$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Triggering Early Onset of Arthritic Symptoms

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for the triggering of arthritic symptoms in pre-existing asymptomatic degenerative joints.
In the recent case (Witt v. Vancovuer International Airport Authority) the Plaintiff was a fire-truck salesman.  Chalking this up to the ‘you learn something everyday’ category, this is apparently a lucrative career with the Plaintiff earning approximately $740,000 per year.  While at the Vancouver Airport the Plaintiff fell through metal plates “that were not secured by the long stakes that should have been used to secure the plates” creating “voids below the plates which allowed the plates to shift as vehicle traffic went over them“.  The Defendant was found fully liable for the incident.
The fall triggered symptoms of pain in the Plaintiff’s back, knee and hip.  He had pre-existing arthritis in these areas with the fall accelerating these conditions resulting in long-standing pain.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Burnyear provided the following reasons:

[59] Based on the conclusions reached by the medical experts, on the testimony of Mr. Witt and Ms. Witt, and on the testimony of those who knew him well, I conclude that Mr. Witt has considerable and continuing pain as a result of the Fall and that the pain that he has suffered has made his life less enjoyable.  I find that his inability to walk long distances, his inability to enjoy golfing, hiking and tennis, and his reduced sleep and energy levels have come as a result of the Fall.  I am satisfied that Mr. Witt should be compensated for that pain and suffering.

[60] Regarding the particular complaints of Mr. Witt, I make the following findings.  I find that Mr. Witt now suffers from chronic pain as a result of the Fall.  I also find that, as a result of the chronic pain, there have been negative changes to his disposition, a considerable reduction in his physical activity and capacity, and a significant negative effect on his marriage.

[61] Regarding the back pain experienced by Mr. Witt, I find that some but not all of the back pain experienced by Mr. Witt as a result of the Fall settled by the summer of 2010.  However, I also find that he is now more susceptible to develop spinal stenosis as a result of the Fall.

[62] Regarding the right hip of Mr. Witt, I find that he continues to have severe pain from time to time and discomfort when sitting.  As a result of the Fall, I find that osteoarthritis has become systematic and that this has become the case earlier than what would have occurred but for the Fall.  While I find that there was a degree of degenerative spondylosis and arthritis prior to the Fall, I find that the Fall produced severe pain in the right hip that would not have been experienced by Mr. Witt but for the Fall and which has produced early onset of degenerative spondylosis and arthritis.

[63] As a result of the Fall, I find that the pain and weakness being experienced by Mr. Witt in his right knee has accelerated the existing degenerative arthritis so that Mr. Witt now requires surgery.  I find that the presence of degenerative arthritis in the right knee of Mr. Witt was accelerated by the Fall…

[68] Taking into account the injuries caused by the negligence of the Defendants, the duration of the pain and suffering produced by the negligence, the likely future pain and suffering caused by the Fall, and by the early onset of arthritic problems caused by the Fall, I set the non-pecuniary damages available to Mr. Witt at $100,000.00.

The Court went on to note that the ongoing injuries and expected medical interventions will interfere with the Plaintiff’s career and assessed damages for diminished-earning capacity at $600,000.

Soft Tissue Injury Damages Round Up – The Kelowna Road Edition


As regular readers of this blog know, I try to avoid ‘round up‘ posts and do my best to provide individual case summaries for BC Supreme Court injury judgements.  Sometimes, however, the volume of decisions coupled with time constraints makes this difficult.  After wrapping up holidays in the lovely City of Kelowna this is one of those times so here is a soft tissue injury round up of recent BC injury caselaw.
In the first case (Olynyk v. Turner) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision.  Fault was admitted.    He was 43 at the time and suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.  His symptoms lingered to the time of trial although the Court found that the Plaintiff unreasonably refused to follow his physicians advise with respect to treatment.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 (then reduced by 30% to reflect the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate’) Mr. Justice Barrow provided the following reasons:
[83]I find that Mr. Olynyk suffered a soft tissue injury to his neck and low back. I would describe the former as mild and the later as moderate. There is no necessary correlation between the amount of medication consumed, the frequency of visits to the doctor, or the nature of the attempts to mitigate the effects of one’s injuries and the severity of those injuries and their consequences. There may be many explanations for such a lack of congruity: a person may be particularly stoic or may have an aversion to taking medication for example. On the one hand, in the absence of such an explanation, when there is a significant disconnect between these two things, that can be a reason for treating self reports of pain and limitation with caution…

