Tag: Mr. Justice Rice

The Duty of Motorists Approaching Flashing Green Lights

Further to my recent post discussing this topic, Section 131(5) of the BC Motor Vehicle Act requires a driver approaching a flashing green light to travel with sufficient caution so they can bring their vehicle to a stop should it be necessary.  Failure to do so could result in fault for a crash even if another motorist fails to yield the right of way.  This was discussed in reasons for judgement released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In the recent case (Lutley v. Southern) the Defendant was attempting to cross Oak Street in Vancouver, BC.  The Defendant was travelling on 67th Avenue.  She had a stop sign in her direction of travel.  At the intersection Oak Street had 6 lanes of travel.  The Plaintiff was travelling in the lane furthest away from where the Defendant entered the intersection.  As the Plaintiff approached the intersection she was faced with a flashing green light.  Neither party saw each other’s vehicle until it was too late and a collision occurred.

(Accident Reconstruction Software courtesy of SmartDraw)
Mr. Justice Rice found both drivers at fault with the Defendant shouldering 60% of the blame.   Although the Plaintiff entered the intersection on a green light she was found partly to blame for failing to comply with section 131 of the Motor Vehicle Act.  In addressing the issue of fault Mr. Justice Rice provided the following reasons:

[12]         By the Motor Vehicle Act, s. 131(5), a driver approaching a green flashing light at an intersection is obliged to slow down sufficiently to be able to stop before the intersection and avoid an accident.  I find that the plaintiff was negligent and in breach of her statutory duties by failing to slow down sufficiently to be able to stop at the intersection.  She could see that her vision of the intersection was obstructed and would continue to be obstructed practically until she had reached the intersection itself.  She should have applied her brakes as soon as the obstruction appeared and come to practically a stop at or near the intersection.

[13]         By the Motor Vehicle Act, ss. 125, 186 a driver approaching a stop sign must come to a full stop.  There is also a general duty to drive safely, maintain a proper lookout, and not to proceed forward until it is safe to do so.  I find that the defendant was negligent and in breach of her statutory duty in failing to maintain a proper lookout and by accelerating through the intersection when it was not safe to do so…

[18]         In conclusion, I find that both drivers were negligent and in breach of duties imposed upon them pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 at ss. 125, 141.  I apportion liability at 60% to the defendant and 40% to the plaintiff.

Pain and Suffering Damages Discussed for Severe Post Traumatic Migraine Headaches


Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff damages for post accident migraine headaches.
In today’s case (Ward v. Klaus) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end collision in Chilliwack, BC.  Fault was admitted by the rear-motorist focusing the trial on the value of the claim.
The Plaintiff suffered various injuries the most serious of which were post-traumatic migraine headaches.  These were so invasive that they required surgical intervention with the installation of a “neurostimulator” in the back of her head.  The Court provide the following summary of the Plaintiff’s surgeries:

[16]         In May 2008, the plaintiff consulted Dr. Kumar, a neurosurgeon in Regina, for an assessment on the suitability for neurostimulator implants.  She qualified and in September, at Regina Saskatchewan, a neurotransmitter was implanted in the back of her neck.  It had two leads and an external remote that connected the wires under her skin.  From September to mid-October 2008, she had two more operations in Regina and two more temporary implants were imbedded.  In December 2008, two permanent implants were installed in the back of her head in the same area as before.  To deal with the pain of the operation, she took more medication.

[17]         In January 2009, the plaintiff had permanent leads installed at the front of her head.

[18]         The implant battery has to be recharged, usually once a week.  She keeps it on at all times other than when she is driving.  She has a device that plugs into an electrical outlet.  It tells her if the battery needs to be recharged.  Sometimes it has to charge for up to four hours, but usually it takes an hour or an hour and a half.  When pain flares, she can increase the strength of the current from the stimulator.  Again, she does not see it as the answer.  It simply “takes the edge off”.

Mr. Justice Rice assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $150,000.  In arriving at this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[52]         In this case, counsel on both sides agree that this was a soft-tissue injury to the neck resulting in continuing neck pain, and continuing generalized moderate headaches with severe migraine headaches, occurring two or three times per week.  The pain during such migraine headaches is excruciating, and her pain and suffering as a whole have affected very negatively almost every aspect of her life.  According to doctors’ recommendations, she has taken medications that only partially help, and at one point led her to addiction to narcotics.  She has undergone surgeries to implant a neurostimulator which has only been moderately successful at best as a means of alleviating the pain.  The consensus of the medical experts has been that the plaintiff has reached the point of maximum medical improvement, and that the headaches and pain will continue indefinitely.

