Tag: mitigation

Credibility, Chronic Pain and the "Inherent Frailty" of Subjective Injury Claims

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing credibility and chronic pain claims based on subjective symptoms.
In this week’s claim (Sevinksi v. Vance) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 collision.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist focusing the claim on quantum.  The Plaintiff sought fairly significant damages for disability due to a diagnosed chronic pain syndrome.  Her injuries were largely subjective putting her credibility squarely at issue.
The Court expressed several concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility noting that “the Plaintiff was not forthright in her evidence….There also appear to have been instances where the plaintiff was not forthright with the independent doctors she attended before”  and lastly that “Aspects of (the plaintiff’s evidence) go well beyond a frailty of memory or a natural and excusable tendency to exaggerate or place given evidence in a positive light.  Here the Plaintiff sought to mislead and crate a history that is not forthright“.
Despite all this Mr. Justice Voith did accept that the Plaintiff was injured in the collision and that she had ongoing limitations due to these injuries.  Non-Pecuniary damages of $60,000 were assessed but this award was then reduced to $45,000 to take into account the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s credibility and damages the Court cited the well known passage from Mr. Justice McEachern in Butler v. Blaylok.  (making this an opportune place to repeat my views that the assertion that a higher burden of proof exists in subjective injury claims is questionable.)
Mr. Justice Voith provided the following reasons:

[43] The difficulties with the plaintiff’s evidence are magnified because of the lack of objective evidence to support her injuries. McEachern, C.J.S.C., as he then was, identified the difficulties associated with assessing the extent of an injury without the benefit of objective evidence in each of Butler v. Blaylok Estate [1981] B.C.J. No. 31 (S.C.) at paras. 18-19 and Price v. Kostryba(1982), 70 B.C.L.R. 397 (S.C.) at para. 1-4.

[44] In Maslen v. Rubenstein (1993), 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131 (C.A.), Taylor J.A., at para. 15.1, said:

…there must be evidence of a “convincing” nature to overcome the improbability that pain will continue, in the absence of objective symptoms, well beyond the normal recovery period, but the plaintiff’s own evidence, if consistent with the surrounding circumstances, may nevertheless suffice for the purpose.

[45] More recently, in Eccleston v. Dresen, 2009 BCSC 332, at para. 66, Barrow J. accepted that claims supported by only subjective evidence should be viewed with a “skeptical eye”. He further confirmed, however, that such claims can be supported by the “convincing force of collateral evidence”.

[46] Two propositions emerge from these cases. First, there is an inherent level of frailty in the case of a plaintiff whose assertions of injury are not supported by any objective evidence or symptoms. Accordingly, it is appropriate, in such cases, to treat the evidence adduced by or on behalf of the plaintiff with caution. Second, either the evidence of the plaintiff or collateral corroborative evidence may be sufficient to persuade the Court of the plaintiff’s position.

[47] In this case the usual difficulties associated with the wholly subjective complaints of a plaintiff are compounded by the reliability problems which are associated with the evidence of Ms. Sevinski.

[48] Notwithstanding some misgivings, however, I have accepted aspects of Ms. Sevinski’s evidence and am satisfied that these portions of her evidence are supported by additional collateral evidence before me…

[86] Having said this, the medical evidence establishes, and I have accepted, that the plaintiff does struggle with chronic pain syndrome. Her ability to function normally and to engage in the breadth of activities which she would like to, as well as to interact with her children and Mr. Rambold in a pain-free way, is diminished….

[89] Based on these considerations I assess Ms. Sevinski’s non-pecuniary damages at $60,000. This is without taking the question of mitigation into account.

$80,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Assessment for L4-5 Disc Injury


Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, assessing damges for non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for an L4-5 disk herniation.
In yesterday’s case (Doho v. Melnikova) the Plaintiff was involved in two seperate collisions.  Fault was admitted in both actions leaving the Court to assess damages.  The first collision caused a disk injury at the 4-5 level of the Plaintiff’s lower spine.  The second collision resulted in a minor aggravation of this.
The prognosis for recovery was poor and the Plaintiff was expected to experience ongoing pain and discomfort in his lower back as a result of the first collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $80,000 for the first collision Mr. Justice Rogers provided the following reasons:

[38] The first accident caused a significant injury to Mr. Doho’s lower back. He sustained a disk hernia at the L4-5 level of his spine. That hernia impinged on his spinal nerves and caused him severe pain for the first three or four months after the accident. He also suffered from headaches and a sore neck. Those latter symptoms resolved by three months after the accident. Mr. Doho’s leg pains dissipated by approximately four months after the accident, but he was left with ongoing low back discomfort. His pain is increased by lifting, playing sports such as golf, standing or sitting for lengthy periods of time. Because surgery is not an option at this point, I have concluded that Mr. Doho’s condition is permanent.

