$170,000 Non-Pecs for MTBI, Impaired Driver Found "Grossly Negligent"

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $415,000 in total damages as a result of serious injuries occurring in a motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Eggleston v. Watson) the pedestrian Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle driven by the Defendant.  The Defendant had just left a pub and had a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit.  the Defendant was criminally convicted for driving with an unlawful blood alcohol limit.
As a result of this criminal conviction the Defendant was in breach of his ICBC insurance.  He defended the lawsuit personally and ICBC defended as a statutory third party.
The Defendant never saw the Plaintiff (who was walking in the Defendant’s lane of travel in the same direction) prior to hitting him.   Despite this, and despite the criminal conviction, both the Defendant and ICBC argued that the Plaintiff was mostly at fault for this incident.  Mr. Justice Davies disagreed and found that the defendant was at fault holding that “(his) ability to operate a motor vehicle at the time that he struck (the Plaintiff) was so impaired by his consumption  of alcohol that his actions in so doing were not only negligent, but grossly negligent“.
The Court went on to find that while the Plaintiff was in violation of s. 182 of the Motor Vehicle Act at the time of the crash for not walking on the roadway facing oncoming traffic, he was not partially to blame for this crash.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Davies reasoned as follows:

[70]        The question is whether Mr. Eggleston’s own conduct in placing himself at some risk that a severely impaired driver would not see him in time to apply his vehicle’s brakes or otherwise avoid a collision requires an apportionment of some liability to him for his injuries.

[71]        In all of the circumstances I find, as did Kirkpatrick J. in Laface, that Mr. Watson’s conduct was so unforeseeable, and the risk of injury from Mr. Eggleston’s failure to take more care so unlikely that “it is simply not appropriate” to find that Mr. Eggleston was contributorily negligent.

[72]        If I am wrong in that conclusion, based upon the analysis and conclusions of Esson J.A. in Giuliani, I would assess Mr. Eggleston’s fault in failing to avoid the collision to be no more than 5%.

The Court then awarded the Plaintiff $170,000 for his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for his serious injuries which included a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).  In arriving at this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[145]     After considering the totality of the evidence in this trial including the medical evidence adduced by the parties, I have concluded that Mr. Eggleston has proven that it is more likely than not that he suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in the collision of June 9, 2009.

[146]     I also find that the mild traumatic brain injury he suffered is the primary cause of the emotional, social and cognitive difficulties he has exhibited and endured over the more than three years between the date of the accident and the start of the trial, and which will continue to impact his future suffering and enjoyment of life…

[157]     In addition to the mild traumatic brain injury that I find has been the primary cause of Mr. Eggleston’s past social, emotional, and cognitive problems as well his as continuing problems with serious headaches, all of which will likely continue to impact his future, as well as the balance difficulties that I find were caused by the collision, I also find that the evidence establishes on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Watson’s negligence caused the following physical injuries which Mr. Eggleston has suffered and from some of which continues to suffer:

1)        Significant soft tissue injuries and bruising which were ongoing until at least January of 2007 when he was seen by Dr. Travlos.

2)        A traumatic umbilical hernia which was successfully operated upon on May 29, 2007.

3)        Injuries to his right shoulder including a torn biceps tendon, impingement syndrome and a rotator cuff tear which were operated on without success on December 5, 2007, and which in the opinion of Dr. Leith, require further surgery.

4)        Injuries to his lower back which aggravated existing back problems from which he had largely recovered prior to the collision. Those lower back injuries have impacted on his ability to drive the water truck in his work for Mr. Palfi and in respect of which I accept Dr. Leith’s opinion of June 2, 2009.

[158]     In addition to those specific physical injuries, I accept the evidence of Dr. Travlos, Dr. Cameron, Dr. Smith and Dr. Bishop that Mr. Eggleston has suffered and continues to suffer from psychological problems arising from his brain injuries and the pain associated with the physical injuries suffered in the collision. That pain was chronic until at least June of 2009 but was relieved to a large extent by narcotic and other medications thereafter until Mr. Eggleston determined to wean himself off Dilaudid. He now again has more pain and is also likely suffering the continuing effects of withdrawal. However, his present work history convinces me that within the neurological and cognitive limits that may still compromise his recovery, his future suffering from chronic pain will likely be capable of amelioration with psychological counselling and pain management assistance without narcotic intervention.

