$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for "Sustained and Prolonged" Exacerbation of Fibromyalgia

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing an assessment of damages for an aggravation of pre-existing injuries.
In today’s case (Iwanik v. Hayes) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 intersection collision.  She was 61 years old at the time.   Fault for the crash was admitted by the opposing motorist.  The trial focused on the quantum of damages (value of the claim).
Prior to the collision the Plaintiff had various health concerns including fibromyalgia. The collision caused, among other injuries, a “sustained and prolonged” exacerbation of her pre-existing condition.  In valuing the non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $50,000 Madam Justice Gray provided the following reasons:





[132] As a result of the accident, Ms. Iwanik suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, thorax and lumbar spine, causing a prolonged and sustained exacerbation of her fibromyalgia, and causing intermittent headaches. If the accident had not occurred, her fibromyalgia would have flared up periodically, but not enough to have restricted her from her from work or her other activities.

[133] As a result of the accident, Ms. Iwanik also suffered an injury to her left knee, which caused patellofemoral pain syndrome. It may have caused other problems in her knee, but the evidence at trial did not establish anything further. Although there is no record of Ms. Iwanik reporting the knee pain to treatment providers until August, 2008, I accept her evidence that she was initially more focussed on her other pain, and thought that the knee pain would resolve.

[134] I accept Dr. Bridger’s opinion that Ms. Iwanik also suffered a probable minor compression fracture of her T12 vertebra, and that she suffered a minor head injury with a probable minor concussion which has resolved. However, both of those injuries resolved so quickly that they do not affect the assessment of damages in this case.

[135] As a result of the injuries she suffered in the accident, Ms. Iwanik is no longer able to work at a physically demanding job, and is not capable of working in a 7-Eleven store. Fortunately, Ms. Iwanik found work at a Husky gas station which can accommodate her abilities. However, the job is not as well-paid as her work as a manager at 7-Eleven, and does not offer opportunities for advancement.

[136] As a result of the injuries she suffered in the accident, Ms. Iwanik is no longer able to engage in hour-long walks, or to carry heavy items such as laundry and groceries, or to garden for more than 20 minutes at a time in an elevated garden bed. She is no longer able to contribute to her family and community to the extent she previously did….






[142] In all the circumstances, an appropriate award is $50,000.

Fibromyalgia Claim Fails, $6,000 Awarded for 3 Month Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with the connection between Fibromyalgia and a motor-vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Anderson v. Minhas) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 rear-end collision in Surrey, BC.  The Plaintiff was injured in this crash and she ultimately was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  She claimed this troubling condition was caused by the collision and sued for damages.  Mr. Justice Bernard ruled that the Plaintiff failed to prove that the accident was a cause of her Fibromyalgia and dismissed most of her claimed damages.
The Court found that the crash caused a whiplash injury of 3 months duration and assessed non-pecuniary damages at $6,000.  In dismissing the fibromyalgia claim and valuing non-pecuniary damages Mr. Justice Bernard provided the following reasons:

[74]         Applying, then, the “but for” test, I conclude that the evidence falls far short of proving, on a balance of probabilities, that but for the negligence of the defendant, Ms Anderson would not have developed fibromyalgia. In reaching this conclusion I take into account, inter alia, the absence of convincing medical opinion in this regard, the minor nature of the collision, the absence of credible evidence of a temporal nexus between the collision and the onset of symptoms, the reliable evidence of the plaintiff’s return to her pre-collision state within two months of the collision, the chronic and acute pre-collision health complaints of the plaintiff, and the significant hiatus in doctor visits in a critical post-collision period.

[75]         The plaintiff suffered a whiplash injury in the collision. The evidence suggests that it was most likely an exacerbation of an existing complaint. Shortly after the injury she began a course of physiotherapy. Reliable evidence in this regard shows that she responded well to treatment and was substantially recovered within six weeks. The defendant submits that the injuries, or any exacerbation of a pre-existing injury, attributable to the defendant were fully resolved within three months, at most. I agree. A generous view of the evidence establishes, at most, a three-month period to full recovery to Ms Anderson’s pre-collision state. The plaintiff’s losses must be assessed accordingly….

