Tag: Madam Justice Ker

Reviewing Discovery Transcripts No Reason to Exclude Expert Report

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing whether an expert report should be excluded because the expert reviewed the examination for discovery transcripts of the parties prior to authoring the report.  In short the answer is no.
In this week’s case (Friebel v. Omelchenko) the Plaintiff objected to the admissibility of two defence reports arguing that “it is improper to provide an expert with examination for discovery transcripts and then leave the expert to draw his or her own conclusions as to which facts should be used to support the opinion“.  Madam Justice Ker rejected this submission finding this practice in and of itself does not render the report inadmissible.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[22]         A review of Dr. Sobey’s reports does not give rise to any of the concerns underlying the previous criticism of the practice of allowing experts to review examination for discovery evidence.
[23]         Dr. Sobey was provided with a set of factual assumptions. Those factual assumptions are set out in detail in his report and where further assumptions have been drawn from a review of the documentary evidence those assumptions and their source have been indicated. For instance, at times, Dr. Sobey makes explicit reference to those assumptions and one example can be found at p. 13 of his July 19, 2013 report where in answering question five, he states, “I have been asked to assume that Dr. Omelchenko was available by telephone contact”.
[24]         Moreover, where Dr. Sobey did make factual assumptions from the documentary information provided to him, those assumptions are also clearly set out. As an example, see p. 10 of Dr. Sobey’s July 19 report where, in answering question two, he states:
Review of Dr. Omelchenko’s chart revealed that he obtained the drinking history, evaluated the Mr. Friebel [sic] for current symptoms of withdrawal, and documented the period since Mr. Friebel’s last drink. Dr. Omelchenko’s chart did not comment on whether Mr. Friebel was using other mood altering drugs. I note from the documents and specifically the PharmaNet profile that Mr. Friebel had been prescribed the sedative medication, Zopiclone…
[25]         When read as a whole, Dr. Sobey’s reports leave no doubt as to the factual assumptions underlying his opinion. As such, the case is distinguishable from Sebastian, supra, and the trier of fact is able to properly evaluate and discern whether the factual assumptions have been proven in evidence at trial and what weight should be given to Dr. Sobey’s opinion.
[26]         The plaintiff’s application to have the reports of Dr. Sobey excluded on the basis that he reviewed transcripts from examination for discovery is dismissed.

ICBC Under "No Obligation" To Advise You of Your Legal Rights

As previously discussed ICBC adjusters often operate in a legally permissible conflict of interest.  When dealing with ICBC it is important to know that “your” adjuster has no obligation to advise you of your legal rights regarding a claim for compensation against the at fault motorist.  This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.
In this week’s case (Morris v. Doe) the Plaintiff was injured in a hit and run collision.  She sued ICBC under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act although the claim was dismissed at trial with Madam Justice Ker finding that the Plaintiff failed to make all reasonable efforts to identify the at-fault motorist.
The Plaintiff was ordered to pay ICBC costs following trial.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing this would “financially cripple” her and that such a result would be unfair because ICBC failed to advise the Plaintiff of the steps she needs to take to make a successful claim for compensation.  Madam Justice Ker rejected this argument finding that the law imposes no duty on ICBC adjusters to do so.  In upholding the costs award against the Plaintiff the Court provided the following reasons:











[8] During his oral submissions, counsel for the plaintiff argued that costs ought not to be awarded against the plaintiff as the defendant, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“ICBC”), through its adjusters ought to have advised the plaintiff of the importance of immediately obtaining legal advice on the steps she needed to take to satisfy the unidentified motorist provisions of the Act.  Counsel appears to argue that it is this failure and circumstance connected with the case that renders it manifestly unfair to award costs against the plaintiff in this case, citing Currie v. Thomas Estate (1985), 19 D.L.R. (4th) 594 (B.C.C.A.) at para. 47 and the reference therein to the speech of Viscount Cave in Donald Campbell & Co. v. Pollack, [1927] A.C. 732 (H.L).

[9] No statutory authority or case authority was provided to support the proposition that ICBC through its employees has a duty to provide a potential plaintiff with a warning that it is in their interests to obtain legal advice.  Indeed, counsel recognized and seemed to suggest that the law, although not there yet, ought to be moving in that direction. ..