[159]     In determining the appropriate award to compensate Mr. Eggleston for the injuries suffered in the collision, I have considered all of the injuries suffered by him that were caused by Mr. Watson’s negligence, their devastating effect upon his ability to enjoy the active life involving horses and his relationship with friends and family surrounding that lifestyle that he formerly enjoyed.

[160]     I have also considered the pain Mr. Eggleston has endured and will likely continue to endure at least at some level, the compromise of his role as the leader of his family and the loss of his self-esteem, the length of time over which he has already suffered those losses, the prospect of the continuation of those losses into the future, albeit at a less intense level than in the past, and the fact that he will again have to undergo surgery in an attempt to repair his shoulder injuries.

[161]     In addition, I have considered the situation that has existed since March of 2008 when Mr. Eggleston returned to work, in that the work he does drains him of energy so that his life has become somewhat one-dimensional, centering upon work and recovery from its daily effects upon him to the continued detriment of his ability to enjoy life.

[162]     Finally, I have considered all of the authorities which have been provided to me by counsel and which offer some guidance as to the appropriate range of damages for injuries such as those suffered by Mr. Eggleston but which are of course dependent on their unique fact situations.

[163]     I have concluded that in the totality of the circumstances an award of non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $170,000 will appropriately compensate Mr. Eggleston for his pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life caused by Mr. Watson’s negligence.

$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Chronic Mild-Moderate Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, awarding a Plaintiff $85,000 in total damages for chronic soft tissue injuries.
In today’s case (Fennell v. Hiebert) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision when she was 10 years old.  She was a passenger in a van that was rearended by a pickup truck.  The collision was “sharp, sudden and unexpected” and was forceful enough to send the van off the road and into a ditch.
Fault was admitted.  The focus was the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.   The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulder and these continued to bother her by the time of trial (12 years after the collision).
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $45,000 Mr. Justice Rogers made the following findings:

[20]         On the whole, the evidence at trial was sufficient to establish that it was more likely than not that the motor vehicle accident caused the plaintiff to suffer a mild to moderate soft?tissue injury to her neck and right shoulder. That injury continued to be symptomatic in the two or three years after the accident. The symptoms were not particularly acute, as evidenced by the fact that experiencing them has faded from the plaintiff’s memory, but they were severe enough to prompt her to make complaints and to seek treatment from her chiropractor and family physician. Those symptoms began to be aggravated on a more regular basis when the plaintiff became old enough to participate in heavier chores around the family farm. They were also regularly aggravated by her work in the country feed store.

[21]         Dr. Vallentyne opined that the plaintiff is one of the 7 percent or so of soft tissue injury sufferers whose symptoms simply do not disappear with time. Given the persistence of the plaintiff’s symptoms since the accident, I am persuaded that Dr. Vallentyne’s opinion accurately describes the plaintiff’s situation. She does, in fact, have a soft tissue injury which does and will continue to cause pain in her neck and right shoulder. That pain comes on with heavy physical activity or when the plaintiff sits hunched over a desk for more than an hour or two…

[25]         In the plaintiff’s case, the injuries are permanent. They may become somewhat more tolerable if the plaintiff adheres to a structured exercise regimen, but they will nevertheless plague the plaintiff for the rest of her days. The injuries will bother her when she does particularly heavy work with her arms and shoulders, or when she sits for a prolonged period. The plaintiff will, however, be able to enjoy the vast majority of what life has to offer her.

[26]         In my view the proper award for non?pecuniary damages in this case is $45,000.

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Shoulder Impingement in ICBC Claim


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing damages for accident related soft tissue injuries and shoulder impingement.
In last week’s case (Dial v. Grewal) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 BC motor vehicle collision.   Fault for the crash was admitted focusing the trial on the value of the claim.  The Plaintiff faced some credibility challenges at trial and the Court found that she “exaggerated” some of her testimony about the extent of her symptoms however Associate Chief Justice MacKenzie found that the plaintiff did suffer real injuries including traumatic right shoulder impingement.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 the Court made the following findings:
[4] For the reasons that follow, I find on the evidence as a whole that an appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $50,000 for the injuries the plaintiff sustained to her neck and right shoulder, the aggravation of her pre-existing low back condition and headaches, and more minor injuries to her ribs, and dizziness…
[190] The purpose of a non-pecuniary damage award is to compensate a plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. While each award must be made with reference to the particular facts of the case, other decisions may assist the court in arriving at an award that is fair to both parties: Smaill v. Williams, 2010 BCSC 73 at para. 78…

[194]     The plaintiff relies on the following cases in support of her submission that $80,000 is the appropriate quantum for non-pecuniary damages: Kasic v. Leyh, 2009 BCSC 649;Predinchuk v. Spencer, 2009 BCSC 1396; Thomas v. Bounds, 2009 BCSC 462; and Lee v. Metheral, 2006 BCSC 1841.

