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Tag: Mr. Justice Silverman

$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Thoracic Outlet Sydrome Coupled With Mild Brain Injury

Adding to this site’s archives addressing non-pecuniary damages for traumatically induced thoracic outlet syndrome, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with such an injury caused in a vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Danielson v. Johnson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision.  Liability was admitted.  The Plaintiff, who worked installing ceilings, suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and thoracic outlet syndrome in the crash.  The Defendant took a serious run at the plaintiff’s credibility pointing out a history of cocaine use, getting paid under the table, and even lying at his examination for discovery.  Despite this the Court found the plaintiff ‘credible and reliable’.  The Court noted these injuries were caused by the collision and would likely require vocational retraining.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Silverman provided the following reasons:
[139]     With respect to both TOS and the MTBI, I reject the inference that prior injuries may have caused his current problems.  To the contrary, the evidence is that it is common for the long-term consequences of prior injuries to sometimes be sitting dormant, and when a newer injury emerges, a MTBI or TOS may result.  I am satisfied that has occurred here…
[146]     I am satisfied of the following: that the plaintiff did suffer a brain injury in the MVA, it was a mild brain injury, he suffers from accompanying emotional difficulties that cause additional impairment, and the consequences of the foregoing are likely to be ongoing…
[147]     The weight of the evidence supports the finding that the plaintiff does suffer from TOS as a result of the MVA and, on a balance of probabilities, I find this to be so.  I note that Dr. Fry devotes much of his medical practice to the management and treatment of TOS, both conservatively and with surgery, and that Dr. Salvian has a special interest in the diagnosis and treatment of TOS.
[148]     More than a decade ago, the plaintiff had a fracture to his neck which eventually healed completely, and he had no problems as a result of it in the five years prior to the MVA.  The research has shown that a majority of people who suffer from TOS have had a prior neck injury, perhaps even years before, which had long healed, but that set them up to be vulnerable to any further injury.  I am satisfied that this is what happened to the plaintiff.
[149]     When the plaintiff raises his right arm to the side or above his head, or in front of him (while driving) as well as into a position where his hands are at the height of his head or slightly higher, TOS symptoms are provoked. Unfortunately, he is required to do these sorts of movements at his work.
[150]     I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffers from TOS as a result of the MVA.  He has been able to function with his pre-MVA activities, including work and recreational activities, although less efficiently and less comfortably than before the MVA.  I am satisfied that the evidence indicates this will not improve; in fact, it will worsen.  Hence, the weight of the medical opinion that the plaintiff must re-train…
[167]     I agree that the plaintiff demonstrates remarkable grit in continuing to work and to be involved in extreme sporting activities, to some extent contrary to the advice he has received from various doctors and to the surprise of those doctors.  Having said that, I am satisfied that the plaintiff does so with much less ease and pleasure than he did prior to the MVA.  He has suffered a loss in that regard, and will continue to do so.
[168]     In view of all the foregoing, I award non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $85,000.

Defendant Seeks To Exclude Plantiff From His Own Trial

Short but interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, rejecting a defence application to remove a plaintiff involved in a personal injury trial from the court room while an expert witness testified.
In today’s case (Danielsen v Johnson) the Plaintiff’s cross-examination was being interrupted to accommodate an expert witness who was scheduled to testify.  The Defendant argued the Plaintiff should be excluded from the courtroom.  Mr. Justice Silverman disagreed and finding the Plaintiff could watch the expert testify and at best this may effect weight of the Plaintiff’s testimony.  The Court provided the following reasons:
[2]             There is case law that deals with the question of when parties to the proceedings should be excluded, and the leading case seems to be a 1951 case from our court of appeal, Sisson v. Olson, [1951] 1 W.W.R. (N.S.) 507, where the court says this at para. 6 of the judgment of Judge O’Halloran:
But in my judgment, a party to an action (if not dismissed therefrom) cannot escape remaining a party while the action is in progress.  It would be plainly unreasonable to attempt, not to say impossible to accomplish, to deprive him of that status at any stage of the proceedings in the action.  It must follow, in my judgment, that appellants have as much right to attend each other’s discovery examination as they have to remain in court and listen to each other’s testimony at the trial itself.
[3]             And at para. 7:
Acceptance of this conclusion does not deny jurisdiction in the court at the trial or in the presiding judicial official at any stage of the proceedings to order the physical exclusion of a party, should a violation of an essential of justice occur or be threatened, if exclusion is not directed.  What may constitute such a violation depends on the situation in each case appraised in its own atmosphere, see Bird v. Vieth (1899) 7 B.C.R. 31. 
[4]             The defence here argues that we have the situation where there is a threatened violation of an essential of justice.  What makes the case at bar different from any of the other cases which I have been referred to is three-fold:  one, this is a trial, while the precedents with which I was provided (including Sisson) dealt with an examination for discovery; second, the plaintiff is in the midst of cross-examination; and third, defence counsel has agreed to accommodate plaintiff’s counsel and, more importantly, a medical witness, by standing down the cross-examination.  If he had not agreed to that it could be that the application would be on the other foot and there would be an application to stand down the witness.
[5]             Those are important considerations, I agree, but in my view they are not enough to remove the heavy onus which is on the applicant to have the plaintiff excluded, and I rely on the principle as set out in Sissonthat parties get to be in the courtroom except in situations where an essential of justice is threatened.
[6]             Consequently, the application is dismissed.  The plaintiff may remain in the courtroom.
[7]             I would add that it remains open for the defendant to argue that the plaintiff’s evidence has in some way been affected by his presence in the courtroom, in a tangible way, while other evidence has been heard, and that this should be taken into account when assessing his evidence or aspects of it.

