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$250,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for "Open Book" Pelvic Fracture

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for multiple injuries sustained in 4 motor vehicle collisions.
In last week’s case (Scoates v. Dermott) the Plaintiff was involved in multiple collisions.  He was found faultless for all of them.  The collisions resulted in numerous injuries the most serious of which was an open book‘ pelvic fracture.  The consequences of his injuries disabled him from his own occupation as an ambulance attendant and largely disabled him from any other occupation.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $250,000 Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[171] In Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at para. 46, the Court of Appeal set out a non-exhaustive list of factors to be considered including: the age of the plaintiff; the nature of the injury; the severity and duration of pain; the degree of disability; the impairment of family, marital, and social relationships; and loss of lifestyle.

[172] Reference to any and all of those factors in this case reveals a profound impact. The initial injuries and their immediate aftermath were horrific.  Although the plaintiff’s recovery was remarkable in some respects, his ongoing pain and disability, combined with the psychological difficulty and frustration of adjusting to that pain and disability, are likely to have severe adverse effects for the rest of his life.  Those effects will be felt in all his daily activities and in his family and social life.

[173] An additional factor in this case is the extent to which the plaintiff is affected by the loss of his pre-injury career.  The loss of income is, of course, separately compensated, but the plaintiff so enjoyed his job, and defined himself so much in reference to that job, that his inability to return to work as a paramedic magnifies his loss of enjoyment of life.

[174] I have considered the cases of Grewal v. Brar, 2004 BCSC 1157, Izony v. Weidlich, 2006 BCSC 1315, Lines v. Gordon, 2006 BCSC 1929,  Dikey v. Samieian, 2008 BCSC 604, andZawadzki v. Calimoso, 2010 BCSC 1952. Considering the awards made in those cases, comparing the injuries in those cases to those in this case, and most important, considering the individual circumstances of the this plaintiff and the impact of his injuries on his life, I find  an appropriate award of non-pecuniary damages to be $250,000.

[175] In awarding non pecuniary damages of $250,000, I have not overlooked the submission of defence counsel that cases awarding non-pecuniary damages below the upper limit but in excess of $200,000 frequently involve a finding of ongoing effects from organic brain injury.  Although I have found the plaintiff’s cognitive, emotional and personality difficulties may result from the complex interaction of chronic pain and depression, rather than organic brain injury, the intractable nature of those problems makes the distinction largely irrelevant.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Smith, Scoates v. Dermott

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