[195]     I find, conversely, that these cases support higher awards than is fair in this case because the defendants have no obligation to compensate the plaintiff for symptoms attributable to her pre-accident low back condition.  That said, I find that an award that is just and fair to both parties is $50,000.

[196]     As I have already discussed, the plaintiff’s testimony about her symptoms and pain was at times vague and at others, exaggerated. Nevertheless, I accept that she suffered substantial pain for months after the accident, as is supported by the medical evidence in this case. Her pain gradually improved, and she was able to substitute for her husband at work about 14 to 18 months after the accident, albeit primarily for a few hours at a time but also with a few full-time shifts. By that time, her neck and shoulder pain were manageable. The aggravation of her pre-existing low back condition had also resolved such that her back had returned to its pre-accident condition.

You can click here to access my archived posts of other recent BC Court cases awarding non-pecuniary damages for shoulder injuries.

Humerus Fracture Non-Pecuniary Damages Assessed at $110,000

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, assessing damages for a comminuted fracture involving the left humerus (shoulder injury).
(Illustration provided courtesy of Artery Studios Ltd.)
Today’s case (Legault v. Brock Shopping Centre Ltd.) involved a slip and fall injury in 2005 in Kamloops, BC.  The Plaintiff was walking towards a business known as “Penny Pinchers” in Kamloops BC.  As he approached the shopping centre his foot slipped on ice and he stumbled forward falling “into the store front window“.  He suffered various injuries, the most serious of which was a fractured shoulder.
The Plaintiff was found 50% at fault for his own injuries for “not observing the ground conditions beneath his feet as he approached the sidewalk“.  The Defendant owner was also found 50% at fault for not clearing the ice with the Court finding that “the Defendant owner failed to respond to two calls from the tenant to address the condition of the parking lot.  Responding to one of these calls would likely have appraised the owner of the melting and freezing conditions that also affected the sidewalk margin area“.
The Plaintiff’s orthopaedic surgeon gave the following evidence with respect to the severity of the injury:
Mr. Legault slipped and fell through a plate glass window at a shopping mall. He sustained a number of small lacerations to his upper extremities and his lip which were sutured in the emergency department. The main impact occurred on his left shoulder and he was diagnosed with a proximal humerus fracture…Radiographs and CT scan performed December 6, 2005, revealed a comminuted intraarticular fracture of the proximal humerus with slight superior and posterior displacement of the greater tuberosity….
Mr. Legault has developed post traumatic arthritis of his left shoulder most probably secondary to a fracture sustained December 6, 2005. Although the symptoms of pain and stiffness due to arthritis may plateau, it is possible that he may experience progressive symptoms in the shoulder as time passes. As arthritis is an irreversible condition, Mr. Legault has a permanent impairment. He is likely to experience increased symptoms with repetitive activity, overhead activity, and activities which load the shoulder joint including use of vibratory tools or machinery, or heavy lifting. Surgical options for shoulder arthritis include arthrpacopy and debridement or hemi or total arthroplasty. The results of these procedures for post traumatic arthritis (as compared to degenerative osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, for example) are less favorable. In this particular patient, his complication rate would be significantly increased due to his size and longstanding diabetes.
The Plaintiff’s total damages were assessed at $354,311 but this award was cut in half to account for the plaintiff’s contributory negligence.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages of $110,000 for the Plaintiff’s shoulder injury the Court found as follows:

I am satisfied that he has suffered an injury that has resulted in a permanent partial disability and will permanently affect his enjoyment of life on a daily basis, causing him difficulty with self care hygiene, dressing, moving up and down stairs, marital intimacy, home maintenance tasks, and driving. The physical injury has also made it more difficult to manage his obesity and other health issues related to fitness. His wife testified that she feels as if she has lost her husband entirely.  He was formerly able to lift and carry heavy automobile components and use heavy power tools in the course of working on vintage cars, which was his main interest in life; but he is unable to do that and has lost much of his zest for life.

