$75,000 Damages for Onset of Knee Arthritis Pain; Golden Years Doctrine Applied

Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month assessing damages for a knee injury caused in a 2007 collision.
In the recent case (Dulay v. Lachance) the Plaintiff was injured in a broadside collision. Fault for the crash was admitted by the offending motorist. The Plaintiff suffered from chronic knee pain and dysfunction following the crash. The trial focused largely on whether the collision was responsible for this.
Investigation following the collision revealed that the Plaintiff had pre-existing arthritis in his knee. As is often the case, this condition was asymptomatic prior to the crash.
The plaintiff presented medical evidence suggesting the collision was responsible for the onset of pain. The defendant argued the collision was coincidental to the onset of symptoms. The court preferred the Plaintiff’s evidence. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Madam Justice Maisonville applied the ‘golden years‘ doctrine and provided the following reasons:

[78] Dr. McLeod had described the contusion to the right medial femoral condyle and medial tibial plateau (very simply put – the area where the femur meets the lower leg bones) as mild, but as noted he separated this injury from the triggering of the arthritis as clarified in his second report. I accept his evidence on this point and find that his attribution of “mild” to the injury did not mean to incorporate the onset of symptoms of osteoarthritis.

[79] Dr. McLeod stated: “It is impossible to predict whether or not this right knee would have become symptomatic should this accident not have occurred.” I accept his evidence on that issue.

[96] The plaintiff asserts that his injuries arose from the accident. While it is true that he had osteoarthritis before the accident, the plaintiff’s position is that his condition was rendered symptomatic as a consequence of the accident.

[97] The plaintiff relies on the report of Dr. Grover who wrote:

It is also my opinion that, but for the motor vehicle accident in question, he would likely have remained pain free and symptom free (as far as the right knee is concerned) for many years to come, on balance of probability.

As noted above Dr. McLeod also found that the osteoarthritis was rendered symptomatic from the accident…

[106] There was no evidence that any other event triggered the arthritis to become symptomatic. While it was indeed the evidence of both orthopaedic surgeons that asymptomatic arthritis can became symptomatic from no event at all, here, I find that the complaints followed on the accident. I find on a balance of probabilities that the plaintiff has proven the injury caused the osteoarthritis to become symptomatic causing pain to his right knee and residual pain to his elbow. This was as a consequence of the accident…

[123] There is no issue that Mr. Dulay has suffered a loss. He will no longer be able to enjoy all the activities he did with his family and for his temple. Further, as noted by Griffin J. in Fata v. Heinonen, 2010 BCSC 385, the injury to a person nearing retirement is frequently more difficult to endure. As aptly stated by Griffin J. at para. 88:

[88] The retirement years are special years for they are at a time in a person’s life when he realizes his own mortality. When someone who has always been physically active loses his physical function in these years, the enjoyment of retirement can be severely diminished, with less opportunity to replace these activities with other interests in life. Further, what may be a small loss of function to a younger person who is active in many other ways may be a larger loss to an older person whose activities are already constrained by age. The impact an injury can have on someone who is elderly was recognized in Giles v. Canada (Attorney General), [1994] B.C.J. No. 3212 (S.C.), rev’d on other grounds (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 190 (C.A.).

[124] I find Griffin J.’s reasoning apt here in Mr. Dulay’s case where he is nearing retirement and has lost the ability to function in a way that has altered how he lives.

[125] Additionally, Mr. Dulay continues to work and perform everything he can. He has not asked for his employer to accommodate him. He is a team player and endeavours to do everything he can even though he must stop, take medication, and bear much pain. Again, as stated by Verhoeven J. citing Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at para. 46 in Power v. White, 2010 BCSC 1084 at para. 68:

Stoicism of the plaintiff should not reduce the award.

[126] In all the circumstances of the case I award the plaintiff $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

arthritis, bc injury law, Dulay v. Lachance, Golden Years, Golden Years Doctrine, Madam Justice Maisonville, medial femoral condyle, medial tibial plateau

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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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