Skip to main content

$95,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Wrist and Thumb Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic hand injury caused by a vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Burke v. Schwetje) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The collision caused a hand and thumb injury resulting in permanent partial disability.   The Plaintiff did, however, have a number of pre-existing issues which likely would have led to some overlapping disability described as “a number of quiescent but present conditions in his hands and wrists that would likely have become increasingly symptomatic over time in any event of the Collision.
In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $95,000 Madam Justice Russell provided the following reasons:

[117]     I am aware that the plaintiff has not been able to continue as a commercial fisherman since 2013 and before that, had some serious functional limitations on his abilities. His culture, his friendships and his livelihood have all changed substantially since the Collision and because of the Collision.

[118]     The plaintiff’s right wrist symptoms were aggravated significantly by the Collision and he has had continuing pain in his thumb and his wrist for which he takes OTC medications and may choose to have one or possibly two surgeries.

[119]     As a man of 67 at the time of the Collision, his career has been shortened by the aggravation of his previously only mildly symptomatic arthritis.

[122]     Given the agreement of the defendants with the quantum of non-pecuniary damages which the plaintiff seeks and my finding that that amount is appropriate in the circumstances, I award him $95,000.

[123]     The award of damages under this head includes an amount for loss of housekeeping or gardening capacity

BC Court of Appeal Upholds Canadian National Boxing Champions $1,000,000 ICBC Hand Injury Case

(Cross-Published at the Canadian MMA Law Blog)
Last year a Vancouver Jury awarded professional boxer  Jegbefumere ‘Bone’ Albert  just over $1,000,000 following a traumatic hand injury caused in a motor vehicle collision which negatively impacted his boxing career.  He was a professional cruiser weight at the time with a 4-0 professional record and a 251-3 amateur record.  The collision caused a chronic hand injury which flared with training/fighting.  The Jury accepted this impacted him in his chosen profession and awarded substantial damages for diminished earning capacity.
ICBC appealed arguing numerous errors at the trial level.  In unanimous reasons for judgement (Albert v. Politano) the BC Court of Appeal dismissed ICBC’s appeal and in doing so the Court provided the following comments addressing the lost opportunity of the plaintiff –
[50]        This brings us to the assessment of damages itself. The appellants say that each of the heads of damages assessed is wholly out of proportion to the evidence before the Court.
[51]        Damages are a question of fact and we may interfere with the quantum, absent an error of law or principle, only if there is a palpable and overriding error.
[52]        I deal with the loss of earning capacity first. I conclude, from the fact the jury awarded a significant sum, that the jury rejected the appellants’ submission that Mr. Albert would have withdrawn from a boxing career, soon after the accident, in any event. Clearly Mr. Albert had boxing ability. The jury must have considered that his boxing ability was diminished as the result of the injuries from the accident. It is true that Mr. Albert did not earn very much money from boxing prior to the accident. It is also true that there was not a great deal of evidence about the size of the purses available in professional boxing. Nonetheless there was some evidence. Witnesses from the world of boxing did testify to some extent as to the purses won in certain matches, particularly in Canada. There was evidence, therefore, before the jury from which they could conclude that Mr. Albert had the skills to fight for, and win, purses in the time between the accident and the trial, amounting to $60,000. The period of past loss is close to four years. The sum awarded is well within the range of the purses that were discussed in the evidence as available, in Canada, over that period of time. Given the positive evidence as to Mr. Albert’s abilities, one cannot say the award of $60,000 for past income loss is unsupported by the evidence, disproportionate, or wholly erroneous.
[53]        I have come to the same conclusion in respect to the award for future loss. That sum may be a small portion of what Mr. Albert otherwise would have earned, or it may be more than he would have earned. We do not know. There was, however, evidence of his considerable abilities and evidence of the purses available in the boxing world, even in Canada, that would support an award of $838,000. I would not interfere with the award for future loss of earnings.
I‘d like to thank Vancouver lawyer John Cameron for sharing this development with me for publication.

