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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 ‘Mr. Justice Verhoeven’

$170,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Hip Injury, PTSD, TOS and Chronic Pain

March 4th, 2019

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a plaintiff who suffered a host of injuries in a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Firman v. Asadi) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 collision.  The Defendant denied fault but was found liable at trial.  The collision resulted in multiple injuries including a torn labrum, thoracic outlet syndrome, PTSD and chronic pain.  Prognosis for full recovery was poor.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $170,000 Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

[145]     Based upon the abundant medical evidence as well as the evidence of the plaintiff and other evidence of the lay witnesses, I find that the plaintiff’s injuries that she attributes to the MVA and as reported to the treatment providers and medical experts were caused by the MVA.

[146]     As noted, there is much overlap in the specific diagnoses found in the medical evidence.  In more general terms, the plaintiff’s injuries sustained in the MVA are: (1) left hip injury, including torn labrum, requiring surgery;  (2) TOS or thoracic outlet syndrome, requiring surgery, and with further surgery recommended; (3) whiplash injuries (myofascial pain syndrome, mechanical spine pain) and resultant chronic pain, particularly in her upper back, left shoulder, and arm; (4) left shoulder tendinopathy; (5) chronic headaches; (6) mood or psychological/psychiatric disorders, including depression, somatic symptom disorder, and anxiety.

[147]     The defendants dispute the diagnosis of PTSD, made by Dr. Schweighofer. Dr. Iso noted PTSD “symptoms”.  In the circumstances of this case, the question of whether the plaintiff fully meets the criteria for this diagnosis is of little practical consequence. Dr. Waraich noted that her symptoms meet the DSM-5 criteria for PTSD, with one exception. He states that, while a diagnosis of delayed onset PTSD could be made, in his view her PTSD symptoms are “better accounted for” by the diagnoses that he makes: depressive disorder, and somatic symptom disorder. However, he added:

…in my opinion, her future course and potential treatment of PTSD symptoms are relevant despite her not meeting full criteria for PTSD in my assessment.

[148]     The prognosis for substantial improvement is poor…

[218]     The evidence discloses that the plaintiff has suffered a very substantial non-pecuniary loss.  She is now only marginally able to continue with her former occupations, and passions in life, fitness training and barbering. Her physical and psychological injuries as outlined previously are substantial, and likely permanent to a large extent at least.  She has endured a great deal of pain and suffering, which will continue indefinitely. She has undergone two surgeries and a third surgery is likely, since it is recommended and the plaintiff says she plans to undergo it.

[219]     Her injuries and their consequences have quite dramatically affected her former lifestyle and her personality. She was previously very physically active. She participated in marathon runs and triathlons, operated a fitness business, and engaged in a number of sporting activities. She was independent and took pride in being able to support herself and her younger daughter, who continues to be a dependant. I referred earlier to the change in her personality noted by the witnesses. She is no longer outgoing, social, energetic and happy, as she was before.

[220]     Her homemaking capacity has been impacted. She testified that pre-accident she kept a tidy household. This is corroborated by Mr. MacDonald and her daughter. She no longer has the ability to maintain a tidy household. Now her house is messy.

[221]     On the other hand, she is far from completely debilitated, and there is a chance her condition will improve, with appropriate treatment.  Her pre-accident condition was not perfect, (in particular, she had symptomatic spinal degeneration, and headaches) and there was some risk that her conditions could have affected her detrimentally in future, as they had pre-accident.  They might have worsened.  …

[231]     Having regard to the case authorities I have referred to, I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $170,000.


Failure to Mitigate Cuts Pain and Suffering Award in Half

September 8th, 2016

Update November 6, 2017Today the BC Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal of the below judgement

_____________________________________

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.


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Trochanteric Bursitis and Plateaued STI’s.

May 19th, 2015

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

In today’s case (Diep v. Cunha) the Plaintiff was a pedestrian struck by a vehicle in 2010.  The motorist was found fully at fault.  The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries which were plateaued by the time of trial along with a chronic hip injury which te court attributed to bursitis.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

[54]         I accept that the plaintiff suffered what can be described as soft tissue type injuries to her low back, left hip and thigh, and left knee in the accident.  These injuries have shown slow but substantial improvement over the course of more than four years since the accident.  It is possible that the injuries have plateaued as suggested by Dr. Fuller and to a lesser degree by Dr. Hershler. However her G.P., Dr. Kam, only states that her aches and pains and limitations will persist for an extended time.  In my view it is clear that the plaintiff’s condition can continue to improve, especially if she engages in the kinds of treatments suggested by Dr. Horlick. 

