$210,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for Frontal Lobe and Brachial Plexus Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing damages for severe injuries following a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Harrington v. Sangha) the Plaintiff was struck by a tractor trailer in 2007.  Another motorist who initially lost control causing the tractor-trailer to collide with the Plaintiff was found fully liable for the incident.   The Plaintiff suffered a frontal lobe brain injury in addition to a brachial plexus injury.

(Frontal Lobe Graphic via Wikipedia)
The Plaintiff was disabled from employment as a result of the pain from the brachial plexus injury and the cognitive changes due to the frontal lobe injury.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $210,000 Mr. Justice Willcock provided the following reasons:




[183] There is no doubt that the plaintiff has been severely and dramatically affected by the injuries sustained in the January 18, 2007, motor vehicle accident. There is no doubt with respect to the extent of her physical injuries. There is convincing evidence that she has suffered a traumatic brain injury. That injury has affected her cognition and may have reduced her global intelligence. There is ample evidence from her family and friends that her behaviour has been significantly affected. She is irritable and disinhibited. Her memory and concentration are poor. These changes are typical of those experienced by people who have suffered frontal lobe injuries of the sort sustained by Ms. Harrington. She is affected by chronic pain and headaches. She requires significant medication to deal with her pain and that has further impacted her emotional state and her intellectual functioning. By all accounts she is now unemployable.

[184] Fortunately, she is still largely independent and capable. As the defendants point out, she appears, to the casual observer and even to trained professionals on first encounter, to be someone who is functioning well and behaving appropriately. She is still capable of enjoying many of the amenities of life and may do so to a greater extent if she benefits from certain of the chronic pain management programs recommended to her.

[185] It is true, as the plaintiff submits, that there is no “range” of devastating injuries. All devastating injuries should attract an award of general damages at the upper limit permissible. I am of the view, however, that while Ms. Harrington will be seriously affected for the balance of her life by the significant injury she sustained, her injury cannot properly be described as devastating. Unlike the plaintiff in Morrison v. Cormier Vegetation Control, she is not limited to minimal participation in the activities of daily living. She is unlikely to be shunned and the range of relationships open to her should not be forever limited. She appears, still, to have reasonable insight into her situation and condition and has in fact formed relationships since her accident. By suggesting an award that is marginally less than the upper limit, the plaintiff’s counsel implicitly acknowledges that this is not a case where the rough upper limit of general damages is an appropriate award.

[186] On the other hand, the defendants, by referring only to the examining experts’ first impressions of Ms. Harrington and her appearance in the witness box at trial, underestimate the dramatic effect of the injury upon her. There is no reference in the defendant’s submissions to the common findings of the neuropsychologists with respect to the nature and extent of the consequences of the head injury.  Nor is there any reference to the testimony of the many family and friends who testified with respect to the dramatic change in the plaintiff’s behaviour. Taking into account both the very significant limitations in her physical activities associated with her brachial plexus injury and the functional impact of her head injury, I am of the view that general damages in this case should be assessed at $210,000.




Agony of Collision, bc injury law, brachial plexus injury, brain injury, frontal lobe injury, Harrington v. Sangha, Mr. Justice Willcock

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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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