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$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Thoracic Outlet Sydrome Coupled With Mild Brain Injury

Adding to this site’s archives addressing non-pecuniary damages for traumatically induced thoracic outlet syndrome, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with such an injury caused in a vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Danielson v. Johnson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision.  Liability was admitted.  The Plaintiff, who worked installing ceilings, suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and thoracic outlet syndrome in the crash.  The Defendant took a serious run at the plaintiff’s credibility pointing out a history of cocaine use, getting paid under the table, and even lying at his examination for discovery.  Despite this the Court found the plaintiff ‘credible and reliable’.  The Court noted these injuries were caused by the collision and would likely require vocational retraining.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Silverman provided the following reasons:
[139]     With respect to both TOS and the MTBI, I reject the inference that prior injuries may have caused his current problems.  To the contrary, the evidence is that it is common for the long-term consequences of prior injuries to sometimes be sitting dormant, and when a newer injury emerges, a MTBI or TOS may result.  I am satisfied that has occurred here…
[146]     I am satisfied of the following: that the plaintiff did suffer a brain injury in the MVA, it was a mild brain injury, he suffers from accompanying emotional difficulties that cause additional impairment, and the consequences of the foregoing are likely to be ongoing…
[147]     The weight of the evidence supports the finding that the plaintiff does suffer from TOS as a result of the MVA and, on a balance of probabilities, I find this to be so.  I note that Dr. Fry devotes much of his medical practice to the management and treatment of TOS, both conservatively and with surgery, and that Dr. Salvian has a special interest in the diagnosis and treatment of TOS.
[148]     More than a decade ago, the plaintiff had a fracture to his neck which eventually healed completely, and he had no problems as a result of it in the five years prior to the MVA.  The research has shown that a majority of people who suffer from TOS have had a prior neck injury, perhaps even years before, which had long healed, but that set them up to be vulnerable to any further injury.  I am satisfied that this is what happened to the plaintiff.
[149]     When the plaintiff raises his right arm to the side or above his head, or in front of him (while driving) as well as into a position where his hands are at the height of his head or slightly higher, TOS symptoms are provoked. Unfortunately, he is required to do these sorts of movements at his work.
[150]     I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffers from TOS as a result of the MVA.  He has been able to function with his pre-MVA activities, including work and recreational activities, although less efficiently and less comfortably than before the MVA.  I am satisfied that the evidence indicates this will not improve; in fact, it will worsen.  Hence, the weight of the medical opinion that the plaintiff must re-train…
[167]     I agree that the plaintiff demonstrates remarkable grit in continuing to work and to be involved in extreme sporting activities, to some extent contrary to the advice he has received from various doctors and to the surprise of those doctors.  Having said that, I am satisfied that the plaintiff does so with much less ease and pleasure than he did prior to the MVA.  He has suffered a loss in that regard, and will continue to do so.
[168]     In view of all the foregoing, I award non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $85,000.

$300,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Severe Brain and Orthopaedic Injuries

