$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment in Jay Walking Collision


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with fault for a collision involving a jaywalking pedestrian.
In last week’s case (Wong-Lai v. Ong) the elderly Plaintiff and her husband where involved in a serious collision in 2009.  It was a dark and rainy Vancouver Autumn evening.  As they crossed the street to return to their car they were struck by a vehicle driven by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff was not in a marked cross-walk at the time.  Her husband died and the Plaintiff suffered severe injuries.
The Court found that while the Plaintiff was jay-walking she should have been visible to the Driver.  The Court found that the driver was not paying sufficient attention and assessed him 25% at fault.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Sewell provided the following reasons:

[56] I have concluded that Mr. Ong must bear some of the legal responsibility for the accident.  The law is well-settled that a driver of a vehicle owes a duty to keep a proper lookout and to avoid exercising his or her right of way in the face of danger of which he or she was or ought to have been aware.  In some cases the expression used is that that person must avoid dangers of which he or she was aware or which were reasonably apparent.  I do not think that the defendant in this case can avoid liability merely because he did not see Ms. Lai before impact.  The critical question is whether he ought to have seen her or, in other words, whether her presence was reasonably apparent at a point when Mr. Ong could have taken steps to avoid running her down.

[57] Drivers of motor vehicles are not to be held to a standard of perfection.  However I do not think that the possibility that persons may be crossing a highway at a point other than a crosswalk or intersection is so remote that a driver has no duty to take it into account in keeping a lookout.  The evidence in this case persuades me that Mr. Ong was not keeping a proper lookout immediately prior to the accident.  His own evidence is that he was not looking forward.  While it is perfectly permissible and prudent for a driver who is changing lanes to do a shoulder check I think it is also incumbent on such a driver to take the steps necessary to ensure that it is safe for him to do so.

[58] I have also concluded that Mr. Ong was probably concentrating on the manoeuvre of changing lanes and on the parked car in front of him to the exclusion of keeping a proper lookout.  I therefore find that Mr. Ong was negligent and that the defendants must bear some portion of the liability for Ms. Lai’s injuries…

[64] In all of the circumstances I find that Ms. Lai is 75% liable for the accident that occurred and Mr. Ong 25%.  Ms. Lai is therefore entitled to recover 25% of the damages she suffered as a result of this tragic accident.

The Plaintiff’s damages were assessed at just over $307,000.  $200,000 of this assessment were for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Sewell provided the following summary of the Plaintiff’s injuries:

[65] In this case Ms. Lai suffered very grievous injuries. She was struck by a car which I have found to be travelling at close to 60 kilometres per hour.  A good summary of her injuries is found in the report of Dr. Ng.  It is as follows:

1) Gross bleeding from urine requiring emergency urological consultation. A CT cystogram ruled out bladder rupture. Ct scans of the kidneys did not show any severe renal damage and she only required observation and support. However angiogram showed the pelvic fractures has ruptured blood vessels and she had bleeding in the blood supply to the pubic bone and these required embolisation to stop the bleeding.

2] Cervical Cl C2 unstable fracture. This required immobilisation and stabilisation in a collar and traction for the first eight weeks. She also has a moderate central cervical disc protrusion at level C6-7 which indented her cervical spinal cord.

3] Chest contusions left upper lobe, right middle lobe, and multiple rib fractures of the left 3 to 6 ribs and left 8 rib.

4) Multiple pelvic comminuted fractures bilaterally, namely superior and inferior pubic rami. She required immobilisation for her neck and leg fractures as well as for these fractures for the first eight weeks. She remained in the intensive care unit for a few weeks for treatment and stabilisation of all her injuries.

5) The left Tibial and left Fibular fractures require manual reduction and internal fixations on December 1, 2009. She returned to the intensive care unit post operatively.

6) Brain injury, which on CT scan showed multiple bleeding present inside areas of her brain and a small subdural hematoma (within the skull but outside the brain), located in between the cerebral hemispheres. There is a large left scalp hematoma. Her conscious levels and neurological state were monitored in intensive care over the next few weeks

[83] In my view the most important factors in this case are the severe and painful injuries suffered by Ms. Lai, the marked degree of permanent disability, the loss of independence and the increased risk of morbidity and mortality identified in Dr. Guy’s opinion.  I also note that Ms. Lai’s stoicism and determination to make the best of her predicament should not diminish the amount of damages awarded to her.

[84] I have reviewed the numerous decisions on pecuniary damages involving serious injuries cited to me by counsel.  These cases are all of course fact specific.  My review of them, coupled with a consideration of the principles restated in Stapley, leads me to conclude that an award of non pecuniary damages in the amount of $200,000 is appropriate in this case.

bc injury law, jaywalking, Mr. Justice Sewell, Pedestrian Collisions, section 179 motor vehicle act, section 180 motor vehicle act, section 181 motor vehicle act, Wong-Lai v. Ong

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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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