$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing non-pecuniary damages for a host of injuries including a broken nose, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome requiring surgery and chronic soft tissue injuries.
In this week’s case (Mayervich v. Sadeghipour) the 72 year old Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 crash.  Liability was admitted by the Defendant.   The Plaintiff suffered chronic injuries in the crash with symptoms persisting to trial.  While there was some room for further improvement some symptoms were expected to last indefinitely   In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Grauer provided the following reasons:
[57]         In my mind, the significant features of this case are these: 
·                 As a result of the accident, Mrs. Mayervich suffered a constellation of injuries, the most significant of which has been myofascial injury in the neck and back resulting in a chronic pain condition accompanied by a major depressive order and cognitive difficulties. 
·                 Included the constellation were a deviated septum (broken nose), and injuries to the arms and hands that culminated in bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.  Both of these conditions required surgical intervention and both have resolved.  There was additional discomfort from injuries to the abdomen and chest. 
·                 These injuries have had a significant impact on Mrs. Mayervich’s quality of life.  The myofascial injuries in particular continue to interfere with her activities of daily living and recreation and have impaired her ability to interact with her husband, her daughters, and her grandchildren. 
·                 Mrs. Mayervich has already experienced nearly 5½ years of physical pain, depression, emotional upheaval and cognitive difficulty as a result of the accident. 
·                 It is likely Mrs. Mayervich will experience real improvement if she undertakes a program such as that recommended by Dr. Posthuma; full recovery however is unlikely, and a real possibility remains that she will experience no significant recovery. 
[58]         In my view, these features bring Mrs. Mayervich’s situation closer to the cases cited by counsel by the plaintiff than those cited by counsel for the defendants.  The award of $125,000 approved by the Court of Appeal in the Rizzolo case was to a considerably younger man who had suffered debilitating chronic pain affecting all aspects of his life but who had been able to return to his pre-accident employment.  In Hsu, on the other hand, the most recent of the three cases relied on by the defence where the award was $30,000, the plaintiff suffered from chronic neck and back myofascial disorder but this was an aggravation of pre-existing soft tissue conditions from a previous accident that had already given rise to chronic pain. 
[59]         Each case must of course be decided upon its own facts.  Considering all of the facts discussed above, I assess Mrs. Mayervich’s non-pecuniary damages at $85,000.

$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Wrist Fracture With Post Traumatic Arthritis

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a fractured wrist which resulted in post traumatic arthritis and permanent dysfunction.
In last week’s case the Plaintiff was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle as she was crossing the street.  Fault for the crash was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered a comminuted fracture of her distal radius which required surgery.

The injury resulted in post traumatic arthritis developing which interfered with its function and was expected to cause limitations on a permanent basis.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 the Court highlighted the following medical evidence addressing prognsois and provided the following reasons:
[9] In his May 15 report, Dr. Somani states as follows:

Prognosis.

It is my opinion that the Plaintiff has plateaued with respect to function.  She continues to have discomfort of the right wrist. Clinical examination has demonstrated reduced range of motion and reduced grip strength. Recent x-rays have confirmed probable premature osteoarthritis which may be progressive.

The Plaintiff has impairment in the abilities to self-care, housecleaning, laundry, complex meal preparation and transportation as outlined by the occupational therapy assessment.

The Plaintiff will continue to require support services which may include cleaning, meal preparation, shopping, laundry and transportation.

The Plaintiff may require specialized bracing for her right wrist and possibly an orthopedic opinion should her osteoarthritis progress in the future.

The Plaintiff will continue to require analgesia for pain management and regular assessments of her home with respect of safety features including handrails etc….

