Tag: bc injury cases

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Moderate Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westinster Registry (Lehtonen v. Johnston), awarding a Plaintiff just over $60,000 in total damages as a result of a 2005 BC Car Crash.
The car crash was a rear-end collision.  The issue of liability (fault) was admitted and the trial focused on quantum of damages (value of the Plaintiff’s injuries).
The accident was found to be a “very minor” one and appears to fit ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact program as the Plaintiff’s vehicle sustained only $780 in damages.  Notwithstanding the minor amount of vehicle damage the Plaintiff alleged she suffered from serious injuries including a right hip misalignment.
Madam Justice Baker found that many of the Plaintiff’s complaints were not caused from the crash, however, despite the minor nature of this crash the Court found that the Plaintiff did suffer various injuries.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $40,000 Madam Justice Baker summarized the accident related injuries as follows:

[83] Having considered the evidence as a whole, with particular reference to the medical opinion evidence, I conclude that Ms. Lehtonen sustained a mild injury to the soft tissues of her neck and upper back and a mild to moderate injury to the soft tissues of her lower back as a result of the motor vehicle accident on July 30, 2005.

[84] While the injuries caused discomfort, Ms. Lehtonen did not lose or quickly recovered full range of motion in the affected areas. The neck and upper back symptoms improved significantly within the first six weeks after the accident, although the symptoms recurred from time to time, exacerbated by physical exertion.  The lower back symptoms caused by the accident persisted for about a year but after the first several months have not been proved to be disabling.  Ms. Lehtonen testified that her physical injuries improved steadily over the first six months after the accident and that she did not have an exacerbation of her anxiety or depression related to the accident during that period…

[86] I accept that Ms. Lehtonen continues to have a subjective perception of a variety of symptoms, but I consider it more probable than not that the symptoms she has experienced from the second half of 2006 to present are not caused by the relatively mild soft tissue injuries resulting from the motor vehicle accident and are the result of a complex interplay of social, psychological and emotional factors unrelated to the motor vehicle accident; and fibromyalgia…

[90] I am satisfied that the discomfort from Ms. Lehtonen’s injuries likely did contribute to Ms. Lehtonen’s pre-existing depression and anxiety, although she denied this during the first six months post-accident.  I am also satisfied, however, that Ms. Lehtonen would have had depression even if the accident had not happened, and that any exacerbation of her mental health problems was temporary and minor.  The depression is, in my view, a chronic condition, that waxes and wanes….

[92] I am satisfied that Ms. Lehtonen had recovered from her physical injuries within a year following the accident. I accept that after that time she has continued to experience episodes of lower back discomfort from time to time.  However, her experience of other symptoms after that date is more probably caused by her complex pre-existing and ongoing psychiatric condition; in particular, depression and anxiety, exacerbated by adverse reactions to and, at times, abuse of medications prescribed to treat the depression and anxiety.  I also conclude that Ms. Lehtonen’s later and current subjective symptoms of soft tissue and joint pain are more probably the result of Ms. Lehtonen’s fibromyalgia than any sequelae of the motor vehicle accident injuries…

[94] As Chief Justice McEachern stated in Price v. Kostryba, [1982] B.C.J. No. 1518:

I am not stating any new principle when I say that the court should be exceedingly careful when there is little or no objective evidence of continuing injury and when complaints of pain persist for long periods extending beyond the normal or usual recovery.

[95] I might add that the same caution must be exercised when a plaintiff’s recovery not only deviates significantly from the normal course of recovery, but where a plaintiff develops new, different, unusual and more serious subjective complaints long after the event said to be the cause of those complaints.

[96] In saying this, I have not concluded that Ms. Lehtonen has fabricated these symptoms.  I accept that she subjectively perceives these things to be true.  I do not consider her perception of these symptoms to be reliable, however.  I consider it more probable than not that they are subjective physical manifestations of a complex interplay of emotional, physical and psychological factors unrelated to the motor vehicle accident.  Ms. Lehtonen’s statement to Dr. Riar that even the pain from a mosquito bite persists for months indicates that while these symptoms are real to her, they cannot be accepted on any objective evaluation.

[97] I am not persuaded that any symptoms that Ms. Lehtonen continued to experience subjectively more than 12 months after the accident, except for episodic and non-disabling muscle tightness and discomfort in her lower back, were caused by the motor vehicle accident.