[87]Given that it is now three years post accident, I am satisfied that Mr. Olynyk’s pain is likely permanent, although as Mr. Olynyk told Dr. Laidlow in the fall of 2011, his symptoms improved in the years since the accident, inasmuch as his level of pain declined as did the frequency of more significant episodes. Leaving aside the issue of his pre-existing back problems, and in view of the authorities referred to above, I consider that an award of non-pecuniary damages of $40,000 is appropriate. In reaching this conclusion, I have taken account of the dislocation that the plaintiff’s loss of employment has caused him. That loss is greater than the mere loss of income that it occasioned and for which separate compensation is in order. The plaintiff had to move to a different community to take a job that he was physically able to do. That is a matter of some consequence.

[88]The next issue is the effect of the plaintiff’s pre-existing back problems. According to Dr. Laidlow because of the plaintiff’s spondylolisthesis, and given the heavy nature of his work, he likely would have experienced back problems similar to those he now experiences in 10 years even if he had not been involved in an accident.

[89]As noted above, such future risks or contingencies are taken into account through a combination of their likely effect and the relative likelihood of them coming to pass (Athey at para. 27). I find that there was a 60 percent likelihood that Mr. Olynyk would experience the same symptoms he now experiences in 10 years in any event. It is not appropriate to reduce the award for general damages by 60 percent to account for that likelihood because the pre-existing condition would not have given rise to symptoms and limitations for 10 years. Mr. Olynyk is now 47 years old. I think it reasonable to reduce the award for general damages to account for his pre-existing condition by 30 percent.

[90]The plaintiff is entitled to $28,000 in general damages ($40,000 less 30 percent). That amount must be further reduced to account for Mr. Olynyk’s failure to mitigate. The net award of non-pecuniary damages is therefore $22,400.

____________________________________________________________________

In the second case released this week (Scoffield v. Jentsch) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision on Vancouver Island.  Although the Defendant admitted fault there was “a serious dispute between the plaintiff and the defendant as to the severity of the force of impact“.

Mr. Justice Halfyard noted several ‘concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility‘ and went on to find that the impact was quite minor finding as follows:

[201]I find that, after initially coming to a full stop, the defendant’s vehicle was moving very slowly when it made contact with the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff’s car was not pushed forward. The damage caused by the collision was minor. The force of the impact was low. The defendant backed his car up after the collision, and the bits of plastic picked up by the plaintiff some distance behind her car, fell away from his car as he was backing up. I do not accept the plaintiff’s estimate that the closest pieces of plastic on the roadway were eight feet behind the bumper of her car.

Despite this finding and the noted credibility concerns, the Court found that the Plaintiff did suffer soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back and awarded non-pecuniary damages of $30,000.  In doing so Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[202]The defendant admits that the plaintiff sustained injury to the soft tissues of her neck, upper back and shoulders as a result of the collision of April 9, 2009. I made that finding of fact. But the plaintiff alleges that the degree of severity of the injury was moderate, whereas the defence argues that it was only mild, or mild to moderate in degree…

[221]I find that, from April 16, 2009 until August 9, 2009, the pain from the injury prevented the plaintiff from working. After that, she was able to commence a gradual return to working full-time, which took a further two months until October 10, 2009. For the first four months after the accident, the pain from the injury prevented the plaintiff from engaging in her former recreational and athletic activities. She gradually resumed her former activities after that time. I find that, by the spring of 2010, the plaintiff had substantially returned to the level of recreational and athletic activities that she had done before the accident. After that time, any impairment of the plaintiff’s physical capacity to work or to do other activities was not caused by the injury she sustained in the accident on April 9, 2009…

[226]The plaintiff must be fairly compensated for the amount of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that she has incurred by reason of the injury caused by the defendant’s negligence. In light of the findings of fact that I have outlined above, I have decided that the plaintiff should be awarded $30,000.00 as damages for non-pecuniary loss.

______________________________________________________________________

(UPDATE March 19, 2014 – the BC Court of Appeal overturned the liability split below to 75/25 in the Plaintiff’s favour)

In this week’s third case, (Russell v. Parks) the pedestrian Plaintiff was injured in a parking lot collision with a vehicle.  The Court found that both parties were to blame for the impact but the Plaintiff shouldered more of the blame being found 66.3% at fault.

