Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing whether a Plaintiff’s life expectancy should influence the non-pecuniary damages awarded in a personal injury claim.
In today’s case (Mathroo v. Edge-Partington) the Plaintiff pedestrian was injured when struck by the Defendant’s vehicle. The Defendant was found wholly at fault. The Plaintiff suffered “a fracture to his right elbow, which required surgery to insert a plate and screws into his arm.“. He had ongoing issues at the time of trial.
The Plaintiff was 83 years old and argued that the ‘golden years’ doctrine should apply in assessing damages. The Defendant argued the opposite noting “that the limited remaining life expectancy of a person in Mr. Mathroo’s situation justifies a lower award than would otherwise result.“.
The Court was not comfortable with the Defendant’s submission and noted the following:
 The golden years doctrine has some limited applicability here, in that Mr. Mathroo has experienced a decrease in his willingness to walk because of the effect of his injuries on his perceptions of his physical condition and his feelings of safety when walking, but I take the point made by Mr. Edge-Partington’s counsel that he was not involved in that many activities beforehand, other than going to the temple and gardening, so the curtailment of them has been more limited than in other cases cited on his behalf.
 I do not feel comfortable relying on Olesik to reduce the non-pecuniary damages on the basis of Mr. Mathroo’s limited remaining life expectancy, as urged by Mr. Edge-Partington’s counsel. Its applicability on that issue has been questioned by other decisions of this Court. In Giles v. Attorney General of Canada,  B.C.J. No. 3212 (S.C.) varied on other grounds (1996) 71 B.C.A.C. 319, Mr. Justice Fraser held that the principle described in Olesik and the golden years doctrine essentially balanced each other out, so that advanced age should not be a factor either way in arriving at an appropriate award. This view was adopted more recently inDuifhuis v. Bloom, 2013 BCSC 1180.
 In all the circumstances, before dealing with whether an amount should be added to reflect a loss of Mr. Mathroo’s housekeeping capacity, I would make an award of non-pecuniary damages of $60,000.
Update March 21, 2014 – the Liability findings in the below case were upheld today by the BC Court of Appeal
Adding to this site’s ICBC Case Summary Archives, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages for a traumatic brain injury sustained in a BC vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Meghji v. Lee) the Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle while walking in a marked cross-walk in 2003. Both the Defendant driver and BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways were found at fault for the crash. The former for failing to keep a proper lookout while driving, the latter for designing the intersection at question with inadequate overhead lighting. The driver was found 90% at fault with the Ministry shouldering 10% of the blame.
The Plaintiff suffered a fracture near her left shoulder, left elbow, ankle, knee and a traumatic brain injury. The consequences of these were expected to cause permanent dysfunction. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $125,000 Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:
Mr. Lee struck Ms. Meghji on her left side. That caused a significant fracture to Ms. Meghji’s left upper arm, a less significant fracture just belowand into her left knee and an injury to her left ankle, all of which required immediate medical intervention. There were also the soft tissue injuries that would reasonably be expected to accompany such trauma.
Within a day of the accident, Ms. Meghji had surgery to her left upper arm that involved the insertion of a rod that was fixed by screws just below her shoulder and just above her left elbow. She also had a screw placed into her left ankle…
Based upon the evidence of Dr. Ali and Mr. Brozak of the substantial change noted in Ms. Meghji during this time, as supported by similar observations from Ms. Chauncey’s and Ms. Wyeth’s description of Ms. Meghji’s abilities in her math class and as a teaching assistant before the accident, I conclude that Ms. Meghji has more likely than not suffered a brain injury in the accident, and that the combination of the effects of the brain injury and the depression and chronic pain disorder, which I also find was caused by the accident or flows from injuries suffered in the accident, are so inextricably intertwined that they cannot possibly be disentangled.
In all of the circumstances, the defendants are ordered to pay Ms. Meghji $125,000 for non-pecuniary damages for pain, suffering, and loss of amenities and enjoyment of life.
This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s application of the ‘adverse inference’ principle. In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff’s lawyers had her assessed by a neurologist. The neurologist did not tender evidence at trial. Mr. Justice Johnston used his discretion to draw an adverse inference in these circumstances finding that the privately hired doctor likely did not have helpful evidence to give in support of the Plaintiff’s claim. The court provided the following reasons:
In ordinary circumstances, I would agree that a claim of litigation privilege should be sufficient explanation for the failure to produce evidence from an expert who examined a party, and no inference adverse to that party should be drawn from the failure to produce the evidence.