[53]         At the same time, observing her demeanour as she gave evidence, as well as seeing the videotape evidence shown in court, and considering her inability to answer many questions on the basis that she could not remember, I am afraid there is room for mild caution in accepting her testimony unreservedly.  Her frequent inability to recall answers to questions leads me to doubt the reliability of her memory when giving testimony.  By this, I do not mean to resile from the impression that she was generally honest and truthful in explaining the excruciating pain she had suffered.  It is only in respect of a few details, particularly her work capacity and motivation, that her evidence was not completely satisfactory…

[56]         The purpose of non-pecuniary damage awards is to compensate the plaintiff for “pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities”: Jackson v. Lai, 2007 BCSC 1023 at para. 134. While each award must be made with reference to the particular circumstances and facts of the case, other cases may serve as a guide to assist the court in arriving at an award that is just and fair to both parties: Kuskis v. Tin, 2008 BCSC 862 at para. 136.

[57]         Taking all of the foregoing into account, my view is that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss is $150,000.  In this amount I take account of all aspects of general pain and suffering, including a reasonable portion attributable to the effect of diminished capacity in her homemaking role.

Non-Pecuniary Damage Awards Discussed for Chronic Pain with Pre-Existing Depression


Pre-existing medical difficulties can and do play a role in the process of awarding a Plaintiff damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life (non-pecuniary damages).  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing this area of law.
In today’s case (Beaudry v. Kishigweb) the Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended by a 1/2 ton pick-up truck.  Fault was admitted for the crash.   The Plaintiff sustained a variety of soft tissue injuries affecting her neck, upper back and lower back.  These went on to cause chronic pain and headaches and the Plaintiff never fully recovered from the consequences of her injuries.
Prior to the accident the Plaintiff suffered from some medical difficulties and these included a chronic low grade depression.  Her pre-accident health made her more vulnerable to having a poor outcome following the accident.  The Defendant, who basically conceded that the Plaintiff did suffer from chronic pain as a result of the collision, argued that “whether or not the Plaintiff was a vulnerable individual (as a result of pre-existing conditions), she cannot be put back to a better position than she would have been had the accident not occurred“.
The Court went on to find that the accident did cause chronic pain which was not resolved at the time of trial.  The Court further found that the chronic pain would continue into the future, however, it would not prevent the Plaintiff from working full time or from carrying out her household responsibilities.  In awarding the Plaintiff $85,000 for her non-pecuniary damages Mr. Justice Rice made the following comments about damages for non-pecuniary loss for chronic pain with pre-existing difficulties:

[25]         The difficulty of assessing damages for soft-tissue injuries where the plaintiff has a complicated psychological and behavioural background is described in Rod v. Greco, 2003 BCSC 935, at para. 35:

As to physical injuries, because of the mechanics of the motor vehicle accident [the plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended] some must have been sustained by the plaintiff.  However, the complex psychological and behavioural history both pre and post accident outlined above made it difficult to identify them with any precision.

[34]         With the virtual admission by the defendants that the plaintiff now suffers from chronic pain, I must first of all decide what the condition of the plaintiff was just before the accident.  Clearly she was not in the best of shape and that must be taken into account.  She was susceptible to pain and worse, depression, some of which could be said was the result of lifestyle mistakes made in the past.  Having recovered from most of those, I agree that it is not fair to reduce what she would otherwise receive simply on the basis of a greater susceptibility because of her past.  On the other hand, to the extent that those past experiences would have revisited her earlier in life than is normal, account must be taken of that too.

[35]         Considering the whole of the evidence, I find that, indeed, the plaintiff suffers chronic pain as a result of the collision.  I award her $85,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

Hyperextension Knee Injuries from Car Crashes Discussed

Reasons for judgment were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry (Cabrera v. Sandhu), awarding a Plaintiff close to $350,000 in total damages for injuries and loss as a result of a 2003 BC Car Crash including an award of non-pecuniary damages of $60,000.
The collision occurred in Coquitlam, BC.    It was a near head on collision for which the Defendant admitted fault.  The issue at trial was quantum of damages (value of the Plaintiff’s claim).
The Plaintiff suffered various injuries including a “medial meniscus tear” which was stabalized through arthroscopic surgery.  The Plaintiff also had a ‘partial tear of her ACL which had scarred back to her PCL” which required a second surgery to correct.  The Plaintiff did not fully recover from these knee injuries by the time of trial and it was accepted that she was plateaued and “left with a significant and permanent disability.”  It was also found to be probable that the Plaintiff would need further knee surgery in the future.
One of the key issues at trial was weather the knee injury was related to the collision because the Plaintiff’s knee complaints did not come until sometime after the crash.  In accepting that the knee injuries were related to the crash Mr. Justice Rice accepted the evidence of the Plaintiff’s surgeon, Dr. Guy, who gave evidence that “it is common that passengers seated in the front of a car sustain knee injuries after having their foot braced against the pedal or floor board at the time of an accident.  In that position, injuries occur as a result of hyper extension of the knee during the collision
In addition to the knee injury Mr. Justice Rice found that the Plaintiff suffered from various soft tissue injuries described as a “mysofacial pain of the neck, upper and low back regions“.    These injuries had ‘resolved somewhat” by the time of trial but caused occasional pain to the Plaintiff.    The Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss was valued at $60,000 for these injuries.

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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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