Non-Pecuniary Damages for Avulsion Fracture of Knee and Credibility Discussed

Reasons for Judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court addressing two noteworthy topics, the non-pecuniary damages for a right knee avulsion fracture with good resolution and the potential consequences of testimony which overstates the effects of an injury in an ICBC court case.
In today’s case (Dodsworth v. Krenus) the Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle while he was walking in a crosswalk in North Vancouver, BC.   Fault was admitted by the motorist.  The Plaintiff sustained various injuries the most serious being “an avulsion fracture of the insertion of the lateral collateral ligamentous complex of his right knee where it inserted in the fibular neck“.
As significant as this sounds the fracture was ‘minimally displaced’ did not require surgical intervention and made a good recovery.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Mr. Justice Masuhara noted the following:
[34] Mr. Dodsworth suffered a serious injury and endured considerable pain particularly during the first few weeks following the accident.  He suffered multiple bruises and abrasions from the accident, in addition to the avulsion fracture.  He was on pain medication for a month, wore a knee brace for four months, his mother testified to his significant pain during the first few days of the accident, he suffered a rectal tear caused by the constipation from the pain medications, he had to attend physiotherapy 2 to 3 times a week for months, and he was unable to bear weight on his injured leg for about three months.  On the other hand, he had sufficient ability to within a few days of the accident to attend his family doctor’s office, attempt to take classes at UBC, attend traffic court in North Vancouver to dispute traffic violations, to go shopping and make purchases to replace his pants, prescription glasses, and laptop computer that had been damaged in the accident, and start physiotherapy. ..
[36] …The medical evidence indicates that there is a risk, though small of the plaintiff developing early degenerative osteoarthritis in his right knee as a result of the accident.  The plaintiff has regained full range of motion in his right knee with no residual knee instability; as well, he has full range of motion of his lumbar spine.  This evidence also indicates that there is an even chance he will continue to suffer some intermittent, occasional annoying and disabling low back pain for the foreseeable future.  In terms of neurologic injury, the plaintiff did not suffer any permanent neurologic injury as a result of the accident.

[37] I note the evidence of the plaintiff’s family physician since birth who stated in his report that “in time Justin will become completely asymptomatic”. ..

[39] Having reviewed the cases provided by each of the parties and having regard to the specific circumstances of this case with respect to the inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life and the pain and suffering the plaintiff has experienced, and making allowances for risks, I assess general damages as being $45,000.

I’ve written many times about the crucial role Plaintiff credibility plays in any BC personal injury lawsuit or ICBC claim.  Pain is inherently subjective and cannot be measured.  If a Plaintiff lacks credibility this will directly impact the value of a claim.  The role of credibility in injury litigation was highlighted once again in today’s case where Mr. Justice Masuhara found that the Plaintiff’s “testimony was overstated in regards to his disabilities“.  This finding in all likelihood affected the Court’s valuation of the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss.  In coming to this conclusion the Court made the following key comments:

[38] I find that Mr. Dodsworth’s testimony was overstated in regard to his disabilities.  I say this in light of the following:

(a)      his full participation as a camp leader for two summers at Camp Elphinstone post-accident .  He was one of two leaders in charge of ten campers on a continuous basis for two weeks at a time over the entire summer.  He would lead the children in a wide variety of activities such as hiking, camping, swimming, climbing high ropes, sailing, field games, kayaking, canoeing, etc.  I note that this included lifting and carrying a large war canoe, kayaks, hobie cats, and canoes.  There is no indication that he had any limitations in these activities other than his own statement.

(b)      his ability to ski on double diamond runs as he indicated in his examination for discovery.  In this regard, I did not accept his correction at trial that he was actually in the Seventh Heaven area an intermediate ski area.  Mr. Dodsworth’s vagueness, lack of recall or inconsistencies during the trial reduced the level of reliance to be placed on his more recent recall of events and the level of his injuries generally.

(c)      his ability to successfully complete within a concentrated period of time all of his lifeguarding certifications and subsequent annual re-certifications, all of which involved a fairly high level of physicality and concentration;

(d)      his ability to carry on as a lifeguard and swim instructor, though I note at one point he did not take on any shifts as a swim instructor but did not tell his supervisor.  My view is that this was more related to his claim than his disability;

(e)      his ability to successfully complete his education in an expeditious fashion; and

(f)       his vagueness or lack of recall relating to events surrounding previous employment, his diversion, and inconsistency between the aforementioned activities and his claimed disability.

Given all of his activities I am not persuaded that his pain is or will be as debilitating as submitted.  I do not view the ongoing complaints as significant as those suffered by the plaintiffs in the cases he cited to the court, including the extent of his right knee injury.

As readers of this blog know a common theme in injury litigation is that ‘stoic’ plaintiffs are not punished by reducing the value of their claims due to their tough attitudes.  This can be contrasted with numerous cases where damages are assessed at a lower range where Courts find plaintiffs have overstated their injuries.  A good lesson to learn for lawyers and clients alike is that a tough attitude in the face of injury is not a bad thing.

avulsion fracture, credibility, Dodsworth v. Krenus, Knee Fracture, lateral collateral ligament injury, non-pecuniary damages, overstating effects of injuries

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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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