Tag: Fibromyalgia

$175,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Fibromyalgia and Somtatic Disorder

(The below judgement was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic physical and psychiatric injuries caused by a vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Kim v. Lin) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 collision the Defendants admitted fault for. She suffered soft tissue injuries and eventually developed fibromyalgia and a somatic disorder.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $175,000 Mr. Justice Sewell provided the following reasons:

[128]     I am satisfied, based on all of the evidence that I accept, that Ms. Kim has suffered soft tissue injuries to her back and SI joints as a result of the Accident, which have caused her considerable pain and discomfort. I am also satisfied that as a result of a combination of Ms. Kim’s physical pain and her personal circumstances, Ms. Kim developed the psychiatric disorders diagnosed by Dr. Shane and the fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome diagnosed by Dr. Krassioukov.

[129]     I find that Ms. Kim would not have developed the psychiatric and somatic disorders diagnosed by Drs. Shane and Krassioukov but for the injuries she suffered in the Accident. I therefore find that there is a substantial connection between the tortious conduct of the defendants and the damages and injuries from which Ms. Kim suffers.

[130]     I also find that there is no credible evidence that at the time of the Accident Ms. Kim was suffering from a pre-existing condition that would have had an adverse effect on her future health or capacity. I therefore find that there is no basis for making any deduction from her damages based on any substantial possibility that her health or capacity would have declined in any event…

[152]     In this case, I am satisfied that Ms. Kim’s disability is permanent, in the sense that it is more probable than not that she will continue to suffer from the injuries caused by the Accident for the foreseeable future. Ms. Kim has, however, not suffered any degree of cognitive impairment. The evidence does indicate that there has been some improvement in her overall condition since she moved to Nanaimo and that she has benefitted from counselling with Miyoung Cho, a Korean-speaking psychologist.

[153]     Taking all of the circumstances into account, I assess non-pecuniary damages at $175,000.

$130,000 Non Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Fibromyalgia

Adding to this site’s archived ICBC fibromyalgia cases, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry dealing with such an injury.
In last week’s case (SR v. Trasolini) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 rear end collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  Although causation was vigorously contested, the Court conclude the collision caused a fibromyalgia condition which left the plaintiff partially disabled with chronic symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $130,000 Madam Justice Ballance provided the following reasons:
[169]      The injuries sustained by Ms. R. have caused her years of suffering, fluctuating degrees of chronic pain all over her body that is sometimes quite severe, and the concomitant diminution of joy and pleasure to most aspects of her life.  Although her symptoms have gradually improved, particularly in the year or so leading up to trial, they remain sufficiently significant to continue to meet the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  The expert opinion evidence that I accept is skeptical that Ms. R. will ever fully recover to her former self despite her completion of the Pain Program, commitment to physiotherapy and other treatment modalities and reasonable exercise when she is able.
[170]     A formerly outgoing, sociable and highly energized and engaged woman, Ms. R. is now more reclusive and has had to lean heavily on her aging mother to perform her share of household chores and, for about a six-month period, to assume most of her personal grooming.  She worries about her future, including how she will be able to care for her elderly mother in the passing years.
[171]     The Accident has left Ms. R. to confront the grim reality that she has an incurable and complex syndrome that manifests as chronic pain and an array of other unwelcome physical, psychological and cognitive impairments.  For years to come, possibly indefinitely, she will be vulnerable to episodic aggravation of her physical symptoms, which in turn, will disrupt her sleep and produce an adverse effect on her overall emotional and cognitive well-being.  The person she was before the Accident has been forever altered.
[172]     While the toll taken on Ms. R. by the ill-effects of the Accident have been life- altering domestically, emotionally, recreationally, socially and vocationally, the most deleterious consequence for her is that it has limited her ability to fully realize her most passionate of life’s goals, namely to serve her faith.
[173]     I have reviewed all of the cases placed before me by counsel.  I do not propose to review them in detail as they provide general guidelines only, other than to say that only one of the authorities relied on by the defendants involved a plaintiff afflicted with fibromyalgia or a chronic pain syndrome.  Ms. R.’s authorities are far more instructive in light of their factual similarities to her circumstances; even still, they are not determinative.
[174]     Having considered the evidence as a whole and the application of the governing principles, it is my opinion that a fair and reasonable award for Ms. R.’s non-pecuniary damages is $130,000.