The Plaintiff suffered a fracture to the fifth metacarpal of his right foot and a chronic soft tissue injury to his knee.  The latter injury merged with pre-existing difficulties to result in on-going symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 (before the reduction to account for liability) Mr. Justice Abrioux provided the following reasons:

[63]I make the following findings of fact based on my consideration of the evidence both lay and expert as a whole:

(a)      the plaintiff’s “original position” immediately prior to the Accident included the following:

·being significantly overweight and deconditioned;

·having a hypertension condition which had existed for many years;

·asymptomatic degenerative osteoarthritis to both knees, more significant to the right than the left; and

·symptomatic left foot and ankle difficulties.

(b)      prior to the Accident, the plaintiff’s weight and deconditioning, together with the left foot and ankle difficulties caused him to live a rather sedentary lifestyle. Although he was able to work from time to time and participate in certain leisure activities, these were lessening as he grew older.

(c)      the Accident did not cause the degenerative osteoarthritis in the right knee to become symptomatic. It did, however, cause a soft-tissue injury which continued to affect the plaintiff to some extent at the time of trial.

(d)      the plaintiff’s ongoing difficulties are multifactoral. They include:

·his ongoing weight and conditioning problems. Although Mr. Russell’s pre-Accident weight and lack of conditioning would likely have affected his work and enjoyment of the amenities of life even if the Accident had not occurred, the injuries which he did sustain exacerbated that pre-existing condition;

·the plaintiff’s pre-existing but quiescent cardiac condition would have materialized the way it did even if the Accident had not occurred. This condition would have affected his long term day-to-day functioning including his ability to earn an income;

·notwithstanding this, the injuries sustained in the Accident, particularly the right knee, continue to affect his ongoing reduced functioning. This will continue indefinitely, to some degree, although some weight loss and an exercise rehabilitation program will likely assist him;

·an exercise and weight loss program would have been of benefit to the plaintiff even if the Accident had not occurred.,,

[73]From the mid range amount of approximately $60,000 I must take into account the plaintiff’s original position and the measurable risk the pre-Accident condition would have affected the plaintiff’s life had the Accident not occurred. Accordingly, I award non pecuniary damages in the amount of $45,000.

______________________________________________________________________________________

In the final case (Hill v. Swayne) the 35 year old Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.   The Court noted some reliability issues with the Plaintiff’s evidence and found his collision related injuries were largely resolved by the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $20,000 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:

[68]Mr. Hill suffered a neck strain and lumbar strain and received 13 physiotherapy treatments ending February 2, 2010. He was absent from work from December 14, 2009 to January 4, 2010..

[74]I accept that an injury of the type suffered by Mr. Hill was particularly troublesome in light of the heavy work in his role as a journeyman/foreman roofer. A back injury to a person in his circumstances, even if not disabling in itself, would require extra care and watchfulness on the job to ensure that the injury is not exacerbated. In considering the criteria in Stapely, it is significant that Mr. Hill, who was a heavy lifting labourer, injured his back and that the injury has lingering effects. The injuries have minimally impacted his lifestyle, and he has dealt stoically with his employment.

[75]The severity of his pain was modest and the extent to which the duration of his discomfort was related to the accident is uncertain. However, I accept that there is some connection between the collision and his ongoing complaints.

[76]I have considered various cases cited by counsel and additionally referred to the Reichennek case. Although comparisons are of some assistance, I am to focus on the factors set out by the Court of Appeal and the specific circumstances of the plaintiff in this particular case. In the final analysis, I would award the plaintiff non-pecuniary damages of $20,000.

$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Shoulder and Knee Injury

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a knee and shoulder injury sustained in two motor vehicle collisions.
In last week’s case (Wong v. Hemmings) the 36 year old Plaintiff was injured in two collisions, the first in 2006 and the second in 2008.  These caused a fairly serious shoulder injury which, despite extensive therapy, did not fully recover and was expected to pose ongoing problems in the Plaintiff’s vocation as a server into the future.  In addition to this, the Plaintiff suffered a knee injury which also lingered on.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Fitch provided the following reasons:

[111] In assessing non-pecuniary damages, I have had regard to the following considerations. The plaintiff is a young woman. She has endured 5 1/2 years of significant shoulder and, to a lesser extent, knee pain as a consequence of the two accidents.

[112] She has undergone two injections of anesthetic and corticosteroids into her shoulder and has tried a number of different types of therapeutic interventions to obtain pain relief. Her pain is undoubtedly exacerbated by the weight bearing demands of her position. Despite this, the plaintiff has continued to work as a server because that position affords her the best opportunity to provide for herself and for her daughter.