[22] On March 8, 2010, the Plaintiff was an active, independent woman of 76 clearly taking great pleasure in her life.  After her injury, she was not able to look after herself and took a long while to even get back to walking.  Now she is left with a right hand of limited use because of pain, arthritis and de-conditioning, a fear of walking on her own and significant loss of function such that she can no longer cook as she once did, or do the heavier housework.  She continues to have pain and suffering and her enjoyment of life is markedly diminished.  For that loss, I award her general damages of $85,000.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Scapholunate Ligament Tear with Persistent Limitations

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a wrist injury causing long term limitations.
In this week’s case (Jackson v. Jeffries) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 head on collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The Plaintiff, who had learning difficulties, trained to be a plumber and was working as an apprentice plumber by the time of the collision.  The crash caused a Scapholunate ligament injury to his wrist which required surgery.  He was left with persistent pain and stiffness in his wrist and, as a result of these limitations, was no longer medically suited for his physical career.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 the Court provided the following reasons:

[39] Dr. Perey, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in hand, wrist and elbow surgery, saw Mr. Jackson on February 4, 2010, on referral from Dr Wong.  Mr. Jackson was complaining of activity related wrist pain, notwithstanding that x-rays and an MRI did not reveal any abnormality.  Dr. Perey suspected a scapholunate ligament tear which was confirmed during wrist arthroscopic surgery performed May 10, 2010.

[40] Following surgery, Mr. Jackson was placed in a splint for 10 days followed by a cast for 8-10 weeks.  Dr. Perey wrote in his medical report of August 31, 2010, that Mr. Jackson was making “remarkable strides” although he had residual pain and stiffness.

[41] It was Dr. Perey’s prognosis that Mr. Jackson’s symptoms would continue to improve, but that he would likely have some persistent pain and stiffness with his wrist which would be aggravated by heavy use.  Dr. Perey recommended “a re-training program to a less physically demanding occupation than a plumber.”  He concluded Mr. Jackson could “resume intermittent physical activities involved in hobbies and sports.”…

[71] As Dr. Feldman described, Mr. Jackson has a partial permanent disability which will result in him not being able to continue as a plumber in the future.  He will be left with ongoing back pain and stiffness and weakness in his wrist.

[72] Mr. Jackson is not fitted to labouring-type work or other work which will place strain on his back and wrist.  The range of potential occupations has been narrowed as a result of the injuries…

[84] As the cases are similar on their facts, I award Mr. Jackson non-pecuniary damages of $75,000.

$65,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For TFC Tear and Mechanical Back Pain

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a wrist and back injury sustained in a collision.
In last week’s case (Rutter v. Allen) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision.  The Defendants were found at fault for the rear-end crash which caused about $18,000 in damage to the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff sustained a left wrist Triangular Fibrocartilage Tear (a tear to the cartilage at the base of the wrist joint) and soft tissue injuries to the low back.  The TFC tear required surgical correction.

The low back pain became chronic and continued to cause discomfort at the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $65,000 Mr. Justice Joyce provided the following reasons:
[26] Mr. Rutter alleges that he sustained an injury to his wrist as a result of the accident, specifically an “ulnar carpal impaction with a tear of the triangular fibrocartilage”. In January 2010, Dr. Perey, an orthopaedic surgeon, operated on Mr. Rutter’s wrist to shorten the ulnar bone, which largely resolved the problem with the wrist, although Mr. Rutter testified that he still had occasional sharp pains in his wrist…
[40] In my view, there is a body of evidence, which I accept that supports the opinions of the medical experts. The evidence as a whole supports a finding, on balance, that the accident was the underlying cause of the problem and that but for this accident, Mr. Rutter would not have developed the wrist problem that was eventually corrected by surgery…

[52] Mr. Rutter has an underlying spondylolisthesis, which is a condition in which the vertebrae are out of proper position, but this was largely asymptomatic prior to the motor vehicle accident.

[53] I find that Mr. Rutter’s suffers chronic back pain that was caused by the accident of December 15, 2006. I find further that it is unlikely that he will return to his pre-accident level of activity, although it is likely that he can achieve some improvement with regular exercise, including core muscle strength training…

[65] Mr. Rutter led a very active life before the accident and was involved in a number of sports, particularly golf and running. His injuries, particularly the back injury, have led to a significant change in lifestyle for Mr. Rutter. Since the accident, Mr. Rutter has had to reduce his sporting activities substantially. He is also curtailed somewhat in his day-to-day activities, including assisting with housework and household maintenance. He has difficulty sleeping and, at times, is more irritable than he was before the accident. Fortunately, Mr. Rutter has been able to maintain his full-time employment despite his symptoms. I am satisfied that Mr. Rutter finds his life today more frustrating and less enjoyable than previously. Mr. Rutter suffers chronic back pain that is likely to continue well into the future, although Dr. le Nobel is of the opinion that if Mr. Rutter engages in an exercise regime that is developed and maintained with the assistance of a physiotherapist and kinesiologist some improvement in his symptoms is probable…

[77] In my view, the chronic low back pain which Mr. Rutter experiences has a more significant impact on his life and the prognosis for significant improvement is not as good as was the case inMawji and Perez. In my view, the authorities cited by Mr. Rutter are more representative of an appropriate range of non-pecuniary damages considering the nature and effect of his injuries. I assess non-pecuniary damages at $65,000.00.