Short Leave Application Denied in Case of "Manufactured Urgency"

Rule 8-5 of the BC Supreme Court Rules allows an application to be brought on short notice in cases of “urgency”.
A transcript of proceedings from the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, was recently shared with me denying a short leave application in a case of “manufactured urgency”.
In the recent case (Thuler v. Garcia) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff exchanged various expert reports in compliance with the timelines set out in the Rules of Court.  The Defendant requested that the Plaintiff attend a Defence Medical Exam with an orthopaedic surgeon to obtain a responsive report.  The Plaintiff refused to attend unless compelled by the Court.
The Defendant brought a short leave application two days before the scheduled Defence Medical Exam seeking permission to bring the main application that same day.  The Plaintiff opposed short leave being granted arguing  “the reason that I say that this is manufactured urgency is that there is six weeks in order to have a response report prepared.  If it is the case that the plaintiff is eventually ordered to attend that independent medical exam, then there is no reason that this couldn’t be brought within the normal timelines
When pressed on the point of urgency the defendant countered that “It’s urgent in the sense that we would like to just get it done.”
Mr. Justice Silverman agreed no urgency existed and dismissed the short leave application.  In doing so the Court provided the following comments to the Defendant:
All right.  I’m against you on that…In my view, it’s not urgent.  You’ve got enough time to do it by giving appropriate notice.  The matter can be heard on that basis.  It may well be you’ll still be entitled to your order if the plaintiff is not willing to go, but in my view, it’s not urgent to require short leave so that I am denying that application“.
To my knowledge this Excerpt of Proceedings is not publicly available but as always I am happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.

Filling in the Gaps – Lack of Expert Evidence and Future Wage Loss Awards

Generally when a Plaintiff advances damages for diminished earning capacity (future wage loss) in a personal injury lawsuit expert evidence is called to address the long term prognosis and consequences of a Plaintiff’s injuries.  Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, making such an award despite the lack of medical opinion evidence addressing the issue.
In today’s case (Helgason v. Bosa) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.  Her vehicle was t-boned by the Defendant.  Fault for the crash was admitted.  The trial focused on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
In support of her case the Plaintiff attempted to introduce two medico-legal reports written by her GP.  The first report, dated May 11, 2009 stated that “You have asked me to comment with regard to [the plaintiff’s] loss of earning capacity.  I do not feel that [the plaintiff] is less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment and I do not feel she is less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers as a result of the motor vehicle accident.”
As time passed the doctor changed her mind and wrote a second report indicating that the Plaintiff’s injuries would cause a diminished earning capacity.  The Defendant argued that the second report did not comply with the Rules of Court and that it should be excluded from evidence.  Mr. Justice Silverman agreed.  This left the Court with only the doctor’s first report providing an opinion of the Plaintiff’s future earning capacity.
The Defendant’s lawyer then argued, given the first report, the Court should not make an award for diminished earning capacity.  Mr. Justice Silverman disagreed and filled in the gaps addressing this issue with factual evidence presented at trial.  The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $45,000 for this loss and in doing so provided the following helpful reasons:

[48]         It does not follow from my ruling that I must conclude that the doctor’s opinion as of May 11, 2009, was still her opinion at trial.  Clearly, it was not.  However, the most significant consequence of my ruling is that there is no expert opinion in evidence with respect to future issues to support the plaintiff’s argument that I should be awarding damages for various of the plaintiff’s future concerns.

[49]         It does not necessarily follow from that, that the plaintiff is unable to mount an argument that there is still a sufficient basis for me to make the findings that she argues are appropriate.  The plaintiff argues that there is still sufficient evidence for me to draw the inferences which she argues I should draw, even without the opinion expressed in the inadmissible report.  It is noteworthy, in that regard, that when the defendants argued for the ruling with respect to admissibility, one prong of its argument was that the non-compliant report was not “necessary” because there was already other evidence with respect to the various future issues.

