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Tag: Madam Justice Russell

$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Central Neuropathic Pain With Poor Prognosis

Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, assessing damages for central neuropathic pain caused by a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Laliberte v. Jarma) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2015 vehicle collision.  She was a passenger in a vehicle driven by the Defendant that lost control “went through a fence and over a bump and landed in a field”.  Liability was admitted.

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$95,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Wrist and Thumb Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic hand injury caused by a vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Burke v. Schwetje) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The collision caused a hand and thumb injury resulting in permanent partial disability.   The Plaintiff did, however, have a number of pre-existing issues which likely would have led to some overlapping disability described as “a number of quiescent but present conditions in his hands and wrists that would likely have become increasingly symptomatic over time in any event of the Collision.
In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $95,000 Madam Justice Russell provided the following reasons:

[117]     I am aware that the plaintiff has not been able to continue as a commercial fisherman since 2013 and before that, had some serious functional limitations on his abilities. His culture, his friendships and his livelihood have all changed substantially since the Collision and because of the Collision.

[118]     The plaintiff’s right wrist symptoms were aggravated significantly by the Collision and he has had continuing pain in his thumb and his wrist for which he takes OTC medications and may choose to have one or possibly two surgeries.

[119]     As a man of 67 at the time of the Collision, his career has been shortened by the aggravation of his previously only mildly symptomatic arthritis.

[122]     Given the agreement of the defendants with the quantum of non-pecuniary damages which the plaintiff seeks and my finding that that amount is appropriate in the circumstances, I award him $95,000.

[123]     The award of damages under this head includes an amount for loss of housekeeping or gardening capacity

Court Finds Careless Driving Admission Not Binding in Subsequent Injury Lawsuit

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding a motorist faultless for a collision even though that same motorist entered a guilty plea to a charge of driving a vehicle without due care and attention.  While this is not the first noted circumstance of this occurring the Court provided helpful reasons setting out the circumstances where the prior admission will not be an abuse of process to re-litigate.
In today’s case (Chand v. Martin) the Plaintiff was operating a vehicle struck by a train.  He was injured and a passenger in his vehicle was killed.  The Plaintiff was charged with “driving a vehicle without due care and attention” and plead guilty (meaning an admission that he did so beyond a reasonable doubt).
The Plaintiff then sued a host of parties including the train conductor alleging they were at fault for the incident.  The Court found that the train conductor was indeed negligent for the incident noting that he proceeded into the train crossing when the signal lights were not working and this created an unreasonable risk of harm.
The Defendants argued that the Plaintiff was also partly at fault and cannot escape this given the previous admission of careless driving.  Madam Justice Russell disagreed and in allowing the issue to be re-litigated despite the previous guilty plea noted as follows:

[86]        The key decision regarding the effect of a guilty plea in a subsequent proceeding involving the same facts is Toronto (City) v. CUPE Local 79, 2003 SCC 63. In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada was considering whether the grievance of a dismissal following a conviction for sexual assault amounted to an abuse of process. The Court provided the following comments at paras. 51-53:

[51] Rather than focus on the motive or status of the parties, the doctrine of abuse of process concentrates on the integrity of the adjudicative process. Three preliminary observations are useful in that respect. First, there can be no assumption that relitigation will yield a more accurate result than the original proceeding. Second, if the same result is reached in the subsequent proceeding, the relitigation will prove to have been a waste of judicial resources as well as an unnecessary expense for the parties and possibly an additional hardship for some witnesses. Finally, if the result in the subsequent proceeding is different from the conclusion reached in the first on the very same issue, the inconsistency, in and of itself, will undermine the credibility of the entire judicial process, thereby diminishing its authority, its credibility and its aim of finality.