$50,000 Damage Advance Ordered As Term of Adjournment of Personal Injury Claim


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the Court’s power to order a damage advance to a Plaintiff as a term of an adjournment order.
In last week’s case (Wood Atkinson v. Murphy) the Plaintiff suffered bilateral wrist fractures in a 2006 collision.  The Defendant admitted full fault for the crash.  The matter was set for trial but ultimately had to be adjourned due to difficulties in obtaining the Plaintiff’s employment records.  As a term of adjournment the Court ordered that the Defendant pay the Plaintiff a $50,000 advance.  In doing so Associate Chief Justice MacKenzie provided the following reasons:

[42] Serban v. Casselman (1995), 2 B.C.L.R. (3d) 316 (C.A.) confirmed the jurisdiction of this Court to order advance payments on damages under former Rule 1(12) (now Rule 13-1(19)) as a term of an adjournment of a trial. The advance must be just in all of the circumstances, and the judge making the order must be completely satisfied that there is no possibility the final assessment of damages would be less than the amount of the advance payments. There is no requirement that the cause of the adjournment be the fault of one party, see Serban, at paras. 9-11.

[43] Further guidance is found in the following excerpt from Master Barber’s decision in Tieu v. Jaeger et al., 2003 BCSC 906, at para. 17:

With liability not being in issue, the plaintiff should be put in funds at the earliest possible time. That is a reasonable thing for the plaintiff to ask for. The only thing that is stopping her from getting this money is not a determination of whether she is entitled to it, but as to how much. When it has been conceded that the sum of $20,000 is probably going to be less than or at least one-half of what the future amount she will obtain of $40,000 plus is, I can see no reason not to give her at least $20,000 at this time. To keep her out of pocket means that, especially when need is shown, as it has been in her affidavit, would be a refusal of justice.

[44] In this case, liability has been admitted, and it will be almost seven years from the date of the accident to the conclusion of the trial. The plaintiff is employed, but has problems with chronic pain in her wrists. Counsel are in agreement that an advance is justified in these circumstances.  The remaining issue is the amount that would be just in the circumstances, ensuring that it not be in excess of the potential award for damages at trial.

[45] In my view, an advance of $50,000 is appropriate in all the circumstances.

$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment For Chronic Physical and Psychological Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, addressing damages from a 2006 motor vehicle collision.
In last month’s case (Felix v. Hearne) the Plaintiff was driving her vehicle when her boyfriend, who was riding as a passenger, “grabbed the steering wheel causing the vehicle to leave the highway and overturn.”  He was killed in the collision and the Plaintiff suffered numerous physical injuries.
The passenger was found at fault for the crash.   The Plaintiff, who was a verbatim reporter, suffered injuries which seriously compromised her abilities both vocationally and recreationally.  Global damages of just over $800,000 were assessed including non-pecuniary damages of $200,000.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Grist provided the following reasons:




[30] In this case, the physical injuries continuing to affect the plaintiff include: the injury to her left shoulder, left wrist and left ankle; as well as persistent pain in her neck and back. The pain in her neck and back limits her ability to sit for any extended period of time and is associated with the onset of headaches.

[31] The residual effect of the collision, however, is markedly more significant because of the PTSD and depression that she suffers. Combined, there is significant loss in respect of her vocation, family life and social activities…

[33] Ms. Felix’s life has markedly changed following the collision. She is now reliant on her daughters to assist in keeping her home. She receives psychological therapy, is treated with anti-depressant medication and has been prescribed Ativan and Valium to allow her to sleep. She has not been able to work and has been forced to live off of disability benefits and funds realized by re-mortgaging her home. The evidence from her daughter and her two long-time friends who gave evidence on her behalf was that her level of activity and previously bright outlook on life had markedly changed. Her daughter was concerned that, at times, she seemed suicidal. She said that she noted some improvement after she attended the pain clinic in the spring of 2010 and that she seemed a little happier and better able to manage her pain, but that she had regressed since and lacked focus and initiative. She said she often appeared to be in pain, had become short tempered and withdrew from contact with family and friends.

