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Tag: Madam Justice Fenlon

Speculation No Reason for Second Defence Medical Exam

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming that a second Court ordered defense medical exam is inappropriate solely in anticipation of an event which may not occur.
In the recent case (Litt v. Guo) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions and sued for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff consented to a defence medical exam with a physician that addressed the Plaintiff’s injuries.  As trial neared the Defense applied for a further exam with a new physician arguing that the initial report was dated and further that “the plaintiff might file a newer report” and the Defendant wished to respond to this anticipated development.  In noting that both arguments were insufficient for a Court ordered second defense medical exam Madam Justice Fenlon provided the following reasons:

[10]         The second ground raised by the defendants, and the ground that Mr. McHale referred to as the primary basis supporting the application for another IME by a different specialist, is that the most recent report of Dr. Bishop will be two years old at the date of trial in October 2014. The defendants fear that the plaintiff might file a newer report before the August 4 deadline for delivery of such reports, and the defendants say they would then be at a disadvantage because the plaintiffs will have a fresher report, a report based on a more recent assessment of the plaintiff.

[11]         The defendants submit that they would wish to put before the Court the best evidence, the evidence of an examination of the plaintiff at a time more recent than October 2012. There are, in my respectful view, two weaknesses with that submission. The first is that it anticipates what has not yet occurred.  If the plaintiff does submit a report prepared by one of her experts based on a recent examination of the plaintiff and if something new comes out of that report, then presumably Dr. Bishop could be invited to comment on it and the defendants would be in a position to file a rebuttal report. There is nothing in the record before me to suggest that he would not be able to comment on such a report or that there would be a need for further examination should he, in fact, be faced with such a report.

[12]         The second weakness is that passage of time alone is not a basis for ordering a second medical examination of a plaintiff. Dr. Bishop’s report is very clear in terms of his diagnosis, prognosis and his description of the pattern of symptoms Ms. Litt will experience into the future. He describes a likely aggravation of symptoms on activity, which it seems is exactly what is reflected in the medical reports which initially led to this application.

[13]         In short, despite Mr. McHale’s able submissions, I cannot find that a further examination is necessary to ensure reasonable equality of the parties in preparing for this trial.

$80,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Fractured Wrist With Residual Complicaitons

