$20,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for "Minor Exacerbation of Pre-Existing Symptoms"

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for the aggravation of pre-existing injuries caused by a so-called Low Velocity Impact.
In today’s case (Pearlman v. Phelps Leasing Ltd.) the Plaintiff, a 77 year old retired lawyer, was involved in a 2007 collision.  He had pre-existing injuries from a 2004 collision and the Court found that these were exacerbated for a short while following the 2007 crash.  The Court expressed serious concern about the Plaintiff’s credibility with the following observation:
[3] The plaintiff’s credibility from the onset of the trial before me through to its conclusion dissipated like aspirin in a glass of water until all that remained was a murky, cloud-like substance. Amongst his many inconsistencies and exaggerations, the most shocking was that the testimony of his injuries in the trial before me was nearly identical to the testimony he gave at the 2008 trial, in which he blamed the 2004 Accident for all the problems he was experiencing in 2008.
Despite this the Court found that the Plaintiff did suffer injury in the 2007 crash.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $20,000 Madam Justice Kloegman provided the following comments:
[44] After having reviewed all of the exhibited medical records and reports, and after considering all of the viva voce testimony, it seems fair to conclude, on a balance of probabilities, that it is more likely than not that the plaintiff experienced from the 2007 Accident an exacerbation of his pre-existing symptoms. However, it appears to have been minor and not long in duration. The plaintiff developed no new symptoms. He was back doing physical labour within a few days, and his complaints from that time to the present would likely have continued, regardless of the 2007 Accident. His pre-existing condition was well described by Dr. Baird and Dr. Keyes and there was no reliable, positive evidence to indicate that he developed some further injury of a permanent nature as a result of the 2007 Accident. It is telling, indeed, that the plaintiff’s statement of claim with respect to the 2004 Accident is almost identical to his statement of claim respecting the 2007 Accident…
[47] The case law indicates that a reasonable award of non-pecuniary damages for the plaintiff’s aggravated injury is in the range of $15,000 to $20,000 (Hough v. Wyatt, 2011 BCSC 910; and Dempsey v. Oh, 2011 BCSC 216). It is interesting to note that in both these other cases, the plaintiff was found to be lacking credibility and the Court was obliged to rely on the medical evidence to determine the cause of the plaintiff’s claims of injury. I find myself in a similar position, and on the evidence before me, I award the plaintiff $20,000 in total damages arising from the 2007 Accident.

aggravation of pre-existing injuries, bc injury law, credibility, exacerbation of pre-existing injuries, Madam Justice Kloegman, Pearlman v. Phelps Leasing Ltd.

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ERIK
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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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