[78]         In assessing the non-pecuniary damages for Ms Anderson, I am unable to distinguish her losses from the ordinary sort of losses most suffer from a minor whiplash injury. I am, however, satisfied that the plaintiff was more fragile than many others would have been at the time of the collision and that, therefore, her post-collision aches and pains may well have been greater than those experienced by an otherwise strong and healthy person. I am satisfied that Ms Anderson’s life was negatively affected by the injury, or re-injury, and that during the three-month recovery period her relationships suffered to some degree, she endured some pain and discomfort, she lost some sleep, she opted out of some leisure and sport activities, and she was put to various inconveniences. For this three-month period of pain and suffering, with due regard to the cases cited, I assess her damages at $6,000. Any lost homemaking capacity in this period is subsumed into this award.

Diminished Earning Capacity Awards Without Past Wage Loss

(UPDATE February 9, 2012:  The Damages in the below case for Diminished Earning Capacity and Cost of Future Care were reduced somewhat by the BC Court of Appeal on February 9, 2012)

A common misconception is that a person cannot claim for diminished earning capacity (future wage loss) in an ICBC Claim when there has been no past wage loss.  As I’ve previously discussed, this simply is not true.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In last week’s case (Morlan v. Barrett) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate motor vehicle collisions.  Fault was admitted by the Defendants in both actions.  The Court found that both crashes caused a single indivisible injury (chronic widespread pain eventually diagnosed as fibromyalgia).
The Plaintiff’s injuries and limitations caused her to change employment to a job that was less physically demanding.  Fortunately, her new job paid a better salary and the Plaintiff had no past wage loss from the time of her first crash to the time of trial.  Her injuries, however, were expected to cause ongoing limitations and the Plaintiff claimed damages for diminished future earning capacity.  Mr. Justice Stewart agreed the Plaintiff was entitled to these damages and assessed the loss at $425,000.  In reaching this assessment Mr. Justice Stewart gave the following useful reasons:
[7] The plaintiff found work at the Electrical Industry Training Institution (EITI) in 2008 and is employed there as a Program Coodinator.  The job is far less demanding and the commute is only 20 minutes.  The job is also far less rewarding in terms of job satisfaction.  Having to change jobs was a huge blow and this will be reflected in the non-pecuniary damages I award later.  By happenstance the plaintiff’s salary actually went up when she switched jobs.  For that reason there is no claim for loss of earning capacity to the date of trial.  But there is a claim for loss of opportunity to earn income – including benefits – in the future…

[17]        Pure happenstance resulted in her suffering no loss of income to the date of trial, i.e., she got a less demanding job which happened to pay more than her job at the B.C. Fed.  But a reduction in her capacity to earn income has been made out.  Her having to give up her job at the B.C. Fed demonstrates that the circle of secretarial or administrative positions for which she could, if necessary, compete has been narrowed.  (Exhibit 6, a “Functional Capacity Evaluation” and Exhibit 5, the report of an “Occupational Health Physician” simply confirm the obvious.)  To put it in familiar terms:  she is less marketable as an employee; she is less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment; she has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might otherwise have come her way; and she is less valuable to herself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market (Rosvold v. Dunlop, 2001 BCCA 1 at paragraph 10).  The live issue is whether there is a real and substantial possibility that the reduction in her capacity to earn income will in fact result in lost income – including benefits – in the future (Sobolik v. Waters, 2010 BCCA 523, paragraphs 39-43).

[18]        As noted earlier, having considered the whole of the evidence placed before me I rely on the evidence of the plaintiff’s family physician, Dr. Beck, as I peer into my crystal ball and consider the plaintiff’s future.

[19]        The fact that the balance of the medical evidence does not replicate what Dr. Beck said at Exhibit 4 page 6 – that the plaintiff has “plateaued even slightly worsened over the past year” – and indeed the evidence of the rheumatologist, Dr. Shuckett is quite different – is neither here nor there as having considered the whole of it I say as the trier of fact that Dr. Beck was an impressive, thoughtful witness of great experience who offered up her opinion against a background of having dealt with the plaintiff for 25 years and, more particularly, having had close supervision of the plaintiff’s medical condition since January 6, 2007 and the advent of the motor vehicle accidents.  In saying that I have not lost sight of the fact that Dr. Beck has in fact retired.

[20]        Having considered the whole of the evidence together, I say that three real and substantial possibilities have been made out:  that the plaintiff’s condition will improve; that the plaintiff’s condition will remain as it is; and that the plaintiff’s condition will worsen.  In “giv[ing] weight according to their relative likelihood” to these three hypothetical events I find that the possibility of her condition improving barely rises above mere speculation and that the possibility of her remaining the same and the possibility of her condition worsening are both great (Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458 at paragraph 27).