Adding to this site’s archived database addressing damages for wrist injuries, reasons for judgement were released this week by BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with a wrist fracture following a cyclist collision.
In this week’s case (Jang v. Ritchie) the Plaintiff was walking along a trail when the Defendant “was cycling along the same trail travelling in the same direction as Mr. and Mrs. Jang. Mr. Ritchie lost control of his bicycle and drove into Mr. Jang striking him in the back“.  The Defendant was found fully at fault for the collision.  The Plaintiff broke his wrist which required immediate surgical attention and went on to cause long term limitations.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $80,000 Madam Justice Fenlon provided the following reasons:
[5]             I also find that Mr. Ritchie’s negligence caused Mr. Jang’s injuries. The injuries were fully described in the medical opinion of Dr. Melvin Serink, an orthopaedic surgeon. Dr. Serink stated in his opinion:
… [Mr. Jang] suffered a comminuted fracture involving his left distal radius and ulna. He subsequently was treated with a closed reduction and a Hoffman external fixator. Postoperatively he developed Sudeck’s dystrophy with generalized pain and swelling related to his wrist and PIP joints of his left hand. As a result of his injury, he has been left with permanent soft tissue contractures involving the PIP joints of the fingers involving his left hand. He also has been left with complaints of pain and weakness related to his left wrist associated with generalized stiffness. … [Mr. Jang] is aware of stiffness associated with loss of extension and flexion. As a result of his Sudeck’s he does have decreased power and dexterity related to the fingers of his left hand. …
His range of motion shows loss of extension and flexion by approximately 50% percent. Supination is decreased by approximately 20%. His power grip is significantly decreased secondary to generalized pain related to the PIP joints.
X-rays of his left wrist from January of this year [2012] [show] the complete loss of the space involving the radiocarpal joint. The un-united ulnar styloid is evident. The early osteophyte formation involving the distal radial styloid is also evident.
I have paraphrased slightly to insert Mr. Jang’s name and so on.
[6]             I accept Dr. Serink’s uncontradicted opinion in this case. His observations are consistent with Mr. Jang’s testimony and my own observations of Mr. Jang’s left hand, which is fixed in a somewhat claw-like position. I also find that Mr. Jang’s condition is permanent. The progressive nature of the injury-induced arthritis in his hand will, if anything, increase Mr. Jang’s symptoms as time goes by. Dr. Serink examined Mr. Jang and provided the following opinion in this regard:
As a result of the destruction of the articular cartilage involved in his original fracture, he has developed significant post-traumatic degenerative arthritis. The soft tissue contracture which occurs as a result of the Sudeck’s dystrophy will be permanent. As a result, he will be left with complaints of pain, weakness and generalized stiffness. These complaints will not significantly improve with rest, time or further physiotherapy. At the present time [Mr. Jang] is well motivated and is using Tylenol on a p.r.n. basis for pain control….
[11]         Mr. Jang was in a cast for three months and underwent extensive physiotherapy. Despite that, he continues to have constant pain. He described the pain as eight on a scale of 10. He gets shooting pains on activity. Mr. Jang manages the pain by using Tylenol 3 and heat and by massaging his hand.
[12]         Mrs. Jang touchingly described her husband of 30 years as “hard on the outside, but soft on the inside, a nice man”. She and her daughter, Angela, both described the difficulties they have observed Mr. Jang having now with even simple tasks such as opening a jar.
[13]         Counsel for Mr. Jang took me to a number of cases with somewhat similar facts including Paras v. Muirhead (1996), 71 B.C.A.C. 17; Ferguson v. All-Can Express Ltd., [1988] B.C.J. No. 78 (S.C.); Jackson v. Jeffries, 2012 BCSC 814; Lowe v. Larue, [1998] A.J. No. 1465 (Q.B.); and Kumlea v. Chaytors (1993), 76 B.C.L.R. (2d) 337 (C.A.). Counsel submits non-pecuniary damages in the range of $60,000 to $85,000 would be appropriate.
[14]         While the cases provided to me are helpful, they are not, of course, determinative. Each case must be decided on its own facts. The cases referred to me include some differences such as plaintiffs who are younger or plaintiffs with soft tissue injuries as well as a wrist injury. In many of the cases, the injuries the plaintiffs experienced were not as severe as the injury experienced by Mr. Jang.
[15]         Having considered all of the cases and the particular facts of this case, I am satisfied an award of $80,000 is appropriate for pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Knocking Down The House of Cards – Break the Facts, Break the Opinion

When opinion evidence is introduced into court the factual underpinnings which the opinion is based on must be proven otherwise the opinion evidence is of no value.  This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court.
In the recent case (Paller v. Regan) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  ICBC admitted the defendant was at fault but disputed the collision caused any injuries.  In support of their position they relied on an orthopaedic surgeon who never examined the Plaintiff but provided an opinion that it was “unlikely” the Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the crash.  In support of this conclusion the doctor assumed this was a low speed impact.  Madam Justice Fenlon rejected this evidence finding that the foundation of the opinion was not proven.  In dismissing the surgeon’s evidence the Court provided the following reasons:
[25]         The only medical opinion evidence tendered by the defence is a report of Dr. Dommisse, an orthopedic surgeon. He did not examine Mr. Paller, but reviewed medical records, imaging, and the reports of Drs. Whittington and Chu. Dr. Dommisse opined that it is unlikely that the accident caused a disc tear or herniation. He stated in his written report:
As outlined above, I have not had the benefit of examining Mr. Paller. I am therefore unable to fully comment on Dr. Chu’s report. In my opinion, however, it is unlikely that Mr. Paller suffered a disc tear and/or disc protrusion at L4/5 in a motor vehicle accident of this magnitude.
In my clinical experience, I have seen approximately four lumbar disc herniations as a result of motor vehicle accidents. These accidents were higher velocity collisions, two of which occurred when the driver drove head on into a house.
[26]         Dr. Dommisse assumed that the speed of Mr. Regan’s vehicle was 5 km/h, a number provided by Mr. Regan in a statement given to ICBC shortly after the accident. In cross-examination Mr. Regan was unable to be precise about his speed. He agreed that he was accelerating on to the street, that his speed was moderate, and that he did not brake before the collision.
[27]         I conclude that the opinions of Dr. Chu and Dr. Whittington are to be preferred to that of Dr. Dommisse. As he acknowledged, Dr. Dommisse’s opinion was restricted by lack of an examination of the plaintiff. Further, it was largely anecdotal and was based on a fact, the speed of Mr. Regan’s vehicle at 5 km/h, that was not proved at trial.
[28]         Dr. Jung is a psychologist who has treated Mr. Paller on two occasions. He provided an opinion that Mr. Paller is suffering from Anxiety Disorder, NOS, as defined in the DSM 4, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Dr. Jung is of the opinion that the anxiety developed as a result of a reaction to chronic injury and pain. I accept his opinion.
[29]         In summary on this issue, I find that Mr. Paller’s injuries, physical and psychological, were caused by the accident on February 24, 2009.

