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Low Jury Award For Non Pecuniary Damages Set Aside Given Findings of Ongoing Deficit

Reasons for judgment were published this week by the BC Court of Appeal overturning a low jury award for non-pecuniary damages where they also awarded damages for future medical care and diminished earning capacity.

In the recent case (Thomas v. Foskett) the Plaintiff suffered a shoulder injury in a collision and sued for damages.  At trial, some 5 years later, a jury awarded the Plaintiff damages including non-pecuniary damages of $15,000, $16,308 for loss of future income earning capacity and $20,336 for costs of future care.

The Plaintiff appealed the non-pecuniary assessment arguing that the findings of needing future medical treatment and having a diminished earning capacity are inconsistent with such a low assessment of non-pecuniary damages.  The Court of Appeal agreed, set aside the jury’s award and substituted an assessment of $60,000 for non-pecuniary loss.  In reaching this result the court provided the following reasons:

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‘Inappropriately Dismissive” and “Close-Minded” Defense Doctor Opinion Judicially Criticized

Adding to this site’s archived posts of judicial criticism of expert witness advocacy, reasons for judgment were published today finding a defence doctor’s opinion to be “of little value” in an injury claim.

In today’s case (Lambert v. Tiwana) the plaintiff was involved in two collisions and claimed damages.  The Defendants admitted fault in both claims.  The Plaintiff suffered a myofascial shoulder injury with persistent symptoms.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendants had the Plaintiff examined by an orthopaedic surgeon who provided an opinion minimizing the plaintiff’s injuries.  In finding the ‘close-minded‘ and ‘inappropriately dismissive‘ opinion of little value Madam Justice Adair provided the following reasons:

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$150,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Permanent Partly Disabling Neck and Shoulder Injuries

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for permanent partly disabling injuries sustained in a vehicle collision.

In today’s case the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 rear end collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sustained a variety of injuries including chronic headaches, neck and shoulder injuries.  These had a poor prognosis and were expected to be permanently partly disabling in her occupation as a kinesiologist.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $150,000 Madam Justice Winteringham provided the following reasons:

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Saanich Police Officer Found To Use Excessive Force During Arrest

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing $120,000 in non-pecuniary damages for a plaintiff who sustained a shoulder injury while being arrested by the Saanich police.  The Court found there was negligence however the claim was ultimately dismissed as the Plaintiff failed to provide the needed statutory notice under the Local Government Act.
In the recent case (Lapshinoff v. Wray) the Plaintiff was removed from his vehicle while being investigated for erratic driving.  The Defendant forcefully took the plaintiff to the pavement which resulted in a complex shoulder injury requiring two surgeries along with “an irreparable rotator cuff tear that is permanently disabling“.
The Court found that while the arrest was lawful the police used excessive force.  In reaching this conclusion and assessing non-pecuniary damages at $120,000 Mr. Justice Meiklem provided the following reasons:

[128]              I accept Mr. Lapshinoff’s evidence that his initial comment about his truck being hit and asking what that was about was not belligerent or loud. He had no concern about damage to his very experienced dilapidated vehicle, but that exchange and Mr. Lapshinoff’s immediate request for ID probably contributed to an antagonistic atmosphere. Constable Wray did not provide ID, and demanded Mr. Lapshinoff get out of the vehicle. Mr. Lapshinoff unlatched his seat belt but did not get out promptly. Constable Wray repeated the demand more emphatically with a profanity. Lapshinoff was in the process of complying, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, with his left foot partially out the door which he opened partly, at the same time repeating that he would still like to see ID, when Constable Wray reached over and yanked him out forcefully in the manner previously described.

[129]              The fact that Constable Wray was able to pull the 200-pound Mr. Lapshinoff out of the truck in one pull, even though he said that he did so as hard as he was able, is consistent with Mr. Lapshinoff being turned and beginning to get out on his own. If both his feet were still in the vehicle and he was facing forward when he was yanked out, it is difficult to see how he could have emerged even partially on his feet.