[52] In contrast, proper review by way of appeal increases confidence in the ultimate result and affirms both the authority of the process as well as the finality of the result. It is therefore apparent that from the system’s point of view, relitigation carries serious detrimental effects and should be avoided unless the circumstances dictate that relitigation is in fact necessary to enhance the credibility and the effectiveness of the adjudicative process as a whole. There may be instances where relitigation will enhance, rather than impeach, the integrity of the judicial system, for example: (1) when the first proceeding is tainted by fraud or dishonesty; (2) when fresh, new evidence, previously unavailable, conclusively impeaches the original results; or (3) when fairness dictates that the original result should not be binding in the new context. This was stated unequivocally by this Court in Danyluk, supra, at para. 80.

[53] The discretionary factors that apply to prevent the doctrine of issue estoppel from operating in an unjust or unfair way are equally available to prevent the doctrine of abuse of process from achieving a similar undesirable result. There are many circumstances in which the bar against relitigation, either through the doctrine of res judicata or that of abuse of process, would create unfairness. If, for instance, the stakes in the original proceeding were too minor to generate a full and robust response, while the subsequent stakes were considerable, fairness would dictate that the administration of justice would be better served by permitting the second proceeding to go forward than by insisting that finality should prevail. An inadequate incentive to defend, the discovery of new evidence in appropriate circumstances, or a tainted original process may all overcome the interest in maintaining the finality of the original decision (Danyluk, supra, at para. 51; Franco, supra, at para. 55).

[Emphasis added]

[87]        I find that the case at bar fits within the exception emphasized above in CUPE Local 79 at para. 53. Mr. Chand had no memory of the collision, and so he could not offer a full and robust defence. In addition, the fine was quite minor, with the stakes of this subsequent proceeding being much higher. In those circumstances, it is not surprising that Mr. Chand chose to enter a guilty plea.

[88]        Consequently, I find that in these circumstances, Mr. Chand’s guilty plea does not constitute proof in these proceedings that he was driving without due care or attention on the night in question. In keeping with the independent eyewitness testimony of Mr. Harkness and Mr. Angus, I find that Mr. Chand was not speeding or driving erratically.

Uninsured, Self Represented Litigant Learns that Perjury is a Poor Idea

From the vault of how not to represent yourself in court, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, admonishing a self represented litigant for providing the Court with perjured evidence.
In today’s case (Dizon v. Losier) the Defendant rear-ended a vehicle driven by the Plaintiff.  The Defendant was uninsured at the time and represented himself in court.  As part of his defense strategy he called a witness who said he witnessed the collision and the Plaintiff stopped for no reason.  On cross examination it became clear that this witness did not see the collision and colluded to provide this friendly evidence for the Defendant.  The Court went on to find the Defendant largely at fault for the crash, ordering payment of almost $40,000 in damages, costs, and one day of ‘specical costs’ for the perjured evidence. In admonishing this evidence Madam Justice Russell provided the following comments:

[43]         Mr. Losier called a witness who provided completely concocted evidence about seeing the plaintiff’s car stop for no reason just before the accident. This witness, Mr. Dale Carmount, was asked by this Court if he had known the defendant before the accident. This was done in order to test whether there had been any complicity with respect to this convenient account of events. Mr. Carmount denied having met the plaintiff before the accident. Instead, he said he had responded to a notice posted by Mr. Losier asking for witnesses to the accident.

[44]         In cross-examination, plaintiff’s counsel referred to a Facebook page that Mr. Carmount denied existed, but which was clearly that of Mr. Carmount, and then asked him about family relationships. Mr. Carmount then revealed that, through family in Ontario, Mr. Carmount and Mr. Losier were acquainted before the accident.

[45]         In light of this evidence, I find that the two of them developed a statement for Mr. Carmount to sign that was completely untrue. Mr. Carmount had not witnessed the accident occurring as he had stated under oath.

[46]         That this evidence amounted to perjury, for which both participants could have been prosecuted, was not lost on Mr. Losier. He tendered an apology to the Court.

[47]         This turn of events significantly undermined the reliability of the defendant’s evidence.

[84]         … the plaintiff will be awarded one day of special costs for the unnecessary delay in this matter for the consideration of the perjured evidence from the defendant.

