$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For S1 and Sciatic Nerve Irritation
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic pain caused by low back nerve root irritation.
In this week’s case (Stanikzai v. Bola) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 motor vehicle collision. The Plaintiff sustained various soft tissue injuries and in addition the crash caused persistent low back pain involving the Plaintiff’s S1 and sciatic nerves. The Plaintiff’s symptoms were expected to continue with the prognosis being “quite guarded“.
Mr. Justice Smith assessed non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 although reduced this amount by 15% to account for a “measurable risk” that the Plaintiff would have experienced similar symptoms even without the collision due to pre-existing factors. In arriving at this assessment Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:
 Dr. Yu also believes the accident caused a low back injury that resulted in left sided sciatic pain with “obvious clinical signs of an S1 nerve root irritation.” Like Dr. Caillier, he said the plaintiff had pre-existing degenerative disc disease, but that is a very common condition and does not necessarily cause pain or other symptoms. However, Dr. Yu agreed on cross-examination that the plaintiff’s disc degeneration is severe for a person his age. Dr. Yu and Dr. Caillier also agreed that the disc degeneration put the plaintiff at increased risk for back pain and sciatica and that disc herniation and resulting pain can occur without any significant trauma…
 Dr. Caillier said that given the chronic nature of the plaintiff’s symptoms, he is likely to have ongoing low back and radiating leg pain as well as sensory disturbance and weakness in the left leg. Although she says some improvement may be possible with medication and a physical reconditioning program, his prognosis “remains quite guarded.” She said his ability to work will be effected by his low back symptoms and resulting limitations in “sitting, standing, lifting, carrying, bending, twisting, crouching, as well as any other impact activities.” She concludes:
It is my opinion that Mr. Stanikzia’s injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident of August 25, 2007 have had a significant negative impact upon his future employability as well as lifestyle, and in this regard I am in agreement with Dr. Yu. I am also in agreement that there will be some longterm disability associated with his symptoms, whether he chooses to go forward with surgical or nonsurgical options.
 Dr. Yu said the plaintiff’s symptoms will likely “persist for the foreseeable future.” Although surgery could be performed to remove the bulging disc, Dr. Yu said even that is unlikely to provide complete relief.
 The opinions of Dr. Caillier and Dr. Yu are not contradicted by any other medical opinion…
 The Defendants agree that the plaintiff suffered some injury, but say his spine was already in a severely degenerated condition and the accident only aggravated or accelerated that pre-existing condition. They also say there was a significant risk that condition would have detrimentally affected the plaintiff in the future even without the accident. Those are issues to be considered on assessment of damages. Based on the only medical evidence that is before me, I find that the plaintiff has a low back injury, with associated nerve root involvement, that was caused or contributed to by the accident.
 I also find that the plaintiff has experienced and will continue to experience low back pain. Based on his evidence and that of other witnesses, I find that he remains able to do a variety of day-to-day tasks, but is restricted from more strenuous activities, including his former recreational activities, and that the pain significantly interferes with his quality of life…
 Apart from what I have found to be a real possibility of future back problems in any event, I find Majer and Crane to be the most comparable. Both cases involved ongoing and likely permanent back pain that, while not completely disabling, severely limited the plaintiff’s work and recreational activities. Both involved pre-existing conditions that were asymptomatic at the time of the accident, although the plaintiff in Crane had, like this plaintiff, a previous history of back pain. The court awarded non-pecuniary damages of $95,000 in Majer and $100,000 in Crane.
 If I had not found the plaintiff to have been at significant risk for back problems, I would have assessed non-pecuniary damages of $100,000. In recognition of that risk, I apply 15 per cent reduction and assess non-pecuniary damages at $85,000.