Damages for "Chronic Pain" Assessed at $80,000; Dr. Schweigel Criticized

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court awarding an injured Plaintiff just over $112,000 in total damages as a result of 2 BC car crashes.  In reaching verdict the court had some critical words for Dr. Schweigel who is one of ICBC’s biggest billing physicians.
In this week’s case (Frangolias v. Parry) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions in December, 2004.  Fault was admitted for both crashes.  Both cases were tried at the same time with the Court focusing on the value of the claims.  As is usual in these types of claims there was competing medical evidence.  Ultimately the Court preferred the evidence of the Plaintiff’s physicians and in assessing her non-pecuniary damages at $80,000 the Court made the following findings:

[97]    I find that Mrs. Frangolias continues to suffer debilitating chronic pain symptoms arising from soft tissue injuries caused by the December MVAs. She suffers headaches, and pain that begins in her head and extends down through her shoulders and then extends through her back to her tail bone.

[98]    Mrs. Frangolias’ headaches and pain caused by the December MVAs have had an adverse effect on her life. I accept as accurate the limitations on Mrs. Frangolias’ lifestyle described by Mr. Frangolias and Effie Ainsley. While Mrs. Frangolias is able to carry out light housekeeping duties and do some minor cooking, she is otherwise prevented from engaging in active housekeeping, cooking, and gardening.

[99]    While there are no objective signs of injury at this time such as muscle spasm, Mrs. Frangolias continues to display tenderness during medical examinations.

Mr. Justice Walker went on to make some critical comments of Dr. Scwheigel.  Specifically his objectivity as a witness was questioned as illustrated by the following paragraphs of the judgement:

[85]    The defendants relied upon the medical-legal report of Dr. Schweigel, which followed his independent medical examination of Mrs. Frangolias that took place on October 20, 2008. I have considerable concerns about the reliability of the opinions expressed in that report. My concerns arise in respect of Dr. Schweigel’s opinions relating to surveillance videos of Mrs. Frangolias taken on May 12 to 14, 2006, March 14 to April 26, 2008, and May 17 to May 23, 2008, and in respect of some of the comments contained in his report concerning his findings on examination.

[86]    The surveillance videos were marked in evidence and shown to me during the trial. The videos show Mrs. Frangolias in her front yard, driving to a grocery store, and driving to a medical appointment. Surveillance of Mrs. Frangolias must have been taken at some distance away or with a camera of poor quality since with the exception of one sequence, none of Mrs. Frangolias’ facial features are discernable.

[87]    In respect of the first DVD containing the videos from May 12 to May 14, 2006, Dr. Schweigel wrote:

This lady is seen walking in a very normal fashion. She bends quite easily on repeated occasions to inspect her flowers on the May 13, 2006 section of this video. She rotates her neck in a very agile fashion with no obvious discomfort both right and left.

[88]    I carefully watched the images on the first DVD. There were a number of occasions where Mrs. Frangolias appeared to be moving stiffly, moving her head with her body in a stiff manner, as if they were all one stiff board. There are times when Mrs. Frangolias bends over to look at the flowers in her front garden, but due to the quality of the video images, it is impossible to tell whether Mrs. Frangolias was in discomfort when she did or indeed, at any time. My concern with Dr. Schweigel’s remarks is for overstatement and more importantly, for the failure to remark on those images showing Mrs. Frangolias to be moving more slowly or stiffly…

[96]    The foregoing excerpts as some examples of the remarks that cause me to be concerned that some of the opinions expressed in Dr. Schweigel’s report lack balance and objectivity. I am, therefore, most concerned about the reliability of the opinions expressed in the report. In the circumstances, I prefer to rely upon the evidence of Drs. Liu and Travlos as well as my assessment of Mrs. Frangolias and the accounts provided by Mr. Frangolias and Effie Ainsley.

chronic pain, dr. schweigel, Frangolias v. Parry, Mr.Justice Walker, non-pecuniary damages

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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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