The current judicial cap for non-pecuniary damages in Canada for negligently caused injuries rests at  just over $342,000.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing whether such an assessment was appropriate for a severe traumatic brain injury coupled with multiple orthopaedic injuries.
In last week’s case (Clost v. Relkie) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision described by the trial judge as “a shocking scene of mayhem”.  The Plaintiff suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and multiple bone fractures   These disabled her for life from her own occupation as a pharmacy technician.  The Plaintiff’s limitations were profound enough that a Committee was appointed to manage her affairs.  Despite this she made a satisfactory recovery to the point where she gained a fair level of independence in her daily life.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $300,000 Madam Justice Baker provided the following reasons:
[437]     Ms. Clost is seeking an award for non-pecuniary damages at the upper limit set by the Supreme Court of Canada.  Counsel agreed the upper limit, adjusted for inflation, was $342,500 at time of trial.  The defendants submitted that an award of $175,000 to $225,000 would adequately compensate Ms. Clost for the pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life caused by the accident injuries. 
[438]     The submissions made by counsel largely focused on the issue of whether Ms. Clost’s injuries should be characterized as “catastrophic” ? the term most often used by judges who have awarded the upper limit for non-pecuniary damages.  The plaintiff says “catastrophic” is merely a synonym for “severe” or “devastating”; the defendants submit that given the significant recovery Ms. Clost has made, particularly in relation to her cognitive functioning, the injuries have not had a “catastrophic” impact on her life…
[442]     Ms. Clost does not, as did many of the plaintiffs in the cases referred to by plaintiff’s counsel, require constant supervision for her own protection.  She continues to enjoy a considerable degree of independence and to exercise control over most aspects of her life.   She has returned to living in her own home.  She is able to do most activities of daily living without assistance.  She is entirely capable of bathing, toileting, dressing and feeding herself.  She can walk, she can swim, she can drive, she can use a computer; she can cook, she can bake, she can shop ? for necessities and for enjoyment.  She goes out to the library; for lunch and visits with friends.  She can still do many household and outdoor chores although there are also some she cannot do or can only do in a modified way or with assistance.  She has continued to manage her own finances, taking care of banking and bill-paying on-line, as she did before the accident.  She has not demonstrated a propensity to engage in behaviours that make her a danger to herself or others, as was the case with the plaintiffs in Spehar andCoulter.   
[443]     I am of the view, however, that Ms. Clost has experienced pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life and will continue to experience losses for which she is entitled to very significant compensation and to an award above the range suggested by defendants’ counsel.  Having considered the various authorities, I have concluded that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $300,000.
[444]     I have already reviewed the evidence of Ms. Clost’s numerous serious orthopedic injuries and the details of the injuries to her brain.  She was in a coma for a month and only gradually returned to consciousness.  She has a gap in her memory of events for some period before and after the accident.  She required two major orthopaedic surgeries within the month following the accident to repair numerous fractures.  I have concluded she will require at least one and possibly more surgeries in future to fuse the joint in her left foot and ankle; to remove hardware in the ankle and possibly in her wrists as well; and a possible ankle replacement surgery.   Her orthopedic injuries caused her considerable pain; and she was essentially confined to a hospital bed and unable to bear weight or to walk for several months.  There was a period during which she was unable to use her arms due to injuries to her arms, wrists and hands.   
[445]     In total, Ms. Clost was confined to one type of hospital or another for five months following the accident.  Her rehabilitation was ongoing at time of trial.  She continues to have pain or discomfort in many parts of her body.  She has frequent headaches.  The most significant and frequent sources of pain are her left foot and ankle; she also has swelling there and the injury disables her from walking or standing for extended periods of time.  Although a fusion of the joint may reduce the amount of discomfort she experiences, the medical opinions I accept indicate that she is unlikely to be pain-free.  At time of trial she still needed to take strong medications to control her pain and to help her to sleep.   

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries and Recovered Head Injury

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing damages for lingering soft tissue injuries and a recovered mild traumatic brain injury.
In yesterday’s case (Hardychuk v. Johnstone) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 collision.  Fault was admitted focusing the trial on damages.  The Plaintiff alleged that she suffered a permanent brain injury which resulted in significant incapacity seeking damages well over 2 million dollars.  While the Court rejected much of this claim Madam Justice Dickson was satisfied that the Plaintiff suffered lingering soft tissue injuries and a recovered traumatic brain injury in the crash.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 the Court provided the following reasons:
[162]     I have found that Ms. Hardychuk suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, shoulders and back in the accident.  After a two-year process of gradual recovery, these injuries left her with residual symptoms of back discomfort, occasional flaring pain and periodic headaches.  Ms. Hardychuk also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and a mild traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident.  The symptoms of her post-traumatic stress disorder are well encapsulated, resolving and non-debilitating.  The mild traumatic brain injury caused Ms. Hardychuk to suffer cognitive deficits for several months but those symptoms have now fully resolved.
[163]     As a result of her ongoing soft tissue injury symptoms Ms. Hardychuk experiences pain, frustration, and fatigue, but not a mood disorder or cognitive deficits.  Her vocational, home and recreational activities have been somewhat modified, but she has not been rendered sedentary or unemployable.  As discussed below, her decision to leave her cabinetmaking job in 2010 is not causally related to the accident, nor is her state of depression.  The prognosis for further improvement in her ongoing accident-related symptoms is good, but she may never recover fully.
[164]     Before the accident, Ms. Hardychuk was an extraordinarily athletic and physically-oriented young woman.  Vigorous, enthusiastic, unimpeded physical activity in her work and recreational pursuits was, for her, a major pleasure in life.  For this reason the compromise to her physical state and activities caused by her ongoing symptoms, while not highly debilitating, represents an unusually significant loss for which she is entitled to be fully compensated.  That being said, her loss is not nearly of the nature or magnitude of those addressed in the cases cited by her counsel.  It is, however, somewhat greater than those addressed in the cases cited by counsel for the defence.
[165]     All things considered, I conclude that an award of $60,000 in non-pecuniary damages is appropriate in the circumstances of this case.