[113] In October, 2010 plaintiff underwent arthroscopic subacromial decompression surgery on her left shoulder in addition to an arthroscopic procedure designed to reduce pain associated with her biceps tendon. That procedure was conducted as a result of Dr. Regan’s fear that if no intervention was tried, the plaintiff was going to be left with a permanent partial disability that could limit her ability to continue in the workforce given the demands of her job. Dr. Regan was frank in his pre-surgical assessment that if she did not benefit from these procedures, she would likely suffer long-term consequences, including permanence of her pain pattern affecting her shoulder which would limit her from doing repetitive above shoulder height activities or repetitive lifting activities. While the subacromial bursal excision provided the plaintiff with some relief, she continues to experience pain over the biceps tendon which is likely aggravated by her work duties. Dr. Regan concluded that while her left shoulder was improved from its pre-operative status, it would not improve in the future. One further surgical procedure could be performed on the plaintiff’s shoulder but this would require her to be off work for between three and four months. Dr. Regan testified that he would only undertake this procedure if the plaintiff continued to suffer pain associated with the activities of daily living despite quitting her job. Although the arthroscopic surgery was a partial success, the fears expressed by Dr. Regan prior to the surgery have now largely come to pass.

[114] With respect to her left knee, Dr. Regan concluded that the plaintiff was continuing to suffer pain associated with an injury caused by the first accident to her peroneal nerve. He is of the opinion that a cortisone injection is unlikely to help the situation at this time. If the plaintiff’s symptoms worsen over time, a further surgical procedure with a six to eight week recovery period is the only treatment option available to her.

[115] With respect to the plaintiff’s myofascial pain, Dr. Regan expressed the view that while the condition will likely settle, the plaintiff’s recovery will be prolonged and she may be left with chronic pain in the left side of her neck and the trapezius, levitator scapula and paraspinal muscles in her neck and back.

[116] Dr. Anton similarly opines that while the plaintiff had a reasonably good outcome from her shoulder impingement surgery, she is not pain free and has essentially exhausted surgical and non-surgical options for her left shoulder. He concludes that the prognosis for further improvement of her left shoulder is poor as long as she continues in her current work. In fact, he concludes that so long as the plaintiff continues in her current position, she will experience shoulder pain. Even if the plaintiff finds suitable alternative employment, Dr. Anton is of the view that she will probably be at increased risk for episodes of pain in her left shoulder indefinitely. With respect to her left knee, Dr. Anton is of the view that the plaintiff continues to have irritation of the peroneal nerve and that the prognosis for improvement is uncertain.

[117] In short, the injuries suffered by the plaintiff in the two accidents are serious, have caused long-term and ongoing pain which may, insofar as the myofascial pain is concerned, be chronic in nature. Those injuries have not been resolved by various types of surgical and non-surgical treatment. The plaintiff will continue to suffer pain in the future which will be aggravated by the repetitive, weight bearing demands of her job as a server.

[118] Prior to the accidents, the plaintiff was a vigorous, energetic and physically active person who participated in a broad range of sporting activities. Constant pain and sleep deprivation have made her less energetic and much less inclined to participate in the kinds of sporting activities she enjoyed before the accidents. The plaintiff’s continuing symptoms have significantly affected her lifestyle. For an individual who uses physical activity to promote good mental health, the loss to the plaintiff in this regard has been significant.

[119] Perhaps even more significantly, the accidents and the symptoms that the plaintiff continues to experience have caused her to become more socially withdrawn. She is moodier and less patient with others, including with her daughter, Brooke. I find that the accidents have resulted in a significant loss of enjoyment of life and some impairment of the plaintiff’s social relationships.

[120] The plaintiff’s injuries have also taken an emotional toll. The plaintiff has carried the burden of supporting herself and her daughter as a single mother. She continues to work through pain because she feels she has no choice to do otherwise. She faces the stress of an uncertain medical and financial future with the possibility of additional surgical interventions in relation to her left shoulder and left knee.

[121] The accidents have significantly impacted the plaintiff in physical, emotional and social ways. They are likely to have that impact into the future and will certainly persist as long as the plaintiff continues to work as a server.