Slip and Fall Lawsuit Dismissed Due to No Evidence of Moisture

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, dismissing a slip and fall lawsuit after a plaintiff failed to prove the existence of any hazard.
In today’s case (Hanes v. Loblaws, Inc) the Plaintiff fell and injured her knee and back while shopping at the Defendant’s store in 2010.  She sued for damages alleging the fall was caused by moisture on the floor.  The Plaintiff ” did not see water on the floor” before or after the fall but assumed the floor was wet because “when she took off her jacket, the back of it was wet“.  The Court dismissed the claim finding this was insufficient to find liability.  In doing so Madam Justice Russell provided the following reasons:

[139]     There is simply no evidence that Ms. Hanes’ fall was caused by moisture on the floor, whether that was a pool of water, or just general moisture causing the surface to become unreasonably slippery.

[140]     The only indication of the presence of moisture at all comes from an assumption on Ms. Hanes’ part that the moisture she says she felt on the back of her jacket, a jacket that did not cover her buttocks, following her fall was caused by water on the floor.

[141]     This evidence is completely uncorroborated. The video disk shows many customers, employees, and managers walking back and forth across the area where she fell before and after the incident. None of them seems to have noticed anything wrong with the surface, and none appears to have lost traction as they traversed the area around the customer service desk.

[142]     Numerous employees inspected the floor and found neither pools of water nor a moist surface.

[143]     It is my view that Ms. Hanes’ shoes were already wet when she entered the store due both to her crossing the snowy church parking lot, and residual moisture on the concrete outside the store.

[144]     With the wet leather soles and high heels she was wearing, it would have been very easy for her to skid a little on her right high heel and to turn her ankle, causing her to fall. However, assigning any cause to her fall is itself speculative.

[145]     In my view, her fall was truly an accident and liability cannot be found against Superstore.

[146]     I also cannot find fault with the quality of the surface of the floor in the Superstore, and I find that the program in place to keep the floor as clean and dry as possible in the circumstances met a reasonable standard of safety.

[147]     It is clear from the witnesses’ evidence and from the video disks that the cleaning program was underway the morning of the fall right up to the time Ms. Hanes fell.

[148]     Ms. Hanes has not established that Loblaws is liable for her fall and injuries. Therefore, it is unnecessary for me to address the damages she alleges she has suffered.

[149]     The plaintiff’s action is dismissed with costs to the defendant.

Wide Left Turn Leads to Contributory Negligence Finding

(Update March 25, 2015 an appeal from the below liability finding was dismissed)
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing fault for a crash involving a wide left hand turning vehicle.
In this week’s case (Le v. Point) the Plaintiff was operating a scooter and passed a vehicle which was stopped ahead of him waiting to turn left.  The Plaintiff passed on the right hand side of the vehicle.  At the same time the Defendant, coming from the opposite direction, was attempting a left hand turn through the intersection.  The Defendant almost cleared the intersection when the Plaintiff clipped the rear of the vehicle.
The Court found the Defendant was established in the intersection and was the dominant vehicle with the Plaintiff failing to keep a proper lookout.  Despite this the Defenant was found partially at fault because she was turning wide into the curb lane.
In finding the Defendant 30% at fault Madam Justice Russell provided the following reasons:
[51]         I find that Mr. Le did not keep a proper lookout as he entered the intersection. If he had, he would have seen Ms. Dickson’s vehicle conducting a left turn. By the time he entered the intersection, Ms. Dickson’s vehicle was in the northeast corner of the intersection, which was directly in front of his line of vision.
[52]         However, Ms. Dickson has admitted that she violated s. 165 of the Motor Vehicle Act by turning wide into the northbound curb lane of traffic on Arbutus rather than the lane of traffic closest to the centre line. While this in itself is not sufficient to establish that she breached her duty of care, if she had turned into the nearest northbound lane as required, it is likely she would have been clear of the intersection by the time that Mr. Le entered it and the collision may never have occurred. On this basis, I find Ms. Dickson was contributorily negligent in causing the collision despite the fact that she was the dominant driver.
[53]         In closing arguments the plaintiff referred to several cases in which a left turning driver was held 100% liable for collisions: Andrews v. Mainster, 2012 BCSC 823, Clarke v. Stephan, 1993 CanLii 1554 (B.C.S.C.), Djukiv v. Hahn, 2006 BCSC 154, Tait v. Dumansky, 2012 BCSC 332, Pasemko v. Van Varner, 1994 CanLii 1043 (B.C.S.C.). These cases are not of assistance to the Court in deciding the issues at hand. In all of these cases it was found that the left turning driver failed to observe traffic which constituted an immediate hazard and breached an obligation to yield the right-of-way. Since I have found that Mr. Le was not an immediate hazard and Ms. Dickson was the dominant driver, these cases are distinguishable on their facts.
[54]         In the circumstances of this case, I apportion the fault for the 2010 Collision as 70% to Mr. Le and 30% to Ms. Dickson.