Why Labels Don't Matter – More on BC Injury Claims and Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessments

When assessing damages for injuries the BC Supreme Court will not address the injuries as ‘items on a grocery list’.   The exact label attached to an injury is far less important than the ways in which an injury compromises a Plaintiff’s life.  This was highlighted in a recent judgement from the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry.
In the recent decision (McKay v. Powell) the Plaintiff was involved in three rear-end collisions.  As a result she suffered from a chronic pain disorder.  As is often the case, in the course of her lawsuit the Plaintiff was assessed by a variety of physicians who had competing diagnoses for the Plaintiff’s symptoms, namely fibromyalgia vs thoracic outlet syndrome.  Demonstrating that whatever the correct diagnosis, the symptoms were caused by the collision and the plaintiff was entitled to appropriate compensation, Mr. Justice Meiklem provided the following reasons:
[44]         Clearly the cumulative effects of the three accidents in this case have placed Ms. McKay in a position where she has chronic pain disorder as stated by Dr. Mosewich, regardless of the lack of consensus as to whether there is possibly a thoracic outlet syndrome or fibromyalgia in play. No expert has ventured a specific prognosis as to complete resolution of her symptoms. Dr. Wade holds out a hope that further rehabilitation with exercises will reduce her symptoms while participating in daily activities, recreation and occupation. Dr. Mosewich recommended regular exercise and physiotherapy, but recognized a continuing need for pain modulating medication. If Dr. Apel’s diagnosis of fibromyalgia is correct, the plaintiff’s condition will wax and wane, but there will be no full recovery…
[50]         Considering the cited cases, the individual circumstances in the present case, and the factors relevant to assessing this head of damages as set out in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, I assess non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $65,000.

It is Common Sense that "Constant and Continuous Pain Takes its Toll"

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal making it clear that it is a matter of common sense that chronic pain can, over time, have a detrimental effect on a person’s ability to work.
In today’s case (Morlan v. Barrett) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  She was ultimately diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  At trial the Court awarded significant damages for diminished earning capacity despite the Plaintiff having no past loss of income.
The Defendant appealed arguing that the Judge erred in awarding these damages because the judge relied on “common experience that a person with a stable but persistent energy-draining condition will find it more difficult to continue working as he or she grows older“.  The Defendant argued that this was speculative and there was no evidence to suggest this is so.
While some of the Plaintiff’s damages were ultimately reduced, the BC Court of Appeal was quick to dismiss the above argument finding it was simply a matter of common sense that chronic pain takes its toll.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[41] Accepting that, to use the expression used at trial and at the hearing of this appeal, Ms. Morlan’s condition had “plateaued”, the fact remains that she would forever suffer from debilitating chronic pain along with headaches, symptoms that could be reduced, but not eliminated, by medication.  In other words, throughout each and every day of her life, Ms. Morlan would have to cope with some level of discomfort.  In my view, it was open to the trial judge to find—essentially as a matter of common sense—that constant and continuous pain takes its toll and that, over time, such pain will have a detrimental effect on a person’s ability to work, regardless of what accommodations an employer is prepared to make.

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Aggravation of Fibromyalgia; Rule 15 Soft Cap Exceeded