However, where, as here, counsel has assumed control of medical management of a plaintiff’s injuries, the circumstances are not ordinary.
Dr. Grimwood would ordinarily have been expected to coordinate Ms. Meghji’s treatment, including referrals to specialists as he thought advisable. In this case, Dr. Grimwood appears to have largely ceded that responsibility to Ms. Meghji’s counsel, largely because counsel were able to arrange examinations by medical specialists much sooner than could Dr. Grimwood.
Where counsel becomes actively involved in arranging treatment, or in treatment decisions, or in selection of treatment providers to the extent that it becomes difficult or impossible to determine whether any particular doctor is involved for treatment purposes, or to advise counsel, the protective cloak of litigation privilege becomes tattered.
In such circumstances, counsel and the party who permit the line between treating physicians and physicians retained to advise counsel to become blurred must accept some risk that the protection ordinarily afforded by litigation privilege might be lost.
Ms. Meghji testified that she saw Dr. Cameron for headaches. In the face of that evidence, I infer, from the refusal to produce evidence from Dr. Cameron, that any opinion generated as a result of his examination of Ms. Meghji was not helpful to the claims she makes in this trial. I also infer that, while examining for headache, had Dr. Cameron observed any signs that suggested to him that Ms. Meghji had suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, his observations or opinion would have been produced at trial.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing an interesting issue: whether alcoholism following accident related chronic pain is compensable in a tort claim. In short, Mr. Justice Voith held that it could be.
In today’s case (Zawadzki v. Calimoso) the Plaintiff pedestrian was struck by a U-Haul truck driven by the Defendant. The Defendant was found fully at fault for the collision. The Plaintiff sustained various physical injuries the most serious of which was an elbow joint fracture which required three surgeries and resulted in a permanent partial disability.
Following the collision the Plaintiff began to drink in excess. This turned into clinical alcoholism the extent of which caused serious health consequences. In his lawsuit the Plaintiff claimed compensation not only for his physical traumatic injuries but also for the consequences of his alcoholism. The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff cannot be compensated for this as it is ‘too remote‘.
Mr. Justice Voith addressed this issue at length and paragraphs 99-123 are worth reviewing in full for the Courts analysis. Ultimately Mr. Justice Voith held that the Plaintiff’s alcoholism was caused in part by the consequences of the crash and was therefor compensable. The Court provided the following reasons:
 Shortly after the Accident, the plaintiff began to drink heavily. The results of blood tests performed on the plaintiff in late December 2004 indicated that certain liver enzyme levels were extremely elevated. The medical evidence uniformly establishes that such elevated results are directly referable to alcohol consumption. Dr. Smith confirmed that such elevated enzyme levels would not arise as a result of binge drinking, but rather reflected weeks or months of drinking.
 The plaintiff admits he began to drink excessively after the Accident and that his alcohol consumption reached the point where he was drinking 26 ounces of vodka on a nightly basis. ..
 In this case, Mr. Zawadzki’s original physical injuries were foreseeable. So too, the defendants concede, were his depression and anxiety. It was the combination of pain and mood that Drs. Shane and Smith said gave rise to the plaintiff’s excessive drinking. Dr. Smith also confirmed that Mr. Zawadzki had a “genetic predisposition”, by virtue of the alcoholism of his parents, to alcohol abuse. A genetic vulnerability to alcohol abuse is the very type of pre-existing susceptibility that the “thin skull” rule addresses.
 It is clear that both a susceptibility to physical harm and to psychological harm fall within the ambit of the “thin skull” rule: Hussack at para. 143; Yoshikawa v. Yu (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 318 (C.A.) at para. 19. I can see no principled reason why a similar vulnerability to an addiction disorder should be treated or viewed differently…
I find that Mr. Zawadzki’s alcohol abuse was caused by the Accident and that such alcohol abuse was reasonably foreseeable.
(photo depicting muscle deformity from ruptured distal bicep tendon)
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding damages for a rather unique injury, a ruptured bicep tendon.
In this week’s case (Taylor v. Grundholm) the Plaintiff was involved in motor vehicle collision. His vehicle was struck by the Defendant’s as the Plaintiff “opened the driver’s side door to reach into the back to retrieve a box of soap….His left hand was holding the steering wheel and he was leaning into the back seat area when the collision occurred.”