Worker Ordered To Pay $561,000 in Damages for Assaulting Former Supervisor

In a compelling illustration of the potential civil consequences following criminal behaviour, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a brain injury following an assault at over $561,000.
In the recent case (Weber v. DeBrouwer) the Plaintiff worked as a supervisor of the Defendant at the Village of Harrison Hot Springs.   The Plaintiff “suspended the defendant several times” and over the course of their overlapping employment “relations between the two worsened“.   In the summer of 2007 the defendant approached the Plaintiff as the Plaintiff was out for a walk and “brutally assaulted” him.
The assault led to various physical injuries including a mild traumatic brain injury and further led to ongoing psychological difficulties.  Global damages of over $561,000 were assessed with non-pecuniary damages assessed at $150,000.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Greyell provided the following reasons:
[72] In this case, Mr. Weber was 49 years old at the time he was assaulted. The assault caused him significant injury and pain and suffering. He suffered facial injuries, including several fractures, dental injuries, bruising, rib and chest injuries, knee and hand injuries, soft tissue injuries to his back and neck, and a mild traumatic brain injury with ongoing cognitive and speech difficulties which took some time to resolve. Mr. Weber remains affected by depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder. He avoids confrontational situations…

[75] In the present case, Mr. Weber is now 54 years old. A number of his injuries, including his headaches, bruising and soft tissue injuries cleared up after several months. For a considerable time after the assault he was bothered with nightmares and had difficulty sleeping. He is left with a number of problems. He has difficulty with the alignment of his jaw; he still is clumsy and, while greatly improved, he has difficulty finding and pronouncing some words. Mr. Weber remains anxious and fearful of the defendant and avoids going places where the defendant might be. He avoids situations with guests at the motel where any type of conflict could arise, deferring to his wife to handle such matters. Dr. Smith says he will remain permanently impaired by symptoms of anxiety.

[76] Mr. Weber’s injuries and the residual effects of those injuries are significant, however, in my view, each of the cases cited by counsel for Mr. Weber involve circumstances where the injuries and residual effects to the plaintiffs were more significant. After a consideration of the factors outlined above in Stapley, I conclude $150,000 is an appropriate and fair amount to award for non-pecuniary damages.

A Costly Reality: Unrecoverable Interest and "Litigation Loans"

In Canada there are several litigation loan companies in operation that provide financing for injured Plaintiffs.  In short they provide loans and use the plaintiff’s personal injury claim as collateral.  They charge interest for this service, sometimes this interest is incredibly steep.
Plaintiffs need to exercise great caution before taking on such high interest loans for the simple reason that the interest is likely not a recoverable damage in their personal injury lawsuit.  Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this issue.
In yesterday’s case (Campbell v. Swetland) the Plaintiff sustained multiple injuries in a catastrophic motorcycle collision.  These included brain injury with cognitive impairment, an open book pelvic injury, incontinence and a host of other orthopaedic and soft tissue injuries.  The parties settled some issues before trial including non-pecuniary damages agreed at $290,000.
Prior to trial the Plaintiff borrowed funds from a litigation loan company.  By the time of trial the interest on these loans was over $42,000.  The Plaintiff sought to recover this interest.  Mr. Justice Wong concluded such a claim is not sustainable as it is too remote.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[91] The plaintiff in opening and closing submissions has claimed interest incurred on loans post accident in order to complete necessary renovations to her home and funds to cover her living expenses. She submitted that post accident, with her severe injuries, she was incapable of gainful employment. Her only source of income was a $900 monthly government disability cheque. Hence the loans from lending institutions with high rates of interest. The total interest now owing from two loans is now $42, 453.

[92] It should be noted the plaintiff’s claim for the cost of financing her loans is not pled in her Notice of Civil Claim.

[93] The Defendant submits that it is not a recoverable head of damage. It is not known to law, by virtue of remoteness, or it is a special damage; special damages have already been resolved by agreement of the parties…

[96] In employment law, interest paid on monies borrowed to cover personal expenses while in between jobs have been held not to be recoverable as special damages [Millman v. Leon’s Furniture Ltd. [1983], 83 CLLC 14,071 ((Ont. Co. Ct.) and Kozak v. Montreal Engineering Co. (1984), [1985] 2 WR 641 at page 647 (Alta. Q.B.)].

