$25,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for 18 Month Aggravation of Pre-Existing Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages of $25,000 for the aggravation of chronic pre-existing injuries.
In this week’s case (Dorsey v. Bhindi) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 rear end collision.  Liability was not at issue.  The court voiced some credibility concerns regarding the plaintiff and did not accept her claim in its entirety.  The Court did accept, however, that the collision caused an 18 month aggravation of pre-existing symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $25,000 for these injuries Madam Justice Warren provided the following reasons:
[108]     In summary, I make the following findings on causation:

  • Ms. Dorsey injured her shoulders in the slip at work, but did not exacerbate that injury in the accident.  She currently suffers from frozen shoulder on the left side, but I am not persuaded that the accident caused or materially contributed to that condition.
  • The accident caused a temporary and relatively minor exacerbation of Ms. Dorsey’s pre-existing neck and back symptoms that gradually improved over about 18 months, and by late September 2014 Ms. Dorsey’s condition had returned to its pre-accident state.
  • Ms. Dorsey has suffered from some anxiety and depressive symptoms but I am not persuaded that the accident caused or materially contributed to those conditions.

[117]     Of the authorities cited by the defendants, Kearns v. Marples, 2009 BCSC 802, bears the most similarity to this case.  In that case damages were assessed on the basis that the 51-year-old plaintiff had suffered injuries to her shoulders, right elbow, and neck that largely resolved within about eight months, but for the right shoulder which remained injured and was predisposed to further injury which occurred in two subsequent motor vehicle accidents.  These injuries were superimposed on pre-existing conditions.  Non-pecuniary damages of $25,000 were awarded. In that case, Justice Verhoeven referred to Job v. Van Blankers, 2009 BCSC 230, where Justice Ker awarded non-pecuniary damages of $25,000 to a plaintiff who had suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury that resulted in sustained disability, pain and suffering, and interfered with the plaintiff’s life for about 14 months: Kearns at para. 134.

[118]     Awards of damages in other cases provide a guideline only.  Ultimately, each case turns on its own facts.  I have found that the accident caused a temporary and relatively minor exacerbation of Ms. Dorsey’s pre-existing neck and back symptoms that gradually improved over about 18 months.  The exacerbation was not so significant as to materially interfere with her ability to work.  There is very little evidence of any material impairment of her physical abilities or significant loss of lifestyle.  Considering the principles discussed in the cases referred to me and the criteria considered in the assessment of damages in Stapley, I assess Ms. Dorsey’s non-pecuniary damages at $25,000.

bc injury law, Dorsey v. Bhindi, Madam Justice Warren

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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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