Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for injuries sustained in a collision.
In this week’s case (Coutakis v. Lean) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end collision in 2008. The crash was of ‘considerable force‘. While there was competing evidence as to the exact speed of impact the Court made the following common sense observation “The precise speed does not matter. What does matter is that there is no evidence that the force of the collision, given the defendant’s estimated speed, would have been insufficient to cause the injuries complained of“.
The collision caused low back soft tissue injuries in addition to a C-7 disc herniation with nerve root impingement causing pain and weakness in the Plaintiff’s arm.
The Plaintiff was a retired maintenance engineer but made spare money in his retirement painting houses. The injuries disabled him from this work. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Mr. Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:
In summary, Mr. Coutakis was an active and relatively healthy person prior to the motor vehicle accident, with no significant low back pain other than the occasional flare-ups which we are all subject to, and with every reason to expect a healthy and active retirement. His plan to keep working at painting was reasonable, and there is a significant probability to be attached to his thought of continuing to work, health permitting, approximately to age 75. His current complaints disable him from pursuing his employment as a painter. I find that his current complaints were materially contributed to by the accident. There is no basis, on the evidence, for concluding that any pre-existing degenerative changes in his cervical or lumbar spines – the cervical herniation, and the lumbar disc bulging – would have become symptomatic but for the accident, and certainly not to the present level of dysfunction and disability.
There is some reason to hope for some modest resolution of Mr. Coutakis’ complaints with continuing conservative treatment. However, the only expert witness to express any significant degree of optimism is his family physician, Dr. Cox. Dr. Cox is not a specialist and I am not inclined to give his optimism a great deal of weight. He did not have the benefit of Dr. Rothwell’s report, when he examined Mr. Coutakis in September 2010.
I regard the possibility of Mr. Coutakis making any really significant recovery to the level of having a pain-free life, as small. Even if he were to recover to the level where he might be physically able to resume work, the question at that point would be whether he would be inclined to do so, given his age; with all that he has been through, at that point it would be entirely reasonable for Mr. Coutakis to retire fully and enjoy what is left of his healthy retirement years…
I assess non-pecuniary damages at $45,000.