$5.2 Million Dollar Assessment For Cost of Future Care for Cyclist Struck by Tractor-Trailer


In what is one of the biggest personal injury trial awards in Canadian History, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing losses and damages of over $5.5 million dollars as a result of a BC motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (MacEachern v. Rennie) the Plaintiff suffered a “severe brain injury when her head struck a passing tractor-trailer…in Surrey, BC.  She was 27 years old at the time. “.  The court found that as a result of her serious injuries “she will now require care for the rest of her life. ”
The trial was hotly contested and went on for many months starting back in March of 2009 (You can click here to read my archived posts documenting some of the contested interlocutory trial applications) Ultimately the driver of the tractor trailer was found 80% responsible for the crash for not keeping a proper lookout.  The Plaintiff herself was found 20% at fault for “making the careless decision to proceed (around a pickup truck) when she did, instead of waiting for traffic to clear“.
Given the Plaintiff’s catastrophic injuries she was found to require care for the rest of her life.   $5,275,000 was awarded to take care of these expenses.  The Plaintiff was also awarded the maximum Canadian law allows for negligently caused personal injuries for non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).
The parties to the lawsuit agreed that this upper limit was an appropriate award.  In reaching this assessment Mr. Justice Ehrcke made the following comments:

[673] Following the accident, the plaintiff had a Glasgow Coma Score of 3. She was intubated and taken by ambulance to Royal Columbian Hospital, where she required emergency surgery upon admission. Dr. Lee, a neurosurgeon, performed a craniotomy to treat her depressed skull fracture and inserted a monitor for her intracranial pressure.

[674] Ms. MacEachern remained unconscious for weeks. She underwent further surgeries. When she eventually opened her eyes, she still did not recognize her family for months. Her coma slowly lifted, but she became severely agitated as a result of her brain injury.

[675] On June 20, 2006, she was transferred to the specialized Neuropsychiatric Program at UBC Hospital for three months, where she received one-on-one care, 24 hours per day. Through the care she received and through adjustments in her medications, she became stabilized and her behaviour dramatically improved. On September 15, 2006, she was discharged back to Royal Columbian Hospital, with a primary diagnosis of Disinhibited Frontal Lobe Syndrome. Although she remained severely disabled, she was now mobile and was able to speak and communicate.

[676] At Royal Columbian Hospital, her behaviour again deteriorated, and at times she required restraints and had to be locked in a padded room.

[677] In January 2007, Ms. MacEachern was transferred to Bear Creek Lodge. The upstairs part of this facility caters to geriatric patients, while the downstairs unit is a locked ward for persons with brain injuries. Ms. MacEachern currently lives there with 15-16 other persons ranging in age from 20-60 years. She has her own room. This facility has provided her with security, medications, and the basic necessities of life, but all parties are in agreement that Bear Creek Lodge is not suitable as a permanent placement for Ms. MacEachern.

[678] To summarize:  as a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a depressed and comminuted skull fracture of the right front and parietal bones, shear hemorrhages from diffuse axonal injury, and focal hemorrhage to the left frontal and left temporal lobes of her brain. These injuries will have profound implications for the rest of her life. She has little short-term memory, and her behaviour is disinhibited. Mentally and socially, she presents much like a young child, yet in a mature woman’s body. She clearly will require a significant level of care for the rest of her life. She will never be able to work or earn a living….

[680] As mentioned above, in three 1978 cases (the “Trilogy”), Thornton v. School District No. 57 (Prince George) et al., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 267, Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229, and Arnold v. Teno, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 287, the Supreme Court of Canada set a rough upper limit of $100,000 for non-pecuniary damages in cases of catastrophic injury.

[681] All parties in the present case agree that the plaintiff suffered the kind of catastrophic injury that should attract the rough upper limit set by the Supreme Court of Canada, adjusted for inflation. The evidence of Mr. Carson is that the present value of the rough upper limit, as of the beginning of this trial, is $324,800.

[682] There shall be an award for non-pecuniary damages in that amount.

Cost of Future Care, Cyclist Injuries, injuries with commercial vehicles, MacEachern v. Rennie, Mr. Justice Ehrcke, Severe Brain Injuries, tractor trailer injuries

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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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