[39] I find that Mr. Doho’s non-pecuniary damages arising out of the November 2006 accident should be assessed at $80,000.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the principle of ‘failure to mitigate‘ at 49-53.

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.

Damages Reduced by 30% for Preferring Naturopathic Remedies Over Surgery in Shoulder Injury Claim


Reasons for judgement were released today discussing two ares of interest in the context of an ICBC injury claim; the non-pecuniary value of a shoulder injury and “failure to mitigate” for following naturopathic remedies instead of recommended surgery.
In today’s case (Hauer v. Clendenning) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle involved in an intersection crash.  The crash was “significant, causing extensive damage to both vehicles“.   Fault was admitted by the Defendant focusing the trial on the value of the case.

  • Discussion of Non-Pecuniary Damages for Plaintiff’s Shoulder Injury

The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which improved by the time of trial.  The Plaintiff’s most serious injury was a right shoulder injury which remained symptomatic by the time of trial.
The Court heard evidence from a number of expert physicians including orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Richardson who gave evidence that the Plaintiff has a rotator cuff injury to her right shoulder resulting in tendonitis and impingement.  Her prognosis for full recover was “guarded“.
Mr. Justice Slade assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $50,000.  In arriving at this figure the Court made the following findings and provided the following analysis:
[72] It is not a matter of contention among the medical experts that the plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries in the August 6, 2006 accident.  These injuries were to the neck, shoulder, and back. ..
[75] The medical experts are all of the view that the plaintiff will benefit from injections in the shoulder area, that being the most problematic of the plaintiff’s injuries.  Dr. Aitken and Dr. Richardson say that she may benefit from arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder…

[78] I accept the evidence of the lay witnesses that the plaintiff was active and fully able to perform the physical demands of her employment before the accident, and after the accident, is no longer as active or able to perform to the pre-accident level.  The evidence of the plaintiff, the lay witnesses, and Dr. Richardson, establish a causal connection between the accident and the plaintiff’s ongoing shoulder pain, and establish, as fact, the contribution of injuries sustained in the accident to the present condition of her shoulder.

[79] The plaintiff’s shoulder pain has persisted, largely undiminished, from the time of the accident. ..

[82] I find that the accident is a significant contributing factor to her shoulder injury, and that the plaintiff has established causation on the “but for” test described in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 333…

[85] Considering these authorities and the factors set out by Kirkpatrick J.A. in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at paras. 45-46, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, leave to appeal ref’d [2006] S.C.C.A. No. 100, I award the plaintiff $50,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

  • Failure to Mitigate:

Further to my previous articles on the subject, it is well established that the Court can reduce a Plaintiff’s award in a personal injury claim if a Plaintiff unreasonably fails to follow medical advice where the medical would have likely improved the injuries.

In today’s case the Defendant argued that the Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages by not having injections and/or surgery on her shoulder injury.  Mr. Justice Slade agreed with this submission and found that the Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages by not following the advice of the orthopaedic surgeons and instead choosing naturopathic remedies.  The Court reduced the Plaintiff’s damages by 30% as a result.  Specifically Mr. Justice Slade held as follows:

[105] The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff has failed to mitigate her loss, in this case that she failed to follow medical direction, and that had she followed that advice, she would have recovered further or faster: Janiak v. Ippolito, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 146.

[106] The plaintiff prefers naturopathic remedies.  She was influenced by advice given by a friend on the effect of injections.  A physician advised her, informally, that she may not benefit from surgery.  On these bases, she declined to act on the recommendations of three well-qualified orthopaedic surgeons to take injections into the shoulder area, and to consider arthroscopic surgery.  Dr. Richardson puts the percentage chance of improvement from arthroscopic surgery at between 70-80%.

[107] There are, of course, risks associated with surgery, though these seem minimal.  If the plaintiff underwent surgery, there may be some losses during the recovery period.