$115,000 nonpecuniary assessment for fractured femur and chronic pain disorder

Reasons for judgement released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for various injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
In the recent case (Taylor v. Depew) the plaintiff was riding a motorbike which was involved in a head-on collision with a dune buggy on a narrow road near Campbell River BC.  Fault was disputed with the court ultimately finding that both motorists were to blame.  Liability was split with the plaintiff shouldering 30% of the fault and the defendant 70%.
The plaintiff suffered various injuries the most serious of which was a fractured femur.  This resulted in ligamentous laxity in his knee.   In addition to this the plaintiff suffered disc herniation’s in his low back and ultimately went on to develop chronic pain syndrome.
In assessing nonpecuniary damages at hundred and $115,000 Madam Justice Fenlon provided the following reasons for judgement:
57]         After the accident, Mr. Taylor’s life changed dramatically. In the days immediately following the accident, he underwent surgery to install a rod and pins to stabilize his femur; he remained in hospital for one week. Two further surgeries on his left leg were required: in October 2001 to remove the proximal locking screw; and in March 2003 to remove the remaining hardware in his leg. The recovery from all three surgeries was long and painful, lasting a number of weeks.
[58]          Mr. Taylor required assistance with day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning and bathing during these recovery periods. After the first surgery he had the help of a homecare nurse, and then his friends Sarah Zimmer and Jamie Gonzalez assisted him. The two women helped him again after the second and third surgeries. The surgeries have left Mr. Taylor with marked permanent scarring on his left hip and knee.
[59]         Before the accident, Mr. Taylor had enrolled in an environmental engineering degree program to commence in September 2001. He tried to carry on with his plan to return to school but the pain killers he was taking made it difficult for him to concentrate and his general physical condition and inability to drive made it hard to attend classes. Depression set in and ultimately Mr. Taylor abandoned the environmental engineering program.
[60]         Mr. Taylor has had difficulty dealing with the changes to his life caused by the accident. For a few months he turned to street drugs and alcohol. He became depressed and uses anti-depressants like Effexor to help relieve the symptoms of depression.
[61]         Although Mr. Taylor has seen some improvement in the state of his injuries over time, he still experiences pain on a daily basis. When he sits, stands, or walks for long periods he suffers from pain and numbness in his left leg…
[72]         Awards of damages in other cases provide a guideline only. I must apply the factors listed in Stapley to Mr. Taylor’s particular case. I conclude that an award of $115,000 is an appropriate sum for non-pecuniary damages…