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for an aggravation of pre-existing fibromyalgia.
In this week’s case (Paradis v. Gill) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  Fault was admitted.  Despite expressing some “reservations in accepting the entirety of the evidence put forth in the plaintiff’s case” Mr. Justice Masuhara accepted that the collision caused an aggravation of pre-existing fibromyalgia which was on-going by the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 the Court provided the following reasons:
[73] Applying the principles of causation as set out in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 333; Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458; and most recently in Farrant v. Laktin, 2011 BCCA 336, as well as recognizing the comment that courts should exercise caution when there is little objective evidence of continuing complaints of pain persisting beyond what the defence asserts is the normal recovery period, I find that the Accident aggravated Ms. Paradis’ condition of fibromyalgia.  My view is that Ms. Paradis’ pain is predominantly in the mild to moderate range (though it can increase) and relates to her lower back; that she suffered from back and neck pain as well as headaches prior to the Accident but not as great; that she is able to stand far longer than she says; that she has the capacity to lift more than she asserts; and can engage in more activities than the physical capacity concludes.  The plaintiff also has full range of motion at her neck, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, lower back, hips, knees, ankles and feet.  A significant part of her physical restrictions are not substantially related to aggravation from the Accident but rather to the unrepaired injury to her left knee, the osteoarthritis found in her knees, as well as her weight.  However, I find that she has suffered some loss of capacity…

[83] Ms. Paradis had a history of back, neck and knee pain, and headaches prior to the Accident.  Also, the medical evidence indicates that Ms. Paradis has full range of motion in all areas of her body, from her neck to her feet.

[84] The authorities referred to by the plaintiff in support of its position on quantum largely do not deal with persons with a pre-existing condition of pain comparable to the plaintiff.  The cases also deal with persons who enjoyed activities that were more significantly impacted by their injuries than in the instant case.  In my view, the injuries in the cases submitted by the defendant are somewhat more comparable to the plaintiff.  Also, I accept that Ms. Paradis’ level of pain and disability can be significantly controlled with proper management.  The defence’s position that some recognition for the plaintiff not taking reasonable steps to reduce her weight is addressed later under mitigation.

[85] In all of the circumstances, I assess general damages as $40,000.

This case also appears to be one of the first cases to be prosecuted under the Fast Track with damages exceeding the soft cap.  Despite the cap set out in Rule 15-1(1)(a), Rule 15-1(3) states that “nothing in this rule prevents a court from awarding damages to a plaintiff in a fast track action for an amount in excess of  $100,000“.  This week’s case was apparently prosecuted under the fast track (as is evidenced by the Court’s costs award set out in paragraph 119) and had global damages of $116,238 assessed.

Defence Expert's Evidence Rejected in Fibromyalgia Trial Based on "Advocacy"

As previously discussedexpert witnesses have a duty to be objective when giving their evidence and opinions in a BC Supreme Court trial.  Rule 11-2 specifically sets out that “In giving an opinion to the court, an expert appointed under this Part by one or more parties or by the court has a duty to assist the court and is not to be an advocate for any party.”
If experts fail to abide by this requirement they risk having their opinions rejected and further being criticized by the Court.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, highlighting such a result.
In last week’s case (Marchand v. Pederson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.  It was a rear-end collision and fault was admitted.  The trial focused on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Court heard competing expert witnesses with the Plaintiff’s physiatrist (Dr. Apel) providing evidence that the collision caused various injuries including fibromyalgia.
This opinion was contradicted by a physiatrist retained by the Defendant (Dr. Nowak) who provided an opinion that the collision played a lesser role in the Plaintiff’s symptoms.
Dr. Nowak’s opinion was largely rejected with the court placing little weight on it.  Non-pecuniary damages of $65,000 were awarded with the Court providing the following reasons in assessing damages and criticizing the defence expert:
[44] I find Dr. Nowak’s evidence to be problematic. He initially refuses to answer a question based on assumptions. It is clear that he is wrong in his reading of the intake report of Dr. Kinakin where he assumed that the pain was remaining constant. He is not accurate in the date of the last chiropractic treatment. I am of the view that Dr. Nowak is more of an advocate than an expert and I give very little weight to his evidence. I prefer the evidence of Dr. Apel when it comes to the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and the other conclusions reached by Dr. Apel. I am satisfied that the plaintiff may have improved somewhat from her last visit with Dr. Apel but I am satisfied that she continues to suffer a long term disability in respect to the fibromyalgia in the lower and upper back. I accept Ms. Phillips’ functional capacity evaluation and the limitations that the plaintiff has in respect to job opportunities because of her physical restrictions. I am also satisfied that the report of Dr. Wallace is fair and balanced and should be given a great deal of weight. I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that she stopped seeing her chiropractor, Dr. Kinakin, because she no longer had pain, but the chiropractor asked her to continue to see him because he was of the view that she had subluxation, which is poor posture so he was giving her treatment for that. She confirmed that she did not have any pain when she stopped seeing Dr. Kinakin. I accept her evidence….
[46] The function of non-pecuniary damages is to compensate the plaintiff for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. Taking into account the relatively young age of the plaintiff (she is now 24 years old), the chronic nature of her injuries, the severity and duration of her pain, her disabilities, her emotional suffering and loss of her social and marital life, I am of the view that a proper award would be in the amount of $65,000.

