident. The discomfort and pain suffered by Mr. Harder during the recovery period was however more significant than otherwise because they occurred to a man with a troublesome back and waxing and waning fibromyalgia. The defendant concedes that there was at least an acute period of discomfort and restricted activity.

[90]         Considering all of the evidence, I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $50,000.


Retrial Ordered After “Inconsistent” $765 Jury Award in Personal Injury Claim

November 27th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a retrial after a jury awarded special damages but nothing for non-pecuniary loss in a personal injury lawsuit.

In today’s case (Harder v. Poettcker) the Plaintiff proceeded to jury trial after alleging injuries in a collision.  The jury found the Plaintiff 85% at fault for the crash and awarded a total $5,100 in damages, which were all based on out of pocket expenses and awarded nothing for non pecuniary damages.  After applying the split of fault this left an award of $765.

The presiding judge found a new trial was necessary as it was inconsistent to award money for special damages yet nothing for non-pecuniary loss for the injuries underlying the need for those damages.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Sigurdson provided the following reasons:

17]         Notwithstanding the importance of attempting to enforce a jury’s verdict and the fact that even apart from the 85% contributory negligence award against the plaintiff, the award was at best either very modest or nil, I am driven to conclude that to award nothing for non-pecuniary damages but award $1,200 for special damages is an inconsistent verdict.

[18]         Although a possible rationalization of the award is that the jury intended to award the plaintiff say $400 for non-pecuniary damages but rounded it down in accordance with my instructions to zero, I reject that. I find the jury intended to award nothing for non-pecuniary damages. Even if the jury intended to award only a nominal amount for non-pecuniary damages, I think that would still create an inconsistent verdict: see Le v. Luz, 2003 BCCA 640.

[19]         I also reject the submission that the jury verdict could properly be interpreted to mean that they intended to award something for non-pecuniary damages under a pecuniary heading.

[20]         Although the defendant argues forcefully that there was coherence and consistency in the jury verdict, I respectfully disagree. I find that the jury award, although small from the plaintiff’s perspective, is inconsistent and judgment cannot be entered on the defendant’s motion.

[21]         The question then arises whether I can and should sever the issues of liability and damages and enter judgment on liability for the plaintiff including the contributory negligence finding and direct a retrial only on damages, or whether I should order a retrial of the entire case.

[22]         I have concluded that I am bound by the considered decision of my brother Weatherill J. in Kalsi. Although severance may be ordered in many cases before trial, this is not an appropriate case to have issues that are largely dependent on credibility decided by different triers of fact.

[23]         Given that there must be a retrial, how should that take place? A further trial by a new jury would be months, or a year or more, ahead. The mode of trial by jury was at the plaintiff’s request but now he wants the retrial by judge alone. The plaintiff now consents to and requests a retrial being conducted before me.

[24]         I think for a number of reasons that the retrial should be before me. I heard all of the evidence and the submissions of counsel. Given the fact that it would be a lengthy time until the matter is retried before a jury, and given the age of the plaintiff and the question of cost to the parties, I think it is appropriate that I conduct a retrial based on the evidence I have heard and I so order. Accordingly I exercise my discretion under the governing rule that the retrial take place before me without a jury.

[25]         I have heard the submissions of counsel and a recording of those submissions is available to me to refresh my memory. Counsel may make further submissions in writing on liability and damages provided they do not repeat what I have already heard in the submissions to the jury. I ask that the plaintiff file his argument within three weeks and the defendant his argument within three weeks following, with the plaintiff having a right of reply within a week. I will then hand down a written decision.