[55]         With respect to her low back pain, I prefer the opinion of Dr. Horlick to that of Dr. Fuller.  Dr. Fuller diagnosed sacroiliac rotation and malalignment. In his view while manual therapy could assist with the alignment problem, it might do more harm than good.  On the basis of his diagnosis he thought that remedial exercise would not likely help.  However, as he conceded, Dr. Fuller was quite unsure of the plaintiff’s diagnosis.  I am not persuaded that he is correct that her low back problem is other than soft tissue in nature. On that basis, the exercise therapy recommendations of Dr. Horlick are preferable, and in my view are supported by the other opinions and the course of her treatment and recovery so far. That is, physiotherapy and rehabilitation have been of benefit in the past.

[56]         I also prefer Dr. Horlick’s diagnosis of trochanteric bursitis as being the main problem with her left hip. ..

[77]         These authorities are helpful in that they serve neatly to bracket the appropriate award in this case.  Considering all the circumstances in this case, in my view $75,000 is a fair and reasonable award of non-pecuniary damages. This award includes $10,000 for her loss of housekeeping capacity, which I find should be recognized as an aspect of her non-pecuniary loss in the circumstances of this case.


Adverse Inference Drawn After Plaintiff “Chooses to Suppress” GP’s Evidence

July 10th, 2014

Adding to this site’s archived database of judgments addressing adverse inferences in personal injury lawsuits, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, drawing such an inference.

In today’s case (Rogalsky v. Harrett) the Plaintiff was involved in a relatively modest collision in 2010.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries.  In support of her claim the Plaintiff tendered “a somewhat dated” report from an independent medical practitioner.  The Plaintiff did not produce evidence from her GP despite seeing him shortly before trial for the purposes of a medical-legal assessment.  In finding an adverse inference appropriate in these circumstances Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

[44]         I am very troubled by her decision to not call evidence from her doctor. As noted, she confirmed that she saw him on February 26, 2014, for examination in relation to a medical legal report. His report is not in evidence, nor are his prior reports.  The plaintiff denied seeing the recent report or being aware of its contents. I do not accept that part of her evidence.  I cannot accept that the plaintiff had no input into the decision not to adduce the report.  At a minimum, she must be aware of the optimistic opinion Dr. Burns set out in an earlier report dated April 5, 2011, also not adduced in evidence, the contents of which are referred to in Ms. Hunt’s report, which the plaintiff acknowledged reading.  In her evidence the plaintiff downplayed the efficacy of the treatment provided by Dr. Burns and in effect his opinions by stating that her appointments with him are rushed and he does not seem appropriately focussed on her concerns.  In my view the plaintiff has simply chosen to suppress and downplay Dr. Burns’ evidence because it is not helpful to her case.  This adversely affects her credibility as a witness.

[45]         Moreover, in the circumstances of this case I consider it appropriate to draw an inference that Dr. Burns’ evidence would not have been favourable to her case.

[46]         Dr. Koo was not asked to provide an updated report based upon a further more recent examination of the plaintiff.  Thus his report is somewhat dated. In addition the weight I can give to the report depends upon the weight I can give to the evidence of the plaintiff herself, in respect of which I have some reservations, as indicated.

 


$95,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Meniscal and Labral Tear

March 28th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for a chronic knee and shoulder injury.

In today’s case (Hart v. Hansma) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions.  The Defendants admitted fault for both.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries including a torn meniscus, a labral tear and a variety of soft tissue injuries.  These continued to post problems at the time of trial with a poor prognosis.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $95,000 Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

[54]         I find that the most significant injuries suffered by the plaintiff in the accidents are as follows:

1.     soft tissue injuries to his neck, particularly the right side, resulting in chronic neck pain;

  1. chronic headaches, associated with the neck pain;

3.     right shoulder injury, including a labral tear and tendonitis with a partial rotator cuff tear; and

4.     left knee injury, including a meniscus tear.

