"Plaintiffs are not Given Carte Blanche to Undertake any and all Therapies Which They Believe Will Make Them Feel Good"

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, underlying the importance of having medical opinion evidence in support of claimed special damages in an injury claim.
In this week’s case (Redl v. Sellin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant and there was no disagreement that the Plaintiff suffered from a chronic pain disorder as a result of her collision related injuries.  What was disputed was the significant treatment related expenses the Plaintiff advanced at trial.
The Plaintiff advanced special damages of over $46,000.  The Court disallowed many of these noting there was no medical evidence to justify many of these expenses.  In rejecting much of the sought special damages claim Mr. Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:
[44]         Ms. Redl is advancing a claim for special damages which is remarkable in its size and scope. The total amount sought is $46,501.22…
[55]         Generally speaking, claims for special damages are subject only to the standard of reasonableness. However, as with claims for the cost of future care (see Juraski v. Beek, 2011 BCSC 982; Milina v. Bartsch(1985), 49 BCLR (2d) 33 (BCSC)), when a claimed expense has been incurred in relation to treatment aimed at promotion of a plaintiff’s physical or mental well-being, evidence of the medical justification for the expense is a factor in determining reasonableness. I accept the argument expressed through Dr. Frobb, that a patient may be in the best position to assess her or his subjective need for palliative therapy. I also accept the plaintiff’s counsel’s argument that in the circumstances of any particular case, it may be possible for a plaintiff to establish that reasonable care equates with a very high standard of care. In the words of Prof. K. Cooper-Stephenson inPersonal Injury Damages in Canada, (2d ed., 1996) at p. 166:
Even prior to the Supreme Court’s endorsement of the restitution principle [in Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd. and Arnold v. Teno], in the area of special damages the courts had been prepared to allow optimum care, and damages were awarded for expenses of a character that stretched far beyond the resources of even an affluent Canadian.
That being said, and while Dr. Frobb’s paradigm of the patient becoming their own physician may have at least a superficial appeal, plaintiffs are not given carte blanche to undertake any and all therapies which they believe will make them feel good.
[56]         In the present case, Ms. Redl undertook an extraordinarily wide variety of therapies, some without advice, and some less conventional than others. She did so at considerable expense. It is probable, in my view, that she undertook this course of action in part through a desire to recover quickly and in part on the basis of her positive past experience, pre-accident, with massage therapy and chiropractic. However, her firm beliefs notwithstanding, there is no medical evidence that the therapies she undertook accelerated her return to work or have otherwise improved her physical condition. With regard to the palliative effect of the therapies, Ms. Redl did not experiment with trying one modality at a time. She did not experiment with lengthening the time between appointments. There is no evidence that the palliative effect of these therapies was any greater than what may have resulted from the use of over-the-counter medications. Ultimately, the evidence does not persuade me on a balance of probabilities that Ms. Redl’s physical or mental well-being is or could reasonably have been expected to be any greater as a result of undertaking these frequent therapies, than it would be if she had stuck to her pre-accident pattern of weekly or bi-weekly massage and monthly chiropractic treatments.
[57]         I am allowing, as special damages, the cost of her first 12 massage therapy sessions ($936.50), and her first 12 chiropractic treatments ($930), as such would have been reasonable during the acute phase of Ms. Redl’s recovery. Beyond that, I find that had the accident not occurred, the pre-accident pattern of these treatments likely would have continued up to the present date, even had the accident not occurred, and no greater frequency of treatment has been demonstrated to have been reasonable.
[58]         I am further allowing the cost of massage therapy sessions she underwent when on cruise vacations in September 2010 and March 2012, when she experienced flare-ups ($650). I am also allowing the physiotherapy ($210) and kinesiology ($453) expenses, as they were incurred on medical advice, and the 14 acupuncture treatments rendered at Dr. Frobb’s clinic ($2,100). The expense of the Pilates course is also allowed ($3,974.92), as being in furtherance of core strengthening, which Dr. Frobb referred to as a priority. I am disallowing the balance of the massage therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic expenses, and the claims for naturopathic and reflexology treatments, as not having been demonstrated as reasonable.

acupuncture, bc injury law, chiropractic expenses, massage therapy, Mr. Justice Saunders, naturopathic treatments, Redl v. Sellin, reflexology, Special Damages

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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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