April 30th, 2009
Earlier this week I posted about pain and suffering awards in BC for Plaintiff’s with pre-existing severe injuries, today, further reasons for judgment were released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with this topic. In today’s case (Winkelmans v. Stoffels) the Plaintiff was injured in a rear end car crash in Richmond BC on January 29, 2000. The Defendants admitted fault for the accident.
Shortly after the accident the Plaintiff was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The Plaintiff did not claim that her MS was caused by the car crash at trial. The Plaintiff’s MS caused troubling symptoms including “hearing loss, vision problems, fatigue, vertigo, balance difficulties, headaches, problems with memory, speech coordination, weakness, dizziness and stiffness.”.
The main focus of this trial was whether the Plaintiff had any ongoing symptoms from her car crash by the time of trial or whether her ongoing symptoms were related to other causes such as the MS. The court found that the Plaintiff indeed was injured in the car crash and continued to suffer from injuries by the time of trial. In valuing the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering at $60,000 Mr. Justice Curtis made the following comments about her MVA related injuries imposed on her symptoms of MS:
 Having MS has made it difficult for Ms. Winkelmans to recover from her car accident injuries as is recorded in the medical reports. There are times when she cannot exercise and stretch as she should because of her MS symptoms. The defendant, through negligence, having injured someone who cannot recover as quickly or as fully as a normal person remains in law on the “thin skull” principle liable to pay compensation for the problems caused by the accident injury, even although they are greater because the plaintiff’s recovery is impaired by her health. The consequences of the accident injuries to Ms. Winkelmans are, because of her MS, more severe than they would be to a person not burdened with her health issues. On the other hand, the defendants are not liable to compensate her for what she would have experienced from her previous neck and back problems or for what her MS would have brought on without the intervention of the car accident.
 In summary, I accept that Ms. Winkelmans’ neck and back, including her lumbar spine suffered injury caused by the January 2000 collision and that she suffers a degree of continuing headaches, neck pain and back pain to the present time because of her injuries. While the extent to which her accident injuries has contributed to her overall condition has not prevented her from working or doing her normal activities, it has introduced continuing pain into her life which will continue in the future – which is particularly difficult for a person who already suffers from MS. On this basis, I assess Ms. Winkelmans’ claim for general damages for pain and suffering and loss of the amenities of life at $60,000.