[51] The plaintiff has referred me to cases where non-pecuniary awards in the range of $125,000 to $150,000 were made and the defendant relies on cases in the range of $70,000 to $75,000. I assess Mr. Legault’s loss under this head of damages at $110,000, which is subject, of course to the 50/50 apportionment of liability, as will be the case with the awards under the remaining heads of damage.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Shoulder Injury


Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a plaintiff just over $137,000 in damages as a result of a BC car crash.
In today’s case (Moussa v. Awwad) the Plaintiff was injured in a roll over accident.  She was a passenger at the time.   The driver lost control of the vehicle and “swerved across the two eastbound lanes, then off the highway and into the ditch separating the east and westbound lanes of traffic, flipping at least once, landing on the roof, and flipping back onto its wheels, this time facing west. By the time the defendant’s vehicle came to a rest, the roof was crushed and the car windows were shattered.
ICBC admitted fault on behalf of the driver focusing the trial on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which improved.  His most serious injury was shoulder pain which caused restrictions and was not expected to recover.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $75,000 Madam Justice Russell provide the following analysis:

I find that the plaintiff sustained injuries to his neck, left shoulder and left arm as a result of the Accident. While most of the injuries have resolved, the plaintiff continues to suffer pain and limitations with respect to his left shoulder. Various areas of the left shoulder have been implicated, including the AC joint, rotator cuff, and coracoid process. Although there was great confusion in the medical evidence about the mechanics of the injury to the plaintiff’s shoulder, whatever the mechanism of the injury, and in light of my finding that there was no intervening event, I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the ongoing symptoms in the plaintiff’s left shoulder were caused by the April 2004 Accident.

[154] None of the medical experts gave a positive prognosis of recovery or even improvement, and none could suggest further intervention or treatment that could contribute to a better prognosis for recovery. The plaintiff will, therefore, continue to face limitations and disabling symptoms related to pain in his left shoulder as a result of the Accident…

[160] The purpose of non-pecuniary damages is to compensate the plaintiff for losses such as pain, suffering, disability, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life from the time of the Accident for as long as such losses will likely continue. In Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at para. 45, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, the majority of the Court of Appeal emphasized that:

… the amount of an award for non-pecuniary damage should not depend alone upon the seriousness of the injury but upon its ability to ameliorate the condition of the victim considering his or her particular situation. … An award will vary in each case ‘to meet the specific circumstances of the individual case’.

[161] The Accident has impacted the plaintiff’s life profoundly. In the months immediately following the Accident, the plaintiff experienced flashbacks, intense pain and had difficulty sleeping. After the acute pain passed, the plaintiff continued to suffer from increases in pain when working and difficulty sleeping. To try to redress this, he underwent surgery, which was frightening for him, and required further rehabilitation. However, in the long run the surgery was not successful, his pain continued, and his prognosis for recovery is not good.

[162] Aside from pain, the plaintiff has experienced a loss of enjoyment of life. The plaintiff does not travel because it is difficult to carry or manage his luggage, he no longer engages in many of his recreational activities, he has experienced a great deal of emotional difficulty and he continues to restrict situations in which he may find himself a passenger in another vehicle.

[163] The plaintiff’s most significant limitation is related to work because he remains unable to work consistently and for extended periods of time at a computer and his discomfort and disability are directly proportional to the amount of time that he spends at the computer or operating a video camera. The plaintiff enjoyed his work and his career was a source of pride for him. Now his enjoyment of his work is undermined by his ongoing pain and disability…

166] In light of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff in the Accident and the negative prognoses contained in the medical evidence, I find the plaintiff is entitled to an award of $75,000 for general damages.

You can click here to access my archived summary of other recent BC Claims dealing with shoulder injuries.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Video Surveillance; "Golden Years" Doctrine Discussed


As I’ve previously written, video surveillance in and of itself does not harm a persons ICBC claim, being caught in a lie does.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this fact.
In today’s case (Fata v. Heinonen) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 BC collision.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered several injuries including “an obvious impingement syndrome at the shoulder“.  The Defendant disputed the severity of the Plaintiff’s injuries at trial.  Instead of relying on independent medical evidence, the Defendant sought to harm the Plaintiff’s case by relying on video surveillance which was taken the year following the collision.
The surveillance showed the Plaintiff doing various activities such as grocery shopping and unloading and loading objects into his vehicle.  This video surveillance did not harm the Plaintiff’s claim.  Why?  Because it did not show anything that contradicted the Plaintiff’s evidence at trial.  In explaining why the surveillance did not harm the Plaintiff’s claim Madam Justice Griffin held as follows:

[45] The videotape surveillance was not inconsistent with Mr. Fata’s evidence or that of his physicians.  Mr. Fata’s evidence was that his physicians and physiotherapist had recommended that he continue to use his left arm and shoulder, and that he attempts to do so.  No one has suggested that he has no use of his left arm and shoulder.   Neither Mr. Fata nor the physicians, who gave expert opinions on his behalf, suggested any marked limitation in Mr. Fata’s range of motion.  His primary complaint is that he has pain when he uses his left arm and shoulder.  The videotape did not disprove this evidence, nor did it seriously cast doubt on it.  A videotape cannot capture all pain but may illustrate signs of severe pain, for example, if the person being watched grimaces on doing certain activities.  Mr. Fata was not displaying obvious signs of pain.  The videotape perhaps illustrates that whatever pain Mr. Fata might have with ordinary day-to-day activities is manageable.

[46] I have concluded from reviewing the videotape evidence carefully and considering Mr. Fata’s explanations of it, as well as from my review of the medical evidence and Mr. Fata’s evidence of his ongoing symptoms, that Mr. Fata does continue to suffer ongoing symptoms in his left arm and shoulder that were caused by the motor vehicle accident of November 13, 2006.  Given the passage of time, it is likely these symptoms will continue indefinitely.  These symptoms are not severe, as Mr. Fata still has use of his left arm and can do most activities.  However, the symptoms are such that Mr. Fata does suffer pain with the use of his left arm and particularly with excessive use or lifting his arm over his shoulder.  The pain restricts him from some of these types of activities he might otherwise do.

The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $45,000 in non-pecuniary damages for his soft tissue injuries and shoulder impingement.

This case is also worth also worth reviewing for the Court’s explanation of the “Golden Years” doctrine.

  • The “Golden Years Doctrine” Explained

In personal injury claims BC Courts recognize that no two cases are exactly alike and the assessment of non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) depends on the unique facts of any given case.

One principle that is sometimes used in assessing non-pecuniary damages is the “Golden Years” doctrine.  This principle recognizes the fact that the retirement years are particularly special and an injury affecting a person in their golden years may warrant a greater award for non-pecuniary damages.  Madam Justice Griffin succinctly summarized this principle as follows:

[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.).

[89] In short, it is Mr. Fata’s loss of enjoyment of life in recreation, home chores, and work that should be compensated for in an award for non-pecuniary damages…

[91] On the facts of this case, where Mr. Fata has suffered a loss of some enjoyment of life in every aspect of his life, I conclude that an appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $45,000.

Damages Reduced by 30% for Preferring Naturopathic Remedies Over Surgery in Shoulder Injury Claim


Reasons for judgement were released today discussing two ares of interest in the context of an ICBC injury claim; the non-pecuniary value of a shoulder injury and “failure to mitigate” for following naturopathic remedies instead of recommended surgery.
In today’s case (Hauer v. Clendenning) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle involved in an intersection crash.  The crash was “significant, causing extensive damage to both vehicles“.   Fault was admitted by the Defendant focusing the trial on the value of the case.

  • Discussion of Non-Pecuniary Damages for Plaintiff’s Shoulder Injury

The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which improved by the time of trial.  The Plaintiff’s most serious injury was a right shoulder injury which remained symptomatic by the time of trial.
The Court heard evidence from a number of expert physicians including orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Richardson who gave evidence that the Plaintiff has a rotator cuff injury to her right shoulder resulting in tendonitis and impingement.  Her prognosis for full recover was “guarded“.
Mr. Justice Slade assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $50,000.  In arriving at this figure the Court made the following findings and provided the following analysis:
[72] It is not a matter of contention among the medical experts that the plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries in the August 6, 2006 accident.  These injuries were to the neck, shoulder, and back. ..
[75] The medical experts are all of the view that the plaintiff will benefit from injections in the shoulder area, that being the most problematic of the plaintiff’s injuries.  Dr. Aitken and Dr. Richardson say that she may benefit from arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder…

[78] I accept the evidence of the lay witnesses that the plaintiff was active and fully able to perform the physical demands of her employment before the accident, and after the accident, is no longer as active or able to perform to the pre-accident level.  The evidence of the plaintiff, the lay witnesses, and Dr. Richardson, establish a causal connection between the accident and the plaintiff’s ongoing shoulder pain, and establish, as fact, the contribution of injuries sustained in the accident to the present condition of her shoulder.

