$225,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic and Disabling Conversion Disorder

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a disabling conversion disorder following a motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Best v. Thomas) the Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle when he was rear-ended by a van.  The Plaintiff suffered a spine injury at C-5 which required surgical correction.  He went on to suffer from a variety of disabling ailments.  Ultimately the Court found these were due to a conversion disorder.  The prognosis for recovery was poor.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $225,000 Madam Justice Duncan provided the following reasons:
[139]     I find on a balance of probabilities that the main cause of the plaintiff’s current condition, including the myoclonus, is conversion disorder. I come to this conclusion because of the relative rarity of propriospinal myoclonus and how it can be mistaken for psychiatric problems. The non-anatomical presentation was also persuasive. As early as Dr. Ho’s involvement, a strange kicking motion was noted, which was inconsistent with a neurological cause. Some of the plaintiff’s pain may well be as a result of the surgery on his C5/6 disc; however, the vast majority of his symptoms, in my view, are not organic or structural in cause.
[140]     Diagnosis of cause aside, what I glean from the experts is that nobody predicts anything close to a full recovery for the plaintiff. Dr. Hurwitz posited a 14% possibility of some recovery, though in light of the fact that the plaintiff has already been treated with a wide variety of anti-depressant drugs, this is a very optimistic prognosis. The other experts recommended various interventions in an effort to assist the plaintiff…
[161]     The plaintiff was almost 32 when the accident happened. The original injury was to his C5-6 disc. I find the following facts about the plaintiff’s condition have been established on a balance of probabilities.
[162]     Since the accident, the plaintiff has been in constant pain, notwithstanding an aggressive regime of pain treatment through medication and other therapies. He is disabled from competitive employment. While he can drive and walk, with some difficulty and with the assistance of a cane, he cannot engage in the activities he enjoyed before the accident. In terms of physical activity, he can do little more than walk very short distances and swim. He can no longer work at a job he enjoyed. His emotional suffering is extreme. He has given up hope of being a father and had a vasectomy as he would be unable to engage in play or chase a child. His enjoyment of sexual activity is significantly diminished as he has lost sensation in his penis during intercourse. His family and friends attest to the fact that he is not the same person as before the accident. He no longer laughs and jokes around. He is constantly fatigued. His family and two close friends remain engaged with him but his world has shrunk considerably from his pre-accident social activities and he has essentially lost a healthy, active, social lifestyle. He is not as mentally sharp as he was, whether by virtue of the injury or the associated medications he takes to manage his condition. None of the experts predicted anything remotely approaching a full recovery.
[163]     Taking into account all of the foregoing, as well as the range of cases provided by counsel, I award the plaintiff $225,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
 

bc injury law, Best v. Thomas, c5/6 disc injury, Conversion Disorder, Madam Justice Duncan

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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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