[51] It is clear from the decisions cited in my original judgment dismissing the action that ICBC has no obligation to advise a plaintiff of the nature of the steps they need to take in order to satisfy the court they have taken all necessary and reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the offending unidentified driver.

[52] I do not understand the jurisprudence or the governing statutory provisions to place any sort of positive obligation on ICBC through its employees to either advise a plaintiff of the steps they must take to ascertain an unknown driver’s identity or of the need to obtain independent legal advice on this provision.

[53] I cannot accede to counsel’s suggestion that ICBC or an insurer has a positive obligation to advise an insured of the need to obtain legal advice.  To do so would fundamentally change the nature of the contractual relationship between the insurer and insured and place the insurer in a position of quasi-authority requiring it to provide an element of legal advice, something adjusters and claims managers may not be well suited to do and may create a host of unanticipated and unforeseen consequences.

[54] While the comments of Barrow J. in Tessier are compelling as to the fairness that at least notifying a plaintiff of the provisions of the Act would appear to create, the fact of the matter is that there is no statutory authority mandating that ICBC advise or alert a potential plaintiff of the provisions of s. 24(5) of the Act.

[55] Moreover, the jurisprudence since 2003, and most recently re-stated in Wah Fai Plumbing, establishes that denying a successful litigant its costs based on pre-litigation conduct or for reasons that appear to impose quasi-liability on the successful party and sanction non-actionable conduct is not an appropriate or principled application of the costs rules.

[56] I must say again that, in this case, I have a great deal of sympathy for the unsuccessful plaintiff, particularly in light of ICBC’s failure to set her straight at the outset when it was apparent she did not understand the process.  However, by the time the statement of defence was issued in October 2007, it would have been clear to the plaintiff and her counsel that her case was in peril, or definitely not nearly as strong as initially believed.













If all of this seems unfair you can click here to read my views regarding a solution to this conflict of interest.

Driver Found Not Negligent For Collision With Moose


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Powell River Registry, dismissing a personal injury lawsuit following a 2006 collision.
In this week’s case (Racy v. Leask) the Plaintiff was a passenger in the Defendant’s vehicle.  They were driving in a remote part of BC in the early evening when the vehicle encountered two moose on the roadway.  The driver could not avoid collision resulting in injuries to the passenger.  The passenger sued for damages although the claim was dismissed with Madame Justice Ker finding that the driver was not negligent.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:

[100] In this case, Ms. Leask acted immediately and appropriately upon first encountering the moose. Upon rounding the bend or corner in the road and seeing the moose, she gave a warning to Ms. Racy and at the same time applied the brakes to slow the vehicle as best she could without risking swerving in either direction. The two moose were not standing in the lane of travel but were moving toward it from the shoulder on the right hand side of the highway. The road conditions were dry. It was dark, and thus the moose were not half a mile away as Ms. Racy estimated. Rather, they were caught in the range of the headlights. There is no evidence as to what the range of the headlights on high beam for this model of vehicle is in this case. Ms. Leask was driving at least 10 km/h below the posted speed limit and was in all likelihood travelling at a speed of between 85 and 90 km/h. Ms. Leask reduced her speed to take into account the driving conditions including the fact that it was dark and the possibility of encountering wildlife.

[101] Significantly, and as in Pitt Enterprises and Fajardo, there is no evidence of what speed Ms. Leask would have to have been travelling at to have been able to stop her truck once the two moose became visible to her. Nor is there any evidence as to how far the defendant’s lights would have illuminated the highway in this case, something available in the case of Pitt Enterprises.

[102] In addition, the collision in this case did not occur in an area that could be described as a “moose alley” where it is more probable than not that moose will be found. While an accident may have occurred a year before in the same general area where a driver struck a moose, there is no other evidence to suggest this is an area where it is more probable than not that moose will be found. Ms. Leask was aware there might be wildlife in the area and had adjusted her speed accordingly and was wary of the possibility.

[103] As soon as Ms. Leask saw the moose she applied her brakes, but not with enough force to completely avoid colliding with the moose. I accept her evidence that the moose were fairly close to the vehicle, within the beam of the vehicle headlights, when she first encountered them and that they continued to move from the shoulder area to the vehicle’s lane of travel. Despite her efforts to avoid a collision by applying the brakes and maintaining a straight path, instead of swerving in either direction, the collision with the moose calf could not be avoided.

