$120,000 in Damages for “Gifted Athlete” Injured in BC Car Crash

Reasons for judgment were released last week (Atkison v. Niles) by the BC Supreme Court awarding just over $120,000 to a ‘gifted athlete’ who was injured in a 2003 BC motor vehicle collision.

The Plaintiff was 16 at the time of the collision. He was a passenger in a vehicle involved in an intersection crash. As a result he suffered a knee injury which was expected to have some permanent consequences. The injury was diagnosed as either a posterior cruciate ligament tear or damage to the trochlea groove of the femur. As a result of this knee injury it was agreed that the Plaintiff had an increased risk of developing progressive osteoarthritis eventually requiring knee replacement surgery.

The Plaintiff played as catcher for an ‘elite’ league in White Rock at the time of the crash. By the time of trial in 2009 the Plaintiff was playing at the University of New Mexico as a first baseman and had aspirations of going pro after graduating.

In quantifying the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages) at $55,000 the Court noted the following facts:

[15] More significantly, he suffered a permanent injury to his left knee that has caused and will continue to cause intermittent pain, particularly with certain body positions. He will suffer the early onset of osteo-arthritis and require knee replacement surgery, likely in his 40’s. If he lived a sedentary life, as Dr. Hill recommends, the time for that surgery could be extended to the 60’s. However, the plaintiff is a gifted and active athlete. Extending the time for surgery by remaining inactive would constitute a drastic negative impact on his lifestyle. There is evidence that, because of the limited life span of a knee replacement, other surgeries may be required. While the defendant points to ongoing medical research which may provide other alternatives in future, that remains speculative at present.

[16] A significant impact for this plaintiff has been the impact on his baseball career. The evidence is that he was particularly suited to playing the position of catcher, a position he has not been able to occupy since the accident, nor will he ever. There is evidence, which I accept, is that he would have been most attractive to professional baseball had he been able to play that position. There is also evidence that, playing at first base, he does not have the size that professional baseball seeks for that position. There is also evidence that the knee injury had some impact on his foot speed, which would also diminish his chances of playing professionally.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s loss of earning capacity (future wage loss) at $100,000 the Court noted the following:

[20] The plaintiff will be graduating from university with a general degree. Thus he has no earnings history. As earlier stated, his goal has long been to play professional baseball. That has not been a unrealistic goal given his exceptional talent.

[21] However, he is less attractive to professional baseball because of the knee injury, both because of that fact and the fact that the injury required him to move permanently to a position where he is less valuable. The evidence of professional baseball scout Mr. Archer in that regard is consistent with common sense. Measuring that lessened opportunity is a particularly difficult exercise at his youthful age, except to say that it is real and not insignificant.

[22] If that dream is not realized, the plaintiff intends to seek a career as a firefighter or in a trade, as his brother and father have done. While there is no expert evidence on the issue, It is plain and obvious that the plaintiff, with his permanent knee injury, will be less attractive to future employers, particular those occupations requiring physical exertion.

[23] Finally, I must consider the very real possibility that the plaintiff will be forced to undergo at least one major knee surgery and the effect this will have on his employability and ability to earn income in the physically demanding careers most likely open to him.

The Plaintiff’s total damages were then reduced by 22.5% because he was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision and this contributed to the severity/cause of his injuries.

Atkison v. niles, icbc injury claims, knee injury, posterior cruciate ligament tear, seatbelts and icbc claims, trochlea groove of the femur

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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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