Vancouver Jury Awards Canadian National Boxing Champion $1,023,000 In ICBC Claim

While an injured hand would effect most individuals in a negative fashion the consequences can be far more severe depending on the nature of your occupation.  Illustrating that an injury’s valuation largely depends on the unique circumstances of a Plaintiff, a recent Vancouver Jury verdict valued a Boxer’s ICBC claim involving a right hand injury at just over $1,000,000.

In the recent case (Albert v. Politano) the Plaintiff Jegbefumere ‘Bone’ Albert was involved in a 2008 collision.  He was a professional cruiser weight boxer at the time with a 4-0 professional record and a 251-3 amateur record.  The collision caused a chronic right hand injury.  This injury flared with training/fighting.  The Plaintiff had 3 more professional contests post crash and despite his hand injury he won all these contests.  The chronic nature of the injury, however, interfered with his abilities and required the Plaintiff to take early retirement in 2009 at the age of 29.

After a 5 day trial before Mr. Justice Greyell the Vancouver Jury awarded the Plaintiff just over $1 million for his losses including the following damages:

Non-Pecuniary Damages: $125,000

Past Diminished Earning Capacity: $60,000

Future Diminished Earning Capacity: $868,000

As with all Jury verdicts, there are no ‘reasons for judgement’ to publish.  I would like to thank Vancouver lawyer John Cameron for sharing this result with me for publication on this blog.

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Fractured Hand With “Triggering”

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic hand injury sustained in a motor vehicle collision.

In yesterday’s case (Sandher v. Binning) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 head-on collision on the Fraser Highway.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash focussing the trial on the assessment of the Plaintiff’s damages.

The Plaintiff was a 35 year old construction labourer.  The collision caused closed fractures of his middle and ring finger metacarpals.

These went on to cause weakness and lack of grip in his right hand.  Eventually the Plaintiff developed triggering (causing the fingers to become stuck in the flexed position).  Surgery to treat this condition was not entirely successful.  This caused some restriction in the plaintiff’s vocational abilities.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 Madam Justice Fenlon provided the following reasons:

[21] Mr. Sandher experienced the pain of fractured bones, the inconvenience of a cast for several weeks, pain following tenoplasty surgery, ongoing hand pain and stiffness, and pain from soft tissue injuries. The soft tissue injuries largely resolved within six months of the accident with occasional flare-ups on heavy activity; I find for the following reasons that those flare ups and hand symptoms have had a relatively small impact on his day-to-day life, social activities and general enjoyment of life.

[22] In relation to the impact of the injuries on his recreational activities, the plaintiff claims that he is unable to lift weights, something the plaintiff said in his direct-examination that he did four to five times a week. However, in cross-examination, he conceded that before the accident he only lifted weights at most two to three times a week when he could find time after work. In addition, the plaintiff now has two young children, and he has less time and energy to spend at the gym, quite apart from the impact of his injuries.

[23] The other recreational activities the plaintiff claims have been affected by his injuries are walking and camping. Although Mr. Sandher continues to engage in those activities, he testified that he may walk and camp less often now than before the accident. Again, the plaintiff conceded that he does not have the same amount of time to do these activities because of his young family and the fact that he is often tired after returning from work.

[24] There was some evidence to suggest a loss of ability to do outdoor work. The plaintiff described helping his cousin Narendra Riar enclose an area below an upper level patio before the accident. That involved clearing weeds and leveling the area as well as lifting and carrying heavy paving stones, work Mr. Sandher did without difficulty. Mr. Riar and Mr. Sandher contrasted that occasion with his inability at the end of February or early March 2011 to help his cousin do similar work constructing a shed. Mr. Riar testified that the plaintiff had difficulty carrying the wood for the shed and was unable to use a hammer due to his hand injury. However, under cross-examination Mr. Sandher agreed that he had undergone tenoplasty surgery for his trigger finger only a week or two before trying to help Mr. Riar with the shed…

[27] Taking into account the differences between the plaintiff’s situation and the fact patterns in the cases relied on by the parties, I am of the view that the plaintiff should be awarded $40,000 in non-pecuniary damages…

[38] I find that the plaintiff has proved on a balance of probabilities that the injuries he sustained to his dominant hand, as well as the recurrent flare-ups of soft tissue injuries on heavy activity, have impaired his ability to work as a framer.