Fibromyalgia Claim Fails, $6,000 Awarded for 3 Month Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with the connection between Fibromyalgia and a motor-vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Anderson v. Minhas) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 rear-end collision in Surrey, BC.  The Plaintiff was injured in this crash and she ultimately was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  She claimed this troubling condition was caused by the collision and sued for damages.  Mr. Justice Bernard ruled that the Plaintiff failed to prove that the accident was a cause of her Fibromyalgia and dismissed most of her claimed damages.
The Court found that the crash caused a whiplash injury of 3 months duration and assessed non-pecuniary damages at $6,000.  In dismissing the fibromyalgia claim and valuing non-pecuniary damages Mr. Justice Bernard provided the following reasons:

[74]         Applying, then, the “but for” test, I conclude that the evidence falls far short of proving, on a balance of probabilities, that but for the negligence of the defendant, Ms Anderson would not have developed fibromyalgia. In reaching this conclusion I take into account, inter alia, the absence of convincing medical opinion in this regard, the minor nature of the collision, the absence of credible evidence of a temporal nexus between the collision and the onset of symptoms, the reliable evidence of the plaintiff’s return to her pre-collision state within two months of the collision, the chronic and acute pre-collision health complaints of the plaintiff, and the significant hiatus in doctor visits in a critical post-collision period.

[75]         The plaintiff suffered a whiplash injury in the collision. The evidence suggests that it was most likely an exacerbation of an existing complaint. Shortly after the injury she began a course of physiotherapy. Reliable evidence in this regard shows that she responded well to treatment and was substantially recovered within six weeks. The defendant submits that the injuries, or any exacerbation of a pre-existing injury, attributable to the defendant were fully resolved within three months, at most. I agree. A generous view of the evidence establishes, at most, a three-month period to full recovery to Ms Anderson’s pre-collision state. The plaintiff’s losses must be assessed accordingly….

[78]         In assessing the non-pecuniary damages for Ms Anderson, I am unable to distinguish her losses from the ordinary sort of losses most suffer from a minor whiplash injury. I am, however, satisfied that the plaintiff was more fragile than many others would have been at the time of the collision and that, therefore, her post-collision aches and pains may well have been greater than those experienced by an otherwise strong and healthy person. I am satisfied that Ms Anderson’s life was negatively affected by the injury, or re-injury, and that during the three-month recovery period her relationships suffered to some degree, she endured some pain and discomfort, she lost some sleep, she opted out of some leisure and sport activities, and she was put to various inconveniences. For this three-month period of pain and suffering, with due regard to the cases cited, I assess her damages at $6,000. Any lost homemaking capacity in this period is subsumed into this award.

