Tag: Courtney v. Hutchinson

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded to "Stoic" Plaintiff


Plaintiffs should not be punished with reduced damages in a personal injury claim simply because they are stoic in dealing with their injuries.  Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, discussing this in the context of a chronic soft tissue injury claim.
In yesterday’s case (Courtney v. Huthinson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The Plaintiff, a 48 year old logger, suffered a chronic soft tissue injury to his neck which produced symptoms of pain and headaches.  The symptoms continued on to the time of trial and were not expected to further recover.
Despite the chronic nature of the Plaintiff’s injuries he carried on with a stoic attitude minimizing his complaints.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Madam Justice Power made the following findings with respect the Plaintiff’s injuries and his stoicism:

[16] Dr. MacKean’s opinion was that Mr. Courtney had suffered a Grade two whiplash associated disorder to the cervical spine and upper back with persistent daily neck pain greater on the right than left side, and headaches. She is of the opinion that the ongoing persistent neck pain and headaches is due to injuries sustained in the accident.

[17] Of significance Dr. MacKean noted that:

He has most likely reached the point of maximal medical improvement. It has been almost 3 years following the date of motor vehicle accident and he has not seen significant improvement over the past two years with regards to improvement in his neck pain symptoms.

[18] Dr. MacKean in her report and in her evidence noted that the disc degeneration seen in the MRI was less likely the cause of the ongoing pain he was experiencing since it was asymptomatic prior to the accident…

[23] Mr. Courtney came across in his evidence as a quiet man who was committed to his personal health and fitness and who was conscientious and proactive about pursuing his treatment options. He did not appear to exaggerate or overstate his evidence. When he made errors in his evidence for example with respect to his work history, he acknowledged them and any errors appear to be reasonable based on the passage of time, and Mr. Courtney’s knowledge. He is clearly a hardworking man who has worked through pain caused by the accident in order to provide for his family. The ongoing pain is primarily neck pain which is aggravated by activities which require neck extension and occasional headaches. I do not have any difficulty in accepting the evidence of Mr. Courtney. Based on the evidence I would characterize Mr. Courtney as a stoic individual…

[44] I have already found Mr. Courtney to be a stoic individual who does not complain and indeed his return to work post-collision is consistent with the behaviour of a hardworking, stoic individual. As noted, he should not be penalized as a result of his stoicism.

[45] In all of the circumstances, I conclude that an appropriate sum under this head is $70,000.

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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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