Tag: Mr. Justice Branch

Court Entitled To Rely on Civil Jury Instructions For Present Value Calculations

When awarding damages for future losses BC Courts have an obligation to use appropriate present value multipliers in arriving at the lump sum awarded.  Normally this is achieved by relying on expert evidence in personal injury cases.  Given the BC Government’s recent restrictions on expert evidence Justices will likely have increasingly fewer such reports to assist them.
To this end an interesting footnote appeared at the end of a recent personal injury judgment.  In the recent case (MacGregor v. Bergen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2013 collision.  The crash left the plaintiff with residual partial disability.  Damages were awarded for past and future losses.  The Court noted that no expert evidence was led by either party addressing preset value calculations but this was not a problem as the Court could simply rely on the multipliers provided in BC’s Civil Jury Instructions.  In explaining why this was appropriate Mr. Justice Branch provided the following thoughts in a footnote to his reasons for judgement:
Neither party provided expert testimony as to the appropriate present value multipliers. However, I find that I have an obligation to account for the present value of the future losses pursuant to s. 56 of the Law and Equity Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 253. Multipliers are calculated using the designated 1.5% for the present value of future income loss and 2% for any other future losses. The amounts presented for female police officers and female university graduates were determined by inflating the 2015 data provided by Mr. Turnbull to 2018 dollars (resulting in figures of $99,300 versus $67,700), calculating the difference of $31,600, and then applying a present value multiplier of 26.23, assuming a retirement age of 65 (37 years hence). I find that I am entitled to make use of the multipliers provided at Appendix E of the Civil Jury Instructions for this purpose. I note that the court has relied on the Civil Jury Instructions for this purpose in other cases where expert evidence was not made available: Smith v. Fremlin, 2013 BCSC 800 at para. 38; Erickson v. Bowie, 2007 BCSC 1465 at para. 51, footnote 3; Hrnic v. Bero Investments Ltd., 2018 BCSC 1880 at para. 57; Barnes v. Richardson, 2008 BCSC 1349, aff’d 2010 BCCA 116; Duifhuis v. Bloom, 2013 BCSC 1180 at para. 62; Harris v. Ladner Centre Holdings Ltd., 2008 BCSC 1735 at para. 70.

$150,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Facet Joint Syndrome

Reasons for judgement were release today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic physical and psychological injuries following a motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Zwinge v. Neylan) the Plaintiff was invoked in a head on crash that the Defendant admitted responsibility for.  The collision resulted in a chronic facet joint syndrome of the spine, various soft tissue injuries and chronic pain leading to psychological difficulties.  This was imposed on pre-existing a substance abuse disorder.  The prognosis for recovery was poor.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $150,000 Mr. Justice Branch provided the following reasons:

[68]         In this case, I would summarize the significant factors as follows:

1.     The plaintiff was 49 years old at the time of the trial and 46 at the time of the accident.

2.     The substantial head-on collision caused long-lasting soft tissue injuries and spine facet joint syndrome.

3.     The plaintiff’s pain has, to this point, disabled him from working in any capacity, and has significantly reduced the quality of his life.

4.     The plaintiff suffers from depression as a result of the loss of his ability to work, and to play with his children.

5.     The plaintiff’s anxiety and physical condition have prevented him from driving, and have made routine chores out in public difficult.

6.     While the plaintiff has some prospect for recovery, his prognosis is guarded. Specifically, I find that Dr. Rickard’s confidence in the proposed radio frequency ablation treatment is overstated: see Gregory at paras. 56-58.

7.     The plaintiff suffered from a pre-existing and active Substance Use Disorder, and he did not seek further counselling for this problem after the accident.

8.     Since the accident, the plaintiff suffered from pneumonia, pancreatitis and diabetes, all of which would have occurred in any event.

9.     The plaintiff’s quality of life was already in a diminished state before the accident, in that he was living with his parents following a marriage breakdown that ended violently, resulting in criminal charges and a return to heavy drinking.

10. The plaintiff has been able to live independently and care for himself since the accident.

[71]         Applying the factors above, and with the guidance from the noted case law, I find that the appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages is $150,000.

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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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