[21]        I find that there most certainly is a real and substantial possibility that the reduction in the plaintiff’s capacity to earn income will result in lost income – including benefits – in the future.  Beyond the fact that nothing in life is certain and that she may yet find herself on the job market there is the real and substantial possibility that even if she remains in her current job until the end of her working career, her working career will end earlier than it would otherwise have absent the effects on the plaintiff of the defendants’ negligence.  That is so because it is a real and substantial possibility that her fibromyalgia will remain as it is but common experience dictates that as one moves into one’s latter years the ability to work in spite of a condition that drains one’s energy diminishes.  Independently of that, it is a real and substantial possibility that the plaintiff’s fibromyalgia – and with it loss of energy – will worsen.  I make that finding having considered the whole of the evidence including that of the plaintiff as to her recent experience and of all of the doctors and concluded as the trier of fact that I rely most on the evidence of Dr. Beck.

[22]        I take into account factors beyond those that relate to the state of the health of the plaintiff and her ability to work.  The plaintiff has established a real and substantial possibility – not mere speculation – that had she not had to forfeit her job at the B.C. Fed she would have, within a few years of the date of the motor vehicle accidents, taken advantage of an opportunity to perhapsmove up in the hierarchy of the B.C. Fed to the point of becoming a Director and with that received an increase in salary and benefits.  That is the net effect of the evidence of the plaintiff and of Lynda Bueckert.  Moreover, as of January 6, 2007 the plaintiff had to assume that she would retire from the B.C. Fed when she turned 65.  After January 6, 2007 the law changed.  I find that the plaintiff’s love for her job at the B.C. Fed combines with my picture of what she was before January 6, 2007 and results in my accepting her evidence to the effect that it is a real and substantial possibility that absent the defendants’ negligence she would have continued to work at the B.C. Fed even after she had turned 65.  I have considered the positive and negative vagaries of life, i.e., the contingencies.  Having considered the whole of it I award the plaintiff $425,000.

Expert Witness Criticized by BC Supreme Court for "Advocacy"


Further to my previous posts on this topic, expert witnesses have a duty to be objective when giving their evidence and opinions in a BC Supreme Court trial.  Rule 11-2 specifically sets out that “In giving an opinion to the court, an expert appointed under this Part by one or more parties or by the court has a duty to assist the court and is not to be an advocate for any party.”
In addition to the above, the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons (the governing body for BC doctors) has provided the following feedback to its members:  “ Additionally, whether physicians are acting as experts in the capacity of treating physicians or independent medical experts, they still must provide balanced and objective reports.   The College does recommend that, when asked to provide an expert opinion, treating physicians discuss with their patients the physician’s duty to assist the court and not be an advocate for any party.”
If experts fail to give objective evidence their opinions can be excluded from trial and they open themselves to criticism from the trial judge.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Warkentin v. Riggs) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The Plaintiff sustained various injuries including an alleged post traumatic Fibromyalgia Syndrome.  In support of her case the Plaintiff filed several medical reports.  The Defendant objected to one of these being introduced on the basis that the expert ignored his duty to the Court and presented his evidence not as a neutral expert but rather as an ‘advocate‘.  Madam Justice Gropper agreed and excluded the expert’s evidence.  In doing so the Court provided the following harsh criticism:
[58] Dr. Hunt’s report adopts a particular format. He uses bold font to highlight words and phrases which benefit the plaintiff’s claim and support his diagnosis. This is apparent in his review of Ms. Warkentin’s history and medical reports. That which is contrary to the plaintiff’s claim or does not support his diagnosis is either omitted or presented in non-bolded font. This emphasis in support of the plaintiff’s claim and the exclusion of contrary matters is advocacy…

[81]        I find that Dr. Hunt is not a neutral and impartial expert providing assistance to the court, but rather an advocate on behalf of the plaintiff. The report is argument, not opinion. He did not provide a balanced discussion of fibromyalgia and its possible application to the plaintiff’s case. His discussion of the medical principles and their application to the plaintiff’s case is biased, argumentative and contrary to the requirements for the admissibility of an expert report.

[82]        Dr. Hunt’s own description of his role as an “Expert Medical Legal Consultant providing opinions on behalf of patients with chronic pain who are seeking legal remedies with respect to their condition” indicates that he does not consider his role as an expert to be that of an objective advisor to the court.