[122] In all the circumstances, I assess non-pecuniary damages at $100,000.00.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment For Right Knee Cartilage Injury

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a knee and back injury sustained in a collision.
In this week’s case (Buttar v. Brennan) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  He was employed as a framer.  He suffered from pre-existing back pain.  This condition was aggravated by the collision.  The Plaintiff also suffered a cartilage injury to his right knee causing patello femoral symptoms (knee pain).
These injuries, while not totally disabling, were expected to be ongoing and to compromise the Plaintiff in his vocation.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Mr. Justice Abrioux provided the following reasons:
[34] I have found that the plaintiff was a hard-working individual.  I have also concluded he has made a greater recovery from his injuries than he may believe or say to be the case.  He is left, however, with an ongoing low back condition which affects his life from a functional perspective to a greater degree than was the case prior to the Accident.  He also has a minor yet permanent ongoing injury to his right knee which was entirely caused by the Accident…
[37] Taking into account the plaintiff’s original position and the measurable risk which I have found the plaintiff’s pre-Accident condition would have had on his life in any event, I award non-pecuniary damages of $60,000.

$75,000 Damages for Onset of Knee Arthritis Pain; Golden Years Doctrine Applied

Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month assessing damages for a knee injury caused in a 2007 collision.
In the recent case (Dulay v. Lachance) the Plaintiff was injured in a broadside collision. Fault for the crash was admitted by the offending motorist. The Plaintiff suffered from chronic knee pain and dysfunction following the crash. The trial focused largely on whether the collision was responsible for this.
Investigation following the collision revealed that the Plaintiff had pre-existing arthritis in his knee. As is often the case, this condition was asymptomatic prior to the crash.
The plaintiff presented medical evidence suggesting the collision was responsible for the onset of pain. The defendant argued the collision was coincidental to the onset of symptoms. The court preferred the Plaintiff’s evidence. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Madam Justice Maisonville applied the ‘golden years‘ doctrine and provided the following reasons:

[78] Dr. McLeod had described the contusion to the right medial femoral condyle and medial tibial plateau (very simply put – the area where the femur meets the lower leg bones) as mild, but as noted he separated this injury from the triggering of the arthritis as clarified in his second report. I accept his evidence on this point and find that his attribution of “mild” to the injury did not mean to incorporate the onset of symptoms of osteoarthritis.

[79] Dr. McLeod stated: “It is impossible to predict whether or not this right knee would have become symptomatic should this accident not have occurred.” I accept his evidence on that issue.

[96] The plaintiff asserts that his injuries arose from the accident. While it is true that he had osteoarthritis before the accident, the plaintiff’s position is that his condition was rendered symptomatic as a consequence of the accident.

[97] The plaintiff relies on the report of Dr. Grover who wrote:

It is also my opinion that, but for the motor vehicle accident in question, he would likely have remained pain free and symptom free (as far as the right knee is concerned) for many years to come, on balance of probability.

As noted above Dr. McLeod also found that the osteoarthritis was rendered symptomatic from the accident…

[106] There was no evidence that any other event triggered the arthritis to become symptomatic. While it was indeed the evidence of both orthopaedic surgeons that asymptomatic arthritis can became symptomatic from no event at all, here, I find that the complaints followed on the accident. I find on a balance of probabilities that the plaintiff has proven the injury caused the osteoarthritis to become symptomatic causing pain to his right knee and residual pain to his elbow. This was as a consequence of the accident…

[123] There is no issue that Mr. Dulay has suffered a loss. He will no longer be able to enjoy all the activities he did with his family and for his temple. Further, as noted by Griffin J. in Fata v. Heinonen, 2010 BCSC 385, the injury to a person nearing retirement is frequently more difficult to endure. As aptly stated by Griffin J. at para. 88:

[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), [1994] B.C.J. No. 3212 (S.C.), rev’d on other grounds (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 190 (C.A.).

[124] I find Griffin J.’s reasoning apt here in Mr. Dulay’s case where he is nearing retirement and has lost the ability to function in a way that has altered how he lives.

[125] Additionally, Mr. Dulay continues to work and perform everything he can. He has not asked for his employer to accommodate him. He is a team player and endeavours to do everything he can even though he must stop, take medication, and bear much pain. Again, as stated by Verhoeven J. citing Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at para. 46 in Power v. White, 2010 BCSC 1084 at para. 68:

Stoicism of the plaintiff should not reduce the award.