Cyclist Found 15% at fault For Collision While Riding in Cross-Walk

In my continued efforts to document BC decisions addressing fault for vehicle/cyclist collisions, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing an crosswalk collision involving such an incident.
In last week’s case (Callahan v. Kim) the Defendant motorist stopped at an intersection on a red light.  He intended to make a right hand turn.  At the same time the Plaintiff cyclist approached on the sidewalk to the motorist’s right.   The Defendant failed to see the Plaintiff who entered the intersection on his bicycle as the Defendant commenced his right hand turn.  The Court found both to blame with the motorist shouldering 85% of the fault.  In coming to this decision Madam Justice Fenlon provided the following reasons:
[10]         As for Mr. Kim’s vehicle, I find that he stopped at the stop line on Riverwood Gate, intending to make a right turn north onto Coast Meridian. He looked quickly to his right and failed to notice the plaintiff who at that time was either at the pedestrian control button or approaching it. Thereafter, as Mr. Kim admitted, he was looking to his left and then ahead and did not check right again before moving into the crosswalk and colliding with Mr. Callahan…
[18]         In assessing whether Mr. Kim failed to meet his duty of care, a number of considerations come into play. First, Mr. Kim was proceeding against a red light. Second, Mr. Callahan was in a marked crosswalk with both a green light and a pedestrian walk sign in his favour. I find that, even though Mr. Kim acted within the law in making a right turn on a red light, he had a clear duty to give way to a user of the crosswalk. While Mr. Callahan contravened s. 183(2)(b) by not dismounting and walking his bicycle across the street as required by the Motor Vehicle Act, and therefore did not have the statutory right-of-way, he was nonetheless a user of the crosswalk. A crosswalk is precisely where other users of the roadway are expected to be, especially when the traffic signals are in their favour.
[19]         I conclude that Mr. Kim departed from the standard of care he owed in these circumstances when he failed to check again to his right before setting his vehicle in motion to start his right turn. Mr. Kim’s failure to do so was a direct cause of the accident…
[33]         In my view, the case before me is far more like Dobre. In that case, the plaintiff cyclist approached the intersection by riding on the wrong side of the street but stopped before entering the marked crosswalk, looked left and right and pushed the button to activate the pedestrian warning light. He was pedalling slowly across the intersection and was close to the centre of the road when the defendant’s car struck the rear wheel of his bicycle. As in the case at bar, the plaintiff in Dobre checked to his left and observed a car approaching but assumed it posed no hazard to him. In that case, N. Brown J. apportioned liability 85% to the driver and 15% to the cyclist.
[34]         I find Mr. Kim’s conduct in failing to observe the plaintiff in the crosswalk and in starting a turn without looking to his right to be far more blameworthy than Mr. Callahan’s failure to make eye contact. Taking into account all of the circumstances in the case before me, I conclude that liability should be apportioned 85% to Mr. Kim and 15% to Mr. Callahan.

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Fractured Hand With “Triggering”

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic hand injury sustained in a motor vehicle collision.

In yesterday’s case (Sandher v. Binning) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 head-on collision on the Fraser Highway.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash focussing the trial on the assessment of the Plaintiff’s damages.

The Plaintiff was a 35 year old construction labourer.  The collision caused closed fractures of his middle and ring finger metacarpals.

These went on to cause weakness and lack of grip in his right hand.  Eventually the Plaintiff developed triggering (causing the fingers to become stuck in the flexed position).  Surgery to treat this condition was not entirely successful.  This caused some restriction in the plaintiff’s vocational abilities.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 Madam Justice Fenlon provided the following reasons:

[21] Mr. Sandher experienced the pain of fractured bones, the inconvenience of a cast for several weeks, pain following tenoplasty surgery, ongoing hand pain and stiffness, and pain from soft tissue injuries. The soft tissue injuries largely resolved within six months of the accident with occasional flare-ups on heavy activity; I find for the following reasons that those flare ups and hand symptoms have had a relatively small impact on his day-to-day life, social activities and general enjoyment of life.

[22] In relation to the impact of the injuries on his recreational activities, the plaintiff claims that he is unable to lift weights, something the plaintiff said in his direct-examination that he did four to five times a week. However, in cross-examination, he conceded that before the accident he only lifted weights at most two to three times a week when he could find time after work. In addition, the plaintiff now has two young children, and he has less time and energy to spend at the gym, quite apart from the impact of his injuries.

[23] The other recreational activities the plaintiff claims have been affected by his injuries are walking and camping. Although Mr. Sandher continues to engage in those activities, he testified that he may walk and camp less often now than before the accident. Again, the plaintiff conceded that he does not have the same amount of time to do these activities because of his young family and the fact that he is often tired after returning from work.

[24] There was some evidence to suggest a loss of ability to do outdoor work. The plaintiff described helping his cousin Narendra Riar enclose an area below an upper level patio before the accident. That involved clearing weeds and leveling the area as well as lifting and carrying heavy paving stones, work Mr. Sandher did without difficulty. Mr. Riar and Mr. Sandher contrasted that occasion with his inability at the end of February or early March 2011 to help his cousin do similar work constructing a shed. Mr. Riar testified that the plaintiff had difficulty carrying the wood for the shed and was unable to use a hammer due to his hand injury. However, under cross-examination Mr. Sandher agreed that he had undergone tenoplasty surgery for his trigger finger only a week or two before trying to help Mr. Riar with the shed…

[27] Taking into account the differences between the plaintiff’s situation and the fact patterns in the cases relied on by the parties, I am of the view that the plaintiff should be awarded $40,000 in non-pecuniary damages…

[38] I find that the plaintiff has proved on a balance of probabilities that the injuries he sustained to his dominant hand, as well as the recurrent flare-ups of soft tissue injuries on heavy activity, have impaired his ability to work as a framer.