The foregoing injuries continue to cause significant ongoing pain and disability currently.

[55]         I find that the plaintiff also suffered from the following, less serious injuries sustained in the accidents:

1.     right upper limp numbness and pain;

2.     low back injury, and associated pain (that is not presently bothering him) in the right hip and buttock area;

3.     right knee pain (although it is now substantially resolved); and

4.     left hip pain (although it is now substantially resolved)….

[65]         The prognosis for full recovery is negative.  It is unlikely that his neck injury will ever fully recover.  There is a risk that his neck condition will deteriorate to the point where cervical discectomy surgery will be required.  The headaches he suffers from are related to his neck injury.  The plaintiff finds that treatment such as acupuncture, physiotherapy and the prolotherapy provide short term relief for his neck pain and headaches.  He takes a variety of medications in order to allow him to cope.  The planned knee surgery may provide some benefit for his left knee pain, but may have long term negative consequences, such as the risk of osteoarthritis. His shoulder condition is also chronic.  The plaintiff has the choice of enduring the pain and limitation of function in his shoulder, or undergoing surgery which may offer some benefit…

]         Taking into account the factors in Gillam as they apply to Mr. Hart’s circumstances, and the above awards in Prince-Wright, Hanson, Steward, and the cases cited by the defendants, adjusting for inflation, I find that an award of $95,000 is appropriate in this case.

 


Passenger Partly Liable for Collision After Grabbing Steering Wheel

January 13th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing fault for a single vehicle collision involving a passenger who grabbed the steering wheel.

In last week’s case (Sikora v. Brown) both the motorist and her passenger were driving home from a nightclub.  Both had been drinking but neither was “seriously intoxicated“.  As they drove through an intersection the steering wheel was shaking and the driver invited the passenger to feel this.  He held on to the steering wheel and shortly thereafter the collision occurred.  In finding both the driver and passenger equally to blame Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

[37]         In these difficult circumstances, where neither version of events is reliable and where there is essentially no independent corroborative evidence one way or another, I find as follows.  Ms. Sikora had been drinking some alcohol at the nightclub but was not seriously intoxicated.  Mr. Brown had been drinking as well, somewhat more than she had, but was a large man and was also not seriously intoxicated.  They left the nightclub together intending to go to Ms. Sikora’s home. Along the way they discussed going to a restaurant.  Whether they actually agreed to go to the restaurant is immaterial.  Ms. Sikora was driving at about 60 km/h as they drove through the intersection.  She was aware that the intersection caused her vehicle to shake, and that the steering of her vehicle was notably “loose” and prone to shaking.  Either before entering the intersection or in its midst, in the context of telling Mr. Brown about the new car she had ordered that very day, she commented about the condition of the intersection, complained that it should be repaired, and complained about the poor condition of her vehicle’s steering in common with Fords generally.  She did not slow down before entering the intersection.  She invited Mr. Brown to observe the shaking of the steering wheel, and to feel the steering wheel of the car for himself.  He held it for a few seconds then let go.  The combined effects of Mr. Brown’s holding of wheel, the condition of the road and vehicle, and Ms. Sikora’s manner of driving the vehicle caused her to lose control of the vehicle some seconds after Mr. Brown let go of the wheel.  The precise mechanics of this are impossible to sort out. She did not brake at any time.  The vehicle likely swerved left before veering to the right, and then left the roadway to the right side, before eventually coming to rest in the ditch upon impact.

[38]         I find that both parties were negligent and that they both contributed to causing the accident in equal measure.  Ms. Sikora was negligent in not slowing down before entering the intersection or when proceeding through it, when she was very familiar with the defects in the road and the particularly significant consequences to her vehicle of the defects.  In somewhat precarious circumstances, she invited Mr. Brown to feel the steering wheel, when she ought to have known that his doing so could have unpredictable consequences, and could affect her ability to properly control the vehicle.  She did not slow down when he held the steering wheel for several seconds.  She lost control of the vehicle after he let go of the wheel.