[126] In all the circumstances of the case I award the plaintiff $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment For Multiple, Disabling Orthopaedic Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for multiple, complex, orthopaedic injuries caused by a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Tompkins v. Bruce) the Plaintiff was injured in a serious 2006 collision which was caused when the Defendant, who had been drinking and was driving while over the legal limit, crossed the centre line and collided with the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  The Defendant was found fully at fault for the crash.
The Plaintiff suffered multiple injuries including rib fractures with a collapsed lung, a left hip fracture, a fractured femur and a fractured patella.  These injuries required surgical intervention.  The Plaintiff had a total hip replacement and likely needed a total knee replacement in the future.

The Plaintiff was a plumber and gas fitter and was rendered totally, permanently disabled from his own occupation.  He was left with a minimal residual earning capacity.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $200,000 Mr. Justice Curtis provided the following reasons:

[47] Wayne Tompkins was 50 years old, living in Pemberton and happily employed as a tradesman when the June 3, 2006 collision occurred.  As a result of the injuries suffered by Mr. Tompkins which were caused by the negligent and criminally irresponsible driving of Tawnya Ley Bruce, Mr. Tompkins’ life has been permanently and very significantly altered.

[48] He has lost his ability to work in his trade at employment he enjoyed.  He has lost a great deal of his mobility and cannot enjoy activities such as skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, slow pitch, tennis and similar activities as he once did.  He cannot stand or sit for long periods of time.  His mood is depressed and his anger harms his relationship with other people ? particularly in the case of Nancy Larkin, his romantic partner after the accident who left him largely because of his anger and irritability.  In addition, Mr. Tompkins now faces the prospect of further surgeries, such as two knee replacements, another hip replacement, the prospect that the condition of his knees and hip may get worse ? and that each surgery comes with a risk of loss of function, dangerous embolisms, scar tissue, long recovery periods and possible poor results.

[49] On the other hand, Mr. Tompkins is an intelligent man whose depression and anger can quite likely be treated and improved.  He now has his own home in Chilliwack where he lives with his dog close to his sons and grandson.  He is capable of driving his car, at least as far as Chilliwack to Whistler.  There is a good chance that continued physical training will maintain his strength and may well improve his mobility and flexibility ? he has been capable of walking without a cane in the past, and even of lifting Nancy Larkin who weighs 115 pounds from her wheelchair into a car and it is not unlikely that his condition may again reach that level.  He did own and operate a boat after the accident and could again, and fishing is still possible.  While his trade work as he once did it is no longer open to him, there is the possibility he may find rewarding employment in some other field…

[53] Mr. Tompkins has been particularly unfortunate in having three major joints ? both knees and his left hip damaged in the collision.  Those injuries are permanent and the condition of those joints likely to get worse.  Considering that and his altered mood and other injuries, I find the sum of $200,000 a fair and reasonable amount for non pecuniary damages.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Medial Meniscal Tear and TMJ Injury


Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic knee and jaw injury sustained in a motor vehicle collision.
In this yesterday’s case (Daitol v. Chan) the Plaintiff was involved in a “serious” collision when the defendant dozed off and crashed into the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant at the start of trial.
The Plaintiff suffered various injuries, the most serious of which was a meniscal tear in her left knee.  The Plaintiff’s family doctor summarized the following collision related injuries which the Court accepted:

[35] It was Dr. van Eeden’s opinion that the injuries sustained by Ms. Daitol during the motor vehicle accident were:

· New-onset neck-, mid-and-upper back, lower back, right shoulder and right hip area pain: soft tissue (muscular and connective tissue).  Pain in this area is largely resolved with some intermittent neck and back pain.

· Bilateral TMJ (jaw) pain, right side more than left.

· Pre-patellar bursitis of the left knee due to direct trauma to the knee.  This explained the initial swelling of the left knee patellar area, which resolved after a few months.

· Left knee PFS (patellofemoral syndrome) which is a condition of direct damage to the kneecap cartilage, causing pain with squatting, deep knee bending and climbing stairs.

· Left knee medial meniscus tear. This is consistent with the mechanism of injury of the MVA (direct knee impact), supported by direct pain upon palpation of the joint line, the MRI findings and the longstanding duration of symptoms.  This is still symptomatic today.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Madam Justice Griffin provided the following reasons:

[53] In considering all of the medical evidence, and Ms. Daitol’s testimony, the evidence overwhelmingly supports a conclusion that Ms. Daitol is likely to have long-term continuing TMJ problems and left knee pain problems, as well as some right knee problems well into the future, and that these injuries were caused by the accident. ..