[50]         I am satisfied that indeed there is other evidence from which various inferences about the future might be drawn.  That other evidence consists of the following:

1.       Comments in the admissible report that do make projections into the future which are consistent with the position that the plaintiff takes:

“I do not think that [the plaintiff] has reached maximum medical improvement and she will continue to improve over the next 18 – 24 months.”

“Her present employment as a yard planner has a potential to exacerbate her symptoms.”

“I am not advising that [the plaintiff] change her current employment, but I will agree that her current employment does exacerbate her symptoms to a moderate degree.”

2.       The plaintiff’s own evidence at trial of her ongoing difficulties.

3.       The doctor’s oral evidence about various visits of the plaintiff since May 11, 2009, and the observations which she made (although her opinion arising from those visits was not admissible)….

[52] I am satisfied from the foregoing that the injuries, and other difficulties caused by the MVA, are ongoing and will continue to be ongoing, and will negatively affect the plaintiff’s capabilities and abilities in the future.

Non-Pecuniary Damages Update – the Kelowna Road Edition

I’m writing today’s non-pecuniary damages case update in Kelowna, BC where I’m finishing up some work on a handful of ICBC claims.
Reasons for judgement were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court awarding non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for headaches and chronic pain following soft tissue and TMJ injuries.
In this week’s case (Ho v. Dosanjh), the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC motor vehicle collision.   It was a rear-end crash and the Plaintiff’s vehicle sustained over $7,000 in damage.   The Plaintiff’s injuries continued to cause him problems by the time of trial (nearly 4 years after the collision).  Mr. Justice Silverman awarded the Plaintiff $75,000 for his non-pecuniary loss and in reaching this figure the Court noted the following about the extent and severity of the Plaintiff’s injuries:

[21]         As a result of the subject MVA, the plaintiff suffered pain in his neck, upper back, shoulder, jaw, numbness down the left arm, headaches, and insomnia.  He was on a variety of medications for a period of time and was unable to work.

[22]         The most serious and ongoing consequences of the MVA are the TMJ and the headaches, which leave him in constant pain.

[23]         Dr. Mehta confirmed that the plaintiff suffers from pain in his jaw, teeth, and  related areas, and that he suffers from headaches as a result of the MVA.

[24]         He testified that these areas of concern had not improved significantly in the four years since the MVA and further recovery was unlikely; that the plaintiff will suffer long-term symptoms that impact on all aspects of his functioning; and that he should avoid any activities that involve jumping or jarring.  Dr. Mehta recommended conservative care, including continuation of various treatments which were already ongoing, such as physiotherapy and massage.

[25]         Dr. le Nobel diagnosed the plaintiff with diffuse myofascial pain syndrome, TMJ, and chronic headaches.  He testified that the plaintiff’s capacity for recreational pursuits has been compromised and that this will continue for the foreseeable future.  He testified that, given the amount of time that has passed since the MVA, there is unlikely to be any further improvement.

[26]         Dr. Weiss confirmed that the plaintiff has chronic neck, back, and TMJ pain and that, in his opinion, “they will remain a long term issue.”  He noted that the plaintiff had a pre-existing degenerative condition, which made him more susceptible to injury from the MVA.

[27]         Dr. Gilbart provided an independent medical report and was called as a witness for the defence.  He confirmed that the MVA aggravated the plaintiff’s pre-existing degenerative condition in his neck.  He opined that the “prognosis for significant further improvement in his symptoms at this point is guarded.”  He noted that the plaintiff was asymptomatic prior to the MVA and was functioning at a very high level in all aspects of his life.  Dr. Gilbart also noted that, despite the post-MVA pain complained of by the plaintiff, he still appeared to be functioning at a very high level.  Finally, he opined that, given the pre-existing condition of the plaintiff as well as his prior history, he likely would have had flare-ups in the future even if the MVA had not occurred.

[28]          With respect to the jaw pain and headaches, Dr. Gilbart deferred to the expertise of Dr. Mehta.

[29]         Presently, the plaintiff has not returned to most of his pre-MVA athletic activities.  He no longer is involved in volleyball, softball, aggressive hiking, or skiing.  He does still rollerblade, although not as aggressively as before, and he has recently begun to swim with the encouragement of his girlfriend, who is a physiotherapist’s assistant.

[30]         Various friends testified that the plaintiff’s personality has changed.  He is moody, irritable, withdrawn, quiet, rarely socializes, and not as pleasant to spend time with as he used to be.  It was clear to me, when watching the plaintiff in the gallery of the courtroom that he was distressed when he heard this testimony.  He subsequently testified that he had not actually heard these witnesses say this before…

76]         I am satisfied that the plaintiff has suffered neck, back, jaw, and shoulder pain, and that he continues to suffer on a daily basis, particularly from TMJ and headaches.

