Skip to main content

Non-Pecuniary Assessments With Pre-Existing "Chronic" Conditions

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry providing some useful comments in an assessment of non-pecuniary damages for a Plaintiff with pre-existing, long-standing chronic pain and disability.
In the recent case (Morgan v. Scott) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  The Defendant admitted fault focusing the trial on an assessment of damages.  The Plaintiff had a host of pre-existing problems including chronic pain in his neck and low back.  He was also on a disability pension as a result of a chronic lung condition.
The collision caused soft tissue injuries which aggravated his pre-existing pain making his symptoms more “enduring in nature and markedly more severe“.    Mr. Justice Voith noted that this was a marked change in the Plaintiff’s pre-accident condition and assessed non-pecuniary damages at $100,000.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[35] The defendant argues that the Accident caused an “exacerbation” of these conditions. As a matter of definition this is true. There are instances, however, where a worsening in a condition gives rise to more than a change in degree. Instead, in real terms, it gives rise to a change in kind.

[36] I find that this is so for several of Mr. Morgan’s symptoms. I have said that his pain symptoms changed from being recurring in nature, with periodic “flareups” or, as Dr. Caillier described it, of an “on and off” nature, to being enduring in nature and markedly more severe. That reality has dramatically curtailed Mr. Morgan’s ability to follow his exercise regime. That regime, in turn, is vital to his respiratory health and to the management of his chronic pain. It was also one of the few physical activities that Mr. Morgan could participate in and it provided him with a sense of confidence. Further, it is clear to me that it also provided him with pleasure and with a sense of pride.

[37] There is no question that Mr. Morgan has become further de-conditioned since the Accident. He testified that his respiratory function has worsened. There was no admissible evidence before me that Mr. Morgan’s chances of being accepted onto a list of prospective transplant donees have diminished as a result of the Accident. Nevertheless I consider that I can, in my assessment of Mr. Morgan’s non-pecuniary losses, weigh the anxiety or stress that Mr. Morgan has expressed over his weakened state and its significance for his long term health.

[38] Still further, I find that Mr. Morgan has been transformed from a generally positive, outgoing, and confident person into one who is reclusive, who suffers from consistent depression of significant severity, and who is without energy. I also consider that it is noteworthy that notwithstanding the significant challenges of various kinds that Mr. Morgan has faced since childhood, he has always persevered and by virtue of his determination improved his state. Since the Accident, that is no longer true…

[48] Based on the findings I have made and on the considerations I have identified, I consider that an appropriate award for Mr. Morgan’s non-pecuniary losses is $100,000. This figure recognizes and accounts for the various positive and negative contingencies which exist as well as the various non-exhaustive factors that are identified in Stapely v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at para. 46. I also emphasize that this award recognizes the difficulties that Mr. Morgan laboured under prior to the Accident and does not compensate him for such pre-existing difficulties.

Morgan v. Scott, Mr. Justice Voith, Non-pecuniary assessment with pre-existing condition, non-pecuniary damages, pre-existing condition