[83]        Dr. Hunt’s perceived role is amply demonstrated in his report. The format he uses is designed to emphasize matters which support the plaintiff’s claim and his diagnosis.

[84]        Dr. Hunt presents the medical literature in a manner that suggests that there is consensus about the causal connection between motor vehicle accidents and the onset of fibromyalgia. He attempted to mislead the court regarding the medical literature upon which he relies by referring only to portions which support his diagnosis and prognosis and omitting portions which do not. He does not refer to the cautions and qualifications in the medical literature. He is not current with the medical literature, notably the 2006 prospective longitudinal study by Tischler, which was conducted specifically in order to test the conclusions of the Buskila study.

[85]        Dr. Hunt’s testimony, particularly in cross-examination, supports my conclusions about his report; he acted as the plaintiff’s advocate rather than as an independent expert.

[86]        Dr. Hunt’s report of March 27, 2009 is likely to distort the fact-finding function of the trier of fact, and therefore its prejudicial effect far outweighs its probative value. I find that it is inadmissible. Because the rebuttal report is a reiteration, it is also inadmissible. I specifically reject Dr. Hunt’s diagnoses as expressed in the report and his medical opinion that they were caused by the accident. I reject Dr. Hunt’s diagnosis and prognosis of fibromyalgia and his opinions about the plaintiff’s functional limitations associated with fibromyalgia.

Ultimately the Court accepted that the Plaintiff did suffer from fibromyalgia but that this was not related to the motor vehicle collision.  Madam Justice Gropper found that the Plaintiff did sustain soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulder along with headaches as  a result of the crash.  $50,000 was awarded for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages.

In addition to the discussion of ‘advocacy‘ this decision is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s discussion of the relationship between fibromyalgia and trauma.

Non-Pecuniary Damages for Fibromylagia Assessed at $110,000 in ICBC Claim

(Update March 19, 2012 – The Below Decision was modestly modified by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgement released today, reducing the claim for future care by $32,115.  The other trial findings were left intact)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding just over $1.4 million in total damages for injuries and loss suffered as a result of a BC car crash.
In today’s case (Shapiro v. Dailey) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 intersection crash.  The Defendant driver had been drinking earlier in the day and was operating the vehicle without permission of its owner.  Fault was not admitted but the Defendant driver was ultimately found 100% responsible for the crash.
The Plaintiff was 23 years old at the time of the crash and 29 by the time of trial.  The Court heard from a variety of expert physicians who all agreed the Plaintiff suffered “serious injuries“.  The Court concluded that the Plaintiff did indeed suffer serious and permanent injureis and would struggle to earn a competitive living throughout her career.  Mr. Justice Grauer awarded $110,000 for non-pecuniary damages and $900,000 for diminished earning capacity.  In reaching the award for non-pecuniary damages the Mr. Justice Grauer made the following findings:

[58]         On the whole of the evidence, I am satisfied that, as a result of the motor vehicle collision that is the subject of this action, Ms. Shapiro suffered soft tissue injuries to her cervical, lumbar and sacral spine that, through no fault of her own, have left her with:

·                 disabling cervicogenic headaches, and periodic headaches of a migraine nature;

·                 chronic pain disorder, manifesting itself as myofascial pain syndrome and post-traumatic fibromyalgia syndrome;

·                 depressive symptoms falling short of depressive disorder;

·                 mood disorder including resolving post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder and panic attacks;

·                 mild, but not insignificant, cognitive difficulties in concentration and memory.

[59]         Whether some of these diagnoses overlap in terms of their symptomatology matters not.  What is clear is that Ms. Shapiro genuinely suffers from the symptoms, and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  This has wrought a profound change in every aspect of her life, from interpersonal relationships with her family, friends and partner to her ability to love, work, play, exercise, relax, sleep, and her ability to move forward with her life.  I find that her prognosis is not hopeless, but is extremely guarded.  Although Ms. Shapiro is the type of person who will work hard to achieve as much improvement as is possible, I am satisfied that, on a balance of probabilities, nothing more than a modest improvement can reasonably be expected.  Accordingly, at the age of 29, Ms. Shapiro faces a lifetime of struggling with pain and fatigue in everything she does.

