$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Triggering Early Onset of Arthritic Symptoms

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for the triggering of arthritic symptoms in pre-existing asymptomatic degenerative joints.
In the recent case (Witt v. Vancovuer International Airport Authority) the Plaintiff was a fire-truck salesman.  Chalking this up to the ‘you learn something everyday’ category, this is apparently a lucrative career with the Plaintiff earning approximately $740,000 per year.  While at the Vancouver Airport the Plaintiff fell through metal plates “that were not secured by the long stakes that should have been used to secure the plates” creating “voids below the plates which allowed the plates to shift as vehicle traffic went over them“.  The Defendant was found fully liable for the incident.
The fall triggered symptoms of pain in the Plaintiff’s back, knee and hip.  He had pre-existing arthritis in these areas with the fall accelerating these conditions resulting in long-standing pain.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Burnyear provided the following reasons:

[59] Based on the conclusions reached by the medical experts, on the testimony of Mr. Witt and Ms. Witt, and on the testimony of those who knew him well, I conclude that Mr. Witt has considerable and continuing pain as a result of the Fall and that the pain that he has suffered has made his life less enjoyable.  I find that his inability to walk long distances, his inability to enjoy golfing, hiking and tennis, and his reduced sleep and energy levels have come as a result of the Fall.  I am satisfied that Mr. Witt should be compensated for that pain and suffering.

[60] Regarding the particular complaints of Mr. Witt, I make the following findings.  I find that Mr. Witt now suffers from chronic pain as a result of the Fall.  I also find that, as a result of the chronic pain, there have been negative changes to his disposition, a considerable reduction in his physical activity and capacity, and a significant negative effect on his marriage.

[61] Regarding the back pain experienced by Mr. Witt, I find that some but not all of the back pain experienced by Mr. Witt as a result of the Fall settled by the summer of 2010.  However, I also find that he is now more susceptible to develop spinal stenosis as a result of the Fall.

[62] Regarding the right hip of Mr. Witt, I find that he continues to have severe pain from time to time and discomfort when sitting.  As a result of the Fall, I find that osteoarthritis has become systematic and that this has become the case earlier than what would have occurred but for the Fall.  While I find that there was a degree of degenerative spondylosis and arthritis prior to the Fall, I find that the Fall produced severe pain in the right hip that would not have been experienced by Mr. Witt but for the Fall and which has produced early onset of degenerative spondylosis and arthritis.

[63] As a result of the Fall, I find that the pain and weakness being experienced by Mr. Witt in his right knee has accelerated the existing degenerative arthritis so that Mr. Witt now requires surgery.  I find that the presence of degenerative arthritis in the right knee of Mr. Witt was accelerated by the Fall…

[68] Taking into account the injuries caused by the negligence of the Defendants, the duration of the pain and suffering produced by the negligence, the likely future pain and suffering caused by the Fall, and by the early onset of arthritic problems caused by the Fall, I set the non-pecuniary damages available to Mr. Witt at $100,000.00.

The Court went on to note that the ongoing injuries and expected medical interventions will interfere with the Plaintiff’s career and assessed damages for diminished-earning capacity at $600,000.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Burnyeat, pre-existing degenerative changes, Witt v. Vancouver International Airport Authority

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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