$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Patellafemoral Pain Syndrome

Reasons for judgment were released yesterday (Fortin v. Cousins) by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $300,000 in damages as a result of a 2004 BC Car Crash.
The Plaintiff’s main injury involved his knees and was described by his orthopaedic surgeon as follows:
In the motor vehicle accident of March 28, 2004, Mr. Fortin’s principal injury for which there are ongoing symptoms is contusion of the right and left knees.  It is the writer’s opinion that Mr. Fortin must have sustained anterior blunt trauma to the right and left knees.  He presents with ongoing symptoms consistent with patellofemoral degeneration.

Currently, the discomfort in the right and left knees related to presumed chondromalacia patellae (post traumatic), is not impairing Mr. Fortin in his work.  He obviously is very happy about his present employment.  He has aspirations to, at some time, own his own company and not have to do hands on work.  It is the writer’s opinion that if Mr. Fortin continues in his current occupation long term as a pipefitter, he will experience progressive problems with the right and left knee.

I reviewed with Mr. Fortin the job requirements of a pipefitter in stainless steel.  The requirements are obviously quite rigorous and all his co-workers have musculoskeletal complaints related to the occupation.

The writer does not anticipate there will be spontaneous improvement in the complaints referable to the right and left knee.  Currently, Mr. Fortin is following instructions with regard to the protection of his knees throughout the course of his activities as a pipefitter.

The long term prognosis is guarded if Mr. Fortin remains in precisely his current role as a pipefitter.  One could anticipate that in 10 to 20 years in this particular occupation, he might become disabled for (sic) continuing on.  At the present time there are no operative interventions which would prolong the life of either the right or the left knee.  Mr. Fortin is already making plans to attempt to advance to a supervisory position and eventually, to be an independent contractor of a pipefitting company.  Were Mr. Fortin to follow this career path, it is in the writer’s opinion that his knees would not be a barrier to his future employment.

In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) at $70,000 Mr. Justice Harvey noted the following:

49] The purpose of non-pecuniary damage awards is “to compensate the plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities”: Jackson v. Lai, 2007 BCSC 1023 at ¶134; see also Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229 at 260-265; and Kuskis v. Hon Tin, 2008 BCSC 862 at ¶135.  While each award must be made with reference to the particular circumstances and facts of the case, other cases may serve as guides to assist the court in arriving at an award that is just and fair to both parties: Kuskis at ¶136.

[50] Russell J. discussed this process in Hoang v. Smith Industries Ltd. et al., 2009 BCSC 275 at ¶33:

There are a number of factors that courts must take into account when assessing this type of claim.  Justice Kirkpatrick, writing for the majority, in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, outlines the factors to consider, at para. 46:

The inexhaustive list of common factors cited in Boyd [Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146] that influence an award of non-pecuniary damages includes:

(a)        age of the plaintiff;

(b)        nature of the injury;

(c)        severity and duration of pain;

(d)        disability;

(e)        emotional suffering; and

(f)        loss or impairment of life;

I would add the following factors, although they may arguably be subsumed in the above list:

(g)        impairment of family, marital and social relationships;

(h)        impairment of physical and mental abilities;

(i)         loss of lifestyle; and

(j)         the plaintiff’s stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the plaintiff: Giang v. Clayton, [2005] B.C.J. No. 163, 2005 BCCA 54 (B.C. C.A.))

[51] Here, Mr. Fortin has suffered significant injuries as a result of a horrific accident.  Happily, with the exception of the problem with his knees, which is permanent, his other complaints resolved over time.  Approximately one year following the accident, Mr. Fortin’s other injuries had resolved and no longer were interfering with either his employment or his enjoyment of life.

[52] His knee symptoms, although mild at present, will create ongoing problems for him both in his vocational and recreational pursuits.  The more he is obliged to work “on the tools”, the greater the interference with both.

[53] Counsel for the plaintiff suggests an award of $90,000 to $100,000 for non-pecuniary loss.  Counsel for the defendant distinguishes the authorities relied upon for the plaintiff and suggests, instead, a range of $30,000 to $45,000, noting, amongst other things, that there has been no surgery to the plaintiff’s knees nor is it anticipated that such will occur in the future.

[54] Both counsel cited Gernitz v. Mowat, 1992 CarswellBC 2460 (S.C.) [Gernitz], presumably because the facts there were remarkably similar to the facts in this case but for the plaintiff’s age.  In Gernitz, the award for non-pecuniary loss was $35,000.  Counsel agreed that grossing up the award from 1992 to present day value results in an award of approximately $47,000.

[55] The major distinguishing factor in Gernitz was the age of the plaintiff who was 56 at the time of trial.  Here the plaintiff is 27 and will be subject to a much longer period of pain and restriction in his social pursuits.  Accordingly, having regard to all of the authorities cited by counsel on the question of non-pecuniary damages, I award the sum of $70,000 under this heading of loss.

Fortin v. Cousins, ICBC claims, icbc pain and suffering, knee injury, pain and suffering database, patellofemoral pain

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ERIK
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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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