[104] Considering all the circumstances in this case, I conclude that the collision with the moose was not occasioned by any negligence or want of care on the part of Ms. Leask. I find that Ms. Leask was not driving at an excessive speed given the conditions. I also find that she was not negligent in failing to apply the vehicle brakes more forcefully or in failing to take any other evasive action such as pulling or swerving to the right or the left of her lane of travel. To have done so no doubt would have resulted in much graver consequences: a head on collision with either the mother moose or the calf. The plaintiff has failed to establish on a balance of probabilities the defendant was negligent in her response to seeing the moose on the highway. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s case fails and the action must be dismissed.
For more on this topic you can click here to access my archived posts dealing with single vehicle collisions and the inevitable accident defence.

ICBC Hit and Run Injury Claims: A Detailed Discussion of the "Reasonable Efforts" Obligation


I’ve written many times about ICBC Injury Claims involving unidentified drivers.  In short, individuals injured by unidentified motorists can sue ICBC directly for compensation but there are statutory requirements that need to be complied with to succeed with such a claim.  The most litigated issue in these claims is whether the Plaintiff took “all reasonable efforts” to identify the at fault motorist as required by section 24(5) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing this obligation and usefully setting out many of the legal principles behind what amounts to a ‘reasonable effort’.
In today’s case (Morris v. Doe) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 collision.  She was a passenger in her husband’s vehicle.  They were stopped at a red light and were rear-ended by an unidentified motorist.  The force of the crash caused the Plaintiff’s vehicle to collide with a stationary vehicle in front of them.  Following the crash the Plaintiff’s husband exited the vehicle and looked towards the at fault vehicle.  He motioned for the rear motorist “to pull his vehicle off to the side of the road into (a) parking lot”.  Following this the Plaintiff and front motorist pulled into the parking lot and the rear motorist drove away.
The Plaintiff sued ICBC for damages under section 24.  The case was dismissed with Madam Justice Ker finding that the Plaintiff failed to make all reasonable efforts to identify the at-fault motorist.  Prior to reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following useful summary of past cases addressing ‘reasonable efforts’ in ICBC hit and run injury claims:

[55]         An examination of the jurisprudence on what constitutes reasonable efforts reveals the following principles:

a.       depending on the plaintiff’s condition at the scene of the accident, it may not be realistic to expect the plaintiff to obtain particulars as to the identity of the offending driver particularly where the plaintiff is in shock or confused or injured: Tessier; Hocaluk; Ingram v. ICBC (1994), 45 B.C.A.C. 218 [Ingram]; Holloway v. ICBC, 2007 BCCA 175, at para. 14; Larsen v. Doe, 2010 BCSC 333 [Larsen]; Becker v. ICBC, 2002 BCSC 1106 [Becker], at para. 20; Nelson at paras. 19-20

b.       failure to record a licence plate number at the time of the accident when the plaintiff has the opportunity to do so or obtain information as to the driver’s identity, either personally or through the assistance of others, but does not take advantage of the opportunity amounts to a failure to take reasonable steps at the time of the accident: Burley at paras. 23-24;Watson v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2004 BCSC 1695 [Watson]; Cannon v. ICBC, 2005 BCSC 602;

c.       simply notifying the police of the accident may not be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of s. 24(5): Tessier at para. 17; Becker at para. 18;

d.       the Act does not put the responsibility to find the unidentified driver on the police; rather the responsibility lies with the plaintiff: Becker at para. 17

e.       where a plaintiff does notify the police of the accident, it is not reasonable for them to simply assume the police will make the necessary inquiries without following up with the police and checking to see if there was an investigation and if so what progress was being made in it: Becker at paras. 17-18; Tessier at para. 17; Goncalves at para 23;

f.        simply reporting the matter to the police and ICBC, without more, has led to the dismissal of a plaintiff’s action for failure to comply with the requirement of taking all reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the driver: Meghji v. ICBC, [1998] B.C.J. No. 3107 (P.C.) (QL);

g.       where the police attend the scene of the accident and take witness statements and indicate they are investigating the hit and run accident, it may not be necessary for the plaintiff to take any additional steps, depending on the circumstances: Hough v. Doe, 2006 BCSC 1450 [Hough], at paras. 16-17 & 21; Ingram at para. 13;

