Tag: frozen shoulder

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Frozen Shoulder and Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries sustained as a result of a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Wepryk v. Juraschka) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision.  She was a passenger and the driver of her vehicle lost control resulting in a roll over collision.  Liability was admitted.  The 43 year old Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries and while she was able to continue working as a hairdresser these injuries limited her abilities to do so.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Ehrcke provided the following reasons:

[9] All of the doctors are agreed that Ms. Wepryk suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, left shoulder, and upper back as a result of the accident, and that she continues to experience pain, discomfort and occasional headaches from these injuries at the time of trial, three and one-half years after the accident.

[10] In addition, Dr. Chan was of the opinion that Ms. Wepryk suffered adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder as a result of the accident. Dr. Loomer did not agree with that conclusion. Dr. Chu had no opinion on the causation of the adhesive capsulitis. Dr. Smith agreed with the opinion of Dr. Chan. On a balance of probabilities, I accept the opinion of Dr. Chan, although not a great deal turns on this, since, as Dr. Chu expressed it, the left adhesive capsulitis is “the least of her problems”.

[11] There was also a disagreement between Dr. Smith and Dr. Tessler regarding the causation of left C-8 sensory neuropathy. Again, I find that nothing of significance turns on this, as these symptoms were minor and transient.

[12] The important fact is that the defendants accept that Ms. Wepryk suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, her left shoulder, and between her shoulder blades, and that she continues to experience pain to this day. As Dr. Smith put it in his report dated February 26, 2012:

More than three years have passed since Ms. Wepryk’s motor vehicle accident of December 5, 2008. In terms of prognosis, Ms. Wepryk unfortunately has fallen into the 10% of patients still with symptoms more than two years after their motor vehicle accident. Therefore, Ms. Wepryk’s prognosis to return to pre motor vehicle accident levels of functioning is poor, and Ms. Wepryk must now learn to cope with what I believe is a permanent functional impairment.

[13] I accept that conclusion, notwithstanding that Dr. Loomer expressed a “hope” of improvement. In cross-examination, even he agreed that there is no definite evidence that she will get better.

[14] It is likely, therefore, that Ms. Wepryk will continue to suffer from the pain to her neck, left shoulder and upper back, along with occasional headaches. Her symptoms are aggravated when she has to perform activities that require her to raise her arms, or to use her left shoulder. This has an impact on her work as a hairdresser, which requires such activities. It also has an impact on her recreational activities and activities of daily life….

[35] While reference to previous cases provides useful guidance, every case must be assessed on its own particular facts. Here, the plaintiff, who was 43-years-old at the time of the accident and who enjoyed an active lifestyle, suffered soft-tissue injuries to her neck, left shoulder, and upper back. Now, more than three and one-half years after the accident, her pain and discomfort have not fully resolved, and she is likely to have some residual effects for the indefinite future. She continues to have headaches three or four times a month, and she cannot engage in vigorous physical activities, particularly those that require her to raise her left arm above her shoulder-level, without experiencing pain. She therefore finds it difficult to be as physically active as she was before the accident. She says that she has gained some weight as a result, although the medical evidence suggests that any weight gain has been modest.

[36] In the circumstances of this case, on the facts as I have found them, and considering the factors set out in Stapley v. Hejslet, I find the proper assessment of non-pecuniary damages to be $50,000.

$75,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Frozen Shoulder, STI's and Headaches

In lengthy reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court (Peake v. Higo) Mr. Justicer Brown awarded a 52 year old Plaintiff approximately $170,000 in total damages as a result of a 2003 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff had pre-existing pain in her neck and back and these were aggravated as a result of this collision.  Additionally, the Plaintiff suffered a frozen left and right shoulder as a result of this collision.
In justifying a non-pecuniary damages award (pain and suffering) of $75,000 the court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[145]        Considering all the pertinent evidence before me, I find that the plaintiff suffered an aggravation of pre-existing neck and low back pain that she had been experiencing at the time of the accident, together with the imposition of some new soft tissue injuries in those areas.  I find that when she was experiencing neck and back pain in the month or so preceding the accident, she was in a highly emotional psychological state that was magnifying her perception of pain at that time.  To take her symptoms at this time as representative of her physical health would be inaccurate and unfair, given her medical history as a whole and the accepted evidence of witnesses who testified about her pre-accident functioning and activities.  The plaintiff herself acknowledges that 90% would be a fair representation of her pre-accident health.  The evidence of Dr. Regan, which I have accepted with some minor qualification, is clear that the 2003 accident cannot be burdened with all of Mrs. Peake’s on-going post accident neck and back symptoms and headaches.