Diminished Earning Capacity Awards Without Past Wage Loss

(UPDATE February 9, 2012:  The Damages in the below case for Diminished Earning Capacity and Cost of Future Care were reduced somewhat by the BC Court of Appeal on February 9, 2012)

A common misconception is that a person cannot claim for diminished earning capacity (future wage loss) in an ICBC Claim when there has been no past wage loss.  As I’ve previously discussed, this simply is not true.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In last week’s case (Morlan v. Barrett) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate motor vehicle collisions.  Fault was admitted by the Defendants in both actions.  The Court found that both crashes caused a single indivisible injury (chronic widespread pain eventually diagnosed as fibromyalgia).
The Plaintiff’s injuries and limitations caused her to change employment to a job that was less physically demanding.  Fortunately, her new job paid a better salary and the Plaintiff had no past wage loss from the time of her first crash to the time of trial.  Her injuries, however, were expected to cause ongoing limitations and the Plaintiff claimed damages for diminished future earning capacity.  Mr. Justice Stewart agreed the Plaintiff was entitled to these damages and assessed the loss at $425,000.  In reaching this assessment Mr. Justice Stewart gave the following useful reasons:
[7] The plaintiff found work at the Electrical Industry Training Institution (EITI) in 2008 and is employed there as a Program Coodinator.  The job is far less demanding and the commute is only 20 minutes.  The job is also far less rewarding in terms of job satisfaction.  Having to change jobs was a huge blow and this will be reflected in the non-pecuniary damages I award later.  By happenstance the plaintiff’s salary actually went up when she switched jobs.  For that reason there is no claim for loss of earning capacity to the date of trial.  But there is a claim for loss of opportunity to earn income – including benefits – in the future…

[17]        Pure happenstance resulted in her suffering no loss of income to the date of trial, i.e., she got a less demanding job which happened to pay more than her job at the B.C. Fed.  But a reduction in her capacity to earn income has been made out.  Her having to give up her job at the B.C. Fed demonstrates that the circle of secretarial or administrative positions for which she could, if necessary, compete has been narrowed.  (Exhibit 6, a “Functional Capacity Evaluation” and Exhibit 5, the report of an “Occupational Health Physician” simply confirm the obvious.)  To put it in familiar terms:  she is less marketable as an employee; she is less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment; she has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might otherwise have come her way; and she is less valuable to herself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market (Rosvold v. Dunlop, 2001 BCCA 1 at paragraph 10).  The live issue is whether there is a real and substantial possibility that the reduction in her capacity to earn income will in fact result in lost income – including benefits – in the future (Sobolik v. Waters, 2010 BCCA 523, paragraphs 39-43).

[18]        As noted earlier, having considered the whole of the evidence placed before me I rely on the evidence of the plaintiff’s family physician, Dr. Beck, as I peer into my crystal ball and consider the plaintiff’s future.

[19]        The fact that the balance of the medical evidence does not replicate what Dr. Beck said at Exhibit 4 page 6 – that the plaintiff has “plateaued even slightly worsened over the past year” – and indeed the evidence of the rheumatologist, Dr. Shuckett is quite different – is neither here nor there as having considered the whole of it I say as the trier of fact that Dr. Beck was an impressive, thoughtful witness of great experience who offered up her opinion against a background of having dealt with the plaintiff for 25 years and, more particularly, having had close supervision of the plaintiff’s medical condition since January 6, 2007 and the advent of the motor vehicle accidents.  In saying that I have not lost sight of the fact that Dr. Beck has in fact retired.

[20]        Having considered the whole of the evidence together, I say that three real and substantial possibilities have been made out:  that the plaintiff’s condition will improve; that the plaintiff’s condition will remain as it is; and that the plaintiff’s condition will worsen.  In “giv[ing] weight according to their relative likelihood” to these three hypothetical events I find that the possibility of her condition improving barely rises above mere speculation and that the possibility of her remaining the same and the possibility of her condition worsening are both great (Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458 at paragraph 27).

[21]        I find that there most certainly is a real and substantial possibility that the reduction in the plaintiff’s capacity to earn income will result in lost income – including benefits – in the future.  Beyond the fact that nothing in life is certain and that she may yet find herself on the job market there is the real and substantial possibility that even if she remains in her current job until the end of her working career, her working career will end earlier than it would otherwise have absent the effects on the plaintiff of the defendants’ negligence.  That is so because it is a real and substantial possibility that her fibromyalgia will remain as it is but common experience dictates that as one moves into one’s latter years the ability to work in spite of a condition that drains one’s energy diminishes.  Independently of that, it is a real and substantial possibility that the plaintiff’s fibromyalgia – and with it loss of energy – will worsen.  I make that finding having considered the whole of the evidence including that of the plaintiff as to her recent experience and of all of the doctors and concluded as the trier of fact that I rely most on the evidence of Dr. Beck.

