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Tag: Mr. Justice Davies

Treating Surgeon Allowed to Give Expert Evidence Despite Non-Compliance With Rules of Court

Although the BC Supreme Court Rules have strict requirements with respect to the admission of expert opinion evidence Rule 11-7(6) gives the Court a wide discretion to dispense with these if “the interests of justice require it“.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this discretion.
In this week’s case (Milliken v. Rowe) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  At trial the Plaintiff presented expert opinion evidence from a privately retained physiatrist.  The Plaintiff’s treating orthopaedic surgeon was also called to the stand, however, he was not called as an expert witness but rather as a witness of fact.  Despite this limitation the Court exercised its discretion under Rule 11-7(6) and permitted the treating surgeon to give opinion evidence addressing diagnosis and prognosis.  In doing so Mr. Justice Davies provided the following reasons:

[55] Dr. Zarkadas was not called as an expert witness at trial but he is obviously a well-qualified orthopaedic surgeon. He is also Ms. Milliken’s treating physician concerning her right shoulder difficulties.

[56] As such he was able to assist me in assessing Ms. Milliken’s future prospects if the surgery is undertaken or if it is not. To that extent, his more immediate involvement with and treatment of Ms. Milliken allows insight that was not previously available to Dr. Andrew Travlos (adduced as opinion evidence by the plaintiff) arising from his examinations and enquiries six months earlier.

[57] In those circumstances, notwithstanding the failure of the plaintiff to seek to have Dr. Zarkadas qualified to provide opinion evidence, I determined to receive his evidence concerning his diagnosis and prognosis related to Ms. Milliken’s right shoulder injuries.

[58] I did so over the objection of the defendant because of my belief that the determination of damages in this case should be based upon the best evidence available.

[59] In my opinion, the ability to achieve a just result should be served, rather than thwarted, by the application of procedural rules.

[60] The Court’s power to exercise discretion to allow relief from the harsh consequences of non-compliance with procedural rules recognizes that principle.

[61] I also, however, recognized that the defendant could be prejudiced by the admission and consideration of Dr. Zarkadas’ prognostic evidence if not given an opportunity to answer it.

[62] I accordingly provided the defendant an opportunity to consider whether to call rebuttal evidence before rendering judgment.

[63] I was subsequently informed that the defendant did not intend to do so.

$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Shoulder Injury

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic shoulder injury.
In this week’s case (Milliken v. Rowe) the 37 year old plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries in a 2007 collision.  The Defendant motorist admitted fault.  The Plaintiff’s most serious injury resulted in chronic shoulder pain the cause of which was described as “one of two things or both in combination which include biceps tendonitis and AC joint antropathy“.
The Plaintiff endured a variety of medical interventions none of which meaningfully resolved her injury.  Surgery was expected to have no better than a 50/50 chance of improving her injury.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $85,000 Mr. Justice Davies made the following findings:
[65] I find that the totality of the evidence establishes that the neck and shoulder pain as well as the headaches, back pain and right leg pain which Ms. Milliken has suffered since August 2007 were caused by the defendant’s negligence…

[83] Ms. Milliken was 37 when she was injured. She suffered from injuries to her right hip and back that caused significant discomfort (primarily at work). The effects of those injuries were largely resolved within about two years.

[84] Ms. Milliken also, however, suffered from right shoulder pain that did not resolve and has now been ongoing for four years. The only potential end in sight for the amelioration of the pain and suffering concerning her right shoulder is invasive surgery with about an even chance of success. Whether successful or not, the proposed complex surgery will require an extensive period of recuperation of from 3 to 6 months.

[85] I find that the pain Ms. Milliken has endured has been debilitating.

[86] While she has worked through much of it of necessity, the cost to her of doing so has been great.

[87] Her life has become a one-dimensional one in which activities unrelated to work have largely had to be put aside. She no longer has the stamina or physical ability to care for her home as she previously did and has become socially reclusive because of that and her constant tiredness.

[88] Ms. Milliken is no longer able to play with her grandchildren as she once did due to pain and discomfort in her shoulder. She no longer participates in making crafts or enjoying recreational pursuits with her family.

[89] Her injuries have also exacerbated the physical challenges which she now faces in caring for her husband and that prevented her from taking on some of the work around the home and yard for which he was previously responsible…

[91] Ms. Milliken’s suffering will also not end with this litigation.

[92] At minimum she must endure complex shoulder surgery and a lengthy period of rehabilitation in which she will continue to be unable to enjoy life as she once did. Her likely future enjoyment of life is also compromised by the prospect that the surgery may be wholly or partially unsuccessful.

[93] The totality of the evidence satisfies me that there is no question that Ms. Milliken will continue to suffer pain and suffering as well as loss of her enjoyment of life at least until after rehabilitation from surgery to her shoulder.

[94] There is also a substantial likelihood that she will suffer ongoing pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment into the future after the shoulder surgery…

[105] I award Ms. Milliken non-pecuniary damages of $85,000.

More on ICBC Claims, Costs and Sufficient Reason to Sue in Supreme Court

Earlier this year the BC Court of Appeal released important reasons finding that more than value of a claim can be considered in deciding whether a Plaintiff has sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court when considering costs under Rule 14-1(10).   Useful reasons for judgement were released last month  by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this issue in the context of an ICBC Injury Claim.
In last month’s case (Taylor v. Kassa) the Plaintiff was injured in BC motor vehicle collision.  His injuries were modest and it was “readily apparent from the outset that the quantum of damages would fall within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court“.  Despite this he sued for damages in the Supreme Court under the fast track rule.
After examinations for discovery a damages settlement was reached for $15,000.  The parties agreed to ask the Court to address the issue of whether costs should be payable.  Mr. Justice Davies found that given ICBC’s boilerplate response to the lawsuit it was reasonable for the Plaintiff to pursue the claim in Supreme Court with the assistance of counsel therefore entitling the Plaintiff to costs.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:
[7] ….I make that ruling because I find it to be significant that this matter did not settle until there had been examinations for discovery.
[8]  The defendants availed themselves of the discovery procedure and then revised their assessment of the case.  Prior to discoveries, there had been a complete denial of liability and causation including allegations of pre-existing injury and failure to mitigate, all of which matters had rendered the case somewhat complex.
[9]  As Justice Punnett said in Spencer at para. 23 and 24

[23] Arguably, at the time the action was started, the claim could have exceeded $25,000. The plaintiff knew her injuries, from which it took her 18 months to substantially recover, caused her pain at work, disturbed her sleep, made her unable to do housework, and decreased her leisure activities. She had missed seven days of work and required numerous visits to a chiropractor and massage therapist. There is no evidence that the plaintiff misled counsel or that her complaints lacked credibility.

[24] Further, even if it was clear that the claim would fall within the Small Claims Court’s jurisdiction, the issues raised by the defendant increased the complexity of the claim and the plaintiff’s need for counsel. By denying liability, causation and that the plaintiff suffered any loss, the plaintiff would have been required to prove these elements at trial. Also, although unnecessary because the matter settled, discovery of the defendant, which had been arranged, could have been important to the plaintiff’s case.

[10]  I am satisfied that this case falls within that same exeption expressed in para. 24 and supports a finding of sufficient reason to commence the action in this case in this Court.
[11]  Discovery was not available in the Provincial Court and led to the settlement of this case.
[12]  There will be an order that the plaintiff recover his costs under the provisions of the fast-track litigation project.
The Taylor decision is unpublished but, as always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests a copy.

$170,000 Non-Pecs for MTBI, Impaired Driver Found "Grossly Negligent"

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $415,000 in total damages as a result of serious injuries occurring in a motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Eggleston v. Watson) the pedestrian Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle driven by the Defendant.  The Defendant had just left a pub and had a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit.  the Defendant was criminally convicted for driving with an unlawful blood alcohol limit.
As a result of this criminal conviction the Defendant was in breach of his ICBC insurance.  He defended the lawsuit personally and ICBC defended as a statutory third party.
The Defendant never saw the Plaintiff (who was walking in the Defendant’s lane of travel in the same direction) prior to hitting him.   Despite this, and despite the criminal conviction, both the Defendant and ICBC argued that the Plaintiff was mostly at fault for this incident.  Mr. Justice Davies disagreed and found that the defendant was at fault holding that “(his) ability to operate a motor vehicle at the time that he struck (the Plaintiff) was so impaired by his consumption  of alcohol that his actions in so doing were not only negligent, but grossly negligent“.
The Court went on to find that while the Plaintiff was in violation of s. 182 of the Motor Vehicle Act at the time of the crash for not walking on the roadway facing oncoming traffic, he was not partially to blame for this crash.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Davies reasoned as follows:

[70]        The question is whether Mr. Eggleston’s own conduct in placing himself at some risk that a severely impaired driver would not see him in time to apply his vehicle’s brakes or otherwise avoid a collision requires an apportionment of some liability to him for his injuries.

[71]        In all of the circumstances I find, as did Kirkpatrick J. in Laface, that Mr. Watson’s conduct was so unforeseeable, and the risk of injury from Mr. Eggleston’s failure to take more care so unlikely that “it is simply not appropriate” to find that Mr. Eggleston was contributorily negligent.

[72]        If I am wrong in that conclusion, based upon the analysis and conclusions of Esson J.A. in Giuliani, I would assess Mr. Eggleston’s fault in failing to avoid the collision to be no more than 5%.

The Court then awarded the Plaintiff $170,000 for his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for his serious injuries which included a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).  In arriving at this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[145]     After considering the totality of the evidence in this trial including the medical evidence adduced by the parties, I have concluded that Mr. Eggleston has proven that it is more likely than not that he suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in the collision of June 9, 2009.

[146]     I also find that the mild traumatic brain injury he suffered is the primary cause of the emotional, social and cognitive difficulties he has exhibited and endured over the more than three years between the date of the accident and the start of the trial, and which will continue to impact his future suffering and enjoyment of life…

[157]     In addition to the mild traumatic brain injury that I find has been the primary cause of Mr. Eggleston’s past social, emotional, and cognitive problems as well his as continuing problems with serious headaches, all of which will likely continue to impact his future, as well as the balance difficulties that I find were caused by the collision, I also find that the evidence establishes on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Watson’s negligence caused the following physical injuries which Mr. Eggleston has suffered and from some of which continues to suffer:

1)        Significant soft tissue injuries and bruising which were ongoing until at least January of 2007 when he was seen by Dr. Travlos.

2)        A traumatic umbilical hernia which was successfully operated upon on May 29, 2007.

3)        Injuries to his right shoulder including a torn biceps tendon, impingement syndrome and a rotator cuff tear which were operated on without success on December 5, 2007, and which in the opinion of Dr. Leith, require further surgery.

4)        Injuries to his lower back which aggravated existing back problems from which he had largely recovered prior to the collision. Those lower back injuries have impacted on his ability to drive the water truck in his work for Mr. Palfi and in respect of which I accept Dr. Leith’s opinion of June 2, 2009.

[158]     In addition to those specific physical injuries, I accept the evidence of Dr. Travlos, Dr. Cameron, Dr. Smith and Dr. Bishop that Mr. Eggleston has suffered and continues to suffer from psychological problems arising from his brain injuries and the pain associated with the physical injuries suffered in the collision. That pain was chronic until at least June of 2009 but was relieved to a large extent by narcotic and other medications thereafter until Mr. Eggleston determined to wean himself off Dilaudid. He now again has more pain and is also likely suffering the continuing effects of withdrawal. However, his present work history convinces me that within the neurological and cognitive limits that may still compromise his recovery, his future suffering from chronic pain will likely be capable of amelioration with psychological counselling and pain management assistance without narcotic intervention.

[159]     In determining the appropriate award to compensate Mr. Eggleston for the injuries suffered in the collision, I have considered all of the injuries suffered by him that were caused by Mr. Watson’s negligence, their devastating effect upon his ability to enjoy the active life involving horses and his relationship with friends and family surrounding that lifestyle that he formerly enjoyed.

[160]     I have also considered the pain Mr. Eggleston has endured and will likely continue to endure at least at some level, the compromise of his role as the leader of his family and the loss of his self-esteem, the length of time over which he has already suffered those losses, the prospect of the continuation of those losses into the future, albeit at a less intense level than in the past, and the fact that he will again have to undergo surgery in an attempt to repair his shoulder injuries.

[161]     In addition, I have considered the situation that has existed since March of 2008 when Mr. Eggleston returned to work, in that the work he does drains him of energy so that his life has become somewhat one-dimensional, centering upon work and recovery from its daily effects upon him to the continued detriment of his ability to enjoy life.

[162]     Finally, I have considered all of the authorities which have been provided to me by counsel and which offer some guidance as to the appropriate range of damages for injuries such as those suffered by Mr. Eggleston but which are of course dependent on their unique fact situations.

[163]     I have concluded that in the totality of the circumstances an award of non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $170,000 will appropriately compensate Mr. Eggleston for his pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life caused by Mr. Watson’s negligence.

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