Disputed Injury Diagnosis – Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other…

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, making the common sense finding that the debate over diagnosis is not nearly as important in a personal injury lawsuit as whether symptoms are tied to the indicent in question.
In today’s case (Tan v. Mintzler) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2012 collision and experienced chronic cognitive symptoms.  At trial a debate arose about whether the symptoms were due to a head injury from the collision or secondary to chronic pain.  The Court found the Plaintiff did indeed suffer a head injury however noted the debate was largely insignificant as whatever the diagnosis the symptoms were linked to the trauma of the collision.  In basically saying ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’ Mr. Justice Groves provided the following reasons:

[54]         For the plaintiff, Drs. Weiss, Cameron, and Kaushansky gave evidence that they believed Ms. Tan had suffered an MTBI.  Dr. Weiss recommended Ms. Tan be referred to a neurologist to confirm her suspicion, a recommendation that was followed with her visit to Dr. Cameron.

[55]         One of the most significant factors in diagnosing the MTBI was Ms. Tan’s evidence that she has no recall of the Accident after hearing the initial sound of the impact.  The next thing she remembers is the policeman, Cst. Upshall, knocking on her car window.  It was also Ms. Tan’s evidence that she has a spotty memory of the events which transpired after she returned home from the hospital that day.  It was also relevant to the MTBI diagnosis that Ms. Tan was diagnosed as having a concussion at the hospital the day after the Accident and by Dr. Fong for several months after the Accident.  The doctors also relied on an MRI brain scan which showed an abnormality in the plaintiff’s left parietal lobe which Dr. Cameron testified “probably occurred” at the time of the Accident.

[56]         As I have said, Dr. Dost strongly disagreed with the MTBI diagnosis and with the methodology of the other three doctors.

[57]         The reality is that there is little disagreement regarding the symptoms Ms. Tan experiences and the psychological difficulties she is struggling with.  The distinction between whether Ms. Tan’s psychological injuries and cognitive difficulties were caused by an MTBI or by Ms. Tan’s chronic pain and sleep disturbances is relevant only to the quantum of general damages and to Ms. Tan’s prognosis going forward.

In going on to assess non-pecuniary damages at $210,000 the Court provided the following reasons:

[73]         Ms. Tan is 56 years of age.  I have found that she suffered an MTBI during the accident and that she suffers from depression, anxiety, and mild PTSD.  She has no residual capacity to work and is unemployable due to the cognitive issues caused by the accident, including her mood swings, poor stamina, and memory issues.  I have also found that Ms. Tan suffers from chronic pain on her left hand side and in her face and jaw.  The prognoses for Ms. Tan’s physical and psychological conditions were generally guarded or poor with the exception of the pain in her face and jaw, which may lessen with treatment.  I do note that several experts indicated that Ms. Tan may see some improvement with psychological treatment.

[74]         I also accept that the plaintiff’s personal and intimate relationships have been affected.  She now socializes very little and her relationship with her husband has deteriorated as a result of the injuries caused by the accident.  She is fearful of travel by car and has not driven since the accident.

[75]         Finally, I accept that the plaintiff’s ability to maintain her home, including her ability to cook, garden, and do laundry, has been impaired as a result of the accident.  She has and will continue to suffer some loss of housekeeping capacity.  However, Ms. Tan continues to be able to do some light housekeeping and has been able to manage the family home while her husband has been away for extended periods with only minimal assistance from her daughter.  I have therefore chosen to address this head of loss as part of the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages, rather than as a separate claim; Johal v. Radek, 2016 BCSC 454 at paras. 59-60….

[89]         Having regard to the findings I made and the authorities reviewed, I consider that an award of $210,000 properly compensates Ms. Tan for her non-pecuniary losses.  This award also includes and recognizes that Ms. Tan has and will continue to suffer some diminution in her housekeeping capacity.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Groves, Tan v. Mintzler

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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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