h.       a plaintiff placed in a position of danger at the time of the accident cannot be expected to remain in that position to obtain details of a licence plate and movement to a position of safety before trying to obtain any licence information does not constitute a failure to take reasonable steps at the scene of the accident: Nelson at paras. 19-20;

i.        posting signs in the area of the accident and/or advertising in local newspapers in an effort to find witnesses within a reasonable time after the accident where the accident occurs at a busy intersection is a reasonable and expected step as it is possible that someone present at the time of the accident could be of assistance in ascertaining the identity of the driver of the vehicle that left the scene: Johal v. ICBC (1992), 9 C.C. L.I. (2d) 172 [Johal]; Fan v. Doe, 2009 BCSC 568 [Fan]; Nelson at paras. 21-22; Godara at paras. 51-54;Tessier at para. 17; Halfyard v. ICBC (1993), 26 C.C.L.I. (2d) 320 [Halfyard];

j.        failing to post signs at the scene of the accident or place advertisements in the newspaper in a timely manner or in a manner that provides insufficient detail where it is possible that there were potential witnesses who may have information about the accident will result in a denial of coverage under s. 24 of the Act: Johal; Fan; Burley; Becker; Nelson at paras. 21-22; Jennings v. ICBC, 2002 BCSC 341;

k.       repeatedly canvassing regular patrons of the business where the plaintiff’s vehicle was damaged in the parking lot of the business may constitute reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the driver: Janzen v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2004 BCPC 437;

l.        posting signs and advertising in local newspapers may not be a reasonable step where the accident occurs on a high speed area of highway or a on highway in an area that is undeveloped and sparsely populated: Hough at para. 24; Goncalves at para. 16-21;

m.      once it is found that a plaintiff acted reasonably in believing they had the information that would be required, such as a licence plate number, there is no onus cast upon them to undertake a highly speculative further investigation upon being advised they have the wrong license plate number: Smoluk v. ICBC (1993), 26 B.C.A.C. 23 [Smoluk]; Walker v. Farnel (1995), 36 C.C.L.I. (2d) 312, at para. 24;

n.       a plaintiff will not be foreclosed from pursuing ICBC as the nominal defendant in a hit and run case where they rely upon information provided by the offending driver that subsequently turns out to be untruthful: Mudrie v. Grove, 2010 BCSC 1113, at paras. 33-36;

o.       failure to follow up on directions to take additional steps such as posting signs for witnesses or advertising, once advised the recorded licence plate number is incorrect will result in a denial of coverage under s. 24 of the Act: Watson;

p.       failing to make a timely report to the police and failing to follow up on available information from the scene of the accident such as information in the possession of ambulance personnel who attended the scene will result in a denial of coverage under s. 24 of the Act: Johal;

q.       the failure of ICBC adjusters to advise the plaintiff that other steps to try and ascertain the identity of the driver should be undertaken does not relieve a plaintiff of the obligation to take all reasonable steps to ascertain the unknown driver’s identity: Tessier at para. 19.

[56]         As the jurisprudence demonstrates, what constitutes reasonable steps varies with the circumstances of each case. However, where it was not reasonable to obtain information that would assist in ascertaining the identity of the driver at the time of the accident, taking no steps at the second stage in the days or weeks after the accident, cannot amount to discharging the clear onus placed upon a plaintiff to take reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver.

$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Chronic Pain From Soft Tissue Injury


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry addressing damages as a result of chronic soft tissue injury.
In today’s case (MacKenzie v. Rogalasky) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2003 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant turned into the path of the Plaintiff’s vehicle resulting in a t-bone type collision.  Fault for the crash was admitted by the Defendant with the trial focusing on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff sustained various injuries in the crash.  These included “moderate” soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulders and back.  The Plaintiff, unfortunately, went on to suffer from long term chronic pain as a result of these injuries.  He had to leave his employment as the Head Chef at a popular Lower Mainland restaurant and eventually opt for less physically demanding employment.
The limitations from his chronic soft tissue injuries were expected to be permanent.  The Plaintiff’s total damages were assessed at just under $400,000 including an award of non-pecuniary damages of $100,000.  In arriving at this figure Madam Justice Ker made the following findings:

[255]     I accept the evidence adduced by the plaintiff that Mr. MacKenzie sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulder and back as a result of the accident.  The symptoms of chronic pain have continued to bother Mr. MacKenzie, and nearly seven years post-accident, he still experiences pain in his neck, shoulder and back, although primarily in the lower back area.  While the injuries can be described as moderate soft tissue injuries, I accept the diagnosis and opinion of Dr. Hunt that Mr. MacKenzie has developed chronic myofascial pain syndrome and experiences chronic pain to this day.  Thus, the injuries and pain symptoms continue to affect most every facet of Mr. MacKenzie’s work and non-work life.  The pain is most significant when Mr. MacKenzie works and overloads his physical tolerance capacity.  He has had to leave his chosen profession as a chef due to the increasing pain and difficulty he was experiencing and the failure to see any significant improvement in his condition.

[256]     I have concluded that as a result of the accident, Mr. MacKenzie has suffered pain and loss of enjoyment of life, and he will continue to do so for an indefinite period of time.

[257]     Mr. MacKenzie struck me as a very stoic and determined individual.  Despite the ongoing pain he tried to continue to work as a chef, a position he was passionate about and aspired to continue in for as long as possible, perhaps even establishing his own restaurant.  He also tried to remain physically active but found it difficult to do so given the attendant pain associated with the activities he previously enjoyed, including motorcycling, snowboarding and, until recently, golfing.  His return to playing golf is a recent development, but due to the nature of his injuries and ongoing chronic pain symptoms Mr. MacKenzie has had to alter his style of play and is still not able to play to the same intensity and level he did prior to the accident.  He has suffered, and will continue to suffer, some diminishment in his lifestyle.

[258]     The evidence from the plaintiff’s friends and family, coupled with his own evidence, establishes Mr. MacKenzie enjoyed excellent health and was involved in the physically active and demanding position of Head Chef working in a busy restaurant for up to 16 hour shifts prior to the accident.  Mr. MacKenzie also engaged in demanding outdoor sports activities such as snowboarding, mountain biking and rollerblading and engaged in extended periods of riding his motorcycle.

[259]     Taking into account all of these circumstances, the referenced authorities and the nature of Mr. MacKenzie’s injuries, the relatively enduring nature of the injuries as manifested through ongoing symptoms of chronic pain that has developed into chronic myofascial pain syndrome which prohibits him from returning to the profession he has been passionate about since he was a young boy, the pain he has suffered and may continue to experience in the future, as well as the fact he suffered a diminishment in his lifestyle, I conclude a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary damages is $100,000.

$30,000 Awarded for Moderate, Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages as a result of injuries and losses from a motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Rothenbusch v. Van Boeyen) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2 vehicle intersection collision in Mission, BC in 2007.  The Plaintiff was making a left hand turn when his vehicle collided with the on-coming defendant.  The Court found the Plaintiff 30% at fault for failing to yield to the Defendant’s right of way and the Defendant 70% at fault for speeding, failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to take proper evasive maneuvers when he had the opportunity to do so.
The Plaintiff claimed compensation for various injuries although the Court found the Plaintiff failed to prove that some of his more serious injuries were caused by the crash.  Ultimately Madam Justice Ker found the collision caused various soft tissue injuries which did not fully recovery.  The Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) were assessed at $30,000.  In arriving at this amount Madam Justice Ker provided the following reasons:
[180] Mr. Rothenbusch was almost 81 years of age at the time of the accident.  Although retired from hog farming, Mr. Rothenbusch remained active in the community, curling two or three times a week and engaging in volunteer pastoral work at a senior’s lodge and visiting people in the hospital. He also helped a friend at a berry farm by planting and pruning throughout the year and in picking berries during the summer season. In addition to being a hog farmer, Mr. Rothenbusch worked in construction and as a plumber and continued to do his own home repairs and helped others in this area….

242] In the end, the totality of the evidence supports the conclusion Mr. Rothenbusch sustained moderate soft tissue injuries to his neck, lumbar spine, left scapula and left ribs as well as cuts to his face as a result of the accident. The evidence further supports the conclusion that the major disabilities from the injuries were largely resolved by the end of December 2007. However, Mr. Rothenbusch continues to experience intermittent neck and shoulder pain as a result of the injuries from the accident, and he is still restricted in his range of motion for his neck and shoulder. These continuing symptoms have, in part, impacted on his ability to return to all his pre-accident activities….