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Thumb Joint Injury

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $70,000 for a serious thumb injury.
In this week’s case (Dobre v. Langley) the Plaintiff cyclist was struck by a vehicle.  He suffered a right thumb “Bennett Fracture” (a fracture at the base of the thumb where it connects with the wrist).  The Plaintiff was 20 years old at the time of injury.  He required surgery to fix the fracture.  Unfortunately the Plaintiff was left with limitations of the thumb and these were expected to continue and worsen with age with the onset of post-traumatic arthritis.  In assessing the non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Mr. Justice Brown provided the following reasons:

[58] While there are some discernible slight divergences between the opinions of Dr. Gropper and Dr. Smit, in substance they are not large ones. I accept that within the span of 15 years Mr. Dobre will experience some worsening of his degenerative arthritis that carries with it a risk that by middle age it could become severe and accompanied by a corresponding decline in function. There is also a chance Mr. Dobre could make his way into his middle age years without experiencing a significant decline in function, but the chances are greater that he will do so by then. While confident predictions about his needing future surgery are not possible, given the early onset of degenerative changes and the nature of his fracture, there is at least some risk he will require future surgery with doubtful benefit.

[59] Mr. Dobre feels dull intermittent pain at the base of his thumb, where the surgical nails were inserted. Moreover, his grip is weaker and his thumb is stiff. Prolonged grabbing and pulling brings the rapid onset of piercing pain. Prolonged writing causes discomfort and his thumb discomfort bothers him when he is writing university exams. In his part time job as a librarian, he finds he cannot hold many books when sorting them throughout the library. Due to his injury, he has to hold the books in an awkward position to avoid stressing the thumb…

[92] I find Mr. Dobre’s injuries are more akin to those in Tsougrianis, in which the 22 year old plaintiff suffered fractures to both thumbs, one of which required surgery, soft tissue injuries to her neck and back, and tendonitis.  The Court found the soft tissue injuries and tendonitis would heal within a year of the trial.  With respect to the thumb injuries, the Court found the plaintiff’s right thumb injury had largely resolved itself by trial and there was “not a substantial possibility” the left thumb injury was a permanent functional disability: Tsougrianis, at para. 35.  Furthermore, the Court found the plaintiff’s pain, strength and gripping difficulties in the left thumb would eventually disappear with exercise and further surgery, with the exception of “fine precision” handiwork:Tsougrianis, at para. 36. This is not the case for Mr. Dobre.   Given the permanence of Mr. Dobre’s right thumb disability and the likely onset of arthritis, his injuries, all factors considered, appear somewhat worse than those of the plaintiff in Tsougrianis.

[93] I find an award of $70,000 for non-pecuniary damages is appropriate in the circumstances if the $5,000 assessed for loss of home making/maintenance capacity is included in that amount. I therefore award $70,000 for non-pecuniary damages, an amount that includes a specific segment of $5,000 for loss of home making/maintenance capacity.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of diminished earning capacity.   Given the Plaintiff’s young age he had no set pattern of earnings prior to the injury.  In these cases it is more difficult to predict the consequences of injury on long term employment.  Mr. Justice Brown assessed damages of $60,000 for diminished earning capacity in doing so made some practical comments at paragraphs 65-74 of the reasons for judgement.

Wage Loss Claims for Stay-At-Home Parents Intending on Returning to the Workforce

