$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Aggravation of Chronic Pain
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages for accident related injuries.
In today’s case (Cheng v. Kamboz) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 BC Car Crash. The other motorist admitted fault. The issue the court dealt with was quantum of damages (value of the Plaintiff’s claim).
Mr. Justice Myers found that the Plaintiff suffered from pre-existing chronic pain at the time of the crash. Specifically he found that the Plaintiff suffered from headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain and low back pain. Notwithstanding these pre-accident complaints the Court found that the Plaintiff’s pre-existing “chronic pain” was transformed into a “chronic pain syndrome” as a result of the collision. In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $45,000 for this aggravation Mr. Justice Myers reasoned as follows:
 I find that before the accident Ms. Cheng was suffering – to a lesser extent – from all the pain of which she now complains. Ms. Cheng says that she had no hip pain before the accident; however, that is not what she told Dr. Feldman when she mentioned what she referred to as being symptomatic of myasthenia gravis, to which I referred above at para. 29. Whether it was caused by the myasthenia gravis is, in this context, beside the point.
 Ms. Cheng was suffering from headaches prior to the accident in question. While she says they are more frequent now, the difference is minimal. Further, they are often brought on by stress at work and that is a variable which has nothing to do with the accident.
 That said, the accident exacerbated the injuries and escalated chronic pain into chronic pain syndrome. Causation for the exacerbation and chronic pain syndrome has been shown. The harm caused by the defendant is divisible from the harm caused by the prior accidents and the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition. To be clear, this is not the type of case, as was Athey v. Leonati,  3 S.C.R. 458, in which a pre-existing condition of the plaintiff made him more amenable to a specific injury (a disc herniation).
 Damages are to be assessed on the basis that Ms. Cheng is to be put in the position she was before the accident, but not in a better position.
 Ms. Cheng referred me to cases in which the damage range was between $80,000 and $100,000. The defendants’ cases ranged from $35,000 to $60,000.
 The injuries will not result in a drastic change of lifestyle for Ms. Cheng. As I have noted, she was not physically active before the accident. None of the doctors have opined that she will not be able to resume the limited walking she was doing before the accident. The same can be said with respect to going to the theatre. The migraines were present before the accident and her reduced playing of video games because of the migraines cannot be blamed to any substantial degree on the accident.
 On the other hand it must be recognised that the accident did cause her chronic pain syndrome and that it is likely to continue for some time.
 In my view, the proper assessment of damages for the exacerbation of Ms. Cheng’s prior injuries and the addition of the chronic pain syndrome is $45,000.