[130]              In my view, this very forceful removal was completely unnecessary and is only explainable as Constable Wray acting out of a loss of self control and anger, rather than necessity. He acknowledged that he did not consider any less violent means of dealing with the situation he perceived.

[131]              It is clear that he was either blind to the fact that Mr. Lapshinoff was starting to comply with his demand to get out, or that he simply expected a faster response and was making that point with physical aggression.

[132]              I note that during cross-examination Constable Wray volunteered an explanation as to how the plaintiff could have reacted differently and how it is in the interests of people to listen, even if they disagree with the reasonable grounds. He suggested that was “safest for everyone”. He neglected to practice that advice himself in dealing with Mr. Lapshinoff. He perceived Mr. Lapshinoff as belligerently wanting answers to the questions he was asking. If he was in fact providing the answers he claims he was providing and perceived that Mr. Lapshinoff was not hearing or listening him, as he testified, there were certainly safer and more reasonable measures that he could have employed to gain his attention and compliance other than yanking him out of the truck within seconds of arriving and engaging him in a tussle for a few seconds before tripping him and forcefully sending him to the ground.

[133]              The plaintiff’s right shoulder or arm struck the truck door as he was yanked out, causing it to fly open. This further demonstrates a degree of aggressiveness and lack of foresight and care for the safety of the plaintiff, which was unnecessary and disproportionate to the exigencies of the arrest. Although it is unknown whether that impact actually contributed to the plaintiff’s shoulder and arm injuries, there certainly was a foreseeable risk of injury in yanking the plaintiff through a partly open truck door.

[134]              There was also a foreseeable and unnecessary risk of injury with a 6’ 3”, 240 lb officer taking a person to the ground with a leg sweep trip while holding his upper body and falling with him.

[148]              In light of the consensus between the parties on the appropriate general damage award, which I find to be appropriate, no detailed analysis is required on that issue. I would award general damages in the sum of $120,000 against the defendant Saanich. I would not award punitive damages.

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Shoulder Tendinopathy

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a shoulder injury caused by a vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Rogers v. Situ) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 rear end collision the Defendant admitted fault for.  The Plaintiff sustained an onset of symptoms related to shoulder tendinopathy as a result of the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Butler provided the following reasons:
[21]         I find that the accident did trigger the onset of his symptoms associated with the tendinopathy. There is no basis on which I could conclude that it would have become symptomatic without the accident. As a result, I conclude that the accident caused the injury and that there is no basis to reduce the award on the basis of the prior shoulder injury.

[39]         Dr. Ezekiel summarizes the course of the injury as follows:

…The accident resulted in the onset of pain in the patient’s left shoulder, which was subsequently found to be due to tendinopathy of the supraspinatus muscle. Mr. Rogers was treated initially with anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy but eventually underwent a surgical procedure to decompress the tendon. At the present time, Mr. Rogers has improved considerably but still finds he is unable to do some activities that are more physically demanding.

[40]         In summary, I find that the plaintiff suffered an injury to his left shoulder which has caused pain and has impacted his ability to carry on some of his recreational and daily activities. He will continue to suffer some pain and restriction in his activities. However, the impact of the shoulder injury is much less than the plaintiff contends. He sought little in the way of medical attention for the condition until the end of 2012. I conclude he was more concerned with his other medical difficulties; both the pre-existing chronic pain and the ruptured tendon and pulmonary embolism. His activities were impacted initially and will continue to be impacted by the shoulder injury but not to the extent he alleges.

[45]         I agree that the plaintiff’s pre-accident status is relevant. He was suffering from chronic pain which restricted his activities. His evidence regarding the level of his activities prior to the accident was misleading. He made no mention of his other painful conditions. When I take those into account, along with the other unrelated medical conditions that have impacted his enjoyment of life since the accident, I conclude that a fair award for non-pecuniary damages is $50,000.