[60]         I have considered the authorities to which counsel referred me, including Dikey v. Samieian, 2008 BCSC 604; Alden v. Spooner, 2002 BCCA 592, 6 B.C.L.R. (4th) 308;Prince-Wright v. Copeman, 2005 BCSC 1306; La France v. Natt, 2009 BCSC 1147; Pelkinen v. Unrau, 2008 BCSC 375; Whyte v. Morin, 2007 BCSC 1329; Niloufari v. Coumont, 2008 BCSC 816, varied 2009 BCCA 517; and Unger v. Singh, 2000 BCCA 94.

[61]         Each case must, of course, be assessed on its own facts.  Considering all of the circumstances, including her age at the time of the accident (23), the toll her injuries have taken on her, and her prospects for the future, I consider Ms. Shapiro’s plight to be considerably worse than that of, for instance, the older plaintiff in the recent decision of La France($80,000) and worse than the older plaintiff in Prince-Wright ($100,000).  I have considered as well the very recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Poirier v. Aubrey, 2010 BCCA 266, where the 38-year-old plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages were increased to $100,000.  I assess Ms. Shapiro’s non-pecuniary damages at $110,000.

This decision also has a useful discussion of the law of ‘diminished earning capacity‘ and ‘failure to mitigate’ and is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s comments on these areas of law.

If you’re researching the non-pecuniary value of post traumatic fibromyalgia cases you can click here to access my recent archived posts.

BC Court of Appeal Discusses Pain and Suffering Damages for Fibromyalgia; Overturns Trial Award

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing an appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for accident related Fibromyalgia.
In today’s case (Poirer v. Aubrey) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 rear-end car crash in BC.  She suffered injuries which resulted in chronic pain.  There was evidence that some of the effects of her injuries were likely permanent.  At trial the Plaintiff was awarded just over $220,000 in total damages for her injuries and loss (click here to read my summary of the trial judgement).
The Plaintiff appealed arguing that the damage award was low and the trial judge made an error in finding that there was a ‘real and substantial possibility…that (the Plaintiff’s) pain and discomfort will be relieved and her functioning improved“.  The BC High Court agreed that the evidence did not support such a finding and that the trial award was low.  The Court substituted an award of $528,503 which included an increase in the non-pecuniary damages award of $60,000 to $100,000.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss for chronic pain from soft tissue injuries at $100,000 the BC Court of Appeal noted as follows:

[25]         I consider the evidence establishes that, as the judge said, there is a “real and substantial possibility” Ms. Poirier’s injury will prove to be permanent.  There is no cure.  There is treatment for her condition, but the prospect of her pain being relieved to a significant degree is indeed guarded.  She is unlikely to ever be pain free and can at best hope that, with continued treatment, she may in time achieve a sufficient reduction in her pain and increase in her functioning that would permit her to regain some of the enjoyment of her life she has lost and to undertake part time employment.

[26]         Ms. Poirier cites three awards in particular that she says reflect what plaintiffs who have suffered somewhat comparable non-pecuniary losses to hers have been awarded: Hooper v. Nair, 2009 BCSC 862; Barnes v. Richardson, 2008 BCSC 1349, aff’d 2010 BCCA 116; and Djukic v. Hahn, 2006 BCSC 154, aff’d 2007 BCCA 203.  The respondents cite Heartt v. Royal, 2000 BCSC 1122; Mowat v. Orza, 2003 BCSC 373; and Esau v. Myles, 2010 BCSC 43.  These awards reflect a broad range: those cited by the respondents are $50,000 to $70,000; those cited by Ms. Poirier are $85,000 to $125,000.  I consider Ms. Poirier’s loss to be more consistent with the losses in the awards she cites.  Of particular significance is the permanent nature of her injury that causes her ongoing debilitating pain, the effect it has had and will continue to have on the enjoyment of her life, and the uncertainty there is that her condition will in time improve even to the point of permitting her to return to work part time.