[97] Similarity, in contract law, losses arising from a plaintiff’s impecuniosity or lack of financial resources have been held not recoverable [Freedhoff v. Pomalift Industries (1971) 19 DLR 3d 153 at page 158 (Ont. C. A.)]…

[99] The Plaintiff spent the initial months post-accident in hospital, but her first lawyer arranged a $30,000 “litigation loan” on November 13, 2008. Of that $30,000, $3,000 was immediately paid as a “processing fee”. After 18 days, $600.00 of interest was already due and owing.

[100] The Defendant submits that the loan was a result of the Plaintiff’s pre-accident indebtedness, not any losses sustained by the Plaintiff as a result of any negligence by the Defendant. If they were, then such losses are too remote and were not reasonably foreseeable to the Defendant.

[101] If a person’s own impecuniosity is the cause of damage, then that damage is not recoverable [Roopam Fashions v. Greenwood Insurance and Broco (2008) BCPC 0254].

[102] The Defendant further submits that the Plaintiff has not reasonably mitigated her financial situation. She has not tried to sell off her classic and prize-winning Harley motorcycle, her exercise machine and the clay art remaining in her studio.

[103] The cost of litigation financing, while not a recoverable head of damage, may be a proper disbursement. However, the most recent law out of both British Columbia and Ontario is that claims for litigation loan financing and interest are not recoverable [MacKenzie v. Rogalasky, 2012 BCSC 156 and Giuliani v. Region of Halton, 2011 ONS C5119]. In Giuliani, Mr. Justice Murray commented that the loan which the Plaintiff had obtained from Lexfund Inc. was:

in effect a contingency arrangement which allows the lender to make huge profits from the proceeds of litigation rather than from a commercially normative interest rate on a risky loan. (para. 52)


I am in complete agreement with the submissions of Defendants’ counsel that: “this Court should not reward, sanction or encourage the use of such usurious litigation loans, which in this case has interest provisions that are arguably illegal, otherwise such loans will be seen to be judicially encouraged and could become a common-place tactic.” I agree that an award of interest in this case would likely have an adverse impact on other Defendants’ decisions to proceed to trial or to Appeal. I think the Defendants’ counsel is correct in stating that access to justice is a two-way street. As I have indicated above, to award interest as requested by the [Plaintiff’s counsel] would not facilitate access to justice and would undoubtedly bring the administration of justice into disrepute. (para. 59)

[104] I agree with defence counsels submissions on this head of claim and conclude that it is not recoverable.

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages For Concussive Injury With Serious Forehead Laceration

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a concussive injury sustained in a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Abdalle v. British Columbia (Public Safety and Solicitor General)) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 intersection collision.  The force of impact propelled the Plaintiff into his vehicle’s windshield resulting in a concussive injury, significant scarring and various soft tissue injuries.
The injuries largely improved in the following years but the Plaintiff was left with some residual symptoms in addition to his forehead scar.  Madam Justice Ross assessed non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 (although this figure was then reduced to $27,500 for the Plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt and further for his failure to mitigate his damages).  In arriving at this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[92] In this case I have concluded as noted above that Mr. Abdalle suffered a serious laceration, concussion and soft tissue injury to his neck and back in the accident. He was left with a significant scar on his forehead. He suffered from nausea, dizziness, headache pain and stiffness in his neck and back as a result of his injuries. He was significantly disabled and largely bedridden from the time of the accident until September 2007, when he was able to return to work. He was not able to attend to functions of daily living such as cooking and household chores at this time and was unable to engage in the many activities that he had enjoyed before the accident. His sleep and mood were affected.

[93] With the passage of time his symptoms improved. As he conceded in his examination for discovery, the dizziness was essentially resolved after a year. By October 2009 he was experiencing headaches perhaps twice a month and flare ups of neck pain every couple of months. I accept that he continues to experience periodic flare ups of neck and back pain and headache.

[94] He was able to return to work in September 2007 and has been able to function at the workplace since that time. While he has not returned to his pre-accident level of activity, I find that the injuries he suffered in the accident do not and will not prevent him from taking part in any vocational or recreational activities. Upon a review of the cases cited by counsel and having regard to my findings concerning Mr. Abdalle’s injuries and their impact on his activities and the quality of his life, I assess non-pecuniary damages prior to reduction for mitigation and contributory fault at $50,000.