The Plaintiff’s vehicle sustained significant damage and was written off. Fault for the collision was admitted.
The Plaintiff sustained a variety of soft tissue injuries. The Plaintiff also tore his bicep tendon which caused a muscle deformity. The most contentious issue was whether the tendon was torn as a result of the collision. Ultimately the Court concluded that it was and went on to assess the non-pecuniary loss for this injury at $90,000. In reaching this decision Madam Justice Maisonville noted as follows:
 I find the injury to Mr. Taylor’s biceps tendon and to his upper left quadrant did occur as a result of the accident. Nowhere in the medical records is there a note of this injury — now described by Dr. Leith as a “noticeable deformity” — prior to the accident. The evidence from the physicians was that there would have to have been a significant event to cause this type of injury.
 The biceps tendons are attached to the bone, which anchors the muscle. When flexed, the muscle will appear to be at about the middle of the upper arm. If an individual has sustained a biceps tendon tear near the elbow (distal), the muscle is no longer anchored and will bunch up proximally, appearing much like the cartoon character Popeye’s arm. This is a noticeable deformity…
49]Dr. Leith further testified that a distal biceps tear is almost never repaired unless it is acute because people with this injury usually have no problems with function; rather (as noted), they will have problems with strength. Mr. Taylor is thus left with a lifelong cosmetic deformity in addition to the attendant loss of strength…
 There is no issue that the plaintiff has suffered a debilitating loss. He will no longer be able to look after his cabin and it will have to be sold. He will no longer be able to enjoy the activities that he enjoyed with his friends and family. Additionally, Mr. Taylor was nearing retirement. As Griffin J. noted in Fata v. Heinonen at para. 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),  B.C.J. No. 3212 (S.C.), rev’d on other grounds (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 190 (C.A.)…
 In all the circumstances, I award the plaintiff $90,000 in non-pecuniary damages..
The Court went on to reduce this award by 10% finding that the Plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages by not attending physiotherapy which was recommended by his treating physicians.
This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the impact of video surveillance in injury litigation.
As I’ve previously posted, video surveillance can and does occur and it can be intrusive. However, video surveillance in and of itself does not harm a person’s injury claim. Damage is only done if the video demonstrates that the Plaintiff has not been truthful about their injuries / limitations. In today’s case Madam Justice Maisonville was quick to dismiss the impact of video that did not contradict the Plaintiff’s evidence as can be seen from the following passage:
Mr. Taylor had been placed under surveillance and videotaped by investigators retained by the defendant on certain days in March and April of 2010. I find he was not shown to be doing anything inconsistent with his statement that he sustained an injury and was in pain. At one point, he was shown seated in the driver’s seat of his vehicle and reaching to about ear level with his left arm to grab the seatbelt. It was not a movement where he had to twist his body in any way, significantly arch his back or lift his arm directly over his head. Similarly, he was shown removing his hat with his right hand and smoothing his hair down with his left. I do not find those motions to be inconsistent with his injury. He was not directed by his physicians to cease using his left arm. The fact that he did not show obvious signs of distress when doing these movements is not inconsistent with his injury. He was not observed to be lifting anything. Accordingly, I do not find the videotape surveillance inconsistent with the evidence of the plaintiff and his physicians.
Reasons for judgement were released today awarding damages as a result of injuries and loss from a 2002 BC motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was a passenger. He was involved in a single vehicle accident. The collision was significant and is described at paragraph 2 of the reasons for judgment as follows: The thirty-two year old plaintiff was travelling from Prince Rupert to Terrace as passenger with three children in a car driven by the defendant, Crystal Caroline Bird (“Bird”), when Bird lost control of the vehicle after encountering ice on the highway. The vehicle, a 1998 Toyota van owned by Bird, crossed the centre line of the highway and rolled twenty feet down an embankment, flipping over before it landed. According to Wilson, he lost consciousness briefly in the accident and felt pain in his shoulder, elbow and left knee immediately. He bled from his head, having hit the window. His back hurt. A passing driver was hailed and managed to open the passenger door. Wilson got out of the vehicle and sat, waiting for the ambulance. The vehicle was very significantly damaged.
