In lenghty reasons for judgement released today, Mr. Justice Metzger found that injuries sustained in 3 seperate motor vehicle collisions had little impact on the Plaintiff’s functioning having regard to her MS related difficulties.
The only issue at trial was the value of the Plaintiff;s damages, fault for the accidents was admitted by the various defendants. The Plaintiff was diagnosed with MS about 5 months after the first of these 3 car accidents.
The Plaintiff sought a total of $223,550 in damages as a result of the collisions. The Plaintiff did not allege that the collisions played a role in the causation or aggravation of MS, rather that the impact of the accident related injuries on her functioning having regard to her MS was significant.
After over 3 weeks of evidence the trial judge concluded that the collisions caused soft tissue injuries (also referred to as connective tissue injuries) and that these were not particulalry significant.
Addressing the first collision the court concluded as follows:
The evidence is that the plaintiff’s injuries from accident #1 healed in their natural course and their effects were eventually overwhelmed or subsumed by the plaintiff’s unrelated progressive MS symptoms and disability. I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering decreased over a five-month period, ending in August 2003.
The plaintiff did not adduce evidence of a compounding or synergistic effect between her MS and her accident related soft tissue injuries.
On a review of the usual contradictory cases presented by opposing parties, I am satisfied the plaintiff is entitled to $8,500 in non-pecuniary damages for accident #1
Addressing the second collision the court found that
I find that the maximum duration the soft tissue injuries could be reasonably attributed to the motor vehicle accident of January 25, 2005 is from that date until May 3, 2006, when the MS relapse overwhelmed all other concerns. After that point, even if there were residual symptoms, their significance was “miniscule” or unrelated and not attributable to the negligence of the defendant.
From April 1, 2005 to May 3, 2006, the plaintiff’s function was quite high as she was able to maintain a satisfactory level of performance at Royal Roads University. As the plaintiff’s friend Tiffany Young testified, the plaintiff was able to meet with her for coffee, to play scrabble and go on walks, even though she had ongoing low back or other soft tissue injury symptoms. Other friends confirmed Ms. Jacobs’ attendance at dinners, movies and concerts.
It is not clear how many of the plaintiff’s MS symptoms were confused with the soft tissue injury symptoms. The lay witnesses were not in a position to distinguish between the pre-existing symptoms and those that came after accident #2. None of the lay witnesses suggested that the plaintiff did not have an energetic and high degree of function at least until the May 3, 2006 MS relapse. Each described what could reasonably be expected to accompany mild, nagging soft tissue injuries. The plaintiff coped despite these nagging and disruptive symptoms.
Having considered the collection of competing authorities with respect to appropriate non-pecuniary damages, I am satisfied the plaintiff is entitled to $23,500 as a result of the January 25, 2005 collision.
Lastly, the court found that there was “no objective evidence of injury” as a result of the third collision. THe court awarded $1,500 for pain and suffering as a result of that collision.
The Plaintiff’s total award was $36,116. Addressing the central issue in the case the court found that
There is no evidence of a compounding or synergistic effect between the accidents and the MS beyond the temporary and minor reference made by Dr. Devonshire while the plaintiff was undergoing a period of chemotherapy. The plaintiff remained employed and active at all material times until the disabling MS relapse.
Damages are therefore segregated on the basis of three separate accidents with no overlapping injuries and no interplay between the MS and the motor vehicle accidents.
Do you have questions about this case or a similar ICBC case that you would like to discuss with an ICBC claims lawyer? If so feel free to contact the author.