[34] Many of the same comments were made by her friends who commented on the difficulty in getting her to attend social functions, her lack of participation and stamina, and her fragile emotional state.

[35] For a time, she formed a relationship with an individual she met through a common friend, but they have since separated which she attributed to her depression and inability to join in social activities he wanted to participate in. She relates that she began to abuse alcohol to the point she feared she was alcoholic…





[38] It is now six years subsequent to the collision and, although there have been some areas of recovery, there would appear to be, at best, only a modest hope for further improvement…
[47] On balance, I think an appropriate assessment in light of this authority in this case to be $200,000.00 in non-pecuniary damages. The combined effects of residual physical injuries, specifically the neck and back pain and associated headaches, loss of function in her left wrist, and injury to her left shoulder and ankle, along with the pervasive emotional disorder resulting from the effects of her injuries and the trauma of the collision, have been devastating to Ms. Felix’s personal and vocational life. She has lost much of her ability to be self-reliant and to participate in many of the activities that have been the foundation of her social life. The injuries are now assessed as chronic and I think she will continue to struggle with the depression and emotional upset that has marked the six years subsequent to her injuries.
It is worth noting that none of the Plaintiff’s evidence was tested through cross-examination as the Defendant’s estate did not file an appearance and ICBC, for reasons that were not clear in the judgement, “declined to participate” in the defence of the claim.  Despite this, the case still has value as a precedent for non-pecuniary damage assessments for chronic pain following a motor vehicle collision.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$135,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Multiple Orthopaedic Injuries


(Illustrations provided courtesy of Artery Studios Ltd.)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $426,000 in total compensation for injuries and losses as a result of a 2007 motor vehicle collision.
Fault for the collision was hotly contested in today’s case (Hildebrand v. Musseau) .   The Defendant was operating a pick-up truck.   The Plaintiff was operating a dirt bike.  The vehicles approached each other from opposite directions.  Both motorists gave evidence that the other was on the wrong side of the road as they approached.  Ultimately the Court concluded that the Defendant was in the Plaintiff’s lane of travel as the vehicles approached each other.  The Plaintiff took evasive measures but was unsuccessful and was struck by the Defendant’s truck.   The Defendant was found 90% at fault for the crash.
The Plaintiff suffered serious injuries including a fractured right ankle and right wrist.  Both of these required surgery.  The Plaintiff also fractured his left femur which required splinting along with various soft tissue injuries.  Some of the injuries, particularly the injury to the knee and ankle, were expected to pose long term problems for the Plaintiff.  In awarding $135,000 for the Plaintiff’ non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) Madam Justice Hyslop provided the following reasons:

[216]     The plaintiff is a young man who suffered three different broken bones in his body. He lost eight and a half months of work convalescing. He had surgery to repair his broken bones and eventually had further surgery in which to remove plates and screws. He was initially confined to a wheelchair, then walked with crutches and eventually a cane. Many of his recreational activities were curtailed, some of which have been curtailed permanently, particularly if they relate to high impact-type activities. He has lost some range of motion in his right ankle which is unlikely to improve. The prognosis for osteoarthritis in the right ankle in the long-term is moderate. His injuries have prevented him in part from pursuing some renovations he wished to do in his home. The plaintiff’s injuries, particularly his right ankle and right knee, affect his ability to carry heavy loads, climb stairs and ladders, squat or kneel for extended periods of time.

[217]     The plaintiff, at the time of the accident, was aged 21 and had recently been certified as a journeyman auto body repair technician, a trade to which he appears to be well-suited.

[218]     He has a permanent disability as it relates to his ankle which prevents him from pursuing activities that he pursued prior to the accident and he may have wished to pursue in the future.

[219]     I assess non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $135,000.00.