[39]         Mr. Brown was also negligent, in holding the steering wheel for a few seconds, when he knew or ought to have known in all the circumstances, including the defective condition of the road and Ms. Sikora’s comments about the problems with her vehicle’s steering, that his actions could affect Ms. Sikora’s ability to control the vehicle.  I find that his actions materially contributed to her loss of control of the vehicle, and that the accident would not have occurred otherwise.  I do not accept his evidence that he merely touched the wheel with his open hand to feel it shaking.  He negligently grasped the wheel and held it in such a manner that it interfered with her ability to control the vehicle…

[45]         I find that Ms. Sikora and Mr. Brown are equally at fault for causing the accident.  As a result it is not strictly necessary to apply s. 1 of the Negligence Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 333, which provides that where the fault of two or more persons causes damage or loss to one or more of them, liability must be apportioned equally if having regard to all the circumstances of the case it is not possible to establish different degrees of fault.


$140,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for “Very Serious” Femur Fracture

September 9th, 2013

Adding to this site’s archived caselaw dealing with non-pecuniary damages for femur injuries, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with such a claim.

In this week’s case (Han v. Chahal) the Plaintiff pedestrian was injuries when she was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle while walking in a marked cross walk.  The Defendant was found fully responsible for the crash.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries the most serious of which was a fractured femur.  Although the Court found some issues with the Plaintiff’s reliability as a witness the Court did accept the injury left her with a degree of chronic pain and limited function.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $140,000 Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

[154]     In summary, the plaintiff was physically healthy prior to the accident.  She suffered a very serious injury to her femur and a moderate injury to her wrist.  These injuries have healed uneventfully from a physical point of view, after two surgeries to her leg.  No specific ongoing organic cause for her hip pain has been established.  Although she likely overstates her degree of disability, she has developed chronic pain, in relation to several areas of her body.  She has depression and anxiety.

[155]     Her major complaint of pain is with respect to her left hip.  When she saw Dr. Chin February 3, 2010, about 14 months after the accident, she had 75% to 80% improvement in her orthopedic injuries, but since then she has development several new pain complaints and, overall, her condition has not improved.  Her chronic pain and depression have resulted in altered mood, lack of energy, fatigue, irritability, and some cognitive difficulties.

[156]     The accident caused a drastic change to the plaintiff’s pre-accident health, lifestyle, and enjoyment of life.  I accept that to date, more than four years post-accident, the plaintiff continues to suffer significantly from the effects of the accident.

[157]     However, the assessment of her loss is complicated by the fact that her evidence is somewhat unreliable.  Further, treatment options have not yet been explored, and the prognosis is uncertain.  There is a substantial risk of pain, suffering, and disability persisting indefinitely.  The preliminary prognosis for complete recovery is negative.  The potential extent of recovery is unclear…

[173]     Having regard to all of the non-exhaustive list of factors commonly considered in relation to assessment of damages for non-pecuniary loss, as set out in Stapley, in the circumstances of this case and bearing in mind the authorities to which I have referred, in my view the appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss is $140,000.


Left Turning Driver Found 100% at Fault For Striking Pedestrian in a Marked Crosswalk

September 5th, 2013

Adding to this site’s archived judgement database addressing collisions involving pedestrians, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing fault for a collision involving a left hand turning vehicle and a pedestrian.

In last week’s case (Han v. Chahal) the Plaintiff was walking in a marked crosswalk southbound across 72nd Avenue in Surrey, BC.  At the same time the Defendant motorist approached from the oncoming direction and attempted to turn left.  The Defendant struck the Plaintiff.   The Defendant conceded fault at trial but argued the Plaintiff was 25% responsible.  Mr. Justice Verhoeven disagreed finding the Defendant was solely to blame for this collision.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:

[18]         I find that the plaintiff was struck in the crosswalk, just as she entered the second of the two westbound lanes.  She testified that she had proceeded about four steps when she was struck.  The independent witness, Mr. Singh, estimated that she was struck after she had crossed one lane.  Ms. Chahal’s evidence about the accident details was generally vague.  However she was turning left and would presumably have been attempting to enter the left lane of the two westbound lanes, as she was obliged to do pursuant to s. 165 of the Act.  Thus, I conclude that the plaintiff was well into the intersection when she was struck, and some seconds had elapsed since she had left the curb.  I conclude that at the time she left the curb there was absolutely no reason for the plaintiff to be especially concerned for her safety in relation to the defendant’s vehicle.  She was aware of the defendant’s vehicle on the other side of the intersection, but was entitled to assume that the defendant would obey the law and yield the right-of-way to her.