$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries

Adding to this site’s archived case summaries addressing soft tissue injuries, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for lingering soft tissue injuries.
In last week’s case (Smith v. Both) the Plaintiff was injured in a “not particularly severe” collision in 2009.  She sustained soft tissue injuries which remained symptomatic at the time of trial and were expected to have some lingering consequences.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Madam Justice Russell provided the following reasons:
[99]         It is clear from the evidence that the impact in the Accident was not particularly severe. In coming to this conclusion, I have considered the fact that the damage to the vehicles was negligible, neither vehicles’ airbags deployed, the defendant’s seatbelt did not lock, and the plaintiff’s car did not move forward far enough to hit the car in front of it.
[100]     However, on the basis of the evidence before me I find that the plaintiff has demonstrated that the pain in her neck, shoulders, and lower back, as well as headaches, were caused by the Accident. These symptoms emerged after the Accident, and according to both the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s medical experts, these pain symptoms are consistent with soft tissue injuries…
104]     I find it is likely she will continue to have some pain resulting from the soft tissue injuries she suffered in the Accident.
[105]     However, I am not satisfied the plaintiff has demonstrated that this pain will not improve or that the residual pain will be severe…
[131]     In the circumstances of this case, considering Ms. Smith’s age, pre-Accident activity level, injuries, severity and duration of pain, interference with lifestyle, and impairment of life and of social relationships, I award the plaintiff $45,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages For Soft Tissue Injuries Interfering With Infant Care

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for collision related injuries which interfered with a Plaintiff’s ability to breastfeed her infant.
In this week’s case (Mezo v. Malcolm) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 rear end collision.  She was three months pregnant at the time.   She suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries which not only made her pregnancy more difficult but also interfered with her ability to care for her newborn with the Court noting that the Plaintiff ” could not comfortably lift her baby or hold her to breast feed. Her neck hurt from bending down over the baby and her headaches returned.”
The plaintiff remained symptomatic at the time of trial and her symptoms were expected to continue into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Madam Justice Russell provided the following reasons:
[133]     The plaintiff was a young, fit woman at the time of the Accident.
[134]     The plaintiff’s pregnancy at the time of the Accident added to the fear she felt and impacted on her ability to achieve any pain relief. I accept her evidence that she chose to endure the pain rather than risk damage from medication to her unborn child.
[135]     After the baby’s birth, her neck, back and arm pain interfered with her ability to care for her baby. She lost the opportunity to breastfeed her baby after a short period of time. For a conscientious contemporary mother, this was a serious loss.
[136]     Her ability to lift the baby was compromised due to her back and neck pain. One of the joys of motherhood is to hold the infant close. Losing this opportunity is another serious loss. Having her mother enjoy this pleasure no doubt was helpful to the baby’s wellbeing, but it does not replace the disappointment suffered by the plaintiff.
[137]     The athletic lifestyle enjoyed by the plaintiff, Florin, and the plaintiff’s mother is now beyond the ability of the plaintiff due to her injuries. It is all well and good for Dr. Bishop to say that it is likely her pain will increase with more activity but that does not mean re-injury, but the continuing pain does and will interfere with her activities. Not every accident victim is able to ignore pain to the extent Dr. Bishop seems to suggest is desirable.
[138]     I agree with Dr. Adrian that she will continue to suffer some degree of disability for the foreseeable future….
145]     Taking into account the circumstances of this case, I award the plaintiff the amount of $60,000 for non-pecuniary damages.

