Skip to main content

Tag: Clost v. Relkie

$300,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Severe Brain and Orthopaedic Injuries

The current judicial cap for non-pecuniary damages in Canada for negligently caused injuries rests at  just over $342,000.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing whether such an assessment was appropriate for a severe traumatic brain injury coupled with multiple orthopaedic injuries.
In last week’s case (Clost v. Relkie) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision described by the trial judge as “a shocking scene of mayhem”.  The Plaintiff suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and multiple bone fractures   These disabled her for life from her own occupation as a pharmacy technician.  The Plaintiff’s limitations were profound enough that a Committee was appointed to manage her affairs.  Despite this she made a satisfactory recovery to the point where she gained a fair level of independence in her daily life.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $300,000 Madam Justice Baker provided the following reasons:
[437]     Ms. Clost is seeking an award for non-pecuniary damages at the upper limit set by the Supreme Court of Canada.  Counsel agreed the upper limit, adjusted for inflation, was $342,500 at time of trial.  The defendants submitted that an award of $175,000 to $225,000 would adequately compensate Ms. Clost for the pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life caused by the accident injuries. 
[438]     The submissions made by counsel largely focused on the issue of whether Ms. Clost’s injuries should be characterized as “catastrophic” ? the term most often used by judges who have awarded the upper limit for non-pecuniary damages.  The plaintiff says “catastrophic” is merely a synonym for “severe” or “devastating”; the defendants submit that given the significant recovery Ms. Clost has made, particularly in relation to her cognitive functioning, the injuries have not had a “catastrophic” impact on her life…
[442]     Ms. Clost does not, as did many of the plaintiffs in the cases referred to by plaintiff’s counsel, require constant supervision for her own protection.  She continues to enjoy a considerable degree of independence and to exercise control over most aspects of her life.   She has returned to living in her own home.  She is able to do most activities of daily living without assistance.  She is entirely capable of bathing, toileting, dressing and feeding herself.  She can walk, she can swim, she can drive, she can use a computer; she can cook, she can bake, she can shop ? for necessities and for enjoyment.  She goes out to the library; for lunch and visits with friends.  She can still do many household and outdoor chores although there are also some she cannot do or can only do in a modified way or with assistance.  She has continued to manage her own finances, taking care of banking and bill-paying on-line, as she did before the accident.  She has not demonstrated a propensity to engage in behaviours that make her a danger to herself or others, as was the case with the plaintiffs in Spehar andCoulter.   
[443]     I am of the view, however, that Ms. Clost has experienced pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life and will continue to experience losses for which she is entitled to very significant compensation and to an award above the range suggested by defendants’ counsel.  Having considered the various authorities, I have concluded that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $300,000.
[444]     I have already reviewed the evidence of Ms. Clost’s numerous serious orthopedic injuries and the details of the injuries to her brain.  She was in a coma for a month and only gradually returned to consciousness.  She has a gap in her memory of events for some period before and after the accident.  She required two major orthopaedic surgeries within the month following the accident to repair numerous fractures.  I have concluded she will require at least one and possibly more surgeries in future to fuse the joint in her left foot and ankle; to remove hardware in the ankle and possibly in her wrists as well; and a possible ankle replacement surgery.   Her orthopedic injuries caused her considerable pain; and she was essentially confined to a hospital bed and unable to bear weight or to walk for several months.  There was a period during which she was unable to use her arms due to injuries to her arms, wrists and hands.   
[445]     In total, Ms. Clost was confined to one type of hospital or another for five months following the accident.  Her rehabilitation was ongoing at time of trial.  She continues to have pain or discomfort in many parts of her body.  She has frequent headaches.  The most significant and frequent sources of pain are her left foot and ankle; she also has swelling there and the injury disables her from walking or standing for extended periods of time.  Although a fusion of the joint may reduce the amount of discomfort she experiences, the medical opinions I accept indicate that she is unlikely to be pain-free.  At time of trial she still needed to take strong medications to control her pain and to help her to sleep.