[77]         I am satisfied that it has affected his recreational and athletic activities, which were an important part of his life.

[78]         I am satisfied that there is unlikely to be much further improvement.

[79]         I am also satisfied that, while he is suffering pain, he is nevertheless able to function in a reasonably normal way.  He certainly appeared to be reasonably comfortable when giving evidence.  He also continued to work full-time after a period of months during which he was unable to work, although I accept that work is much less physically comfortable for him than it used to be.

[80]         While I accept the evidence that he might have suffered another flare-up even in the absence of the MVA, I am satisfied that the MVA was, and is, the primary cause of his current difficulties.

[81]         With respect to ongoing treatments for the rest of his life, I am satisfied that, while these might provide him with some periodic temporary relief, they are not likely to result in any improvement.  Consequently, what the plaintiff might perceive as the “need” for such ongoing treatments, will be reflected as an aspect of the non-pecuniary award.

[82]         In all the circumstances, I award $75,000 for non-pecuniary damages.

Duties of Motorists Involved in Single Vehicle Accidents Discussed

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court discussing whether a motorist has to stay at the scene of a single vehicle accident in British Columbia.
In today’s case (ICBC v. Pariah Productions Inc.) the Defendant vehicle was involved in a single vehicle collision when its driver struck the wall of a Wendy’s restaurant.   The motorist drove home after the collision without notifying anyone of what happened.
ICBC paid out the property damage claim and then sued the Defendant for their money back claiming that the motorist was in breach of an obligation to remain at the scene of the accident.  The trial judge disagreed and dismissed ICBC’s claim.  ICBC appealed and today’s case dealt with this.
Section 68(1)(a) of the BC Motor Vehicle Act in part requires “the driver or operator or any other person in charge of a vehicle that is, directly or indirectly, involved in an accident on a highway to remain at or immediately return to the scene of the accident“.
ICBC argued that the Defendant was in breach of this obligation.  The trial judge disagreed.  On Appeal, Mr. Justice Silverman found that “the trial judge did correctly decided this issue…I endorse the correctness of his analysis in paragraphs 16-19 of this Reasons for Judgement.”
The Trial Judge’s reasons which were upheld were as follows:

[16]      It is to be questioned whether or not s. 68(1) and then 68(3) are sections that deal with the same type of accident or whether they are distinctly two different types of accidents. Section 68(3) provides the duty of a driver in an accident is as follows:…

[17]      It is my view that 68(1) and 68(3) of the Motor Vehicle Act involve two different situations: … Sixty-eight (1) involves the situation where there is a car accident involving another vehicle and there is injury or loss to another person, be it the other driver or someone else. Section 68(3) however, involves a situation where there is only a single-vehicle accident, no persons are injured but there is damage to property only. So, the two sections are quite distinct from one another and the obligations on the driver involved in a 68(1) situation or a 68(3) situation are quite different.

[18] For 68(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act to apply in this case,it is my view that there had to be a situation where not onlywas there damage to or loss or injury to some other person, but there also had to be another driver involved. The reason I say that is that 68(1)(c) says that the driver involved in the accident must: produce in writing to any other driver involved in the accident and to anyone sustaining loss or injury, and, on request [to a peace officer or] to a witness … the information.  In my view, that section presupposes that he, the driver, has obeyed his obligation to remain at or immediately return to the scene of the accident. So 68(1), in my view, involves twocars and a situation additionally of someone sustaining lossor injury, be it that other driver or some third party,

whereas s. 68(3) in my view, only applies to a situation where

one driver is involved and he/she has caused damages to property on or adjacent to the highway, other than another vehicle. He then must take reasonable steps to locate and notify in writing the owner or person in charge of the property and send them the facts of the accident and provide other details.

[19]      In s. 68(1), there is a mandatory requirement that the driver involved in the accident remain at the scene or immediately return to the scene and he must produce in writing to the other driver and anyone sustaining loss, various pieces of information, whereas under s. 68(3), there is no provision that he must remain or that he must immediately return to the accident. Rather, it says that he must take reasonable steps to locate and notify in writing the owner or person in charge, of the fact that an accident has taken place. The fact that he is required under 68(3) to take reasonable steps to locate and notify in writing the owner or person in charge of the property, in my mind, means that it is not something that he is required necessarily to do “immediately”, whereas under 68(1), when he has an accident with another car and the other driver or the other driver’s property or even somebody else’s property, is damaged or lost, in that two-car accident, he has to stay there and “immediately” give the information.