[22]        I take into account factors beyond those that relate to the state of the health of the plaintiff and her ability to work.  The plaintiff has established a real and substantial possibility – not mere speculation – that had she not had to forfeit her job at the B.C. Fed she would have, within a few years of the date of the motor vehicle accidents, taken advantage of an opportunity to perhapsmove up in the hierarchy of the B.C. Fed to the point of becoming a Director and with that received an increase in salary and benefits.  That is the net effect of the evidence of the plaintiff and of Lynda Bueckert.  Moreover, as of January 6, 2007 the plaintiff had to assume that she would retire from the B.C. Fed when she turned 65.  After January 6, 2007 the law changed.  I find that the plaintiff’s love for her job at the B.C. Fed combines with my picture of what she was before January 6, 2007 and results in my accepting her evidence to the effect that it is a real and substantial possibility that absent the defendants’ negligence she would have continued to work at the B.C. Fed even after she had turned 65.  I have considered the positive and negative vagaries of life, i.e., the contingencies.  Having considered the whole of it I award the plaintiff $425,000.

Expert Witness Criticized by BC Supreme Court for "Advocacy"


Further to my previous posts on this topic, expert witnesses have a duty to be objective when giving their evidence and opinions in a BC Supreme Court trial.  Rule 11-2 specifically sets out that “In giving an opinion to the court, an expert appointed under this Part by one or more parties or by the court has a duty to assist the court and is not to be an advocate for any party.”
In addition to the above, the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons (the governing body for BC doctors) has provided the following feedback to its members:  “ Additionally, whether physicians are acting as experts in the capacity of treating physicians or independent medical experts, they still must provide balanced and objective reports.   The College does recommend that, when asked to provide an expert opinion, treating physicians discuss with their patients the physician’s duty to assist the court and not be an advocate for any party.”
If experts fail to give objective evidence their opinions can be excluded from trial and they open themselves to criticism from the trial judge.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Warkentin v. Riggs) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The Plaintiff sustained various injuries including an alleged post traumatic Fibromyalgia Syndrome.  In support of her case the Plaintiff filed several medical reports.  The Defendant objected to one of these being introduced on the basis that the expert ignored his duty to the Court and presented his evidence not as a neutral expert but rather as an ‘advocate‘.  Madam Justice Gropper agreed and excluded the expert’s evidence.  In doing so the Court provided the following harsh criticism:
[58] Dr. Hunt’s report adopts a particular format. He uses bold font to highlight words and phrases which benefit the plaintiff’s claim and support his diagnosis. This is apparent in his review of Ms. Warkentin’s history and medical reports. That which is contrary to the plaintiff’s claim or does not support his diagnosis is either omitted or presented in non-bolded font. This emphasis in support of the plaintiff’s claim and the exclusion of contrary matters is advocacy…

[81]        I find that Dr. Hunt is not a neutral and impartial expert providing assistance to the court, but rather an advocate on behalf of the plaintiff. The report is argument, not opinion. He did not provide a balanced discussion of fibromyalgia and its possible application to the plaintiff’s case. His discussion of the medical principles and their application to the plaintiff’s case is biased, argumentative and contrary to the requirements for the admissibility of an expert report.

[82]        Dr. Hunt’s own description of his role as an “Expert Medical Legal Consultant providing opinions on behalf of patients with chronic pain who are seeking legal remedies with respect to their condition” indicates that he does not consider his role as an expert to be that of an objective advisor to the court.

[83]        Dr. Hunt’s perceived role is amply demonstrated in his report. The format he uses is designed to emphasize matters which support the plaintiff’s claim and his diagnosis.