$65,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for Chronic Headaches and Soft Tissue Injuries

Adding to this site’s archived posts of BC non-pecuniary damage assessments for chronic headaches, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this topic.
In last week’s case (Fell v. Morton) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 rear-end collision.  Fault was admitted by the rear motorist.  The Plaintiff suffered from pre-existing neck and upper back pain along with “headaches that were brought on by exertion“.  Following the crash she suffered soft tissue injuries to these regions along with a recurrence of frequent migraine headaches.   These aggravated symptoms continued to the time of trial and the prognosis for full recovery was poor.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $65,000 Madam Justice Fenlon provided the following reasons:

[23] Having considered all of the evidence, I find that Ms. Fell suffered soft tissue injuries to her upper neck and back as a result of the accident. I further find that those injuries triggered a recurrence of migraine headaches that had been almost entirely in remission since the birth of her first son.

[24] The migraines initially occurred twice per week, gradually decreasing to about once or twice each month by the time of trial. Ms. Fell’s headaches are debilitating, involving nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. They sometimes last for two or three days, and all Ms. Fell can do is lie in a darkened room. She could not attend her wedding reception in Mexico in April 2010 because of a migraine headache…

[28] I find that prior to the accident Ms. Fell tended to suffer regularly from neck and upper back pain and headaches that were brought on by exertion. She sought regular massage therapy and chiropractic treatment in relation to those symptoms. She also had a proclivity to develop migraine headaches, and that condition meant she was susceptible to something else triggering her headaches in future.

[29] Ms. Fell should not be compensated for her pre?existing condition or the potential for it to reoccur quite apart from the injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident…

[38] Ms. Fell is a stoic individual whose attitude in the face of life’s difficulties is to get on with it, in her words, “to suck it up”. She should not receive a lower award of non-pecuniary damages because of that stoicism. Indeed, to the contrary, it is appropriate to include under this head the suffering she endured while she pushed herself to keep working after the accident, despite her injuries.

[39] In summary, the injuries from the accident have affected all areas of Ms. Fell’s life. While she has periods of time when she is unaffected by her injuries, in particular when she avoids exertion, she has curtailed her recreational activities, no longer camping, exercising at the same level, or taking her dogs for on-leash walks with her husband. She has found it difficult to pick up her children and cannot interact with them when she has a migraine. However, as I have earlier noted, I must also take into account her pre?existing condition and proclivity to develop migraine headaches.

[40] Taking all of these considerations into account, I set non-pecuniary damages at $65,000.

Failure to Obtain Injections and Mitigation of Damages

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing whether the failure to follow through with steroid injections to treat a shoulder injury should result in mitigation of damages in a personal injury claim.
In the recent case (Lim v. Anderson) the Plaintiff suffered an impingement syndrome following a rotator cuff injury sustained in a collision.  In the course of recovery she had a steroid injection which provided temporary relief.  Her surgeon suggested that the Plaintiff could have further injections although she chose not to follow through with this advice.  The Defendant argued the Plaintiff’s damages should be reduced due to this choice.  Madam Justice Fenlon rejected this argument and provided the following reasons:
[18] A preliminary issue I must decide before assessing damages is whether the plaintiff has failed to mitigate her damages. The defendants must prove that the plaintiff failed to follow recommended treatment by a qualified practitioner that could have overcome or reduced her current or future problems: Papineau v. Dorman, 2008 BCSC 1443. The applicable standard is reasonableness. The defendants must demonstrate that the plaintiff unreasonably refused to follow the practitioner’s recommendations…

[23] Here too, while Dr. Yu listed further injections or surgery as possible further treatments, he did not opine that they would fix the plaintiff’s problems with her shoulders. The injections offered at least temporary relief. The first and only one the plaintiff underwent gave her two months without pain. The plaintiff described the pain relief as “like a miracle”.

[24] It can be implied from the location of the space into which the steroid medication has to be injected, from Dr. Yu’s evidence and from Ms. Lim’s decision not to repeat it every two months despite the relief that followed, that the needle itself is unpleasant. Further, Dr. Yu acknowledged that injections are not always successful and that patients have to balance the pain of the injection against the pain without it. Surgery carries with it risks and time off work.