$54,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Onset of Pain in Pre-Existing Wrist Arthritis


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff $54,000 in damages for a wrist injury.
In today’s case (Zigawe v. Rance) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 rear end car crash.  The issue of fault was admitted by ICBC leaving the court to decide the value of the Plaintiff’s injuries.
The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which largely resolved by trial.  The main focus of the trial was the Plaintiff’s wrist injury.  The evidence established that the Plaintiff had pre-existing arthritis in her wrist but this was asymptomatic.  The crash caused this pre-existing condition to become painful.  The court valued the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 then reduced this award by 10% for the contingency that the pain may have come on even without the car crash.
In coming to the above valuation Madam Justice MacKenzie reasoned as follows:

[107]     I find the plaintiff experienced neck pain for over three years, but it is almost resolved.  The headaches appeared to be associated with the neck pain and have resolved.

[108]     I also accept the plaintiff’s evidence that the plaintiff’s shoulder pain had mainly resolved six months post-accident but she had some pain in her left shoulder in May 2009, which is now resolved…

[110]     On the whole of the evidence, and in particular that of Dr. Shuckett who agreed the plaintiff’s current overall condition was “not inconsistent with” rheumatoid arthritis, I find it likely that the accident exacerbated pre-existing, but asymptomatic tenosynovitis related to rheumatoid arthritis in the plaintiff’s left wrist.  While it is an atypical presentation in that the condition is not mirrored in the right wrist, this finding makes the most sense.  It is proven on the balance of probabilities.

[111]     I do not accept the defendant’s submission that the rheumatoid arthritis in the left wrist arose independently of the accident.  In my view such a conclusion is not consistent with its temporal connection to the accident, and Dr. Shuckett’s evidence that the inflammation that accompanies this sub-acute condition can take weeks or months to develop…

[114]     Thus, on the totality of the evidence, the accident at least exacerbated the pre-existing tenosynovitis related to rheumatoid arthritis in the left wrist, given its history.

[115]     The swelling and significant, long standing pain has not improved since the accident.

[116]     Thus, I find the accident activated the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition in a wrist that was asymptomatic for some years before the accident.  The left wrist may indeed have remained asymptomatic of tenosynovitis related to rheumatoid arthritis for many years had the accident not intervened.  It may have not manifested into rheumatoid arthritis, given Dr. Shuckett’s evidence as to the nature of that condition.

[117]     The neck injury was caused by the accident and its recovery was probably prolonged as a result of her pre-existing but asymptomatic osteoarthritis.

[118]     The asymptomatic left wrist condition was triggered by the accident, resulting in significant pain and swelling that still has not resolved more than three years post-accident.  Hopefully, the scheduled injection of what is likely cortisone will greatly improve the wrist, but that is unknown, and the plaintiff may require surgery on that wrist.  But for the accident, the pre-existing asymptomatic condition in the left wrist may never have manifested…

[122]     In this case, I agree with the plaintiff that only a modest deduction is appropriate to account for the plaintiff’s pre-existing left wrist tenosynovitis related to rheumatoid arthritis.  It was asymptomatic before the accident.  It might never have resulted in symptoms but for the accident.  However, there remains a measurable risk that it would have detrimentally affected the plaintiff in the future given the plaintiff’s left wrist problem in 2001 as seen by Dr. Hollands.  He thought it might represent early onset of rheumatoid arthritis although I realize the signs and symptoms presented differently in the post-accident wrist tenosynovitis.

[123]     Therefore, in my view, a discount of 10 percent from non-pecuniary damages appropriately reflects the contingency of the condition developing in the future…

[126] In my view, having considered all the evidence and all the cases, non-pecuniary damages of $60,000 discounted by 10 percent, or $6,000, which amounts to $54,000 is appropriate in all the circumstances.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of credibility.

The Court found that the Plaintiff was a “vague historian” and had a “poor memory“.  The Court also found that the Plaintiff “exaggerated the degree to which she could not use her left wrist.“.  The Plaintiff told her doctor that the wrist was “useless” and this was contradicted by video surveillance evidence obtained by ICBC.   This evidence seemed to negatively impact some of the plaintiff’s claims and the judgement is worth reviewing in full to see how the Plaintiff’s credibility was scrutinized at trial.