[27]         I would set aside the judge’s award of $60,000 for non-pecuniary loss and substitute an award of $100,000.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Accident Related Fibromyalgia

(Please note the case discussed here was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal in May, 2010)
Reasons for Judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, (Poirier v. Aubrey) awarding a Plaintiff just over $220,000 in total damages as a result of a BC Car Crash.
The Collision occurred in 2006 and was a rear-end crash.  The Plaintiff suffered from some pre-existing injuries but the trial judge found that the Plaintiff did not have a ‘relevant’ pre-existing condition.  Mr. Justice Stewart concluded that the accident caused fibromyalgia and awarded $60,000 non-pecuniary damages.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Stewart noted the following:
there was no relevant significant pre-existing condition and the doctors may differ as to what label should be applied to the plaintiff’s condition – fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia-like syndrome, chronic pain condition – but the fact is that she suffers from chronic widespread pain that is, for her, debilitating and with respect to which the prognosis is guarded.  An “optimal fibromyalgia based treatment protocol”, including biofeedback, is recommended and there is a real and substantial possibility, bordering on likelihood, that her pain and discomfort will be relieved and her functioning improved.  (Exhibit 5 Tab B Page 6).  But no “cure” is in prospect…
I find as a fact that the plaintiff’s persistent, consistent and, ultimately, chronic pain and suffering arose only immediately after the September 5, 2006 motor vehicle accident.  The schism in the expert medical evidence placed before me was not as to whether the September 5, 2006 trauma was a materially contributing cause of the plaintiff’s ongoing chronic pain condition but as to whether it so contributed by exacerbating a pre-existing chronic pain condition or by simply triggering a chronic pain condition.  It is now a fact that there was no significant pre-existing condition.  The only available conclusion in the case at bar is that but for the defendant’s negligence on September 5, 2006 the plaintiff would not be burdened with the chronic pain condition that has been her lot since September 5, 2006.

[23] Soft tissue damage is the source of her problems.  I have kept Maslen v. Rubenstein (1993), 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131 (C.A.) in mind.  I find that the plaintiff is one of that small percentage of people, well known to the law, whose pain and suffering continues long after science would say that the injured tissue must have healed.  I have cautioned myself about the need to be slow to rely on what are uncorroborated reports of long-standing pain and discomfort.  But, on the whole of the evidence I have decided that her complaints of pain are true reflections of a continuing injury and are not a product of desire by the plaintiff for things such as care, sympathy, relaxation or compensation and that she has used every ounce of willpower she has to overcome her problems and could not reasonably be expected to have achieved more by her own inherent resources or willpower.  (Maslen v. Rubenstein,supra, paragraphs 8 and 15).

[24] I turn to the future.

[25] To use language employed by Dr. Jaworski, the prognosis is “guarded”.  Taken together, the evidence of Dr. Hyams, Dr. Shuckett and Dr. Jaworski bottoms the conclusion that what is now in place – an ongoing, positive, pro-active approach, to echo Dr. Shuckett – means that there is a real and substantial possibility that significant improvement is in the offing.  To date, the plaintiff has sought help in such things as prescription drugs, chiropractic treatments, physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture and trigger point injections.  Only now is the plaintiff in the course of an organized effort to both alleviate her pain and discomfort to the extent possible and teach her techniques and methods of dealing with and surmounting her pain and discomfort.

[26] I turn to the assessing of non-pecuniary damages.  The plaintiff has been burdened thus far for 39 months.  Her prospects are not bleak, but guarded.  The level of the pain and discomfort she has endured was such that her life apart from work has been turned from one full of activity to one devoted to rest and recovery.  She is not housebound.  She drives a car for up to 20 hours a week and makes herself useful in the lives of her children.  The level of her pain and discomfort resulted in this woman – whom I am convinced is not a slacker and enjoyed her job in the world of insurance adjusting – being off work for six weeks, returning to work at half-time for two months and, ultimately, stopping work after having her employer cooperate in every way possible to reduce the demands of the job so that she could continue working.  That speaks volumes about her condition.  Additionally, the fact she actually enjoyed her work and has had it curtailed as a result of the defendant’s negligence must weigh heavily in the assessment of non-pecuniary damages.  I have considered the cases placed before me by counsel.  To track some of the language used in Knauf v. Chao, 2009 BCCA 605, I classify this as a case in which there is a real and substantial possibility that the plaintiff’s soft tissue injury will prove to be “permanent” but the degree of pain and discomfort cannot be considered to be “the most severe in nature” when compared with that of plaintiffs in other such cases.  Taking into account not just what I have said here but the whole of the evidence and all I have said thus far in these reasons for judgment, I award the plaintiff $60,000 by way of non-pecuniary damages.

This case was interesting for Mr. Justice Stewart’s very specific reasons setting out why he rejected many of the defence positions advanced at trial and also for the Court’s discussion of the law of adverse inference for failing to call a treating physician in an injury claim.

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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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