[67] I find as a fact that Ms. Daitol’s greatest discomfort in the years since the accident, and likely in the future, and greatest interference with her enjoyment of life, is due and will continue to be due to the pain in her left knee.  She continuously is required to use a left knee brace.  For a lengthy period of time, she was on crutches.  She limits her physical movements and hence her recreational activities due to the limits of her left knee as she does not want to set herself back…

[69] I find that she has suffered severe restrictions in walking and will continue to do so in the future and likely for the rest of her life.  I conclude that there is no readily apparent alternative exercise for Ms. Daitol at this stage of her life, other than walking.  As a 36 year old woman, the permanent impairment of her ability to walk any measurable distance or for any measureable period of time, without suffering extreme pain, is a significant loss.  While she still will have plenty of enjoyment in life, she will frequently suffer pain, both in her recreational pursuits and at work when she is required to move around to retrieve files or do other light tasks. ..

[74] In this case, I find it very significant that the one physical activity Ms. Daitol used to enjoy, walking, has essentially been lost to her.  While she can still walk somewhat, it is clear that she is no longer going to enjoy it, it is going to very limited in duration, and she is always going to fear and suffer the aftermath of increased pain.  Walking is essential to most of daily life, and is not a luxury that if lost, will not be missed.  For someone who has never had a natural inclination to pursue a range of physical activities, this is an even more significant loss as she is unlikely to have the natural athletic ability that will allow her to generate some other replacement activity.  While I find that the range suggested by the plaintiff may be high in these circumstances, I find the range suggested by the defendant to be far too low.

[75] I find that an appropriate award for general damages in the circumstances of this case, taking into account the left knee damage, the fact that it is causing some problems with the right knee, and the ongoing TMJ complaints, all caused by the accident, is $60,000.

$15,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for "Minor Aggravation" of Pre-Existing Knee Injury

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for an aggravation of a pre-existing knee injury.
In yesterday’s case (Everett v. Solvason) the Plaintiff “blew out his left knee” while playing softball in the summer of 2008.  The following month he was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  The crash aggravated his knee pain.  Following the crash the plaintiff had an MRI which revealed “a complex tear to the medial meniscus and a probable partial tear of the ACL

At trial the main issue was what relationship the collision had to these injuries.  The Court ultimately found that these injuries were caused by the softball injury but sustained a “minor aggravation” in the collision.  In awarding damages of $15,000 Mr. Justice Jenkins provided the following reasons:
[21] The defence called Dr. Brian Day, an orthopaedic surgeon, who never did examine Mr. Everett but did review a great many reports and other documents including medical records which were in evidence at this trial. He concluded that the softball injury of July 30, 2009 was responsible for the injury to the left anterior cruciate and medial meniscus, i.e. the left knee injuries. In cross examination Dr. Day was clear that the accident of September 3, 2009 was not the cause of the knee injuries, in that he said that these kind of knee injuries are the result of a significant rotational movement in which the knee pops, swells, bleeds and would be the main complaint of the injured party. According to Dr. Day, the plaintiff having planted his left foot in anticipation of the impact from the vehicle behind would not likely have caused these injuries. The nature of the left knee injury is, however, consistent with the plaintiff’s description of the softball incident. It is clear to me, especially from Dr. Day’s evidence, that the cause of the knee injury was the softball incident. However, he did say that the accident could have resulted in a further tear of the medial meniscus originally torn in the softball incident. In the circumstances, I find that the plaintiff likely suffered a minor aggravation to the knee injury as a result of the September 3, 2009 accident…
[39]I find a reasonable award for general damages for pain and suffering is in the amount of $15,000.

$140,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for "Partial Spinal Cord Injury" and Knee Injury

