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$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for "Plateaued" Chronic Mid Back Injury

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court awarding damages for injuries and loss in an “unusually straightforward” personal injury case.
In this week’s case (Sharpe v. Tidey) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 BC Car Crash.  Fault was admitted by the Defendants lawyer leaving only the issue of quantum of damages to be decided at trial.
Mr. Justice Voith summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:
I find that since the accident Mr. Sharpe has had a constant and relatively significant level of pain in his mid-back area.  This pain increases after strenuous activity; yet nevertheless, as mentioned above, I accept that such activity assists in maintaining Mr. Sharpe’s baseline level of pain at a generally lower level…. I find that Mr. Sharpe’s present levels of back pain will likely remain static for at least the next 3-5 years.  It appears likely that over the longer term his symptoms will either actually abate or will be perceived by him to fade to some degree.  There is a real prospect that even over the long-term Mr. Sharpe will not fully recover from his injuries.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $40,000 the court summarized and applied the law as follows:

[44]         In my view, there are a number of cases provided to me by the plaintiff which are of particular value.  These were Kahle v. Ritter, 2002 BCSC 199 22 M.V.R. (4th) 275, Hicks v. GMAC Leaseco. Ltd., 2001 BCSC 1091, and Isert v. Santos, 1999 BCCA 42, 65 B.C.L.R. (3d) 104.  While each of these decisions involves a plaintiff whose claim had attributes that were different from the instant case, they share certain central features.  In each case the plaintiff was generally able to work following their motor vehicle accident, without interruption or with limited interruption.  They involved persons who were particularly active, whose level of activity and enjoyment of such activities defined them, and who had been able to maintain some or all of the activities, albeit in modified or limited form.  Thus, they involved individuals who were not disabled, but who suffered from some impairment of functionality.  Their recovery had largely plateaued.  In my view, however, the impairment suffered by the plaintiffs in these cases was somewhat more severe than that suffered by Mr. Sharpe.

[45]         Mr. Sharpe is a young man in the prime of his life.  Work, sport, travel and his relationship with Ms. Drinkwater are the cornerstones of his life.  Sport and travel, in particular, are central to his social relationships, his sense of well-being, and his activities with Ms. Drinkwater.

[46]         Mr. Sharpe lives with a constant level of pain that is exacerbated when he engages in the very things that give him pleasure.  His recovery appears to have plateaued.  The prognosis for further recovery for at least a number of years is poor.  Furthermore, increased demands arising from his career and the family he hopes to have are a concern for his future.  Conversely, I recognize that if Mr. Sharpe is to undertake graduate studies and have a family in the future, he will have less time to engage in these various sports or activities.  Furthermore, as he gets older it is inevitable that to some extent he would, in any event, be less involved in the more extreme activities in which he has historically participated.

[47]         In my view, in all of the circumstances, the appropriate award for Mr. Sharpe’s non-pecuniary loss is $40,000.

chronic pain, icbc injury claims, mid back pain, non-pecuniary damages, pain and suffering awards, Sharpe v. Tidey