[146]        Mrs. Peake exhibited pre-accident degenerative changes in her cervical spine.  Dr. Webb commented that Mrs. Peake’s degenerative cervical spine, exhibited by x-ray and MRI imaging, pre-disposes her to more intense symptoms and prolonged recovery.  Just the same, she had already experienced symptoms in the neck (and low back) together with headaches pre-accident, with no recent physical trauma and only a heightened emotional state to partly explain the intensity of her symptoms at that time.

[147]        Further, the effect of Mrs. Peake’s emotional state in May 2003 on her symptoms, and the fact that, as Dr. Webb comments, Mrs. Peake has suffered depressed mood, anxiety and frustration in relation to her symptoms since the accident, is a factor that I should take into account in assessing the extent to which her symptoms have been influenced by her emotional state post accident—and that this bodes positively for further future improvement as her emotional state continues to improve.

[148]        Both Dr. Regan and Dr. Sovio’s opinions negate a direct relationship between Mrs. Peake’s lower back flare-ups and the accident.  This is a mechanical condition and the plaintiff has not established that her ongoing back flare-ups, certainly past the summer of 2006, are attributable to the accident.  At the same time, Mrs. Peake testified that her low back symptoms are different and more intense then those experienced pre-accident.  I find that some small portion of Mrs. Peake’s ongoing lower back symptoms relate to the 2003 accident.

[149]        There is little question that the 2003 accident caused Mrs. Peake’s left shoulder injury and frozen shoulder.  I accept Mrs. Peake’s sworn testimony that she continues to experience mild periodic situational discomfort and some functional limitation in the use of her left shoulder.

[150]        With respect to the more problematic question of the causation of Mrs. Peake’s right frozen shoulder, with recovery from that predicted to extend to some time in 2010, albeit in a less problematic way then was the case for the left shoulder, I find that the plaintiff has proven that her right shoulder injury and eventually frozen state was caused by the accident….

[154]        Turning to Mrs. Peake’s neck symptoms and headaches, and Mr. Pankratz’ submission that “but for the subsequent traumatic events of 2006, this condition “would have” resolved completely,” Dr. Regan did not testify that the condition “would” resolve; but “should” resolve.  I note that when he wrote his second report, he was aware of ongoing neck complaints and headaches; but made no skeptical comments about their having continued her he last saw Mrs. Peake.  Mrs. Peake continues to experience neck pain and headaches that frequently cause her to awaken in the middle of the night with a “terrible headache” that can last for a few days – bearing in mind that Mrs. Peake has a history of pre-accident headaches.  Further, Mrs. Peake confirms ongoing improvement; and indeed in the summer of 2006 experienced extended pain-free periods, as stated earlier.  I bear in mind as well that she has suffered a right frozen shoulder, but  that continues to improve and should resolve completely by 2010; and with improvement in that condition she should see further relief in her neck, noting that she saw considerable improvement when her left shoulder pain and limitation more or less resolved.

[155]        The evidence does not support the gloomier aspects of Dr. Webb’s prognosis considering Dr. Regan’s expectations that Mrs. Peake’s neck pain and accompanying headaches, should eventually recover and Dr. Regan’s opinion that negates a continuing connection between her lower back symptoms and the accident.  In my assessment of non-pecuniary damages, and considering Mrs. Peake’s pre-accident condition, I see the medical and other evidence going so far as to support a finding of a possibility that Mrs. Peake will in future continue to suffer some minor residual neck sequelae and headaches that are attachable to the accident, although the most likely outcome is complete recovery from those within two years, insofar as the effects of the 2003 accident are concerned.

 

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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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