Tag: Mattu v. Fust

BCCA Addresses Burden of Proof of "Failure to Mitigate" Defence in Injury Claims


If you’re injured through the fault of another and successfully sue you are entitled to be compensated for your losses and damages.  However, if you ignore medical advice or otherwise fail to take reasonable steps to minimize your losses your damages may be reduced.  This principle in personal injury law is called “failure to mitigate“.
The Defendant has the burden to prove that a Plaintiff failed to mitigate their damages.  If the evidence does not establish that absent the alleged ‘failure‘ the injuries would have appreciably improved then no reduction in damages will be made.  Today the BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement upholding a trial verdict addressing this.
In today’s case (Mattu v. Fust) the Plaintiff suffered reasonably serious injuries in a 2004 BC motor vehicle collision.  These included symptomatic disc herniations in his back.  At trial the Plaintiff succeeded and was awarded just over $170,000 for his damages.  (You can click here to read my summary of the trial verdict).
The Defendant appealed arguing the Judge should have reduced this award because the Plaintiff did not take reasonable steps to rehabilitate his injuries.  The BC Court of Appeal disagreed and concluded that the trial judge appropriately applied the law.    In reaching this verdict the BC High Court provided the following useful comments about mitigation in personal injury lawsuits:
[7] I am not prepared to assume the judge ignored the evidence, nor can I say that the evidence was so important that it required specific mention. The judge concluded the respondent was well motivated in seeking recovery from his accident injuries and that conclusion is reasonably based on the record. The judge was not, in my opinion, looking for absolute proof of a failure to mitigate. The fact of the matter is that on the civil standard the appellant failed to establish that the respondent’s less than full compliance with medical recommendations would have made any difference to his continuing disability. The respondent never took the case on mitigation beyond generalities, such as: it is always preferable to follow your doctor’s advice. The judge drew an inference from the evidence that the respondent did not fail to mitigate. On the palpable and overriding error standard, I can see no basis for interfering with her finding in this regard.
When faced with an argument from ICBC or another defendant that you ‘failed to mitigate‘ your injuries keep in mind that they need to prove this allegation with evidence.  If you’re looking for more information about the law of mitigation in injury claims you can click here to access my archived posts.

ICBC Pain and Suffering Round-Up

With the Canucks losing game 6 and the series to the Blackhawks I figured its a fitting time to write about Pain and Suffering Claims in BC.
In the first case, Chan v. Kao, the Plaintiff suffered a left shoulder injury as a result of a 2006 motor vehicle collision.   Mr. Justice Verhoeven had credibility concerns with respect to some aspects of the Plaintiff’s testimony.  Despite this he concluded that “I have no difficulty in finding that Mr. Chan did in fact injure his left shoulder in the motor vehicle accident“.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (damages for pain and suffering) at $22,000 the court summarized his injuries and prognosis as follows:
[65]            I accept that Mr. Chan has continued to have shoulder problems and pain since the accident.  The extent to which this has affected his work is impossible to gauge, in view of the unreliability of his evidence.  It seems likely that Mr. Chan has worked at various times and places since the accident, but has chosen not to testify about that work…

72]            In summary, I accept that the plaintiff’s left shoulder was injured in the motor vehicle accident, and that he continues to suffer, to some extent, from shoulder difficulties initially caused by the accident.  The evidence as to the extent to which the ongoing shoulder problem causes the plaintiff ongoing difficulty and disability with respect to his ability to work is subject to considerable doubt, due to the unreliability of the plaintiff’s evidence in this respect, and the lack of corroborating evidence.

[73]            While Dr. Lui’s prognosis of permanent disability is overly pessimistic, both orthopaedic surgeons are of the view that there are ongoing problems in the shoulder which require treatment.  In my view, treatment options have not been adequately explored.

In addition to referencing several cases dealing with pain and suffering values in BC for shoulder injuries this claim is worth reviewing to see how Mr. Justice Verhoeven dealt with his concerns regarding the credibility of certain aspects of the Plaintiff’s evidence.

The second ICBC Pain and Suffering Claim released today (Mattu v. Fust) involved a 2004 collision.  The Plaintiff was 39 years old at the time.  His vehicle was rear-ended with enough force to push it into the vehicle ahead of him.

The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries leading to chronic pain and headaches.  The court found that the effects of these would likely be permanent.  Madam Justice Brown summarized the medical evidence of the Plaintiff’s treating family physician as follows:

 

[31]            Dr. Parhar has been Mr. Mattu’s family physician since April 2004. He provided three reports to the court. In his first report of November 1, 2004, he diagnosed Mr. Mattu with paracervical, parathoracic and paralumbar muscle strain, left shoulder strain and muscle tension headaches.  He had received ice, heat, rest, exercises, massage therapy, kinesiology, acupuncture, herbal medicine and medications: anti-inflamatories, analgesics and muscle relaxants.  With respect to prognosis and recommendations, Dr. Parhar was impressed by Mr. Mattu’s motivation to recover and try different treatments, but was concerned that he may be trying too many modalities.  He recommended limiting treatment to massage and physiotherapy and increasing active modalities such as swimming and exercises.  He anticipated further treatment and improvement.

[32]            In his report of May 26, 2006, Dr. Parhar found that Mr. Mattu continued to have decreased range of motion in the cervical spine, tenderness in the paracervical and paralumbar regions.  He found muscle spasm in the paracervical and paralumbar regions.  His diagnosis remained the same.  His prognosis for full recovery had worsened.  Mr. Mattu had tried a variety of treatments with minimal success.  Dr. Parhar’s recommendations were unchanged, but he thought that Mr. Mattu’s condition had plateaued.

[33]            In his final report of September 16, 2008, Dr. Parhar considered the MRIs of Mr. Mattu’s spine taken September 19, 2006, and July 28, 2008, and concluded that Mr. Mattu’s injuries included cervical and thoracic disc herniations.  He said: “… it is unclear if the cervical and thoracic disc herniations were caused by the motor vehicle accident … but certainly, this motor vehicle accident made these spinal lesions symptomatic.”  He commented on Mr. Mattu’s efforts to recover: “… pursued many more modalities of treatment than most patients would have. Despite all of these modalities his pain symptoms persist.”  He concluded that the prognosis for a full recovery was poor, that Mr. Mattu’s condition had plateaued and further improvement in his functioning or symptomatology was unlikely  

In awarding $60,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss injuries and their effect on the Plaintiff’s life the court accepted the family physicians evidence and stated as follows  

[60]            I found the evidence of Dr. Parhar to be very helpful.  Dr. Parhar has seen Mr. Mattu regularly since shortly after the accident.  I accept his opinion that Mr. Mattu suffered paracervical, parathoracic and paralumbar muscle strain, left shoulder strain and muscle tension headaches from the accident; that his condition has plateaued; and that it is unlikely there will be further improvement.  I also accept the opinions of Drs. Parhar, Hershler and Hunt that the accident likely caused the disc herniations in Mr. Mattu’s back to become symptomatic.  Mr. Mattu will continue to need chiropractic treatment from time to time and would benefit from a personal trainer.

[61]            I have considered the cases which counsel have provided to me.  In my view, an appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss is $60,000.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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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