[255] Mr. Rothenbusch continues to experience intermittent pain in his neck and continues to have difficulties with his shoulder. He is not able to engage in some of the home repair, plumbing activities or berry picking activities he enjoyed prior to the accident.

[256] Although Mr. Rothenbusch may not be as active as a younger plaintiff, it is important to bear in mind that as one advances in life, activities and pleasures sometimes become more limited. In that respect, impairment of the limited activities and pleasures which an individual can engage in becomes more serious: Williams at para. 17.

[257] Having regard to all the circumstances and taking what guidance I can from the authorities provided by counsel, I assess Mr. Rothenbusch’s non-pecuniary damages at $30,000.

In addition to the above, the decision is worth reviewing for the Court’s thorough discussion of “in-trust” claims (claims where plaintiff’s seek compensation on behalf of others who have provided them assistance with their accident related disabilities) which are set out in paragraphs 260-290 of the judgement.

The Inability to Afford Therapy and the Duty to Mitigate Damages


As I’ve recently written, a Plaintiff has a duty to ‘mitigate‘ their losses after being injured otherwise the damages they are entitled to can be reduced.
The most common example of the ‘failure to mitigate’ defence comes up in personal injury claims where defence lawyers argue that a Plaintiff would have recovered more quickly and more completely had they followed through with all of the suggestions of their medical practitioners.  If evidence supporting such an argument is accepted then the Plaintiff’s award can be reduced.
What if a Plaintiff can’t afford to purchase all the therapies/medications recommended by their physicians?  Can their damage award be reduced in these circumstances?  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this issue.
In this week’s case (Trites v. Penner) the Plaintiff, an apprentice plumber, was injured in a forceful rear end collision in 2005.  Fault for the crash was admitted by the rear motorist.  The trial focused on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries.  He followed a course of therapy in the months that followed and enjoyed some improvement in his symptoms.  During his recovery ICBC (the Plaintiff’s insurer for ‘no fault’ benefits) discontinued “funding for (the Plaintiff’s) efforts at rehabilitation.”
At trial the Defence lawyer argued that the Plaintiff should have followed through with these therapies in any event and that his damages should be reduced for failure to mitigate.   Madam Justice Ker disagreed and took the Plaintiff’s inability to pay for his therapies into consideration.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[209] Financial circumstances are certainly one factor to consider in the overall reasonableness assessment of whether a plaintiff has failed to mitigate their losses.  What is reasonable will depend on all the surrounding circumstances.  One significant factor in this case however, is that as Mr. Trites was on his upward climb to recovery, ICBC determined that it would discontinue funding his efforts at rehabilitation.  As a consequence, Mr. Trites was left to fund his continued rehabilitation on his own.  Instrumental to continuing his recovery and functioning was not only attendance at the gym but other treatment modalities including massage therapy and chiropractic treatments and taking prescription medication.  All of these items had significant benefits to Mr. Trites but they also carried with them significant costs.  In the first half of 2007, Mr. Trites was unable to fund all these aspects of treatment and chose the prescription medication as it was essential to his pain management on a daily basis.

[210] I find that in these circumstances, Mr. Trites’ decision not to continue with a gym pass on a monthly basis for the first six months of 2007 was not unreasonable.  This is not a case where the plaintiff has refused to take recommended treatment.  Rather Mr. Trites was engaged in all aspects of the recommended treatments and ICBC was, until December 2006, paying for them.  Thereafter ICBC unilaterally discontinued paying for these treatments, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Trites was not yet fully recovered.  I cannot find that Mr. Trites acted unreasonably in determining how best to try and pay for all the treatment modalities that had been working for him in assisting his rehabilitation but were no longer going to be paid for by ICBC and were beyond his limited means at the time.  As Smith J. noted in O’Rourke v. Claire, [1997] B.C.J. No. 630 (S.C.) at para. 42 “it does not lie in the mouth of the tortfeasor to say that a plaintiff in such circumstances has failed to mitigate by failing to arrange and pay for his own rehabilitative treatment.”

[211] Accordingly, I find that the defence has not discharged its burden of establishing that Mr. Trites failed to mitigate his losses in this case.