In my ongoing effort to create a searchable UMP Claims database, I summarize a 2009 UMP Decision dealing with an assessment of damages for serious injuries, including a partial spinal cord injury leading to temporary paralysis, following a head on crash.
In the 2009 decision (EH v. ICBC) the 10 year old Claimant sustained serious injuries when she was involved in a head-on collision on the Malahat Highway.  The Claimant’s injuries were severe and her right leg was completely paralyzed following the collision.  She fortunately went on to make an “excellent” recovery, however was expected to suffer from long term problems as a result of her injuries.
The at-fault driver was an “underinsured” motorist and the parties agreed to have the quantum of the claim assessed via UMP arbitration.  Arbitrator Yule assessed the Claimant’s non-pecuniary damages at $140,000 and in doing so provided the following reasons:
76.  At age 10 the Claimant sustained serious, multiple injuries in the Accident.  The three most serious injuries were:
a.  A Brown-Sequard partial cervical spinal cord injury
b.  Bony cervical spine injuries including compression fractures at C-7, T-1 amd T-2, facet subluxation at C-7 – T-1 and avulsion of the C-7 spinous process; and
c.  an anterior tibial spine avulsion injury in her right knee (anterior cruciate ligament avulsion and grade 2 medial collateral ligament strain)
77.  At the outset, her right leg was completely paralyzed.  She:
a.  spent 50 days in three different hospitals
b.  experienced neuropathic pain (excruciating pain to mere touch) for 20 days;
c.  required her neck immobilized in sandbags when in bed;
d.  at all other times wore a Minerva brace for 60 days;
e.  wore an extreme right knee brace for 75 days; and
f.  wore a plastic boot on her right foot for foot drop for approximately 5 weeks.
As of August, 2006, approximately five months post-accident she:
a.  had received 70 physiotherapy treatments; and
b.  40 occupational therapy treatments.
The Accident and the acute treatment phase was a wholly frightening experience for a young child.  For par of her hospitalization she was in isolation.
78.  The Claimant sustained a number of permanent disabilities as follows:
a.  right leg limp
b.  weakness, fatigue and reduced endurance in the right leg;
c.  loss of sensitivity of the left leg exposing her to the risk of burns or frostbite

87.  …having in mind the Claimant’s initial complete right leg paraplegia, the extreme neuropathic pain which lasted for 20 days, the significant permanent restrictions resulting from weakness, fatigue and decreased endurance of the right leg, the impending surgical repair of right knee ligament damage and the early onset of symptomatic degenerative spinal arthritis I assess damages at $140,000.

CPP Benefits Deductions in UMP Claims Discussed – The Likelihood of Payment Test

Section 148.1 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation requires “an amount to which an insured is entitled to under the Canada Pension Plan” to be deducted from UMP claims.  Continuing in my efforts to summarize ICBC UMP decisions, reasons were released addressing this deduction following a serious injury caused by an uninsured motorist.
In SPW v. ICBC the Claimant suffered various injures due the carelessness of an uninsured motorist.  Following arbitration the Claimant’s diminished earning capacity (future wage loss) was assessed at $575,000.  The Claimant was receiving CPP disability payments and if these were continued to be received the present value of the future payments equalled $123,500.  Arbitrator Boskovich had to determine what amount of these benefits should be deducted pursuant to section 148.1.  In deducting 50% of these benefits the Arbitrator provided the following reasons:
165.  In order to determine if future payments should be considered as “applicable deductible amounts” under the Regulations the law is quite settled that there has to be some evidentiary foundation to determine likelihood of the continuance and certainty of such future payments.  The onus of proof that these payments will continue is on the Respondent (ICBC).  While the evidence given with respect to payments having been received in the past is of assistance, it does not provide conclusive evidence that the payments will continue in the future.
166.  That being said, having regard to the submissions delivered by counsel and the admissions made by the Claimant and his counsel and my own findings that the Claimant does have some residual earning capacity, which may or may not translate into income depending on what the Claimant does vocationally, I find there is a 50% contingency of the likelihood that his CPP payments will continue in the future and in this regard 50% of the net present value of the future payments should be deducted from the award.
This case is also worth reviewing for the assessment of non-pecuniary damages for the Claimant’s serious injuries.  In assessing this loss at $175,000 the Arbitrator made the following findings:

23  ….he had suffered multiple injuries, including a complex pelvic fracture with separation of the symphysis pubis and fracture of the right sacrum, a left tibiofibular fracture, a fractured right humeral shaft, fracture of his left second rib, as well as a large laceration to his right thigh and multiple cuts and abrasions.
74.  …those injuries have impacted his ability to walk, his gait and balance and have resulted in neck and lower back pain.  He has been left with chronic discomfort, restricted mobility and reduced ability to participate in physical activities.  I find that his present disability is entirely related to the motor vehicle accident…
77.  After considering the authorities submitted I find, having regard to the horrific circumstances of this accident, the nature of the injuries, the ongoing pain and the residual permanent disability which has resulted in a devastating change in the Claimant’s quality of life, that he is entitled to non-pecuniary damages of $175,000.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer