Reasons for judgment were released by the BC Supreme Court yesterday awarding a Plaintiff in a BC personal injury claim “costs” despite the fact that the Plaintiff’s award was within the small claims court jurisdiction.
This case gave me a good opportunity to write a little bit about the “costs’ consequences of bringing ICBC claims to trial and I intend to make this the first of several blog entries on this topic.
If you make an ICBC claim in BC Supreme Court and win (winning meaning you obtain a judgment in your favour greater than an ICBC formal settlement offer) you are generally entitled to ‘costs’ in addition to your award of damages.
For example, if a plaintiff with soft tissue injuries brings an ICBC claim to trial and is awarded $30,000 and ICBC’s formal settlement offer was $10,000, the Plaintiff would be entitled to “Costs” in addition to the $30,000 (barring any unusual developments at trial).
The purpose of awarding the winner Costs is to compensate them for having to go through the formal court process to get what is fair. This recognzes the fact that there are legal fees involved in bringing most ICBC claims to trial and one of the purposes of Costs is to off-set these to an extent.
Costs cover 2 different items, the first being disbursements (meaning the actual out of pocket costs of preparing a lawsuit for trial such as court filing fees and doctor’s fees in preparing medical reports) and the second being Tarriff costs – meaning compensation for many of the acutal steps in bringing a lawsuit in BC Supreme Court.
The Costs consequences after a BC Supreme Court Trial could easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars and this is often the case in many ICBC claims.
Costs are discussed in Rule 57 of the BC Supreme Court Rules and this rule is worth reviewing for anyone bringing an ICBC claim to trial in the BC Supreme Court. The winner does not always get their costs, however. One of the situations when a winner may not get their costs is when they are awarded an amount of money that was in the small claims court jurisdiction ($25,000 or less).
Rule 57(10) states that “A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.”
As a result of this sub-rule, people who bring an ICBC claim to trial in BC Supreme Court and are awarded less than $25,000, may be disentitled to their Tariff Costs unless they can show ‘sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court.”
In this weeks judgement the court agreed that despite the fact that the Plaintiff was awarded $12,290 in damages (an award well within the small claims court jurisdiction), the Plaintiff did have sufficient reason to bring the proceedings in Supreme Court.
In reaching this decision the court referred to a leading BC Court of Appeal Case where it was held that “a Plaintiff does not have an on-going obligation to assess the quantum (value) of a claim and that the point in time for a consideration of whether a plaintiff had a sufficient reason for bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court is the time of the initiation of the action.”
The lawyer for the Plaintiff argued that when the lawsuit was started they were not in a position to finalize their valuation of this claim becase they did nothave a final medical report commenting on the plaintiff’s injuries. Also that since the Defendant took an LVI (low velocity impact) position it was important to sue in Supreme Court to have an examination for discovery of the Defendant (a procedure not available in small claims court).
For those and other reasons the court agreed and awarded the Plaintiff her Tariff Costs.
Do you have questions about an ICBC Claim, or BC Court Costs that you wish to discuss with an ICBC claims lawyer? If so click here to arrange your free consultation with Victoria ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken.
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Reasons for judgment were released by the BC Supreme Court yesterday awarding a Plaintiff in a BC personal injury claim “costs” despite the fact that the Plaintiff’s award was within the small claims court jurisdiction.
After a 13 day trial in Vancouver, BC, reasons for judgement were released yesterday awarding a Plaintiff $45,000 plus special damages (out of pocket expenses for treatment of injuries) as a result of a 2001 BC car accident. This was a ‘headache claim’ and the primary issues were whether the Plaintiff’s headaches were caused by the BC car accident and if so, how much money the injury claim was worth.
At trial the BC personal injury lawyers on opposing sides were miles apart in their view of the value of the case in their submissions to the court. The Plaintiff’s lawyer alleged permanent impairment of her capacity to earn income and sought damages in excess of $900,000. The personal injury lawyers defending the claim responded that the Plaintiff only suffered from mild soft tissue injuries and that damages between $10,000 – $20,000 were appropriate.
It is quite common for lawyers on opposing sides of ICBC claims to take very different positions at trial and this case is a good example of how far apart 2 sides to an ICBC claim can be. In this case the Plaintiff presented a case of chronic headaches which interfered with tasks of daily living including work. The defence lawyers presented a case alleging mild soft tissue injury with headaches resolving a short time after the accident. At the end of the trial the court largely sided with the defence lawyer’s position.
The Plaintiff was 19 at the time of the accident. As she was driving the defendant turned left directly in front of her lane of travel. She had the right of way. She had time to step on the brake and the clutch of her vehicle, shift into neutral and brace herself for the impact. The accident was described as a t-bone collision by the Plaintiff although the court noted that the front left portion of the Plaintiff’s car struck the driver’s side door of the other vehicle in this BC car accident claim.
As is often the case in ICBC claims alleging an ‘impaired earning capacity‘ due to a BC motor vehicle accident, the court heard from a variety of doctors as ‘expert witnesses’.
Dr. Robinson, a neurologist who specializes in headache disorders, testified on behalf of the Plaintiff. He stated that her headaches ‘have features consistent with a diagnosis of chronic post-traumatic headache of a migrainous type.’
Dr. Chu, a physiatrist (specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation) testified that the accident “is the direct cause of (the plaintiff’s) mechanical left upper neck pain. This in turn is the cause of her secondary cervicogenic headaches”
Dr. Vincent, a cutting edge specialist in Anaesthesiology and Interventional Pain Medicine, also testified and gave evidence which ended up largely supporting the Defendant’s position. Dr. Vincent injected anaesthetic medications into the Plaintiff’s neck on two occasions. Unfortunately neither of the injections relieved the Plaintiff’s headache. After a rigorous cross-examination Dr. Vincent testified that the Plaintiff’s results were inconsistent with a ‘causal relationship between an injury…to the neck and the headaches the Plaintiff experiences.”
The defence lawyer relied on the opinion of Dr. Jones, a neurologist, who testified that the Plaintiff’s headaches are ‘true migraines that have arisen spontaneously and are unrelated to any injury to her neck or cervical spine’.
The court preferred the evidence of Dr. Jones. The court found that the BC accident ‘did cause an exacerbation of (pre-existing) headaches’ and that ‘those headaches largely resolved and (the Plaintiff) had returned to her pre-accident state of health within approximately 10 months following the accident.‘
The court found that there were problems with the Plaintiff’s evidence and that her present recall of symptoms in the months after the accident was ‘unreliable’. The ultimate finding was that all of the Plaintiff’s headaches sinced 2002 were ‘primarily migraine headaches that she would have developed (even without the accident)’.
The court awarded $45,000 for pain and suffering and the Plaintiff’s special damages up to March 16, 2002.
This case is a great example of the different positions opposing lawyers can take in court in an ICBC claim and results such as this one should be reviewed when in settlement negotiations with ICBC for a ‘headache’ claim as a result of a car accident.
Do you have questions about this case or an ICBC headache claim? Are you looking for a free consultation with a ICBC claims lawyer? If so click here to arrange a free consulation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.
If you are advancing an ICBC injury claim and started a court action in BC Supreme Court you may very well have to go through an ‘examination for discovery’. I have received numerous questions about the discovery process from people involved in ICBC claims through this website and thought I would summarize some of my comments in the below blog.
The usual summary I give when explaining what an examination for discovery (XFD) is to people who are not familiar with the term is to think about a ‘deposition’ as often depicted on TV legal dramas. In essence, a discovery is a pre-trial step in which the opposing lawyers get to ask a party to a lawsuit questions about the claim.
The rules of court governing the prosecution of civil (legal actions between two private citizens) claims requires disclosure of key facts and circumstances prior to a trial. In the context of ICBC claims, the discovery process permits the other lawyer to question a plaintiff about the accident and injuries, the effects of them on the plaintiff’s life and the financial losses that are being claimed.
Examinations for discovery are conducted under oath (or affirmation) and are conducted before a court reporter. This is not a formal process conducted before a judge, rather, it usually occurs in a business office owned and operated by private court reporters. The court reporter records the questions and answers.
There are 2 very broad purposes to examinations for discovery. The first is to learn all about the other side’s case. That is, to get the Plaintiff’s evidence first hand and in person regarding the accident and injuries. This helps the other lawyer weigh the credibility and reliability of the Plaintiff and to make an assessment of whether the Plaintiff will present well in court.
The second purpose is to damage the other sides case. A lawyer conducting a discovery has the right to use the questions and answers that he/she likes and to read these into the trial record should the claim proceed to court. For this reason it is essential that anybody advancing an ICBC claim is very well prepared prior to attending an examination for discovery. Any answer given that is harmful can and likely will be used by the other lawyer to harm the case should it proceed to trial.
For an example of how an answer at an examination for discovery can harm an ICBC claim just read the recent judgment of Yapyuco v. Paul, where Mr. Justice Curtis dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim in large part due to the answers given at her examination for discovery.
Preparation for discovery is a lengthy process and I can’t summarize all the useful advice as to how best to conduct oneself in a discovery in this short blog. I will, however, point out some of the typical things canvassed at discoveries of ICBC claims below.
Normally, a Plaintiff in an ICBC claim is questioned about the 14 below categories (I should point out that discoveries at ICBC claims are not limited to these categories, these are simply general categories of questions that often come up)
1. Your Personal History – such as name, age, date of birth, place of birth and family members details
2. Your Educational History – including all levels of education and academic accomplishments
3. Your work history including contact information for all employers
4. Your plans preceding the accident in terms of personal life and vocation
5. How these plans changed as a result of the accident
6. How the accident happened including details of speed, weather, lighting, distances and all injuries sustained in the accident
7. The course of treatment taken after the accident including the names of all doctors and therapists
8. Changes in lifestyle as a result of the accident including social, recrational , family, personal and employment changes. Addressing employment usually details of lost wages or wage earninng opportunities are canvassed as well.
9. Medical and personal status prior to the accident
10. Present condition and limitations
11. Present plans for employment and whether there are any restrictions on employment
12. Future plans for treatment
13. Details of activities that have been affected by the accident related injuries
14. The details of a typical day and what it is like to live with the injuries.
No 2 discoveries are alike and I stress again that the above is nether an exhastive list of the types of questions asked at discoveries involving ICBC claims nor are all of the above categories always covered at discoveries for ICBC claims.
Assuming you have hired a lawyer to assist you with your ICBC claim he/she will be present at the discovery and will object to any inappropriate questions posed by the other lawyer. If the discovery is conducted professionally by the ICBC lawyer the objections are usually few and far between. The lion’s share of work that an ICBC claims lawyer does is conducted prior to the discovery.
A good ICBC claims lawyer will ensure a client is well prepared, understands the process and understands how the answers given can be used to hurt the claim. ICBC cases are typically ‘record intensive’ and care must be taken in preparation to review these medical and other records to consider what use they may be put to at a discovery.
Do you have questions about an ICBC claim or an examination for discovery in a personal injury claim that you would like to discuss with an ICBC claims lawyer? If so, click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.
Reasons for judgement were released today following a 3 day trial in Vernon, BC in which Mr. Justice Cole awarded a 35 year old plaintiff close to $90,000 in compensation for her losses and injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
This case is worth a read for anyone advancing an ICBC claim or involved in ICBC settlement negotiations concerning the issue of ‘indivisble injuries’. That is, where an event other than the accident has contributed to the injuries sustained in the accident. I will say more about this below.
The Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end accident in Kelowna BC on June 30, 2005. Her vehicle was rearended by a truck driven by the Defendant. As a result of this incident she suffered from various soft tissue injuries and anxiety.
In early 2007, the Plaintiff was almost struck by a vehicle while she was in a cross-walk. This added to her anxiety issues.
The court heard from several medical experts who commented on the Plaintiff’s injuries. This is quite common in ICBC injury claims that proceed to trial as there is often 2 sides to the medical story. In this case, however, the medical evidence addressing the physical injuries was quite similar.
Dr. Laidlow, a physiatrist who often conducts ‘independent medical exams’ for ICBC, testified that the Plaintiff will be “prone to mechanical lower back pain…and may require the odd use of anti-inflammatories during times of flare up“.
Dr. Travlos, another physiatrist well versed in diagnosing and treating injuries related to ICBC claims, stated that “(the plaintiff’s) current residual neck and shoulder symptoms are a result of tjhe accident. It is likely that these symnptons will slowly continue to improve and ultimately resolve….the Plaintiff’s tailbone symptoms are clearly an ongoing issue…..the nature of her current low back / pelvic symptoms is intermittent and this bodes well for further recovery.”
The court also heard from the plaintiff’s family doctor who testified that there was room for improvement in the Plaintiff’s condition.
Possible future treatments for the injuries included trigger point injections, diagnostic injections, a facet joint rhizotomy and medicaitons.
In the end the court concluded that the Plaintiff sufferd a soft tissue injury “that would be described as the upper end of a moderate soft tissue injury that should resolve itself over time“. The court also found that the Plaintiff suffered from anxiety as a result of the collision in 2005 and the near collision in 2007. The Plaintiff claimed she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the collision and this was supported by the evidence of Dr. Neilson. The court, however, held that the Plaintiff did not make out this claim as the Plaintiff did not prove all the facts that were underlying Dr. Neilson’s diagnosis of PTSD.
The court awarded damages as follows:
Pain and Suffering (non pecuniary damages) $60,000
Special damages: $6,045
Past wage loss: $19,522.02
Future medical care: $400
Future Therapy: $1,000
This case did a great job reviewing 2 areas of law which frequently come up in many ICBC claims, namely claims for ‘loss of future earning capacity’ and claims where intervening events add or contribute to accident related injures.
As in many ICBC claims the Plaintiff had an intervening event which added to her anxiety. When valuing the injuries the court did a great job in summarizing how a court is to do so when the subsequent event caused an ‘indivisble injury’.
The court referenced some of the leading authorities in concluding the PTSD claim gave rise to an ‘indivisble injury’. Most experienced ICBC claims lawyers are familiar with these authoritative cases which the court referred to, particularly:
Athey v. Leonati
EDG v. Hammer
Ashcroft v. Dhaliwal
The court concluded that “I am satisfied, in this case, that the two incidents that the plaintiff was involved in are indivisble. The anxiety caused to the plaintiff by the second incident is directly connected to the accident involving the defendant. Since the individual that caused the second accident was not before the court, as was the case in Ashcroft, where there was a settlement of the claim, the defendant is liable for all of the plaintiff’s damages”
Do you have questions about this case or a similar ICBC case involving soft tissue injuries, post traumatic stress or an intervening event? If so click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.
Following a 3 day trial in Victoria, reasons for judgement were released today awarding an injured Plaintiff just over $70,000 in compensation as a result of 2 separate but allegedly related incidents.
The facts of this case are somewhat unique. The Plaintiff was injured in a BC car accident in August, 2005. Following an incident of ‘road rage’ the Defendant rear-ended the Plaintiff’s vehicle. Both the Defendant’s car and the Plaintiff’s van sustained significant damage in the impact. The Plaintiff sustained various injuries in this crash.
A few months later, the Plaintiff lost consiousness and fell and broke his leg while on a BC Ferry. The Plaintiff sued claiming the subsequent fall was related to the injuries sustained in the car accident.
Addressing injuries, Mr. Justice Metzger found that the Plaintiff suffered whiplash injuries as a result of the accident with associated severe headaches, neck and shoulder pain, limited right shoulder mobility, sleep disruption, nausea and some brief dizziness. He found that these symptoms “were improving at the time of his fall and loss of consciousness on the ferry, and but for the continuing headaches, were mostly resolved within 6 weeks of the motor vehicle accident“.
With respect to the fall the court found that the Plaintiff suffered a fractured right fibula and tibia. The court accepted that, as a result of this ankle injury, the Plaintiff was unable to enjoy skiing and curling anymore.
The court canvassed some important decisions in deciding whether the fall was in any way related to the car accident. The court reviwed 2 of the leading Supreme Court of Canada decisions often relied on by ICBC claims lawyers in advancing ICBC claims addressing the issue of ‘causation’, namely:
Athey v. Leonati
Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke
The court concluded that “the Plaintiff demonstrated that his MVA related symptoms contributed to his collapse on the ferry….I accept the Plaintiff’s testimony that he was overwhelmed with MVA related headache and neck pain immediately prior to the fainting incident…I find that the Plaintiff’s general fatigue and headach were significant factors in his loss of consciousness. There was a substantial connection between the injuries and the defendant’s conduct“.
The court went on the value the non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for each of the events seperately.
For the Whiplash injuries the court awarded non-pecuniary damages of $12,000 and then reduced these by 15% to account for “(the Plaintiff’s) failure to pursue treatment, which most likely would have mitigated his damages and hastened his recovery”
For the broken leg (ankle injury) the court awarded $20,000 for non-pecuniary damages and then also reduced these by 15% for the Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate. The court concluded that the Plaintiff failed to follow sensible advice from his doctor (to attend physiotherapy after the ankle injury) and this is what resulted in the reduction of damages.
The Plaintiff also was awarded damages for past loss of income and special damages (out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of the injuries).
If you are advancing an ICBC claim involving a subsequent injury (intervening injury) this case is worth a read to view some of the factors courts consider in determining whether accident related injuries contributed to a future event that is compensible in law. This decision also shows the ‘failure to mitigate’ argument in action which resulted in the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering damages being reduced by 15% for failing to follow his doctors advice.
Do you have questions about this case or an ICBC claim involving an intervening injury that you wish to discuss with an ICBC Claims lawyer? If so click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken.
Today the BC Court of Appeal overturned a jury verdict finding a left hand turning motorist completely at fault for a motor vehicle collision and awarding the injured Plaintiff over $1.2 Million in compensation for serious injuries.
The car accident happend in 2000 in Coquitlam BC. The Plaintiff was travelling southbound in the right hand lane on North Road. There was stopped traffic in the two southbound lanes to his left. The Defendant was travelling North on North Road and attempted to make a left hand turn into the Lougheed Mall parking lot. At this time he collided with the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The jury found the left-hand driver 100% at fault for this collision.
The jury went on to award damages as follows:
Non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) $300,000
Past Loss of Income: $275,000
Loss of Future Earning Capacity: $650,000
Cost of Future Care: $15,000
At trial the defence lawyer asked the judge to instruct the jury on the provisions of s. 158 of the Motor Vehicle Act. This section prohibits a driver from overtaking and passing a vehicle on the right when the movement cannot be made safely. The trial judge chose not to instruct the jury about this section.
The BC Court of Appeal held that it was an error in law not to do so, specifically that:
 In my opinion it was, in the circumstances of this case, a serious non- direction, amounting to a misdirection, to fail to draw the provisions of s. 158 to the attention of the jury. Section 158(2)(a) prohibits a driver from overtaking and passing another vehicle on the right when the movement cannot be made in safety. The jury could not have had a proper understanding of the parties’ relative obligations, and the standard of care each was to observe, without an instruction on the meaning and application of that section.
 I do not think this Court could properly decide how, if at all, fault should be apportioned. That question requires an appreciation of all the evidence, as well as a consideration of the credibility of the two drivers and the other witnesses.
 In my opinion, there must be a new trial on the issue of contributory negligence.
The Court ordered that the jury’s judgement be set aside and that the proceeding be generally returned to the BC Supreme Court for a new trial.
The result is, over 8 years after a very serious accident with serious injuries, If the Plaintiff is not able to come to a settlement of his ICBC Claim he will have to be involved in a second trial to address the allegations that he was partially at fault for his injuries and to prove the value of his losses all over again.
Section 158 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act is a rarely cited section but one of significant importance. Simply because you are in a through lane and are not governed by a stop sign or stop light does not mean you always have the right of way. If vehicles in your direction of travel have stopped and it is not clear why they have stopped it may not be safe to proceed. In this case it appears that vehicles may have stopped to permit the Defendant to turn left and the Plaintiff continued on. This case illustrates the potential use Section 158 of the Motor Vehicle Act may have for left hand turning motorists involved in a collision.
Do you have questions about this case or fault for an accident involving a left-turning vehicle that you wish to discuss with an ICBC Claims Lawyer? Click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC Claims lawyer Erik Magraken.
In reasons for judgement released today, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal of a very peculiar case. In doing so they clarified the law regarding ‘forseeability of injury’ which is a necessary ingredient to prove in negligence cases.
While this case does not involve an ICBC claim, this case is important because ‘forseeability’ must be proven in all negligence cases, and this includes ICBC car accident tort claims.
The facts of this case are unusual. The Plaintiff allegedly sustained a psychiactric injury as a result of seeing dead flies in a bottle of water supplied by Culligan. He had used Culligan’s services for many years. As a result of this “he became obsessed with the event and its revolting implications for the health of his family”. He went on to develop a major depressive disorder with associated phobia and anxiety.
At trial he was awarded over $300,000 in compensation. The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the verdict and thus this case was brought to the Supreme Court of Canada.
When suing for negligence (and this is the case in most ICBC car accident claims) a Plaintiff must prove 4 things:
1. That the defendant owed the Plaintiff a duty of care
2. That the defedant’s behaviour breached the standard of care
3. That the Plaintiff sustained damages
4. That the damages were caused, in fact and in law, by the Defenant’s breach.
The Supreme Court of Canada held that the Plaintiff met the first three tests to succeed in his action. It is the 4th test that the Plaintiff failed on and in explaining why the Supreme Court of Canada added some clarity to this area of law. The important portion of the judgement can be found at paragraphs 11- 18 which read as follow:
 The fourth and final question to address in a negligence claim is whether the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s harm in fact and in law. The evidence before the trial judge establishes that the defendant’s breach of its duty of care in fact caused Mr. Mustapha’s psychiatric injury. We are not asked to revisit this conclusion. The remaining question is whether that breach also caused the plaintiff’s damages in law or whether they are too remote to warrant recovery.
 The remoteness inquiry asks whether “the harm [is] too unrelated to the wrongful conduct to hold the defendant fairly liable” (Linden and Feldthusen, at p. 360). Since The Wagon Mound (No. 1), the principle has been that “it is the foresight of the reasonable man which alone can determine responsibility” (Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd. v. Morts Dock & Engineering Co.,  A.C. 388 (P.C.), at p. 424).
 Much has been written on how probable or likely a harm needs to be in order to be considered reasonably foreseeable. The parties raise the question of whether a reasonably foreseeable harm is one whose occurrence is probable or merely possible. In my view, these terms are misleading. Any harm which has actually occurred is “possible”; it is therefore clear that possibility alone does not provide a meaningful standard for the application of reasonable foreseeability. The degree of probability that would satisfy the reasonable foreseeability requirement was described in The Wagon Mound (No. 2) as a “real risk”, i.e. “one which would occur to the mind of a reasonable man in the position of the defendant … and which he would not brush aside as far-fetched” (Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd. v. Miller Steamship Co. Pty.,  A.C. 617, at p. 643).
 The remoteness inquiry depends not only upon the degree of probability required to meet the reasonable foreseeability requirement, but also upon whether or not the plaintiff is considered objectively or subjectively. One of the questions that arose in this case was whether, in judging whether the personal injury was foreseeable, one looks at a person of “ordinary fortitude” or at a particular plaintiff with his or her particular vulnerabilities. This question may be acute in claims for mental injury, since there is a wide variation in how particular people respond to particular stressors. The law has consistently held — albeit within the duty of care analysis — that the question is what a person of ordinary fortitude would suffer: see White v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police,  3 W.L.R. 1509 (H.L.); Devji v. Burnaby (District) (1999), 180 D.L.R. (4th) 205, 1999 BCCA 599; Vanek. As stated in White, at p. 1512: “The law expects reasonable fortitude and robustness of its citizens and will not impose liability for the exceptional frailty of certain individuals.”
 As the Court of Appeal found, at para. 49, the requirement that a mental injury would occur in a person of ordinary fortitude, set out in Vanek, at paras. 59-61, is inherent in the notion of foreseeability. This is true whether one considers foreseeability at the remoteness or at the duty of care stage. As stated in Tame v. New South Wales (2002), 211 C.L.R. 317,  HCA 35, per Gleeson C.J., this “is a way of expressing the idea that there are some people with such a degree of susceptibility to psychiatric injury that it is ordinarily unreasonable to require strangers to have in contemplation the possibility of harm to them, or to expect strangers to take care to avoid such harm” (para. 16). To put it another way, unusual or extreme reactions to events caused by negligence are imaginable but not reasonably foreseeable.
 To say this is not to marginalize or penalize those particularly vulnerable to mental injury. It is merely to confirm that the law of tort imposes an obligation to compensate for any harm done on the basis of reasonable foresight, not as insurance. The law of negligence seeks to impose a result that is fair to both plaintiffs and defendants, and that is socially useful. In this quest, it draws the line for compensability of damages, not at perfection, but at reasonable foreseeability. Once a plaintiff establishes the foreseeability that a mental injury would occur in a person of ordinary fortitude, by contrast, the defendant must take the plaintiff as it finds him for purposes of damages. As stated in White, at p. 1512, focusing on the person of ordinary fortitude for the purposes of determining foreseeability “is not to be confused with the ‘eggshell skull’ situation, where as a result of a breach of duty the damage inflicted proves to be more serious than expected”. Rather, it is a threshold test for establishing compensability of damages at law.
 I add this. In those cases where it is proved that the defendant had actual knowledge of the plaintiff’s particular sensibilities, the ordinary fortitude requirement need not be applied strictly. If the evidence demonstrates that the defendant knew that the plaintiff was of less than ordinary fortitude, the plaintiff’s injury may have been reasonably foreseeable to the defendant. In this case, however, there was no evidence to support a finding that Culligan knew of Mr. Mustapha’s particular sensibilities.
 It follows that in order to show that the damage suffered is not too remote to be viewed as legally caused by Culligan’s negligence, Mr. Mustapha must show that it was foreseeable that a person of ordinary fortitude would suffer serious injury from seeing the flies in the bottle of water he was about to install. This he failed to do. The only evidence was about his own reactions, which were described by the medical experts as “highly unusual” and “very individual” (C.A. judgment, at para. 52). There is no evidence that a person of ordinary fortitude would have suffered injury from seeing the flies in the bottle; indeed the expert witnesses were not asked this question. Instead of asking whether it was foreseeable that the defendant’s conduct would have injured a person of ordinary fortitude, the trial judge applied a subjective standard, taking into account Mr. Mustapha’s “previous history” and “particular circumstances” (para. 227), including a number of “cultural factors” such as his unusual concern over cleanliness, and the health and well-being of his family. This was an error. Mr. Mustapha having failed to establish that it was reasonably foreseeable that a person of ordinary fortitude would have suffered personal injury, it follows that his claim must fail.
If you are advancing and ICBC tort claim (a claim for damages against an at fault motorist insured by ICBC) you will have to keep the ‘forseeabilty’ test in mind and know the law as set out in this judgement.
The court also made an interesting comment about how the law views physical as compared to psychological injuries. At Paragraph 8 of the judgement, the court adopted the reasons from a 1996 case from the House of Lords which stated that “In an age when medical knowledge is expanding fast, and psychiatric knowledge with it, it would not be sensible to commit the law to a distinction between physical and psychiatric injury, which may already seem somewhat artificial, and may soon be altogether outmoded. Nothing will be gained by treating them as different “kinds” of personal injury, so as to require the application of different tests in law.”
It is good to know that the Supreme Court of Canada does not separate physical injuries from phychological injuries and treats both as real and compensable.
Do you have questions about this judgement or an ICBC injury claim that you wish to discuss with an ICBC claims lawyer? If so click here to contact ICBC Claims lawyer Erik Magraken for a free consultation.
BC Courts have heard many ICBC claims involving PTSD and Chronic Pain Syndrome. In reasons for judgement released this week Mr. Justice Cullen heard and dismissed a PTSD claim and Chronic Pain Syndrome claim as a result of a motor vehicle collision.
In 2004 the Plaintiff, who was a passenger in her boyfriend’s vehicle, was involved in a collision where her vehicle rear-ended the vehicle in front of her. The accident occurred on Nanaimo Street in Vancouver, BC. She advanced a tort claim against her boyfriend who was deemed to be the at-fault driver (a tort claim is the legal term used to describe a civil action, such as an ICBC claim for damages against an at fault driver).
ICBC, on the boyfriend’s behalf, admitted fault but disputed the alleged injuries. The Plaintiff claimed to suffer from soft tissue injuries to her neck and back, a myofacial pain syndrome and/or a pain disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As in alsmost all ICBC claims involving alleged chronic pain, the court heard from a number of expert witnesses including the Plaintiff’s family doctor, a physiotherapist, a physiatrist (rehabilitaiton specialist) a psychologist and an orthopaedic surgeon. The orthopaedic surgeon was a defence witness who conducted an ‘independent medical exam’ of the Plaintiff pursuant to the BC Rules of Court.
In the Plaintiff’s case evidence was led that she suffered from a ‘myofacial pain syndrome’ which was described as ‘a central nervous system disorder with peripheral manifestations of muscle tightness and soreness to palpation over areas called trigger points…areas in the muscles that are rich in nerve endings’.
A psychologist testified that the Plaintiff suffered from a Post Traumatic Pain Disorder (PTSD) and also that she suffered from ‘many symptoms of a pain disorder’.
The orthopaedic surgeon, who is often used by ICBC, testified that the Plaintiff suffered from soft tissue injuries to her neck, upper back and shoulders, along with some cuts and bruises. He dismissed the connection of the Plaintiff’s low back complaints to the accident by stating “There is a basic premise in medicine that if a site has been traumatized, that site becomes symptomatic immediately, right after the MVA or certainly within the first few days after the MVA”. He then testified that his physical examination of the Plaintiff was ‘completely normal’ and he regarded any soft tissue injuries sustained by the Plaintiff as resolved.
In the end the court rejected the Plaintiff’s claim for PTSD and Chronic Pain Disorder and found that the Plaintiff suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck, upper back and shoulder. The court also found that the Plaintiff’s low back symptoms which developed 3 months post accident were causally connected to the accident either through compensatory back pain of through myofacial pain syndrome. The court also found that the Plaintiff suffered from anxiety as a result of the accident and awarded $35,000 for pain and suffering, $560 for past out of pocket expenses and a further $700 to permit the Plaintiff to attend further counselling sessions with her pscyhologist to treat her anxiety.
This judgement is worth a quick read if you are advancing an ICBC claim involving chronic pain or PTSD to see some of the factors courts look at when weighing competing medical evidence. The judgement seems to be a compromise between the competing evidence accepting that the Plaintiff’s injuries, while not PTSD or Chronic Pain Syndrome, were not resolved by the time of trial. When considering settling an ICBC claim it is good to become familiar with how courts treat similar injuries and what the various outcomes at trial can be.
Do you have questions about an ICBC claim involving PTSD or Chronic Pain that you want to discuss with an ICBC Claims Lawyer? If so, click here to contact ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken for a free consultation.
In reasons for judgement released today, Mr. Justice Wilson awarded a total of $180,995.90 plus Court Costs in compensation to a young man who was injured as a passenger in a 2004 motor vehicle collision in Ucluelet, BC.
The Plaintiff was a back seat passenger. His vehicle left the road and hit a tree.
The court made its findings of fact addressing injuries at Paragraph 26 of the judgement where the court held that:
 In the result, then, I conclude that Mr. Thorp sustained a minor injury to his wrist which had cleared up within two weeks. I also conclude that he sustained a posterolateral dislocation of the right elbow. Although Mr. Thorp did well in his recovery in the initial period, he continues to have some restriction on range of motion and ongoing discomfort, particularly in performing physical activities. Although the pain may be due to the calcification in the elbow which might go away over time, he can expect to have that for a considerable period of time. I accept the opinion of Mr. Vanderboer that Mr. Thorp does have pain-related limitations in the strength of his right arm, and his endurance and tolerance for activity. I thus accept Mr. Vanderboer’s opinion that he is not physically capable of manual labour-type occupations, and the opinion of Dr. Gutmanis that if he chose to pursue more physical work, he would have greater likelihood of the development of post traumatic arthritis. I also accept Mr. Thorp’s evidence that, as a result of the ongoing pain, he has restricted many of his previous physical activities.
The court did a great job reviewing applicable case law addressing loss of future earning capacity at paragraphs 53-68 of the reasons for judgement. This was necessary because the Plaintiff was a young man with a potentially permanent elbow injury. The effects of this closed the door to certain employmnet opportunities thus giving rise to a claim for future wage loss. After applying the facts to the law Mr. Justice Wilson awarded a total of $50,000 for Loss of Future Earning Capacity.
Damages of $50,000 were awarded for Pain and Suffering and a further $80,000 was awarded for past wage loss.
This is one of the few recent BC court cases addressing fair compensation for non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for a dislocated elbow. The difficulty the lawyers had finding similar elbow injury cases to help guide the court is acknowledged at paragraph 29 of the judgement. If you are engaged in settlement negotiations with ICBC for pain and suffering for an elbow injury this case is worth a quick read.
Do you have questions you would like answerd by an ICBC Claims Lawyer regarding an elbow injury? Click here to contact Erik Magraken for a free consultation to discuss your claim.
In reasons for judgement released today from a Rule 66 “fast-track” trial, Mr. Justice Masuhara awarded a Plaintiff a total of $27,427.67 in compensation as a result of a September, 2004 rear-end accident which occurred in Coquitlam, BC.
The Plaintiff, a 33 year old female at the time of the accident, suffered soft tissue injuries including headaches, dizziness, nausea, sleep disturbance, and various soft tissue injuries.
The majority of the Plaintiff’s pain resolved by the time of trial with the exception of pain in her shoulder girdle and mid back.
The Plaintiff’s family physician testified that she suffered from “soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back as a result of the accident.” Treatments included trigger-point injections to the Plaintiff’s right shoulder blade muscles.
A physiatrist also gave expert opinion evidence that the accident caused neck injuries that had resolved and further had caused “injuries to her right posterior shoulder girdle region and mid back”. He expected the Plaintiff to make a good or very good recovery but his prognosis of a complete resolution was guarded.
The ICBC lawyer defending the case called an orthopaedic surgeon who had examined the Plaintiff on behalf of the defence. He testified that the Plainitff “suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury to her neck and upper back areas“, that he “would have expected the soft tissue symptoms to have resolved over the first 6-12 weeks following the accident ” and that the “ongoing musculoskeletal complaints are due to physical deconditioning that result from factors unrelated, or having little relationship to the accident“.
The court accepted the evidence of the Plaintiff’s physicians and found that the Plaintiff’s “persisting symptoms in the area of her right shoulder blade are as result of the accident”.
Damages were awarded as follows:
1. Non-pecuniary (pain and suffering): $25,000
2. Past Wage Loss: $974.67
3. Special Damages (out of pocket expenses) $1,453
Mr. Justice Masuhara deals with some common arguments often advanced by ICBC lawyers defending these types of claims including attacks on the Plaintiff’s credibility. His findings were favourable to the Plaintiff and a quick read of this judgement reveals some of the accusations Plaintiff’s often face whem advancing ICBC claims.