[79] The plaintiff’s shoulder pain has persisted, largely undiminished, from the time of the accident. ..

[82] I find that the accident is a significant contributing factor to her shoulder injury, and that the plaintiff has established causation on the “but for” test described in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 333…

[85] Considering these authorities and the factors set out by Kirkpatrick J.A. in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at paras. 45-46, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, leave to appeal ref’d [2006] S.C.C.A. No. 100, I award the plaintiff $50,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

  • Failure to Mitigate:

Further to my previous articles on the subject, it is well established that the Court can reduce a Plaintiff’s award in a personal injury claim if a Plaintiff unreasonably fails to follow medical advice where the medical would have likely improved the injuries.

In today’s case the Defendant argued that the Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages by not having injections and/or surgery on her shoulder injury.  Mr. Justice Slade agreed with this submission and found that the Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages by not following the advice of the orthopaedic surgeons and instead choosing naturopathic remedies.  The Court reduced the Plaintiff’s damages by 30% as a result.  Specifically Mr. Justice Slade held as follows:

[105] The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff has failed to mitigate her loss, in this case that she failed to follow medical direction, and that had she followed that advice, she would have recovered further or faster: Janiak v. Ippolito, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 146.

[106] The plaintiff prefers naturopathic remedies.  She was influenced by advice given by a friend on the effect of injections.  A physician advised her, informally, that she may not benefit from surgery.  On these bases, she declined to act on the recommendations of three well-qualified orthopaedic surgeons to take injections into the shoulder area, and to consider arthroscopic surgery.  Dr. Richardson puts the percentage chance of improvement from arthroscopic surgery at between 70-80%.

[107] There are, of course, risks associated with surgery, though these seem minimal.  If the plaintiff underwent surgery, there may be some losses during the recovery period.

[108] There will be a reduction of 30% of the amounts awarded for general damages, loss of income earning capacity, and cost of care due to the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Post Traumatic Tendinopathy

(Please note the Trial Court’s decision regarding mitigation of damages in the below post was overturned on Appeal.  You can click here to read the BC Court of Appeal’s judgement)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with an assessment of damages for a shoulder injury, specifically a post traumatic tendinopathy.
In today’s case (Gregory v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision in White Rock, BC.  Her vehicle was struck while travelling through an intersection by the Defendant who failed to stop at a stop sign.  Fault was admitted by ICBC focusing the trial on the Plaintiff’s injuries.

  • Non-Pecuniary Damages Discussion

The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries to her neck and back that healed before trial.  The Plaintiff’s worst injury was to her left shoulder.   Dr. Day, an orthapeadic surgeon gave evidence that the Plaintiff suffered an “abnormality in the subscapularis tendon at the site of the superior border.  In addition there was inflammation in the subacromial bursa.”  Dr. Day also testified that the plaintiff had a “post traumatic tendinopathy causing some discomfort“.
The Plaintiff required surgery to “clean up” a “thick, tight subacromial bursa” because this caused irritation.
Following this the Plaintiff continued to have some shoulder pain which was aggravated by certain movements.  The Court accepted that this would likely continue into the future.  In assessing the non-pecuniary loss the Plaintiff suffered as a result of her injuries at $60,000 Madam Justice Kloegman found as follows:

[11] Due to the plethora of shoulder injury cases in the case law, it is important to distinguish the plaintiff’s shoulder injury from some of the shoulder injuries suffered by other plaintiffs in other cases. In the case at bar, the plaintiff does not have:

1.       neurological deficit;

2.       instability in her shoulder;

3.       frozen shoulder;

4.       restricted range of motion;

5.       dislocation or subluxation;

6.       arthritis; and

7.       muscle wasting.

[12] However, I accept that the plaintiff does have ongoing chronic pain in her shoulder which is exacerbated by certain movements. There was no suggestion that the plaintiff was a malingerer or was exaggerating her symptoms. Notwithstanding that pain is a subjective symptom, the medical professionals found some objective corroboration in the tendinopathy and bursitis. Unfortunately, the plaintiff will likely continue to suffer various degrees of pain in her left shoulder in the future. To this extent she is mildly restricted in her activities and potential for employment.