More on Serious Psychological Injury Cases in BC

(Note: The below case was varied slightly on Appeal. Click here to access the BC Court of Appeal’s reasons)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding just over $1.3 million in total damages as a result of serious and disabling psychological injuries.
While today’s case (Hussack v. School District No. 33) is not an ICBC claim or even a motor vehicle claim it is a case that is worth reviewing as it is only one of a handful of cases addressing serious psychological injuries that proceed to trial in any given year in BC.
In today’s case the Plaintiff sustained a concussion when struck in the head with a field hockey stick as he approached another player.  He was a student in grade 7 at the time and the game was being supervised by a PE teacher.  Madam Justice Boyd of the BC Supreme Court held that the School District was responsible for this event because the teacher permitted the Plaintiff to play before he “learned any of the basic skills or even how to play the game” and that doing so breached the standard of care that the school should have exercised.
The Plaintiff developed serious psychological issues following his concussion.  In awarding $125,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) the court summarized the injuries as follows:

[194]     For much the same reasons as I noted earlier in addressing the causation issue, I am unable to isolate the symptoms directly related to the mild concussion injury from the somatic symptoms which followed.  As Dr. Foti noted, even in the immediate post-accident phase, it is difficult here to unravel the post-concussion symptoms from the somatic symptoms since they are essentially intertwined.  As I have chronicled earlier in these reasons, the immediate mild headache evolved and morphed over a brief period to include continuing headaches, head pain, photophobia, shaking and tremours, temperature control issues, and generalized joint pain.

[195]     As I have already noted earlier, I reject the notion that Devon’s somatic complaints all pre-dated the accident, and that regardless of the injuries suffered in the accident Devon would have developed the somatoform disorder from which he now suffers.  In my view he is entitled to full compensation for same.

[196]     While Devon returned to school following the accident, he was unable to cope in a regular Grade 8 setting and attempted to complete his studies first in a Hospital Homebound program and later by way of distance education.  Despite his obvious intellectual abilities he has never progressed beyond a Grade 9 or 10 schooling level.

[197]     While he initially ventured outside the home to meet with friends, he has gradually become more and more isolated and for the last several years has spent the majority of his time at home, primarily on the second floor of the house where a large den/games room has been set up to meet his needs.  As Dr. O’Shaughnessy describes in his report of June 12, 2008, Devon lives a lifestyle which is entirely antithetical to what one would hope for an individual managing chronic pain:

He basically has no structure or set pattern to his day.  He will never rise or go to bed at any set pattern and eating habits are variable day to day.  He engages in virtually no activity or exercise.  His only exercise appears to be going on the treadmill once every two weeks for anywhere from two to ten minutes duration.  He rarely leaves the home and claims that even walking up the block is too demanding.  At this point, his father quite literally waits on him 24 hours a day to the degree where his father does all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc and prepares (Devon’s) food and brings it to him.  Father and son indicate this pattern has been going on for some time as they feel (Devon’s) joints get too sore when he climbs down stairs to obtain food and/or his tremor limits him from carrying any liquids or pouring liquids etc.  …He has become extremely deconditioned which by itself could lead to some of the complaints of pain described…..

[198]     Since Devon’s situation has continued for approximately 10 years, the experts all agree Devon’s prognosis is very guarded and that his present situation “will not easily change”  (Dr. O’Shaughnessy report, Exhibit 20, Tab 15) unless there is intensive, prolonged intervention.  Dr. Nairne Stewart has opined that even with prolonged and intensive treatment, there is only a “minor hope that (Devon) might again become functional”.  Even assuming such intervention, Dr. Krywaniuk believes it is possible that following the removal of his present support structure (ie. the belief that he is indeed brain damaged and has suffered true physical injuries), Devon may become significantly depressed and perhaps even suicidal.

[199]     In these circumstances and relying upon previous case authorities where awards in the range of $75,000–$100,000 have been made in the case of individuals suffering somatoform disorders, the plaintiff submits an appropriate award would be $135,000, thus accounting for Devon’s youth and the fact that he effectively faces a lifelong, life-altering disability (Edwards v. Marsden; Samuel v. Levi; Yoshikawa).

[200]     I agree that in the circumstances of this case, considering that Devon has been substantially disabled since the age of 13, and now faces a bleak prognosis, struggling to achieve any measure of a mentally and physically healthy life, the appropriate award ought to exceed that made in Edwards, Samuel, or Yoshikawa.  In the circumstances, I award the sum of $125,000 for non pecuniary damages.

The reasons delivered by Madam Justice Boyd go on for over 250 paragraphs but are worth reading in their entirety for anyone interested in psychological injury cases in BC.  The Court deals extensively with the law of causation, the thin skull principle, the crumbling skull principle, foreseeability, intervening causative forces and other interesting and sometimes complex issues that often come up in psychological injury litigation.

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If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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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