[108] There will be a reduction of 30% of the amounts awarded for general damages, loss of income earning capacity, and cost of care due to the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Post Traumatic Tendinopathy

(Please note the Trial Court’s decision regarding mitigation of damages in the below post was overturned on Appeal.  You can click here to read the BC Court of Appeal’s judgement)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with an assessment of damages for a shoulder injury, specifically a post traumatic tendinopathy.
In today’s case (Gregory v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision in White Rock, BC.  Her vehicle was struck while travelling through an intersection by the Defendant who failed to stop at a stop sign.  Fault was admitted by ICBC focusing the trial on the Plaintiff’s injuries.

  • Non-Pecuniary Damages Discussion

The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries to her neck and back that healed before trial.  The Plaintiff’s worst injury was to her left shoulder.   Dr. Day, an orthapeadic surgeon gave evidence that the Plaintiff suffered an “abnormality in the subscapularis tendon at the site of the superior border.  In addition there was inflammation in the subacromial bursa.”  Dr. Day also testified that the plaintiff had a “post traumatic tendinopathy causing some discomfort“.
The Plaintiff required surgery to “clean up” a “thick, tight subacromial bursa” because this caused irritation.
Following this the Plaintiff continued to have some shoulder pain which was aggravated by certain movements.  The Court accepted that this would likely continue into the future.  In assessing the non-pecuniary loss the Plaintiff suffered as a result of her injuries at $60,000 Madam Justice Kloegman found as follows:

[11] Due to the plethora of shoulder injury cases in the case law, it is important to distinguish the plaintiff’s shoulder injury from some of the shoulder injuries suffered by other plaintiffs in other cases. In the case at bar, the plaintiff does not have:

1.       neurological deficit;

2.       instability in her shoulder;

3.       frozen shoulder;

4.       restricted range of motion;

5.       dislocation or subluxation;

6.       arthritis; and

7.       muscle wasting.

[12] However, I accept that the plaintiff does have ongoing chronic pain in her shoulder which is exacerbated by certain movements. There was no suggestion that the plaintiff was a malingerer or was exaggerating her symptoms. Notwithstanding that pain is a subjective symptom, the medical professionals found some objective corroboration in the tendinopathy and bursitis. Unfortunately, the plaintiff will likely continue to suffer various degrees of pain in her left shoulder in the future. To this extent she is mildly restricted in her activities and potential for employment.

[13] In summary, I find that the accident caused injury to the plaintiff, primarily in her left shoulder joint, which injury is mildly impairing and likely of a permanent nature. This injury has caused and will continue to cause the plaintiff pain and suffering, and has caused and will continue to cause some loss in her ability to earn income both in the past and the present. ..

[21] As I have found that the plaintiff is likely permanently impaired, albeit to a minor degree, the cases of Thauli, Grant and John are more helpful. Reviewing these cases and keeping in mind the more severe injuries described in those cases, I am of the view that $60,000 is reasonable compensation for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering in this case.

  • Failure To Mitigate

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the law of mitigation.  Here Madam Justice Kloegman found that the unreasonably failed to follow her doctors advice to have a cortisone injection in her shoulder.  The court found that there was a chance that this would have improved her symptoms.

The Plaintiff did not follow her doctor’s recommendation apparently because of “what she read on the internet” and discussions she had “with her claims adjuster and chiropractor“.  The court found that these were unreasonable explanations for not following the doctor’s advice and as a result reduced the Plaintiff’s damages by 10%.  The Courts discussion of mitigation can be found at paragraphs 34-35 of the reasons for judgement.

$35,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for STI's of Over 10 Years Duration

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Cranbrook Registry demonstrating that a lengthy duration of injury does not always merit a significant award of non-pecuniary damages.
In today’s case (Salzmann v. Bohmer) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC Car Crash.  The collision took place over 10 years before trial.  While the time-frame from the accident to trial was unusually long, such delays are not unheard of when Infant Plaintiffs are involved in motor vehicle collisions.  One reason for this is that in British Columbia  limitation periods typically do not start running for infants in tort claims until their 19th birthday.  Another reason is that doctors are more reluctant to give a prognosis with respect to injuries suffered in infants as opposed to adults.  In any event, this case involved injuries of over 10 years duration by the time of trial.
Despite the duration of the Plaintiff’s Injuries, Mr. Justice Melnick found that they were not particularly severe or debilitating. He also found that she failed to take reasonable steps to reduce her symptoms and that with appropriate exercises there was room for considerable improvement.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s non pecuniary damages at $35,000 Mr. Justice Melnick held as follows:

[18] Medical reports are often as interesting for how they are worded as for what opinions they express. In the case of the report of Dr. Apel, she indicated that she has examined Ms. Salzmann at the request of Ms. Salzmann’s counsel. Then, while responding to a specific question put to her by that same counsel (whether Ms. Salzmann’s symptoms will abate eventually) she carefully replied that “…it is unlikely those symptoms spontaneously will abate eventually” (emphasis added).

[19] The use of the word “spontaneously” coupled with her pointed remarks that Ms. Salzmann’s lack of conditioning and need for an exercise therapist or kinesiologist suggests to me that Ms. Salzmann’s symptoms likely will abate provided she becomes committed to an appropriate program of exercise (as opposed to passive treatments such as massage). Ms. Salzmann must take a significant role in her own recovery, something she has not done in the past (perhaps due to her being so young, perhaps due to not having been given adequate instruction or having been provided with the required sense of self-discipline). For this reason she bears some, but far from all, of the responsibility for her continued pain given that she was injured when only ten years of age.

[20] I have no doubt that Ms. Salzmann suffered musculoligamentous strain to her cervical spine as a result of the accident and that, in 2003, she still experienced residual tightness in her trapezius and pectoral muscles. I also accept that in 2008 she demonstrated a chronic regional myofascial pain syndrome as described by Dr. Apel. Whether, by that time, she could have avoided such a sequela to the injury she incurred in the accident is a good question.  Things may have been different if she had followed an appropriate and properly directed regime of exercise after the accident. The reality is that she did not, and the symptoms she displayed apparently were not sufficiently alarming to anyone to insist that she do so, and she was not a complainer. With a few exceptions, Ms. Salzmann’s life carried on much as normal, as best as could be observed in a child who was in the process of development, growing and maturing.

[21] Today, she still suffers from the injury she received in the accident. But the message from her own doctor is loud and clear: she can do something about it.

[22] I have no evidence upon which I can estimate the cost of an exercise therapist or kinesiologist. Dr. Apel gave no indication of the length of time Ms. Salzmann should be supervised. However, the non-pecuniary damages I will award her will recognize that her road to the eventual abatement of her symptoms will probably require her to not just be self-motivated, but have the assistance of a professional for advice for a period of time to set her on the right track. That said, I note that no defendant should be required to pay for anyone’s lack of interest in pursuing his or her own recovery. Ultimately we all bear a responsibility to do what we can to attain and maintain good health. In the legal realm, this constitutes mitigation, and a plaintiff bears a legal duty to mitigate.

[23] With all of the above in mind, I assess Ms. Salzmann’s non-pecuniary damages at $35,000. I agree with Ms. Salzmann’s counsel that the decision of Madam Justice Humphreys in Sinnott v. Boggs, 2006 BCSC 768, is the most relevant authority provided to me with respect to non-pecuniary damages. Those provided by counsel for the defendant deal largely with milder forms of injury with less chronic consequences.

[24] From the amount of $35,000 I deduct 20% for Ms. Salzmann’s failure to mitigate by not pursuing the appropriate conditioning and exercise programs despite the fact that they were laid out for her as early as 2000. Thus, the net award of non-pecuniary damages is $28,000.

More on BC Personal Injury Claims and the Duty to Mitigate

If you advance a BC Personal Injury Claim (a tort claim) the courts impose a duty on Plaintiffs to mitigate their losses.  What this means is a Plaintiff must take reasonable steps to minimize their losses.  If a Plaintiff unreasonably fails to follow medical advice or fails to return to work in a timely fashion despite being physically able to do so the court may reduce damages accordingly.
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this legal principle.
In today’s case (Leung v. Foo) the Plaintiff was injured when travelling as a passenger in a single vehicle collision.   Fault was admitted by the driver of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.   The Plaintiff sustained ‘moderate soft tissue injuries’ and a disc herniation as a result of this collision.   Mr. Justice Cohen valued the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) at $65,000 and then reduced these damages by 10% due to the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate ‘.  The Court summarized and applied this area of law as follows:

[112] The defendants submit that any award of damages should be reduced to reflect the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate through her delay in seeking psychological assistance, her refusal to participate in physiotherapy, her being discharged from CBI, and her failure to pursue an active exercise program in the face of medical advice to do so.

[113] Damages are not recoverable for any loss that a claimant ought to have avoided.  A claimant has a duty to mitigate losses, which includes taking all reasonable steps to minimize any loss that results from an injury, and bars a claimant from claiming any part of the damages that can be attributed to his or her neglect to take such steps.

[114] Mitigation limits recovery based on an unreasonable failure of the injured party to take reasonable steps to limit his or her loss.  A plaintiff in a personal injury action has a positive duty to mitigate, though the onus of proof on this issue rests with the defendant.  See: Graham v. Rogers, 2001 BCCA 432, leave to appeal dismissed, [2001] S.C.C.A. No. 467.

[115] In Maslen v. Rubenstein, at para. 11, the Court of Appeal held that where the court finds that injury has been suffered and mitigation issues are raised, the court must decide whether the defendant has established that by following advice which the plaintiff received or ought to have obtained, the plaintiff could have overcome the problem or could in future overcome it.  The advice might, for instance, be to eliminate treatment, make “lifestyle changes” or adopt psychotherapy, physiotherapy or an exercise regimen.  Where appropriate remedial measures would resolve the problem, damages can be awarded only in respect of the period up to the date when, in the estimation of the fact-finder, the problem ought to have been resolved, or ought to be resolved.

[116] Failure to follow a recommended exercise program commonly results in a reduction in damages for the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.

[117] The defendants submit that the plaintiff has not given a satisfactory explanation as to why she did not exercise.  In addition, the plaintiff would have the Court accept that she did not seek the assistance of a psychologist because she lacked the sophistication necessary to do so in the face of her perception that Dr. Leung refused to give her a referral.

[118] The defendants submit that the plaintiff’s actions do not suggest a woman incapable of securing her own treatment.  On the contrary, the plaintiff took several proactive steps in relation to the treatment of her injuries.  The plaintiff found another GP in Dr. Wong, having lost faith in Dr. Leung; arranged her own massage and chiropractic treatments; discontinued physiotherapy; and decided against the steroid injections suggested by Dr. Adrian.

[119] The defendants also say that it is clear that counselling was discussed with the plaintiff in March 2008 by Dr. Wong.  Yet the plaintiff did not see Dr. Jung until September 2008, approximately six months later.  This is not evidence of a person anxious to obtain psychological treatment.  Rather, such delay and ambivalence is consistent with a person who was told that psychological treatment was recommended in 2006 (via Dr. Leung’s May 2nd medical-legal report) but failed to take any immediate steps in that regard.  The plaintiff herself admitted that she did not pursue psychological treatment or start an exercise regimen because she was too busy with work.  She gave the same reason for missing appointments with CBI.

[120] The defendants submit that plaintiff’s decisions to not pursue treatment may well have delayed or prevented the improvement of her symptoms, a state of affairs for which the defendants should not be held responsible.

[121] I agree with the defence position on mitigation and find that the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate resulted in an extension of her recovery beyond that considered reasonable for her injuries, and that the plaintiff’s general damages award should be reduced by 10%.

ICBC Injury Claims and Mitigation of Damages

One of the principles of tort law is that of mitigation.
If you are injured through the fault of another you have a duty to take reasonable steps to minimize your losses.  For example, if your doctor makes treatment recommendations and you refuse to follow these this can result in a ‘failure to mitigate’ argument by an ICBC Defence Lawyer.  If such an argument succeeds the court can reduce the amount of damages according to the severity of the failure to mitigate.
Reasons for judgement were released today discussing and illustrating this principle.e   In today’s case (Korosic v. Maitland) the trial judge found that the Plaintiff failed to mitigate her injuries and reduced damages accordingly.  The key discussion was set out at paragraphs 122-132 which I reproduce below:

Mitigation

[122]        The defendant contended that Ms. Kosoric had a positive duty to mitigate and, in failing to perform the strength and conditioning exercises recommended by her physicians and physiotherapists, she could have reasonably avoided some part of her loss.  The defendant agreed that they bear the onus of proof on this issue. 

[123]        The concept of mitigation was discussed in Graham v. Rodgers, 2001 BCCA 432, 90 B.C.L.R. (3d) 69, leave to appeal to ref’d [2001] S.C.C.A. No. 467.  The purpose of mitigation is to limit the recovery of an injured party based on their failure to take reasonable steps to minimize or limit their loss: see para. 35.  As the defendant submits in their argument, a plaintiff has a positive duty to mitigate in personal injury actions; however, if a defendant argues a plaintiff may have reasonably avoided some of the loss, they bear the onus of proof: see para. 35. 

[124]        In situations where a plaintiff has not followed a course of recommended medical treatment, a defendant must prove two things: the plaintiff acted unreasonably in eschewing the recommended treatment, and the extent, if any, that the plaintiff’s damages would have been reduced had they acted reasonably: Chiu v. Chiu, 2002 BCCA 618, 8 B.C.L.R. (4th) 227 at para. 57, citing Janiak v. Ippolito, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 146.   In Chiu, the court of appeal overturned the trial judge’s decision to reduce damages by 10% on account of the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate his damages.  In overturning this part of the decision, the court stated that the defendant did not pursue cross examination of the plaintiff with respect to his failure to engage in counselling, nor did the defendant adduce any medical evidence demonstrating the consequences of the failure, on the part of the plaintiff, to obtain more counselling.  There was simply no evidence indicating the effect of counselling and whether it would have accelerated the plaintiff’s recovery or had other positive impacts. 

[125]        Conversely, in Briglio v. Faulkner, 1999 BCCA 361, 69 B.C.L.R. (2d) 122, rev’g , in part, 1996 Carswell BC 1818, the Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s decision to reduce the damages by 10%, as a result of the plaintiff’s failure to engage in a recommended exercise program.  At trial, the judge accepted medical evidence which stated that a structured exercise program would have assisted in the improvement of the plaintiff’s fibromyalgia condition.  The plaintiff’s failure to engage in such exercise “likely had some negative effect on her condition”: trial decision at para. 148. 

[126]        In Kero v. Love, 90 B.C.L.R. (2d) 299, CarswellBC 179 (C.A.), the Court of Appeal upheld a jury’s decision to deduct a 25% contingency ($40,000) from a damages award.  The court found that it was reasonable for the jury to make such a decision in light of the plaintiff’s failure to follow a prescribed exercise regime or seek alternative employment which would have been less stressful on his back. 

[127]        In the instant case, the defendant submitted that Ms. Kosoric failed to mitigate her loss through her failure to follow and adhere to an exercise routine, as outlined by her physicians and physiotherapists.  The defendant further argued that Ms. Kosoric was continually reminded of the need to continue with an exercise program and the likely (positive) effects of such a program.  Ms. Kosoric acknowledged, in cross examination, that her physiotherapist had told her that her spine strength could improve through exercise, which would assist her college studies with less disruption.  Furthermore, Drs. Mitha and le Nobel both instructed Ms. Kosoric, on a number of occasions, to engage in regular strength and conditioning exercises, as it was important for her recovery. 

[128]        Both physiotherapists who submitted reports for trial also made similar recommendations.  In his report, Mr. Rizzardo noted that he instructed Ms. Kosoric to adhere to an exercise program “constantly”, even when she was feeling “close to normal”.  Similarly, Ms. Guglielmini stated that Ms. Kosoric should continue with an exercise programme, involving three sessions per week over a 12 to 15 week period. 

[129]        In the period following the Accident, I acknowledge Ms. Kosoric’s life was difficult, in the sense that she had experienced a traumatic incident that had mental and physical impacts, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she commenced a difficult and demanding educational program.  However, this does not absolve her of her duty to take reasonable steps to minimize her loss, particularly in light of the fact that the recommendation was conservative and would likely lead to reduced difficulties at school, work and in life generally.  I note that when Ms. Kosoric did perform exercise, there was no aggravation of her injuries nor did it cause additional pain. 

[130]        There is evidence that Ms. Kosoric did perform some exercise since the Accident, however, the evidence also demonstrates this was done infrequently over the past five years.  In her evidence, Ms. Kosoric admitted that the recommended exercise program was not a high priority for her during this period. 

[131]        Based on the evidence, I conclude that following a regular exercise programme would have had positive effects on Ms. Kosoric’s symptoms.  Since the medical evidence does not state the precise effectiveness of exercise, I must therefore determine what role this would have played in improving her symptoms: see Briglio, trial decision, at para. 149. 

[132]        I will take into account the plaintiff’s failure to adhere to an exercise routine in my assessment of non-pecuniary damages.

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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