$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Shoulder Injury

Adding to this site’s archived ICBC case summaries involving shoulder injuries, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Campbell River Registry, assessing damages for a rotator cuff tear requiring surgical intervention.
In today’s case (Mitchell v. Martin) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 motorcycle collision caused by the Defendant where “the plaintiff was thrown from his motorcycle and injured his right shoulder, neck and back and suffered from bruising and road rash“.
The Plaintiff’s most serious injury was a rotator cuff tear which required surgical intervention and the Plaintiff was left with chronic pain in the shoulder.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Madam Justice Young provided the following reasons:
[41]         I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the labral tear and the rotator cuff tear were caused by the Accident and that the majority of the plaintiff’s right shoulder injuries were caused by the Accident. I prefer the evidence of the surgeon, who not only reviewed the MRI and treated the plaintiff, but actually visualized the shoulder joint during surgery…

[61]         The plaintiff suffered considerable pain and instability of his shoulder while waiting for surgery. This was a time period during which he saw no improvement. After 12 months, he then had to undergo the pain of surgery and a six-month recovery period. The surgery distinguishes this case from many of the defendant’s cases that fall in the lower range.

[62]         The plaintiff is a stoic, motivated individual who enjoyed an excellent recovery because of his rehabilitation efforts so that he has a stable, fully mobile shoulder but he is not without chronic pain. There is no indication that this level three out of 10 pain is going to improve and I expect, given that it has not improved in six years, he will continue to experience it.

[63]         His shoulder pain will affect his productivity at work and in his recreational activities, which impact his enjoyment of life. He does not suffer the level of pain that Ms. Cimino does, however, I take into consideration that award is seven years old and may have been higher in 2016.

[64]         I award $85,000 for non-pecuniary damages.

$80,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Permanent, Partially Disabling Shoulder Injury

Adding to this site’s archives of pain and suffering awards for shoulder injuries, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages at $80,000 for a permanent, partially disabling, shoulder injury.
In today’s case (Mocharski v. Ngo) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 collision that the Defendant motorist was found fully at fault for.  The Plaintiff suffered a left shoulder injury which, despite surgical intervention, remained problematic and resulted in a permanent partial disability.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $80,000 Mr. Justice Abrioux made the following findings:

[105]     When I apply the principles to which I have referred to the evidence in this case, I make the following findings of fact and reach certain conclusions. As a result of the Accident, the plaintiff sustained the following injuries:

(a) a left shoulder glenohumeral Iabral tear and acromioclavicular joint pain,

(b) left shoulder impingement syndrome,

(c) myofascial pain syndrome affecting the neck,

(d) cervicogenic headaches,

(e) myofascial pain syndrome affecting the back.

[106]     I also find that:

(a) the plaintiff sustained moderately severe soft tissue injuries in the Accident as well as an injury to the left shoulder that ultimately required surgical intervention;

(b) he is left with a permanent partial disability to his left shoulder and will continue to suffer from that condition;

(c) while the symptoms arising from the non-shoulder injuries have lessened considerably over time, the plaintiff was essentially totally incapacitated from a physical perspective for a period of approximately one year due to the injuries sustained in the Accident. These symptoms have and will continue to provide him with occasional discomfort in the future depending on the activities he performs…

[115]     Each case turns on its own facts. Taking into account the Stapley v. Hejslet factors, I award the plaintiff $80,000 under this head of damages.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Grade 2 Soft Tissue Injuries With Unknown Prognosis

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries sustained in a collision.
In today’s case (Cyr v. Kopp) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2011.  Fault was admitted on behalf of the rear driver.  The Plaintiff sustained Grade 2 soft tissue injuries to his neck and these also effected a pre-existing shoulder injury caused in an altercation with police.  The prognosis was not known as the Court accepted that the Plaintiff was not compliant with all suggested treatments and accordingly his injury may still be subject to improvement.
In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 then reducing this figure to $60,000 on account of the Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:

[119]     The plaintiff is 39 years old. 

[120]     The medical experts are in agreement, and I find, that the plaintiff likely suffered a grade 2 whiplash injury as a result of the MVA.  That injury affected the plaintiff’s right cervicothoracic region, extending to the right shoulder.  He also experienced the onset of migraine headaches.

[121]     I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that these MVA-related injuries continue to persist.  I also accept Dr. Bowlsby’s opinion that, while they should have healed long ago, the pain fibers in some people do not turn off over time and sometimes get worse.  Dr. Bowlsby opined that, in his experience, approximately 10% of people who suffer whiplash injuries prove to be difficult to treat and those injuries can be a source of significant and sometimes permanent disability.

[122]     I am unable to conclude that the plaintiff is one of those 10% because he refused to initiate the physiotherapy treatments that were repeatedly recommended by his medical practitioners.  This is a case of a patient thinking that he knows better than his health practitioners: Middleton v. Morcke, 2007 BCSC 804 at para. 49…

[131]     Here, the plaintiff’s pre-existing right shoulder injury was continuing to cause him pain and discomfort at the time of the MVA.  The MVA caused him to suffer an upper body soft tissue injury which continues to persist.  His prognosis for recovery continues to be unknown.

[132]     After having considered all of the foregoing evidence, the submissions of counsel and the case authorities they have cited, I consider that, subject to an adjustment for his failure to mitigate, which I will deal with in the paragraphs that follow, an award of $75,000 fairly compensates the plaintiff for his pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life and amenities…

[139]     The defendants are entitled to an adjustment in the plaintiff’s damages to account for my finding of fact that he would have recovered from his MVA-related injuries sooner if he had implemented and maintained the recommended physiotherapy programs.  I am satisfied that a deduction of 20% is appropriate. 

[140]     Accordingly, the plaintiff is entitled to an award for non-pecuniary damages equal to $75,000 x 80% = $60,000.

$65,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Shoulder Injury

Adding to this site’s archives of pain and suffering awards for shoulder injuries, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages at $65,000 for a chronic shoulder injury.
In the recent case (Zhang v. Ghebreanenya) the Plaintiff was injured as a passenger in a taxi which lost control and left the roadway.  The taxi driver was found fully liable.  The collision caused a chronic shoulder injury to the plaintiff with symptoms persisting ot the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $65,000 Mr. Justice Grauer provided the following reasons:

[27]        In his evidence at trial, however, Dr. Masri explained it this way.  Because of the symptoms of pain caused by the effect of the accident on his pre-existing degenerative condition, Mr. Zhang’s shoulder became deconditioned and weak from lack of use.  Normally, the remedy for this, once the pain subsides (as it largely has) is aggressive therapy to recondition the shoulder muscles.  In Mr. Zhang’ case, however, aggressive reconditioning is not possible because of the lack of an intact rotator cuff (the degenerative process).  But for the accident, he would not be in that same state of weakness.  Because of his pre-existing degenerative condition, he is unable to remedy it.

[28]        This explanation is consistent with the evidence of Dr. Kokan, and I accept it.  I find that because of the accident, Mr. Zhang has been left with significant weakness and intermittent pain in his right shoulder.  That a pre-existing degenerative condition contributed to this state of affairs does not interrupt the chain of causation between the accident and Mr. Zhang’s current condition: Athey v Leonati, [1996] 3 SCR 458.

[29]        In assessing Mr. Zhang’s loss, however, I take into account that his original pre-accident condition included arthritis in the right elbow that limited the strength and range of motion in that joint.  I also take into account what I consider to be a real and substantial possibility that the pre-existing rotator cuff tear would have led to symptoms of shoulder weakness and discomfort in the future in any event, albeit to a lesser extent than he now faces.

[30]        With respect to the impact of his injuries, I observe that Mr. Zhang had retired from TCM long before this accident.  The evidence of his daughter and granddaughter did not support the contention that he has been frustrated in attempting to pass on the family skill set.  The evidence does indicate that he stopped driving his youngest granddaughter to school and lessons after the accident, but this coincided with his eldest granddaughter obtaining a motor vehicle.  Nevertheless, I am satisfied on the whole of the evidence that the significant ongoing weakness in Mr. Zhang’s right shoulder and arm has had an impact on his ability to drive.  I also find that he has been impaired in his ability to prepare food (particularly to chop vegetables), to perform at least some aspects of household cleaning, and to lift heavy objects.  Socially, he goes out much less than he used to before the accident…

[54]        The plaintiff particularly commended to my attention the Gaudreault case, which involved a 43-year-old plaintiff who suffered tendon tearing in the shoulder, and had pre-existing but asymptomatic degenerative changes in the shoulder.  Mr. Justice Thompson awarded $75,000.  I note, however, that by the time of trial, the plaintiff’s shoulder continued to trouble him all day, every day, with daily neck pain and low back pain. 

[55]        No two cases, of course, are the same.  In this case, taking into account the plaintiff’s age, his pre-existing condition, the limitations imposed by his injury, the fact that the weakness will be ongoing, the impact on his housekeeping capacity and his ability to participate in family and social life, I assess his damages at $65,000.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Shoulder Injury

Adding to this site’s archives of pain and suffering awards for shoulder injuries, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, assessing damages for a chronic shoulder injury caused by a collision.
In today’s case (Gaudrealt v. Gobeil) the Plaintiff was involved in a ‘forceful‘ rear-end collision in 2009.  He suffered various injuries the most serious of which was a chronic shoulder pain.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Thompson provided the following reasons:

[15]        I find that most of the right shoulder abnormalities shown by the X-ray and MRI imaging pre-date the MVA. I conclude that the superficial tearing of the bursal surface of the supraspinatus tendon and the biceps tendinitis is a direct result of the MVA. The other right shoulder changes were pre-existing, albeit asymptomatic and rendered symptomatic by the MVA.

[16]        The medical evidence firmly supports the conclusion that the MVA has put the plaintiff in a position where he ought not to do physical construction work. However, I do find that if the MVA had not happened, there is a measurable risk that the asymptomatic pre-existing right shoulder abnormalities would have progressed and at some point interfered with the plaintiff’s ability to do this heavy type of work. Doing the best I can with the evidence available, I think this contingency to be on the order of a 50% risk within ten years.

[17]        There is a chance that Mr. Gaudreault will need rotator cuff surgery to repair MVA-related damage, but I think this is unlikely. He seems disinclined to that alternative. If he continues to stay away from heavy physical work, I think it is highly likely that he will avoid surgery…

[22]        The proper approach to the assessment of non-pecuniary damages is well-settled and is encapsulated in the often-cited passage at paras. 45-46 in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at paras. 45-46. The plaintiff urges an award of $125,000, emphasizing the expected permanency of his partial disability, the chance that shoulder surgery will be necessary, the interruption of his ability to work without restriction, and the impact on his enjoyment of golf and tennis. The defendants submit that $40,000 would be proper compensation. They emphasize that shoulder problems may have emerged in any event of the MVA. They submit that the plaintiff has taken no therapy treatment in the past two years, he has taken no pain medications since the year following the MVA, and he no longer sees his family doctor for his MVA-related complaints — all of which indicate that the plaintiff is not in a great deal of pain. They contend that there has been little in the way of lifestyle interruption, pointing to the plaintiff’s ability to continue to referee soccer and the plaintiff’s admission that it is unlikely that he would have spent much time golfing or playing tennis in the busy years since the accident.

[23]        The plaintiff cites White v. Wiens, 2015 BCSC 188 ($100,000); Ostrikoff v. Oliveira, 2014 BCSC 531 ($105,000); Morlan v. Barrett, 2012 BCCA 66 ($125,000); Dycke v. Nanaimo Paving and Seal Coating Ltd., 2007 BCSC 455 ($125,000); and Power v. White, 2010 BCSC 1084 ($135,000). The defendants cite Jordan v. Lowe, 2012 BCSC 1482 ($35,000); McKenzie v. Mills, 2013 BCSC 1505 ($40,000); Bissonnette v. Horn, 2012 BCSC 518 ($50,000); Jorgensen v. Coonce, 2013 BCSC 158 ($60,000); and Bansi v. Pye, 2012 BCSC 556 ($75,000).

[24]        There is no question that Mr. Gaudreault has suffered a permanent partial disability that interferes with his work capacity, but he is not experiencing the degree of pain, emotional disturbance and interference with his lifestyle featured in the cases cited by his counsel. I fix the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $75,000.