Although stay-at-home parents are becoming less and less common many parents still take several years away from the workforce to raise their children in their infant and pre-school years.  Often times these parents intend to return to work after their children attend school on a full time basis.
When a parent in these circumstances becomes disabled from working due to the fault of another can they make a claim for loss of income in their tort action?  The answer is yes provided there is evidence establishing  a likelihood of returning to employment absent the accident related disability.   Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this area of law.
In last week’s case (Carr v. Simpson) the Plaintiff was seriously injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant admitted fault and further admitted that the crash injured the plaintiff but took issue with the value of her claims for various damages including for income loss.
The Plaintiff, a 39 year old mother of three at the time of the collision, was out of the workforce for several years prior to the crash.  She spent these years working as a home-maker and raising her children.  She undertook some modest employment as a house cleaner shortly prior to the crash.  Following the crash she became disabled and did not return to any work from the time of the crash to the time of trial.
The Court accepted the Plaintiff sustained serious, permanent and partly disabling injuries due to the crash.  The Plaintiff sought damages of $84,000 for lost income from the time of the crash to the time of trial.  She argued that she had planned on returning to the work force once her children became school-aged (which was around the time of the crash) but was precluded in doing so as a result of her injuries.  The Defendant disagreed arguing that the Plaintiff suffered only a modest loss of income because of her “inconsistent work history (and) lack of incentive to work because of income from other sources.
Mr. Justice Bernard sided with the Plaintiff and awarded her most of what she sought for past income loss.  In doing so the Court provide the following useful reasons addressing the reality that parents that leave the workforce to raise young children can still succeed in an income loss claim:

[132]     I reject the notion that Ms. Carr’s unemployment history during her child-rearing years made her return to the workforce less realistic or less likely. Ms. Carr did not harbour fanciful ideas about her capabilities, her income-earning potential, or her opportunities for employment. When her youngest child reached school age, Ms. Carr was relatively young, energetic, able-bodied, willing to work hard, prepared to accept modest wages in exchange for her labours, and was fortunate to have a brother who could offer her steady, secure, and reasonably well-remunerated employment.

[133]     The evidence establishes that Ms. Carr, shortly before the collision, was motivated to earn some income (e.g., from housecleaning) until her youngest child was enrolled in school; thereafter, she planned to seek more fulsome employment. I do not accept the defence submission that Ms. Carr lacked the incentive and/or need to earn an income; to the contrary, since she has been unable to work because of her injuries she has, with some reluctance, turned to her mother for ongoing loans of relatively large sums of money, just to get by.

[134]     Ms. Carr became a single parent as of June 1, 2005. I find it highly likely that this new status would have impelled her to take the employment her brother offered, and to do so immediately. Her newly poor economic circumstances would have necessitated that Ms. Carr make child-care arrangements to bridge the time until her youngest child was in school in September 2005, and would have motivated her to work as many hours as she could manage as a single parent. Similarly, I am satisfied that she would have made any necessary arrangements for the care of her father.

[135]     I also find it is highly likely that Ms. Carr, as an employee of her brother, would have worked the hours and received the rates of pay assumed by Mr. Bush in his calculations. I find it is most unlikely that the seasonal aspect of the work would have reduced Ms. Carr’s overall income. Any shortage of work in the slow season would be offset by the demands of the busy season, and I am satisfied that Ms. Carr would have adjusted her life, accordingly.

[136]     While I am unable to agree with the plaintiff’s submission that in the determination of past wage loss there should be no reduction for negative contingencies, I am satisfied, for the relatively predictable period in question, the reduction must be minor.

[137]     Having regard for all the foregoing, I assess the plaintiff’s past wage loss at $75,000.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of non-pecuniary damages.  The Plaintiff sustained numerious injuries including soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, headaches and dizziness, a right hand and wrist injury which required surgery, a meniscus tear that required surgery, low back pain and depression related to chrobic pain.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Bernard provided the following reasons:

125]     Ms. Carr has, at age 44, many years ahead of her. As a result of the defendant’s negligence, Ms. Carr has been permanently partially disabled and left with constant and chronic pain. Since the collision, Ms. Carr has undergone two surgeries and endured considerable pain and discomfort. Ms. Carr has developed TOS and surgery is not recommended. She suffers from clinical depression related to the negative effect her injuries has had upon her, her family, and her way of life. Ms. Carr’s mental acuity and concentration has slipped. Ms. Carr’s marriage ended six months after she sustained her injuries. Her husband was unsympathetic and frustrated by her lack of desire for sex due to her discomfort. Ms. Carr has been rendered unemployable for most jobs in a competitive market. She is now unable to enjoy most leisure activities and active social pursuits with her children. She has a special fondness for horses and gardening, but meaningful participation in activities related to these interests is no longer feasible. Ms. Carr has lost much of the satisfaction from gainful employment, and the purpose and dimension it gives to life. In short, the negligence of the defendant has had a profoundly negative and lasting impact upon Ms. Carr.

