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Tag: Madam Justice Holmes

ICBC Expert Witness Rejected Due to “Selective View of the Facts”

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a Plaintiff’s injuries and rejecting expert evidence retained by ICBC.

In today’s case (Wong v. Draaistra) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate collisions.  Fault was admitted by the Defendants for the crashes.  In addition to physical injuries the Plaintiff developed “psychiatric or emotional problems that have likely increased and prolonged her physical pain, and have caused her life to shrink to near-isolation in an unmaintained home behind almost permanently closed blinds“.

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Lack of Financial Means Defeats "Failure to Mitigate" Allegations

As discussed on numerous occasions, a Plaintiff who fails to take reasonable steps to aid in their own recovery can have their damages reduced for a ‘failure to mitigate’.  In considering weather a Plaintiff’s failure to seek treatment is reasonable their personal circumstances are taken into account.  It is well established that lack of funding can reasonably excuse a course of otherwise helpful therapy.   Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further demonstrating this principle.
In this week’s case (Rozendaal v. Landingin) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions.  She was faultless for both.  She suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, shoulders and upper back which continued to the time of trial and were expected to carry on in the future.  Non-Pecuniary damages of $40,000 were awarded.
The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff’s damages should be reduced due to her failure to carry on with physiotherapy.  Madam Justice Holmes found that greater therapy indeed would have made a difference but given the Plaintiff’s circumstances her failure to attend was not unreasonable.   In dismissing the defendant’s arguments the Court provided the following reasons:
[66]         On the medical evidence, I find that Ms. Rozendaal likely could have improved to a greater extent and more quickly had she undertaken a focussed course of strengthening and conditioning therapy or training designed for her particular injuries, such as Dr. O’Connor outlined in his second report.  The various forms of massage Ms. Rozendaal undertook gave her relief from her pain, but, as Dr. O’Connor explained, passive therapies did not help rehabilitate the muscles which, ultimately, were causing that pain.
[67]         The question is whether Ms. Rozendaal acted unreasonably by failing to undertake the recommended therapies or programs.  I find that in her particular personal circumstances, she did not.  ..
[70]         As I find, Ms. Rozendaal’s life circumstances left her unable to fund any form of ongoing treatment or therapy.   From their early days together, she and Mr. Landingin have worked extremely hard to educate themselves for careers and to provide financial support and loving care for their young family.  It is clear from the evidence that life was not easy for them.  I have no difficulty accepting that other financial priorities displaced ongoing physiotherapy or active rehabilitation for Ms. Rozendaal, particularly since it seemed to her that massages from Mr. Landingin and exercises she did at home were just as helpful. 
[71]         As I find, Ms. Rozendaal was mistaken in this assessment.  However, it was only when Dr. O’Connor saw Ms. Rozendaal before preparing his second report (of January 18, 2012), and asked her to demonstrate the exercises she had been doing since he had seen her six months earlier, that he realized that he had not given his instructions specifically enough:  Ms. Rozendaal was doing light aerobic work and some gentle neck exercises, but no real strengthening.  Dr. O’Connor testified that because Ms. Rozendaal had evidently misunderstood his recommendation in the previous report, he described the recommended conditioning more explicitly in the second report.
[72]         The law does not require perfection in the pursuit of rehabilitation.  It requires instead that a plaintiff make efforts which are reasonable and sincere in the plaintiff’s own personal circumstances:  Gilbert at para. 203.
[73]         On this basis, in Tsalamandris v. MacDonald, 2011 BCSC 1138 at paras. 227-30, varied on other grounds 2012 BCCA 239, the Court found no failure to mitigate where the plaintiff was unable to pursue the recommended treatments because of life circumstances that included a pregnancy, the care of small children at home, and her inability to perform the recommended exercises properly without the help of a personal trainer.
[74]         I find similarly that Ms. Rozendaal’s efforts at rehabilitation were reasonable and sincere in her own personal circumstances.

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Whiplash and Possible Facet Joint Injury

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic whiplash injury.
In last week’s case (Fiorda v. Say) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions, the first in 2008 and the second in 2009.  The Plaintiff was not at fault for either crash.  Both collisions contributed to a chronic whiplash injury with possible facet joint involvement.  The symptoms of pain were still present by the time of trial and these were expected to carry into the future.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 Madam Justice Holmes provided the following reasons:

[25] Dr. Gabriel Hirsch, specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, conducted an independent medical assessment on April 4, 2011.

[26] Dr. Hirsch concluded that in the first accident, Ms. Fiorda sustained relatively minor injuries to her neck, upper back, and shoulder girdle region, from which she had made a good recovery by the time of the second accident.  He concluded that absent the second accident, Ms. Fiorda probably would have made a full recovery from the first.

[27] Dr. Hirsch concluded that the second accident caused injuries to Ms. Fiorda’s neck, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine, which probably involved soft tissue structures, such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  Given the accident mechanism as Ms. Fiorda had described it, it was also possible that Ms. Fiorda sustained an injury to a cervical facet joint.

[28] Dr. Hirsch recommended that Ms. Fiorda carry out a regular exercise program, ideally in a well-equipped community centre or gymnasium.  Because Ms. Fiorda had recently completed a functional restoration program under the guidance of a physiotherapist and kinesiologist, he felt she should be able to continue with a maintenance program on her own.  He recommended particular components of a regular exercise program for Ms. Fiorda to follow.

[29] Dr. Hirsch also suggested that Ms. Fiorda consider trigger point injections into the neck and shoulder girdle region, her most symptomatic areas.  He noted that those injections are funded by the Medical Services Plan.

[30] Dr. Hirsch noted that “there is some uncertainty” about whether Ms. Fiorda can continue in her work as a costume designer on a sustainable basis because of the long hours and many consecutive days, which do not allow her the opportunity to recuperate from a flare-up. ..

[45] In my view, the particular circumstances of Ms. Fiorda’s case support an award of $40,000.