[25] A plaintiff is only required to do what is reasonable, and I do not find to be unreasonable Ms. Lim’s decision to decline further injections and surgery and to instead use pain medication to control her symptoms.

This judgement can be contrasted with this 2010 decision where a Plaintiff’s damages were reduced by 30% for choosing to follow naturopathic treatment instead of injections/surgery to treat a shoulder injury.

$55,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Rotator Cuff Impingement Syndrome

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a rotator cuff injury caused by a motor vehicle collision.
In yesterday’s case (Lim v. Anderson) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision when the Defendant ran a red light.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered an impingement syndrome in her shoulder due to a rotator cuff injury caused by the crash.  She had some ongoing symptoms of pain and limitation at the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $55,000 Madam Justice Fenlon provided the following reasons:
[7] There was a difference of opinion between Dr. Christian and the plaintiff’s treating orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Yu, as to the cause of the plaintiff’s ongoing shoulder pain. Dr. Yu attributes it to calcific tendonitis caused by the soft tissue injuries. In his view, with the injury there was bruising and swelling or hemorrhage into the rotator cuff giving rise to pain or an abduction and impingement syndrome. In this condition the tendon is pinched between the under surface of the acromion and the humeral head, resulting in pain on movement…
[9] While it is not really necessary to choose between the opinions on causation, given the agreement on ongoing residual pain in the shoulder, I prefer Dr. Yu’s diagnosis…
[10] I accept his finding that the plaintiff’s response to an injection into the subacromial space of her right shoulder, (temporary relief from pain), confirmed his diagnosis…

[38] The biggest impact on Ms. Lim in terms of loss of enjoyment of life is her inability to cook using a wok, to do the vacuuming and heavy housework she used to do to keep her home in the meticulous order she enjoyed and to do her own gardening and yard work. Her co-workers describe a woman who is less cheerful than she used to be and is often sore and uncomfortable at work. She can no longer pour tea when they go for dim sum together, something she always did before the accident.

[39] There is medical evidence that suggests that the plaintiff’s soft tissue injuries may further improve with exercise over time, although the evidence supports a finding that her shoulders will not likely improve in future.

[40] Taking into account all of the Stapley factors, I find that an award of $55,000 for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life is appropriate.

Over Two Million Dollars Awarded in Chronic Pain Claim

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for loss related to chronic pain.
In last week’s case (Zen v. Readhead) the 45 year old plaintiff was injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  Fault for the crash was admitted by the Defendant.    The Defendant’s lawyer argued that the plaintiff sustained only minor injuries submitting that the plaintiff “is an opportunist who has intentionally exaggerated his pain behavior and reporting in the hope of being rewarded significant compensation.”
The Court did not take kindly to this attack and rejected the Defendant’s submission with the following criticism “There are times when a trial judge listening to submissions about the credibility of a party is left to wonder if judge and counsel have heard the same evidence. This is such a case.”
The Court went on to award the Plaintiff damages of just over 2 Million Dollars for his accident related injuries and losses.  The majority of this was related to past and future income loss.  The Plaintiff was a high functioning Vancouver businessman and his losses were assessed reflecting his pre-accident income earning capacity.
Madam Justice Fenlon assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $110,000.  His injuries included low back and pelvic pain, headaches, a mood disorder, impaired sleep, dizziness, cognitive dysfunction, elbow pain and plantar fascitits.   In arriving at this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[54]         Awards of damages in other cases provide a guideline only. I must apply the factors listed in Stapley to Mr. Zen’s particular case. Mr. Zen is now 45-years-old. He used to be an outgoing, charismatic athlete who weekly ran 40 kms, did the Grouse Grind, and took an active role in the lives of his daughters, all while working long days in the family business including most Saturdays. Today he is a different man. He is sleep-deprived and in chronic pain, which makes him irritable and prone to frustration and anger. He can no longer push himself athletically, which was a central part of his life and the way he managed stress. He has a diminished role in the lives of his daughters, and in particular his youngest daughter, Olivia. Mr. Zen’s relationship with his wife has been significantly affected and he has, in his words, “missed out on the best years of [his] life”.

[55]         Taking all of this into account and excluding from this analysis the pain and inconvenience caused by his left knee before the March 2010 surgery, I find that Mr. Zen is entitled to non-pecuniary damages of $110,000.

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