[19]         It is not entirely clear whether the defendant stopped at the light before proceeding into the intersection and striking the plaintiff.  The plaintiff’s evidence was that the defendant’s vehicle was moving when she first saw it, but it stopped.  The defendant’s evidence is more consistent with her simply proceeding into the intersection on a green light, without stopping.  This scenario is also more consistent with the evidence of Mr. Singh, who testified that he was stopped at the red light when the collision occurred, and his evidence that the defendant was going “fast”.  This scenario is also supported by the evidence of the plaintiff that she waited at the curb after activating the pedestrian signal, then proceeded into the crosswalk after the walk signal came on, at which time I infer that the light facing Ms. Chahal would definitely be green, and by my conclusion that there was a lapse of time between when Ms. Han left the curb and when she was struck.  Finally, had it been necessary for the defendant to stop, there is a greater chance that she would have seen the plaintiff, which of course she did not.  I conclude that the defendant entered the intersection on a green light, without stopping, and struck the plaintiff in the crosswalk well after she had left the curb.

[20]         The defendants have not satisfied the onus on them to establish that the plaintiff knew or ought to have known that the defendant driver was not going to grant her the right-of-way, and that, at that point of time, the plaintiff could reasonably have avoided the accident.  There is no basis in the evidence to suggest that after the plaintiff was in the crosswalk she ought to have seen the defendant’s vehicle approaching, realized that she was not seen by its driver, and somehow evaded the collision.  The idea that she could have made eye contact with the driver of the vehicle at some point in time is highly unrealistic in the circumstances, and is no more than speculative. In summary, the plaintiff did not have a duty to positively ascertain the defendant’s intentions nor did she have any means to do so.

[21]         The defendants rely upon Brumm v. Inglis, [1997] B.C.J. No. 1181. However, that case is clearly distinguishable.  There, the plaintiff walked in front of the defendant’s vehicle as it was stopped at an exit from a driveway onto a busy street, waiting for a break in heavy traffic.  The plaintiff could see the driver of the vehicle.  She chose to walk in front of the vehicle, which pulled forward as she did so.  In this context, Mr. Justice Pitfield stated:

She knew of the defendant’s intended actions. She knew or should have known there was danger to her personal safety if she passed in front of the vehicle without first making eye contact with the defendant and the vehicle accelerated suddenly in an attempt to enter the busy flow of traffic.

[22]         The circumstances of the case at bar bear no resemblance to those in Brumm.  More specifically, in the case at bar, it cannot be said that the plaintiff “knew of the defendant’s intended actions” other than perhaps in a general way, nor can it be said that there was something that she realistically could or should have done or refrained from doing in consideration for her own safety.

[23]         I conclude that the defendants have not established that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.  It follows that the defendants are fully liable for the accident.


$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome With Poor Prognosis

April 8th, 2013

Adding to this site’s archived posts of BC non-pecuniary damage assessments for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for such an injury with a poor prognosis.

In last week’s case (Gillam v. Wiebe) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sustained various injuries including a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome with a poor prognosis for full recovery. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

65]         In summary, I find that the plaintiff suffered the following injuries due to the accident:  chronic right sided neck and shoulder pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, and headaches, all as described above. She has also suffered from deterioration in her mood and disposition, interference with sleep, and significant weight gain.

[66]         Her headache condition is gradually improving but she continues to suffer from frequent headaches. Her neck and shoulder pain and her TOS symptoms also continue to cause pain and limitation of function. In general, the prognosis for the plaintiff’s conditions is poor. It is likely that she will have a degree of limitation of function and pain permanently…

[85]         Some context is also provided by the video surveillance evidence. Video surveillance was conducted on 3 separate days in April and May, 2012. The video evidence shows the plaintiff carrying out ordinary activities such as pumping gas, entering and exiting her vehicle, driving, and also shopping and eating a picnic lunch with companions. She displays no obvious sign of discomfort or disability and generally looks comfortable and able to carry out such moderate activities.