[84]        Dr. Hunt presents the medical literature in a manner that suggests that there is consensus about the causal connection between motor vehicle accidents and the onset of fibromyalgia. He attempted to mislead the court regarding the medical literature upon which he relies by referring only to portions which support his diagnosis and prognosis and omitting portions which do not. He does not refer to the cautions and qualifications in the medical literature. He is not current with the medical literature, notably the 2006 prospective longitudinal study by Tischler, which was conducted specifically in order to test the conclusions of the Buskila study.

[85]        Dr. Hunt’s testimony, particularly in cross-examination, supports my conclusions about his report; he acted as the plaintiff’s advocate rather than as an independent expert.

[86]        Dr. Hunt’s report of March 27, 2009 is likely to distort the fact-finding function of the trier of fact, and therefore its prejudicial effect far outweighs its probative value. I find that it is inadmissible. Because the rebuttal report is a reiteration, it is also inadmissible. I specifically reject Dr. Hunt’s diagnoses as expressed in the report and his medical opinion that they were caused by the accident. I reject Dr. Hunt’s diagnosis and prognosis of fibromyalgia and his opinions about the plaintiff’s functional limitations associated with fibromyalgia.

Ultimately the Court accepted that the Plaintiff did suffer from fibromyalgia but that this was not related to the motor vehicle collision.  Madam Justice Gropper found that the Plaintiff did sustain soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulder along with headaches as  a result of the crash.  $50,000 was awarded for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages.

In addition to the discussion of ‘advocacy‘ this decision is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s discussion of the relationship between fibromyalgia and trauma.

BC Court of Appeal Discusses Pain and Suffering Damages for Fibromyalgia; Overturns Trial Award

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing an appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for accident related Fibromyalgia.
In today’s case (Poirer v. Aubrey) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 rear-end car crash in BC.  She suffered injuries which resulted in chronic pain.  There was evidence that some of the effects of her injuries were likely permanent.  At trial the Plaintiff was awarded just over $220,000 in total damages for her injuries and loss (click here to read my summary of the trial judgement).
The Plaintiff appealed arguing that the damage award was low and the trial judge made an error in finding that there was a ‘real and substantial possibility…that (the Plaintiff’s) pain and discomfort will be relieved and her functioning improved“.  The BC High Court agreed that the evidence did not support such a finding and that the trial award was low.  The Court substituted an award of $528,503 which included an increase in the non-pecuniary damages award of $60,000 to $100,000.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss for chronic pain from soft tissue injuries at $100,000 the BC Court of Appeal noted as follows:

[25]         I consider the evidence establishes that, as the judge said, there is a “real and substantial possibility” Ms. Poirier’s injury will prove to be permanent.  There is no cure.  There is treatment for her condition, but the prospect of her pain being relieved to a significant degree is indeed guarded.  She is unlikely to ever be pain free and can at best hope that, with continued treatment, she may in time achieve a sufficient reduction in her pain and increase in her functioning that would permit her to regain some of the enjoyment of her life she has lost and to undertake part time employment.

[26]         Ms. Poirier cites three awards in particular that she says reflect what plaintiffs who have suffered somewhat comparable non-pecuniary losses to hers have been awarded: Hooper v. Nair, 2009 BCSC 862; Barnes v. Richardson, 2008 BCSC 1349, aff’d 2010 BCCA 116; and Djukic v. Hahn, 2006 BCSC 154, aff’d 2007 BCCA 203.  The respondents cite Heartt v. Royal, 2000 BCSC 1122; Mowat v. Orza, 2003 BCSC 373; and Esau v. Myles, 2010 BCSC 43.  These awards reflect a broad range: those cited by the respondents are $50,000 to $70,000; those cited by Ms. Poirier are $85,000 to $125,000.  I consider Ms. Poirier’s loss to be more consistent with the losses in the awards she cites.  Of particular significance is the permanent nature of her injury that causes her ongoing debilitating pain, the effect it has had and will continue to have on the enjoyment of her life, and the uncertainty there is that her condition will in time improve even to the point of permitting her to return to work part time.

[27]         I would set aside the judge’s award of $60,000 for non-pecuniary loss and substitute an award of $100,000.

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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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