Bus Driver Found at Fault for Injuries to Passenger, $38,000 Non-Pecs for Fractured Wrist

In reasons for judgment published today on the BC Supreme Court website (Patoma v. Clarke) a Plaintiff was awarded $38,000 for non-pecuniary damages for injuries he sustained while on a Translink bus.
The Plaintiff was injured when he was thrown to the floor of a bus as a result of the driver’s sudden braking.  The key facts and the law surrounding this finding were summarized and applied by Madam Justice Fenlon as follows:

[2] As the defendant Mr. Clarke put his bus in motion to leave the stop, two young women, the defendants Claudia Wang and Jane Doe, who were running across the street mid-block to catch the bus, suddenly appeared in front of the bus. Mr. Clarke braked to avoid hitting the young women.

[3] As a result of the sudden braking, Mr. Patoma was thrown to the floor of the bus, and fractured his left wrist….

[6] It is clear that bus drivers owe a duty of care to their passengers based on the reasonable foreseeability test. The standard of care is the conduct or behaviour that would be expected of the reasonably prudent bus driver in the circumstances. This is an objective test that takes into consideration both the experience of the average bus driver, and what the driver knew or should have known:  Wang v. Horrod (1998), 48 B.C.L.R. (3d) 199 (C.A.).

[7] I note that the standard to be applied to the bus driver is not one of perfection. Nor is the transit company in effect to be an insurer for any fall or mishap that occurs on a bus.

[8] The first question I must address is whether Samuel Clarke met the standard of care he owed to his passengers as he pulled his bus away from the bus stop that August night…

[27]         From Mr. Clarke’s description, I find that he was looking in his left side mirror as he took his foot off the brake, and that he permitted the bus to move albeit ever so slightly, before looking forward and without checking through his left blind spot. That is why he did not see the pedestrians, who must have been in that blind spot, as he lifted his foot from the brake and the bus started to move.

[28]         In my view, the driver either failed to check that blind spot as he started to lift his foot off the brake, or failed to sweep the area to the left of the bus far enough out to detect the two young women as he moved to check his left mirror before he pulled out. The two pedestrians were, at that time, crossing the street in some fashion from his left….

[31] In the case at bar, the driver set the bus in motion, albeit ever so slightly, without noticing two pedestrians already in the street and moving to cross in front of the bus, causing him to have to brake suddenly.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s claim for non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $38,000 Madam Justice Fenlon summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[42]         The fracture Mr. Patoma sustained could not be set despite two attempts. He was required to undergo surgery with external pins to set bones in place. The surgery occurred eight days after the accident. The external fixator was removed on September 29, 2005, approximately five weeks after the surgery. Mr. Patoma underwent physiotherapy, beginning mid-October, attending four times and then two sessions in the months following until February 2006. He engaged in daily exercises to strengthen his wrist.

[43]         I find Mr. Patoma worked hard at his rehabilitation. By 2007, about two years after the accident, he was fully recovered except for occasional cramping or tightness in the muscles of his left hand. It is unlikely that Mr. Patoma will develop arthritis in his wrist or need further surgery, according to the medical report of Dr. Perry.

[44]         During the healing process, Mr. Patoma could not garden during part of 2006. He is an avid tennis player, and he could not play tennis or badminton in the fall of 2005. But the biggest impact by far of the injury was on Mr. Patoma’s ability to play the bagpipes. He told the court that he engaged in competitions in his youth. At one point, he took lessons from the personal piper to Queen Elizabeth. He said that classical Highland piping requires considerable dexterity in the fingers.

[45]         There was evidence that playing the bagpipes was an important part of Mr. Patoma’s daily life. He is a bachelor and lives alone, and he said that he played in the morning and the evening, and it brought him great comfort. It was a cause of real concern that his fingers were too stiff for him to play without slurring, and for him to play with the kind of skill and at the level he was accustomed to. He said that, when he found he could not play, he was gripped by worry and anxiety.

[46]         Mr. Patoma happily reported at trial that, by 2007, he had made a “terrific recovery”. He said that at 71, he still has the dexterity in his fingers that he had as a teenager….

[48] I find that an appropriate quantum of damages to compensate Mr. Patoma for his pain and suffering and temporary loss of enjoyment of life is $38,000.

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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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