[86]         Nevertheless, the plaintiff suffers from a limitation of function. She suffers from pain in her neck and shoulder which will likely never completely disappear. She is unlikely ever to be symptom free in relation to her TOS condition. She continues to suffer from frequent headaches for which the prognosis is negative for complete resolution. She is no longer capable of heavy work, and must avoid other activities that could aggravate her neck and shoulder injuries and her TOS. She is restricted in terms of employment, domestic and recreational activities. There has been a very significant change in the plaintiff’s overall lifestyle. There have been emotional consequences to her injuries. Her injuries have also made caring for her daughter much more difficult.

[87]         While of course each case is unique, other court cases provide useful guidance with respect to the proper quantum of the award. Consistency with other decisions of the courts is desirable. The award must be fair to both sides.

[88]         The plaintiff relied upon: Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 ($175,000); Hooper v. Nair, 2009 BCSC 862 ($104,500); Cimino v. Kwit, 2009 BCSC 912 ($85,000); Milliken v. Rowe, 2011 BCSC 1458 ($85,000); and Durand v. Bolt, 2007 BCSC 480 ($75,000). The plaintiff submits that the range for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $95,000 to $135,000. The defence also relies upon Cimino, and Durand. Additionally, the defence cites Driscoll v. Desharnais, 2009 BCSC 306 ($55,000)Langley v. Heppner, 2011 BCSC 179 ($55,000), and Verhnjak v. Papa, 2005 BCSC 1129 ($40,000). The defence submits thatDriscoll and Langley most closely equate to this case, and submits that an appropriate award is $60,000.

[89]         Having reviewed these authorities, in my view an appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss in this case is $90,000.


Treating Physician Opinion Discounted for Advocacy

February 1st, 2013

In a demonstration that  judicial criticism of expert witness ‘advocacy’ is not reserved for so-called “independent” experts, reasons for judgement were released this week addressing the evidence of a treating physician who crossed the line into patient advocacy.

In this week’s case (Brown v. Raffan) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision and sought damages of over $200,000.  The Plaintiff provided evidence and also relied on the medical opinion of her physician.  The Court rejected much of the claimed damages finding that the Plaintiff was “not reliable” as a witness.  The Court went further and criticized her treating doctor finding that the opinions shared with the Court crossed the line into advocacy.  In rejecting much of the presented medical evidence Mr. Justice Verhoevan provided the following comments:

[66]         The plaintiff has continued to be treated by Dr. Campbell, who has seen her more than 70 times since the accident. Unfortunately, in general, I do not consider the evidence of Dr. Campbell to be reliable. There are several reasons for this.

[67]         Firstly, in my view, Dr. Campbell’s sympathy for his patient and her claims has resulted in him becoming an advocate for the plaintiff.

[68]         On reading his report and hearing his evidence, the theme that emerges is one of solidarity by Dr. Campbell with Ms. Brown’s complaints about lack of support from ICBC, and her plight as a blameless victim.

[69]         At numerous instances in the report, Dr. Campbell relates Ms. Brown’s complaints that ICBC failed to refuse to provide for interim wage loss payments, or cost of treatment such as physiotherapy, psychological counselling, or reimbursement for her broken dental plate. Although reciting the plaintiff’s complaints in relation to ICBC might conceivably be relevant background information, it is clear on the report and on Dr. Campbell’s testimony as a whole that he shares his patient’s views that she is a blameless victim of injustice who has been badly treated by ICBC, and, further, that she deserves compensation.

[70]         In the summary and opinion portions of his report, Dr. Campbell mentions several times that Ms. Brown was “blameless” or “blameless victim” in the motor vehicle accident. Such comments have no proper place in an expert’s report, and indicate a conflict with the duty of an expert to assist the court and refrain from being an advocate for a party as set out in Rule 11-2 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules.

[71]         Dr. Campbell also mentions several times that the plaintiff has been given no support or treatment by ICBC. These inappropriate comments are thoroughly enmeshed in his report. I think it best to simply set out some extracts of the report in this respect, in which I have emphasized the offending material….

[86]         In summary I conclude that, in general, I cannot rely upon the medical report and opinion of Dr. Campbell.