The Plaintiff sustained some fairly serious injuries and these, along with their recovery, are summarized well at paragraph 31 of the judgement which I reproduce below: The plaintiff suffered a dislocated right shoulder, dislocated left elbow, contusion and sprain of the left knee, mild sprain of the cervical spine, and multiple contusions and bruises in the motor vehicle accident of November 30, 2002. I accept Dr. Kokan’s assessment that the plaintiff’s left knee was not dislocated in the accident but was probably sprained and has fully recovered. The right shoulder had largely resolved by August 2003 but remains vulnerable to re-injury. The left elbow has been the greatest problem, heightened by the lengthy wait for surgery. The plaintiff has lost about ten percent of the movement in this elbow and has residual tenderness. The incapacity is, however, mild and the plaintiff still has a good range of motion in the elbow. The left knee had largely resolved to its pre-accident state by June 2005. It is difficult to ascribe continuing lower back pain to the accident. I conclude that there was some accerbation of the historical back pain in the accident but do not find that continuing problems can be attributed to the accident. The plaintiff’s scalp laceration and facial abrasions have healed.
In awarding $85,000 for the Plaintiff’s Pain and Suffering the court made the following observations: Wilson’s injuries here are more significant that in either Thorp or Foreman. The plaintiff required two surgeries for the left elbow dislocation (including a closed reduction) and a closed reduction of the dislocated right shoulder, among other injuries described above. Wilson has greater permanent restriction in movement of the left elbow than did the plaintiff in Thorp and still has nagging pain. He is stoical about the continuing pain and discomfort. Although I do not find that the permanent elbow restriction hinders recreational activity, the plaintiff’s right shoulder injury caused pain when swimming until June 2005. The plaintiff suffered while he waited for surgery between 2003-2006. I assess non-pecuniary damages at $85,000.
In reasons for judgement released today, Mr. Justice Wilson awarded a total of $180,995.90 plus Court Costs in compensation to a young man who was injured as a passenger in a 2004 motor vehicle collision in Ucluelet, BC.
The Plaintiff was a back seat passenger. His vehicle left the road and hit a tree.
The court made its findings of fact addressing injuries at Paragraph 26 of the judgement where the court held that: In the result, then, I conclude that Mr. Thorp sustained a minor injury to his wrist which had cleared up within two weeks. I also conclude that he sustained a posterolateral dislocation of the right elbow. Although Mr. Thorp did well in his recovery in the initial period, he continues to have some restriction on range of motion and ongoing discomfort, particularly in performing physical activities. Although the pain may be due to the calcification in the elbow which might go away over time, he can expect to have that for a considerable period of time. I accept the opinion of Mr. Vanderboer that Mr. Thorp does have pain-related limitations in the strength of his right arm, and his endurance and tolerance for activity. I thus accept Mr. Vanderboer’s opinion that he is not physically capable of manual labour-type occupations, and the opinion of Dr. Gutmanis that if he chose to pursue more physical work, he would have greater likelihood of the development of post traumatic arthritis. I also accept Mr. Thorp’s evidence that, as a result of the ongoing pain, he has restricted many of his previous physical activities.
The court did a great job reviewing applicable case law addressing loss of future earning capacity at paragraphs 53-68 of the reasons for judgement. This was necessary because the Plaintiff was a young man with a potentially permanent elbow injury. The effects of this closed the door to certain employmnet opportunities thus giving rise to a claim for future wage loss. After applying the facts to the law Mr. Justice Wilson awarded a total of $50,000 for Loss of Future Earning Capacity.
Damages of $50,000 were awarded for Pain and Suffering and a further $80,000 was awarded for past wage loss.
This is one of the few recent BC court cases addressing fair compensation for non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for a dislocated elbow. The difficulty the lawyers had finding similar elbow injury cases to help guide the court is acknowledged at paragraph 29 of the judgement. If you are engaged in settlement negotiations with ICBC for pain and suffering for an elbow injury this case is worth a quick read.
Do you have questions you would like answerd by an ICBC Claims Lawyer regarding an elbow injury? Click here to contact Erik Magraken for a free consultation to discuss your claim.
If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.
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.
This blog is authored by personal injury and ICBC Claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Use of the site and sending or receiving information through it does not establish a solicitor/client relationship. The views expressed and the content provided on this blog is for nonprofit educational purposes. It is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice on any specific set of facts. The use of this website does not create a solicitor-client (attorney-client) relationship. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer directly.