[13] In summary, I find that the accident caused injury to the plaintiff, primarily in her left shoulder joint, which injury is mildly impairing and likely of a permanent nature. This injury has caused and will continue to cause the plaintiff pain and suffering, and has caused and will continue to cause some loss in her ability to earn income both in the past and the present. ..

[21] As I have found that the plaintiff is likely permanently impaired, albeit to a minor degree, the cases of Thauli, Grant and John are more helpful. Reviewing these cases and keeping in mind the more severe injuries described in those cases, I am of the view that $60,000 is reasonable compensation for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering in this case.

  • Failure To Mitigate

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the law of mitigation.  Here Madam Justice Kloegman found that the unreasonably failed to follow her doctors advice to have a cortisone injection in her shoulder.  The court found that there was a chance that this would have improved her symptoms.

The Plaintiff did not follow her doctor’s recommendation apparently because of “what she read on the internet” and discussions she had “with her claims adjuster and chiropractor“.  The court found that these were unreasonable explanations for not following the doctor’s advice and as a result reduced the Plaintiff’s damages by 10%.  The Courts discussion of mitigation can be found at paragraphs 34-35 of the reasons for judgement.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and the Subjective Nature of Pain


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, highlighting an important truth in injury litigation – it is not up to ICBC’s doctors to decide if a Plaintiff’s pain complaints are legitimate, rather it is up to the Judge or Jury.
In today’s case (Sharma v. Didiuk) the Plaintiff was involved in 2004 rear end collision in Delta, British Columbia.  Fault was admitted by the rear motorist.   The vehicles did not suffer much damage but the Plaintiff alleged injury.
The Plaintiff’s doctor provided the following evidence with respect to her accident related injuries:
She sustained soft tissue injuries of her back, neck, and shoulders. This pain is present several times a week. It is aggravated by her work as a hairdresser. It is also aggravated by lifting or carrying. She has used Tylenol, heat, anti[?]inflammatories, physiotherapy, and massage as treatment with some variable symptoms. Her recent pregnancy also aggravated her symptoms. Ms Sharma’s pain has become chronic recurrent in nature. With regular strengthening and stretching exercises she should continue to remain functional with pain. She may require future treatments of massage, physiotherapy, and accupun[c]ture, to manage her pain. She will likely remain prone to aggravations of her pain with prolonged standing, lifting of her arms to shoulder height, and carrying.
The Defendant arranged for an ‘independent medical exam’ with orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Boyle.  Dr. Boyle disagreed with the Plaintiff’s physician with respect to the extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries.  Dr. Boyle provided the following evidence:

[66] In his report Dr. Boyle concluded that the plaintiff had suffered a minor myofascial strain to her cervical spine with injury to ligaments, tendons and muscles, and that medical management for this should be in the form of stretching and strengthening exercises and the use of anti-inflammatories.

[67] He also said she may have suffered a very minor strain to her lumbar spine although she was asymptomatic at the time of his examination.

[68] He concluded there was no disability associated with her function as a hairdresser from 2005 onwards and the myofascial strain that she would have suffered would have been very mild at most with a very transient and limited effect on her.

[69] In his opinion there is no disability associated with the events surrounding the motor vehicle accident and no vocational or avocational limitations to be placed on her, with no need for any passive modalities of treatment.

[70] At trial he agrees that pain is usually considered chronic after two years, and that soft tissue injury may not exhibit any objective signs. Even if the soft tissue injuries heal in three months they can still produce current pain.

[71] However, in his opinion the probability that the plaintiff has these complaints ongoing is very low.

The Court went on to accept that the Plaintiff was injured and rejected Dr. Boyle’s opinion.  In awarding the Plaintiff $30,000 for her non-pecuniary damages Mr. Justice Truscott made the following comments:

[73] I also accept that the plaintiff’s complaints of continuing pain from her soft tissue injuries have exceeded the expected time period for recovery.

[74] I conclude that Dr. Boyle is saying in his own words that he does not believe the plaintiff when she says she still has continuing pain from injuries in this motor vehicle accident, almost six years later, as he found no basis for that in his examination and in his general understanding of the effects of minor soft tissue injuries.