[126]     I agree with the plaintiff’s position that the Djukic case is most similar of the proffered cases on its facts. I also agree with the defendant’s submission that Ms. Djukic’s pain was more severe than that of Ms. Carr; otherwise, I am persuaded that Djukic a useful reference point for the upper end of a general damages award in this case; and that Cimino is instructive in determining the lower end.

[127]     Having regard to all the foregoing, I assess Ms. Carr’s general damages at $100,000.

Can You Successfully Sue For Injuries in a "No Impact" Collision?

Further to my previous post on this topic, the law is clear that a Plaintiff can successfully sue a Defendant for physical injuries even if the Defendant never makes contact with a Plaintiff.  Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Bern v. Jung) the Plaintiff was injured in 2 separate incidents.  In the first incident the Plaintiff was riding a bike down a ramp into a parkade.  At the same time the Defendant was leaving the parkade and drove his vehicle ‘in the wrong direction in the entrance lane towards the ramp area‘.  The Plaintiff “immediately applied his brakes, losing control of his bicycle and falling over the handlebars.  He fell out into the roadway.   Fortunately (the Defendant) was able to avoid striking (the Plaintiff)”.
The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff should bear some responsibility.  Mr. Justice Powers disagreed and found that the Defendant was 100% responsible for the incident despite not striking the Plaintiff.  In reaching this decision Mr. Justice Powers noted as follows:

[13]        I find that the defendant has not proven that Mr. Bern was contributorily negligent.  Mr. Bern was entitled to assume that other people would be acting properly.  The evidence does not establish that his speed was excessive to the extent that it was negligent.  I find that the sole cause of the accident was Mr. Jung’s decision to take a shortcut and travel against the direction in which traffic was supposed to flow and could reasonably be expected to flow.

[14]        Mr. Bern lost control of his bicycle and fell because of the sudden and unexpected presence of Mr. Jung’s vehicle travelling in the wrong direction.  Mr. Bern was forced to act quickly and to apply his brakes forcefully.  He essentially acted in the agony of the collision and should not be found contributorily negligent because he did so.

[15]        I find that Mr. Jung is 100% liable for the accident on June 21, 2007.

The Plaintiff suffered various injuries including pain in his clavicle, one or two fractured ribs, a fractured right triquetrum (a small bone on the outside portion of the back of the hand) and broken teeth which required dental work and root canals.
Some of the injuries were aggravated in a subsequent rear end accident.  The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $50,000 for his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) as a result of both accidents.  In reaching this figure Mr. Justice Powers summarized the effect of the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:
[36] I find that Mr. Bern indeed was a physically active and motivated individual before the first accident.  He made an honest effort to attempt to return to his prior physical active state, but is continuing to have some difficulty because of the soft tissue injuries, leaving him with lingering symptoms.  The second accident aggravated those injuries and probably extended the time in which they will affect Mr. Bern.  The second accident aggravated the problems he had with his shoulder, neck and back.  The aggravation of his pain and problems he is suffering in attempting to exercise also added to his depression and anxiety.  I accept that on occasion he is anxious about driving and that this results from the second motor vehicle accident, but that it does not prevent him from driving…
[40] I do find, however, that on the balance of probabilities, in other words that it is more likely than not, that those symptoms will be reduced over time…
[44] I find that general damages should be $50,000.00.  I apportion $15,000.00 of that amount to the second accident.  I am satisfied that the second accident aggravated the existing injuries and contributed to some additional injuries.  However, the significant injuries and pain and suffering arise from the first accident.

Injuries to Passengers of Drunk Drivers in ICBC Claims

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff damages as a result of a serious hand injury sustained in a 2006 single vehicle accident.
The Plaintiff was a passenger.  The Defendant driver lost control of the vehicle and it flipped over onto its roof.  The Plaintiff was injured in this collision.  ICBC admitted fault on behalf of the driver, the main issue at trial was whether the Plaintiff was partially at fault for her own injuries for getting into a vehicle when she knew or ought to have known that the driver was impaired.
In finding that the Plaintiff was partly to blame for her own injuries the court said as follows:

[17]            In this case, the evidence establishes that the plaintiff must indeed assume some of the responsibility for her injuries.  The plaintiff knew the defendant was drunk before she got into the truck.  Although she was so drunk she was staggering and she does not recall the drive to the parking lot, she does recall the defendant’s behaviour and testified that she knew he was drunk when they left the bar.  She needed a ride home and either asked him for one or voluntarily accepted one from him. 

[18]            However, fault must be apportioned on the basis of the nature and extent of the departure from the respective standards of care: Cempel v. Harrison Hot Springs Hotel Ltd. (1997), 43 B.C.L.R. (3d) 219, 100 B.C.A.C. 212 at para. 24.  On that basis, much more of the fault belongs to the defendant.  He was clearly negligent.  Not only was he impaired, but he chose to spin doughnuts, causing the truck to flip over.  He had apparently driven without incident to the parking lot, and it was his decision to drive, while impaired, in such a dangerous fashion in the lot itself that led to the accident.  While his behaviour was fuelled by alcohol, and the plaintiff should have foreseen that a drunk driver could put her in a position of danger, she was exposed to a greater degree of danger by his reckless antics.  His departure from the applicable standard of care was much greater than the plaintiff’s.  I find the appropriate percentage of contributory negligence in all these circumstances to be 25%.

The Plaintiff sustained a serious hand injury.  In valuing her pain and suffering at $50,000 the court found as follows:

[20]            The plaintiff, who is right-handed, suffered serious injuries to her left hand.  All the skin was removed from the back of her hand, and the tendons were exposed.  Her middle finger was fractured. 

[21]            She has had seven surgeries, during which the tendons have been repaired, the middle joint of the third finger has been fused, and a graft of skin from the inside of her thigh has been applied to the back of her hand.  This skin graft was quite thick and has been reduced in stages.

[22]            The plaintiff does not have pain or numbness in her hand, but has stiffness in the metacarpal phalangeal joints – that is, the joints that connect the finger to the hand itself – on her index, middle and ring fingers, with pronounced stiffness in the middle joint of her index finger.  The fusing of the middle joint of her third finger means it will not bend.  She has signs of early osteoarthritis in the middle and ring fingers.  Her micro-surgeon/hand specialist, Dr. Hill, is of the opinion that she has the potential to develop arthritis in all the joints of her left hand.  The third party’s specialist, Dr. Gropper, does not share that latter view, but apart from that his opinions did not differ from Dr. Hill’s.  Arthritis could raise the possibility of joint replacement in the future, but the doctors did little more than mention this without elaboration. …..


[30]            In summary, as a result of the accident, the plaintiff was required to have seven surgeries on her left hand.  She is left with a non-dominant hand that is obviously different in appearance and function, regardless of the remaining surgery that will give some further amelioration in those respects.  She is left with stiffness in three fingers, one of them fused, but does not suffer pain or numbness.  She keeps her hand covered to avoid embarrassment. She has scarring, reduced grip strength, and reduced tolerance for repetitive activities involving her left hand.

[31]            Based on the evidence before the court, the effect on her daily life and activities is not extensive.  She finds some household chores difficult, and her left hand becomes tired when driving.  She does face the prospect of advancing arthritis, particularly in the two presently affected joints.

[32]            Considering all of the evidence, I am of the view that the amount proposed by the third party is reasonable.  I award $50,000 for non-pecuniary damages. 

This case serves as a stark reminder that if you know or ought to know that the driver of your vehicle is impaired by alcohol you can be found partially at fault for your own injuries if the driver is involved in a crash.  Such a finding of contributory negligence will affect the value of your ICBC claim.