$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Asssessment For Onset of Symptoms in Pre-Existing Degenerative Changes

Adding to this site’s archives addressing damages for collisions triggering symptoms in pre-existing degenerative changes, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with such an injury.
In last week’s case (Savoie v. Williams) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision when the Defendant ran a stop sign.  Although fault was not admitted the Defendant was found fully at fault.  The 53 year old plaintiff, who was fit and active, suffered soft tissue injuries.  She also had degenerative changes in her neck which pre-existed the collision.  Following the crash these became symptomatic and the symptoms were expected to linger into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at$75,000 Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:
[34]         Dr. Maloon agreed that there was no indication that the plaintiff had any complaints arising from these areas of her body prior to the accident, and described as a “million dollar question” the reason some people with similar wear and tear will have pain or other symptoms from the wear and tear, whereas others will not.
[35]         Dr. Maloon also said that once there are wear and tear changes to the neck, nothing can be done to change the natural course of that condition; it is a mechanical problem and treatment is largely symptomatic.
[36]         At page 6 of his written opinion Dr. Maloon says:
It is possible that the soft tissue strain that she sustained initiated the symptoms of degenerative changes that have persisted to date.
[37]         I conclude that Ms. Savoie’s initial soft tissue injuries, which I consider moderate to severe, have plagued her from the time of the accident until the date of trial. I also find that these injuries precipitated symptoms from the pre-existing (but asymptomatic) degenerative state of her neck and upper back, that the combination of the injury and the degeneration has created more discomfort than either would alone, and that to the extent that the continuing symptoms come from the degenerative neck condition, it is unlikely they will ever completely go away.
[38]         I have reviewed the authorities tendered by each counsel and consider that the facts of this case more nearly approximate the facts in Ortega v. Pena, 2012 BCSC 1884, and Thomas v. Wormsley, 2009 BCSC 919.
[39]         In personal injury litigation there never are identical plaintiffs, circumstances or injuries and consequently authorities are, at the best, guidance on the question of damages.
[40]         On the evidence before me, I assess Ms. Savoie’s non-pecuniary damages at $75,000.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Johnston, pre-existing degenerative changes, Savoie v. Williams

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ERIK
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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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