$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Facet Joint Injury
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for a chronic low back injury.
In this week’s case (Bearpark v. Lakhanpal) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions. The Defendants accepted fault. The Plaintiff suffered injury to his facet joints in the L4-S1 region. This caused chronic pain and resulted in restrictions in the Plaintiff’s ability to do heavier work. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Mr. Justice Greyell provided the following reasons:
 I am satisfied the evidence presents a consistent and reliable picture of the plaintiff’s injuries, which he did his best to describe in his evidence. His evidence was generally consistent with the findings of his physicians that in the two motor vehicle accidents he sustained and suffers from chronic lower back pain which originates from injury to his facet joints in the L4 – S1 region, shoulder pain which flares up (and was likely aggravated in the bus accidents) and neck pain. His neck pain has now mostly resolved…
 Mr. Bearpark has been left with significant ongoing chronic lower back pain which I find is the result of an injury to his lower back in the L-5-S-1 area. I find this injury to be a direct result of the two motor vehicle accidents. The injury to his lower back bothers him more when he engages in heavy labour and limits him in the job functions he can perform. He is able to tolerate it in the sedentary position he now occupies with accommodations provided to him by his employer.
 I find the injuries to his right shoulder, hand, and knee have mostly resolved. I find that his left shoulder is now more susceptible to injury as a result of an impingement in that shoulder and along with his neck, bothers him, and will likely continue to limit his functional ability when he engages in heavy labour. I find that the ongoing intermittent problems in his neck and left shoulder were caused by the motor vehicle accidents. His left shoulder injury may well have been aggravated by the First Bus Accident. That is, as the defendants submit, not a matter to be considered in this action.
 The plaintiff’s main ongoing and persistent complaint is of ongoing pain in his lower back or organic problems in his lower spine as described above.
 I also find that he is likely still bothered by symptoms of depression and Post Traumatic Stress, including difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and flashbacks to the motor vehicle accidents. The depression likely has an effect on the amount of pain he feels. As described in the medical evidence, the two often go hand in hand…
 Mr. Bearpark is a relatively young man who, at the time of both motor vehicle accidents, had not yet settled into a career path. He was active in both sporting and social activities, although somewhat reserved and shy. The accidents have left him with ongoing chronic back pain, which limits his performance of heavier work involving lifting, bending or twisting, and intermittent pain in his neck and left shoulder. He will likely be restricted to sedentary work in the future as a result of the injuries to his back and shoulder. His physicians have recommended that conditioning and exercises may help him although, as stated above, his prognosis is “guarded”.
 Taking into account the principles outlined in Stapley and the authorities referred to by counsel, I am of the view an appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss in this case is $70,000.