$230,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, assessing fault and damages as a result of a 2008 motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Jarmson v. Jacobsen) the Plaintiff was riding a motorcycle with his daughter when a vehicle operated by the Defendant turned into his path of travel.  Although the Defendant denied fault the Court found his evidence “wholly unreliable” and found him fully responsible for the crash.  The collision resulted in multiple injuries to the Plaintiff including a shoulder injury, a knee injury and a severe traumatic brain injury.
Global damages of over $1 million were assessed including non-pecuniary damages of $230,000.  The consequences of the head trauma were expected to have significant effects on the Plaintiff’s long term functioning both vocationally and domestically.  The full discussion surrounding this assessment is too lengthy to reproduce here but the following key findings were made with respect to the severity of injury were made by Mr. Justice Meiklem:

[54] Dr. Miller’s DSM IV diagnostic formulation included personality disorder due to traumatic brain injury and an adjustment disorder with mixed features of anxiety and depressed mood. Based on neurological indices of severity, Mr. Jarmson suffered a severe traumatic brain injury.

[55] A further indication of the severity of the injury to Mr. Jarmson’s brain is gleaned from the evidence of Dr. Gary Stimac, a diagnostic neuroradiologist, who testified and reviewed with the court many of the scanned CT and MRI images of Mr. Jarmson’s brain. These consisted of CT images taken at Kelowna General Hospital at intervals of about 9 hours, 40 hours, and 5½ days after the collision, and a complex set of MRI images obtained April 5, 2011. Dr. Stimac’s written report of August 15, 2011(p. 5-6) notes that:

The radiology examinations, in conjunction with emergency evaluations, establish that Mr. Jarmson sustained severe injury to the head. The immediate and subsequent CT scans show the left frontal impact and the coup-contrecoup contusions. The later MRI shows diffuse brain atrophy, evidence of white matter scarring, encephalomalacia, and hemosiderin deposits from the hemorrhagic contusions.

[56] Dr. Stimac explained that the atrophy he referred to is due to the absorption/removal of necrotic tissue…

[88] I find that the fair, reasonable, and appropriate award to compensate Mr. Jarmson for his non-pecuniary losses is $230,000.

Tort Reform For The Better: Adding Liquidity to Dry Judgements

Below is a brief article which was first published yesterday at, one of Canada’s best read and most recognized legal blogs.  For your convenience I republish the article here in its entirety.  If you find this topic of interest I suggest you visit the original article and weigh in on the comments that follow.
I’ve written many times that the phrase tort ‘reform‘ is often used in association with efforts to strip the rights of injury claimants.  Reform, however, is a neutral concept in and of itself.  Reform simply means change and the change could be for better or worse.  With this in mind  I’d like to share a tort reform idea for the better which recently crossed my mind.  In short the idea is to add a pool of liquidity to rectify the injustice of dry judgement.
The thought crossed my mind as I was reading reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.  In this week’s case (Saether v. Irvine) the Plaintiff was injured when the Defendant battered him.  The consequences were “profound and catastrophic” causing a brain injury that “severely compromised (the plaintiff) in virtually all facets of his life“.  Damages of $1,075,000 were assessed to cover the Plaintiff’s anticipated future care costs alone.  Given the fact that this case involves an intentional tort it is a safe bet that this judgement will be uninsured and likely (at least partially) dry.
Reading this reminded me of a 2005 case (Chow v. Hiscock) where the Court expressly recognized the injustice of dry judgement facing a plaintiff left “in a permanent semi-vegatative state” following a “brutal, unprovoked assault“.  The Plaintiff’s future care costs were anticipated to exceed $4,000,000.  Madam Justice Koensberg made the following comments hoping the Plaintiff would some day be able to receive some of these funds from the uninsured defendants:
[40]           Can I say that this is still a case where punitive damages should be awarded?  If I were to award punitive damages, it would be purely symbolic.  I have heard nothing which indicates that the magnitude of this award or even some small part of it is likely to be payable by any of these three young men.  One can hope that they find a straight path to earn a significant amount of money or that one even wins the lottery, so that the earnings could be available to increase Mr. Johnson’s quality of life.
The law recognizes that those harmed through the fault of others are entitled to reasonable compensation.  When it comes to negligently caused harm defendants are often insured and plaintiffs can collect their judgements.
In cases where Defendants hold inadequate insurance examples can be found where legislatures have intervened to ensure victims can collect on their judgments.  For example, in BC, Section 20 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act provides a pool of $200,000 of available compensation from ICBC for damages caused by uninsured motorists.  A further example is the requirement for BC motorists to purchase a minimum of one million dollars of under-insured motorist protection coverage.
When plaintiffs suffer harm through intentional torts, however, there often is no insurance to protect the wrongdoer or compensate the victim.  This is an unfair reality in Canadian law.  Victims harmed through assault, battery, sexual molestation and other intentional acts are often faced with dry judgments.  When they seek legal advice they are often turned away being told that litigation may not be worth the effort unless the Defendant has deep pockets
There is no justification I can think of making it fair for a car crash victim to be able to collect their judgement from a pool of money created by the government when the victims of crime are left with dry judgments.
The financial well being of a defendant has no bearing on a victim’s right to damages.  If the government has seen fit to create a pool of funds for victims of motor vehicle collisions to collect from surely a similar system can be created to allow victims of intentional torts facing dry judgments.  This is a rough idea.  Thoughts and feedback are welcome from lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for "Complicated" Traumatic Brain Injury

Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing global damages at $836,000 for injuries and loss flowing from a motor vehicle collision.
In last month’s case (Gilbert v. Bottle) the Plaintiff was a passenger in the Defendant’s vehicle.  His careless driving caused the vehicle to lose control ejecting the Plaintiff from the vehicle.  She sustained numerous physical injuries the most significant of which was described as a ‘complicated‘ traumatic brain injury.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $200,000 Madam Justice Dickson made the following findings:
190] I conclude that Ms. Gilbert suffered a complicated mild traumatic brain injury with significant and permanent sequelae as a result of the accident…
[191] I also conclude that the change in Ms. Gilbert’s substance abuse pattern is substantially connected to her brain injury symptoms.  Dulling physical and emotional pain with crack cocaine shows markedly poor judgment and poor self-control.  Ms. Gilbert’s already inadequate functioning in these areas has been further compromised by her injuries.  In consequence, her substance abuse problem has altered in a significantly negative way…
[195] I further conclude that Ms. Gilbert suffers from chronic pain disorder as a result of the accident.  The pain includes frequent neck, shoulder and back pain, together with cervicogenic headaches which originate from soft tissue injuries to her neck.  I am satisfied that her pain is genuine in the sense that it is not feigned or goal-directed, although it has a significant psychological, as well as physical, component.  In particular, Ms. Gilbert’s pre-existing emotional vulnerability and increased emotional disturbance caused by her brain injury are both substantially connected to the severity and maintenance of her ongoing pain.  The onset of the pain is a result of the accident…

[198] The extent of Ms. Gilbert’s loss due to her accident-related injuries is substantial.  She is, in my view, a thin skull plaintiff.  Before the accident, she lived a borderline existence due to her harsh environment, disorganized lifestyle and poor general health and habits.  As Dr. Travalos points out, however, she was nonetheless able to work with New Directions.  She was also able to participate in and enjoy intimate personal connections.

[199] As a result of the accident, Ms. Gilbert can no longer do either.  In effect, she has lost the two major sources of pleasure, purpose and meaning in an already difficult life.

[200] Ms. Gilbert is and will probably remain competitively unemployable due to the effects of her traumatic brain injury.  Although her post-accident functional change is more substantial than Dr. Travalos assumed, I accept his view that her injuries tipped her over the edge in a vocational sense.  I also accept that Ms. Gilbert’s quality of life may improve with appropriate support and treatment.  I am satisfied, however, that, even with support, she will probably never work for pay again…

[220] I conclude that an award of $200,000 in non-pecuniary damages is appropriate in all of the circumstances.  Ms. Gilbert’s permanent loss of capacity to work and engage emotionally with others is a great loss given their central significance in her difficult life.  In my view, Ms. Gilbert’s consequent need for solace is also great.  Nevertheless, she is entitled to compensation for only the change to her original position.  The award should not extend to her pre-existing difficulties that would have persisted or deteriorated further regardless of her injuries.  In other words, the award must be fair and reasonable to both parties.