"Rigid" Expert Evidence Regarding Soft Tissue Injuries Rejected by BC Supreme Court

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing ‘rigid’ evidence which downplayed the relationship between lingering symptoms and a motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Mezo v. Malcolm) the Plaintiff suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries in a motor vehicle collision.  These remained symptomatic at the time of trial.  The Defendant hired an independent medical examiner who stated that “all soft tissue injuries heal within 12 to 16 weeks after a motor vehicle accident….the plaintiff’s symptoms outside this time range cannot be soft tissue injuries related to the trauma of the Accident
In rejecting this ‘rigid’ opinion as unhelpful Madam Justice Russell provided the following reasons:
[114]     I found Dr. Bishop to be rigid in his point of view and unable to do other than say that if the plaintiff’s pain continued long past the 12 to16 month time limit for the healing of soft tissue injuries, the pain could not come from soft tissue injuries. In my view, this begs the question of why the plaintiff continues to suffer pain from activities which place stress on her spine. That her injuries are not objectively demonstrable does not mean she does not suffer pain.
[115]     Dr. Bishop agreed in cross-examination that there can often be soft tissue injuries in patients where the pain endures more than 16 weeks but which are not objectively determinable.
[116]     The plaintiff’s pre-existing low back pain has not been a factor in the injuries stemming from the Accident.
[117]     I did not find Dr. Bishop’s report helpful.

"Untruthful" Description of Collision Undermines Personal Injury Lawsuit

If an injured plaintiff inaccurately describes the forces of a collision to physicians that can work to undermine the foundation of subsequent medico-legal reports and strike at the foundation of a personal injury claim.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating such a result.
In this week’s case (Warren v. Morgan) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions in 2008.  She sued for damages and proceeded to trial which took 22 days.  The Court found that the first collision caused “no damage” to the Plaintiff and dismissed the claim.  The second claim allegedly caused profound injury including long term problems stemming from both psychiatric and organic injuries.  The Court largely rejected the Plaintiff’s claim and dismissed most of the claimed damages.  In doing so Madam Justice Russell provided the following comments criticizing the Plaintiff’s evidence with respect the forces involved in the collision:
[476]     These findings do not determine the issue of causation. The law is well-established that causation and the extent of an injury will be decided on the whole of the evidence: Hoy v. Harvey, 2012 BCSC 1076 at paras. 44 – 45; Christoffersen v. Howarth, 2013 BCSC 144 at paras. 56 – 57. Even if the accident was minor, Ms. Warren may have suffered serious physical and psychological injury.
[477]     At the same time, Ms. Warren has put forward an untruthful version of the accident to her treating health care professionals, as evident in their description of the incident. For instance, Dr. Boyle’s report notes that she crashed into the car ahead of her as a result of Mr. Berretta’s vehicle hitting her from behind. This misstatement cannot be explained by the passage of time; it is a misrepresentation that affects the reliability of the medical evidence admitted in this case for the purpose of determining causation and damages…
[591]     On the evidence, I find the plaintiff has convinced herself that the accident occurred in a certain way and that she experienced certain symptoms. She has presented this story to her treating doctors who have relied upon the accuracy of her reported symptoms. These doctors have found support for their diagnoses in other medical reports, that similarly rely upon the accuracy of plaintiff’s reported symptoms. This evidence superficially seems reliable, but its foundation is fictitious.

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