Facebook Photos Fail to Thwart ICBC Injury Claim


As previously discussed, Facebook photo production is becoming a common occurrence in personal injury litigation.   Despite the undesirable consequences on privacy expectations it is worth remembering that such photos, much like more conventional surveillance evidence, are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves.  Surveillance evidence is only damaging to a personal injury claim when it depicts activities inconsistent with the Plaintiff’s evidence.  Photographic evidence that does not reach this threshold is really of little value.  This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In today’s case (Guthrie v. Narayan) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 rear-end collision.  She suffered from chronic soft tissue injuries which were expected to cause on-going problems into the future.  At trial the Defence introduced Facebook photos depicting the Plaintiff on a trip to Las Vegas.  Mr. Justice Goepel found these to be of little value and assessed non-pecuniary damages at $65,000.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[27] I accept the testimony of Dr. Cordoni and Dr. Badii. I find that Ms. Guthrie sustained soft tissue injuries to the neck and back as a result of the motor vehicle accident. These soft tissue injuries have led to chronic neck and shoulder pain. I find that it is unlikely that there will be any significant change in her condition for the foreseeable future.

[28] I further find that Ms. Guthrie has aggressively attempted to deal with her injuries. She has followed the medical recommendations made to her. She has attended physiotherapy and message therapy. She took a series of painful IMS treatments. She works out regularly. She has done all she can to assist in her recovery.

[29] Unfortunately, however, Ms. Guthrie’s injuries have not resolved. They continue to seriously impact her daily life and will likely do so for the foreseeable future. The injuries have affected all facets of her life. She needs accommodation at work, cannot partake in some sports she formerly enjoyed, must avoid certain social events and even has difficulty when she attempts to cuddle with her boyfriend. She is no longer suited for many occupations and requires accommodation to carry out many of the occupations that are still available to her.

[30] In making these findings, I have not overlooked the pictures posted on Ms. Guthrie’s Facebook page concerning her trip to Las Vegas. Those pictures are of limited usefulness. Ms. Guthrie is seeking compensation for what she has lost, not what she can still do. The fact that she can spend a weekend with her friends in Las Vegas does not gainsay her evidence that she continues to suffer from the aftermath of the accident. She should not be punished for trying to get on with her life and enjoying it the best she can regardless of the limitations imposed on her as result of the accident…

[35] While the subject cases are of general assistance and provide a guideline as to the range of damages awarded in cases with some similarities to the case at bar, each case must be decided on its own facts. Of primary importance in this case is the age of the plaintiff, the manner in which the injuries have impacted on her life, and the medical evidence which suggests that any future improvement is unlikely. I note in the cases cited by the defendant the prognosis for the plaintiffs was much more favourable than that concerning Ms. Guthrie. I award $65,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

bc injury law, Cuthrie v. Narayan, facebook, Mr. Justice Goepel, surveillance

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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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