$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment in Jay Walking Collision

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with fault for a collision involving a jaywalking pedestrian.
In last week’s case (Wong-Lai v. Ong) the elderly Plaintiff and her husband where involved in a serious collision in 2009.  It was a dark and rainy Vancouver Autumn evening.  As they crossed the street to return to their car they were struck by a vehicle driven by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff was not in a marked cross-walk at the time.  Her husband died and the Plaintiff suffered severe injuries.
The Court found that while the Plaintiff was jay-walking she should have been visible to the Driver.  The Court found that the driver was not paying sufficient attention and assessed him 25% at fault.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Sewell provided the following reasons:

[56] I have concluded that Mr. Ong must bear some of the legal responsibility for the accident.  The law is well-settled that a driver of a vehicle owes a duty to keep a proper lookout and to avoid exercising his or her right of way in the face of danger of which he or she was or ought to have been aware.  In some cases the expression used is that that person must avoid dangers of which he or she was aware or which were reasonably apparent.  I do not think that the defendant in this case can avoid liability merely because he did not see Ms. Lai before impact.  The critical question is whether he ought to have seen her or, in other words, whether her presence was reasonably apparent at a point when Mr. Ong could have taken steps to avoid running her down.

[57] Drivers of motor vehicles are not to be held to a standard of perfection.  However I do not think that the possibility that persons may be crossing a highway at a point other than a crosswalk or intersection is so remote that a driver has no duty to take it into account in keeping a lookout.  The evidence in this case persuades me that Mr. Ong was not keeping a proper lookout immediately prior to the accident.  His own evidence is that he was not looking forward.  While it is perfectly permissible and prudent for a driver who is changing lanes to do a shoulder check I think it is also incumbent on such a driver to take the steps necessary to ensure that it is safe for him to do so.

[58] I have also concluded that Mr. Ong was probably concentrating on the manoeuvre of changing lanes and on the parked car in front of him to the exclusion of keeping a proper lookout.  I therefore find that Mr. Ong was negligent and that the defendants must bear some portion of the liability for Ms. Lai’s injuries…

[64] In all of the circumstances I find that Ms. Lai is 75% liable for the accident that occurred and Mr. Ong 25%.  Ms. Lai is therefore entitled to recover 25% of the damages she suffered as a result of this tragic accident.

The Plaintiff’s damages were assessed at just over $307,000.  $200,000 of this assessment were for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Sewell provided the following summary of the Plaintiff’s injuries:

[65] In this case Ms. Lai suffered very grievous injuries. She was struck by a car which I have found to be travelling at close to 60 kilometres per hour.  A good summary of her injuries is found in the report of Dr. Ng.  It is as follows:

1) Gross bleeding from urine requiring emergency urological consultation. A CT cystogram ruled out bladder rupture. Ct scans of the kidneys did not show any severe renal damage and she only required observation and support. However angiogram showed the pelvic fractures has ruptured blood vessels and she had bleeding in the blood supply to the pubic bone and these required embolisation to stop the bleeding.

2] Cervical Cl C2 unstable fracture. This required immobilisation and stabilisation in a collar and traction for the first eight weeks. She also has a moderate central cervical disc protrusion at level C6-7 which indented her cervical spinal cord.

3] Chest contusions left upper lobe, right middle lobe, and multiple rib fractures of the left 3 to 6 ribs and left 8 rib.

4) Multiple pelvic comminuted fractures bilaterally, namely superior and inferior pubic rami. She required immobilisation for her neck and leg fractures as well as for these fractures for the first eight weeks. She remained in the intensive care unit for a few weeks for treatment and stabilisation of all her injuries.

5) The left Tibial and left Fibular fractures require manual reduction and internal fixations on December 1, 2009. She returned to the intensive care unit post operatively.

6) Brain injury, which on CT scan showed multiple bleeding present inside areas of her brain and a small subdural hematoma (within the skull but outside the brain), located in between the cerebral hemispheres. There is a large left scalp hematoma. Her conscious levels and neurological state were monitored in intensive care over the next few weeks

[83] In my view the most important factors in this case are the severe and painful injuries suffered by Ms. Lai, the marked degree of permanent disability, the loss of independence and the increased risk of morbidity and mortality identified in Dr. Guy’s opinion.  I also note that Ms. Lai’s stoicism and determination to make the best of her predicament should not diminish the amount of damages awarded to her.

[84] I have reviewed the numerous decisions on pecuniary damages involving serious injuries cited to me by counsel.  These cases are all of course fact specific.  My review of them, coupled with a consideration of the principles restated in Stapley, leads me to conclude that an award of non pecuniary damages in the amount of $200,000 is appropriate in this case.