You may be wondering if ICBC is allowed to, on the one hand deny a Plaintiff rehabilitation benefits, and on the other have the Defendant’s lawyer argue at trial that the Plaintiff should have pursued these benefits and therefor reduce the Plaintiff’s award.  The answer is yes and you can click here to read a previous article discussing this area of law, and here for the latest from the BC Court of Appeal on this topic.
Today’s case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of non-pecuniary damages and diminished earning capacity.
The Court accepted that the Plaintiff suffered moderate soft tissue injuries to his neck and back and these had a ‘guarded’ prognosis for full recovery.   $75,000 was awarded for his non-pecuniary damages and the Court’s reasons addressing this can be found at paragraphs 188-198.
The Plaintiff was also awarded $250,000 for diminished earning capacity.  He was an apprentice plumber and, despite his injuries, was able to continue to work in this trade in the years that followed the collision.  However he struggled in his profession and there was evidence he may have to retrain.  The court’s lengthy discussion addressing his diminished earning capacity can be found at paragraphs 213-239.

$75,000 Non Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Chronic Soft Tissue Neck Injury


Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $156,000 in total damages as a result of damages and loss from a BC Car Crash.
In yesterday’s case (Szymanski v. Morin) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2004.  Liability (Fault) was admitted by the Defendants leaving the court to deal with the value of the Claim.
The Plaintiff suffered mild/moderate soft tissue injuries but due to the nature of his physical work (a hard-wood floor installer) his injury continued to be aggravated and symptomatic through trial some 5 years later.
In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) Madam Justice Ker highlighted the following facts with respect to the accident related injuries:
[134] Upon a consideration of all of the evidence, I find that Mr. Szymanski’s complaint of continuing neck and trapezius pain was caused by the accident.  The fact that he suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck is not disputed.  The significance in this case is that the complaint continues.  I find that Mr. Szymanski continues to suffer neck and trapezius pain and that is because the accident and injuries occurred to a person with Mr. Szymanski’s particular occupation such that it has made it difficult for the injuries to fully resolve in the ordinary course.  As noted in the evidence of Dr. Tomaszewski, Dr. Hershler and Ms. Quastel, which I accept, Mr. Szymanski’s occupation as a hardwood floor installed has exacerbated the situation and made him more susceptible to suffering injury for a greater period of time than a normal person might have.  Mr. Szymanski has established that he has continuing problems with chronic neck pain and his continuing problems were caused by the defendants’ negligence.  He is entitled to be compensated for his injuries…

[142] I accept Mr. Szymanski’s evidence that he sustained a soft tissue injury to the left side of his neck as a result of the accident and that he still experiences pain in the left side of his neck that radiates into his upper left trapezius muscle area.  The injury can be described as mild to moderate in nature but has developed an element of chronic pain that continues to bother Mr. Szymanski.  The pain is most evident when Mr. Szymanski works.  His job as a hardwood floor installer is physically demanding although he has been able to find contracts that are less demanding than what he undertook prior to the accident.  This chronic neck pain still manifests itself some four years after the accident, albeit significantly reduced from what it was immediately after the accident and the two years following the accident.

[143] Mr. Szymanski is a stoic and determined person.  Despite the neck and upper left trapezius pain he has tried to remain physically active but is less active than he was prior to the accident.  He no longer goes for long hikes, electing shorter slower walks, he no longer canoes, he hunts less than he did prior to the accident, primarily by reducing the number of hours he goes out hunting.  His injuries have impacted on his ability to contribute to various household chores such as vacuuming and washing dishes, and he is not able to conduct the home renovations at the pace he had set before the accident.  He no longer socializes to the extent he used to prior to the accident because of the chronic pain and fatigue he experiences.  His plan of retiring and building and opening a bed and breakfast may well be compromised by the continuing pain he experiences and thus is a further component in the assessment of impairment and loss of his previous lifestyle.

[144] Taking into account all of these circumstances, the referenced authorities and the nature of Mr. Szymanski’s injuries, the fact that the injury of real consequence was to the left side of his neck, and the upper left trapezius muscles that lead to his left shoulder, the relatively enduring nature of this injury, the pain he has suffered and may continue to experience in the future, as well as the fact that he suffered some diminishment in lifestyle, I assess non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $75,000.

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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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