[75] However, the fact is that I do accept the plaintiff’s evidence when she says she is still suffering pain from soft tissue injuries that she sustained in this motor vehicle accident of April 8, 2004.

[76] I therefore reject the opinion of Dr. Boyle that she does not have any further effects from those injuries, and I will assess the plaintiff’s damages on the basis that she continues to suffer some chronic pain from these injuries caused by the motor vehicle accident….

[92] I conclude the plaintiff’s present pain is intermittent and not continuous and that it depends on what activity she carries out and for how long she carries out those activities.

[93] She was able to continue her schooling full-time after the accident and was able to continue thereafter working close to full-time or at full-time at her hairdressing employments…

[98] Here I accept that the plaintiff’s ability to continue to work full-time has been accomplished with some difficulty because of her injuries as she has to stand and reach for long periods of time which brings about pain and discomfort and exhausts her by the end of the day. Her social activities have also been curtailed.

[99] I accept the prognosis of Dr. Rayavarapu and after reviewing the cases cited by both counsel, I consider a proper award for the plaintiff for non-pecuniary damages attributable to this motor vehicle accident to be $30,000. In assessing non?pecuniary damages in this amount I have already reduced the full value of her injuries by $10,000 to account for the measurable risk of her pre-existing injuries continuing to affect her regardless of this accident.

Only an injured person truly knows the extent of their pain.  If a Defendant arranges for an independent medical exam and that doctor minimizes the extent of the injury cases such as this one serve as an important reminder that the Defence Medical Examiner is not the Judge and Jury.

$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Soft Tissue Injuries to Back, Neck and Shoulders

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $88,000 in total damages as a result of a 2006 BC car crash.
In today’s case (Dutchak v. Fowler) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defence lawyer leaving the Court to deal with the sole issue of quantum of damages (value of the injury claim).  The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which continue to bother her by the time of trial and these had a likelihood of continuing indefinitely into the future.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Mr. Justice Sewell made the following observations about the severity of the accident related injuries:

22] While I accept that Ms. Dutchak has genuine symptoms, I do have some concerns that she has unrealistic expectations about the consequences of the physical activities in which she engages.  Ms. Dutchak runs 30 to 40 kms a week.  She also regularly exercises vigorously, plays squash three times a week and cycles for long distances on a regular basis.  These activities undoubtedly cause physiological stresses on her anatomy.

[23] It is apparent that engaging in these physical activities is an important part of Ms. Dutchak’s relationship with her husband.  Both Ms. Dutchak and her husband continue to place a high level of importance on physical activity and a good deal of their personal interactions with one another revolves around physical fitness and exercise activities.  In addition Ms. Dutchak’s self esteem is quite dependent on being fit and active.

[24] I have concluded that Ms. Dutchak is now able to engage in almost all of the activities she did before the accident, but at a price.  That price is a much higher level of pain and discomfort than before the accident.

[25] The preponderance of evidence before me satisfies me that it is unlikely that Ms. Dutchak’s symptoms will completely disappear.  However, I am also of the view that there is a reasonable possibility that she will experience some continued improvement as she adjusts to her altered circumstances…

[28] In the result, I conclude that Ms. Dutchak has suffered soft-tissue injuries to her upper back, shoulders and neck which have resulted in stiffness, pain and headaches, all of which are significantly aggravated by strenuous physical activity.  She continues to experience those symptoms.  My conclusion is that there is some prospect of continued improvement but that in assessing damages in this case, I should proceed on the basis that Ms. Dutchak will continue to suffer these symptoms indefinitely.  On the other hand, I also conclude that Ms. Dutchak is now able to perform virtually all of the tasks and activities that she did prior to the accident and, in particular, is able to engage in vigorous physical activity.  In carrying out these activities she has no mechanical limitations.  The only restriction on these activities is the pain which they cause.

[29] I have also concluded that Ms. Dutchak is highly motivated to continue with these activities and, in fact, is continuing to perform and engage in them notwithstanding the level of pain and the headaches that she experiences as a result…

In my view, this case is one in which an award of non-pecuniary damages should be at the lower end of the range for cases involving chronic pain.  I say this because Ms. Dutchak is able to engage in all of the activities she formerly did with the assistance of analgesic medicines and in the full knowledge that engaging in activities will often trigger pain for her.  In all the circumstances I award Ms. Dutchak $45,000 for non-pecuniary damages.

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.

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