Tag: Mr. Justice Verhoeven

$42,000 non-pecuniary assessment for "somewhat exaggerated" soft tissue injuries

Reasons for judgment released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for lingering soft tissue injuries caused by a motor vehicle collision
In last week’s case (Fifi v. Robinson) the plaintiff was injured in a 2008 crash.   Fault for the collision was admitted focusing the trial on an assessment of the plaintiff’s damages.
The plaintiff alleged that she suffered from significant soft tissue injuries.   She sought global damages between $271,000 and $396,000.  The court found aspects of the plaintiffs case problematic and further found that she ‘somewhat exaggerated’ her complaints.  Despite this Mr. Justice Verhoeven found that the plaintiff did suffer some injuries which were lingering to the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages  $42,000 the court provided the following reasons for judgment:
[116]     I accept that at the time of her testimony at trial, in January 2012, in excess of three years post accident, she was still suffering from soft tissue injuries to her neck, back, shoulders, arms and hands resulting from the accident.  She has headaches but these are infrequent and of relatively short duration.  Her major ongoing complaint is of pain.  She is not at risk of developing degenerative arthritis or disc disease in future arising from the accident injuries. There is no evidence that the accident injuries will result in any long-term consequences to her health.
[117]     In view of my conclusion that her complaints are somewhat exaggerated, it is difficult to assess the true extent and degree of the plaintiff’s ongoing pain and disability resulting from the accident injuries.  What is clear to me is that they are not as significant as the plaintiff has stated.  It is also clear that other than for the first two to three weeks post-accident, her injuries have never been seriously disabling.  I note her testimony that her injuries had improved by the time she returned to work at Levan in January 2009 and had improved further when she worked at 5ive West in the fall of 2010.  I find that her injuries have gradually been improving with time…
[125]     I find that the residual effects of the plaintiff’s injuries will likely continue for one or two years from the time of trial, but will continue to diminish further with the passage of time, and with appropriate treatment such as active rehabilitation and exercise.  Following this period, any residual complaints will not be significant…
131]     Upon consideration of the whole of the evidence, in my view the sum of $42,000 represents a fit and proper amount of compensation for the plaintiff’s non pecuniary loss…

A Judicial Warning: Saving a "Modest Amount" in Insurance Premiums Can Create "Dire Financial Consequences"

I’ve previously discussed how saving a few hundred bucks could cost you a few hundred thousand by misrepresenting the principle vehicle operator when purchasing ICBC insurance.  Today reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, demonstrating breach of insurance consequences in action.
In today’s case (Lau v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  At the time he was driving a two month old Subaru Impreza which was purchased for $41,287.  The collision resulted in the vehicle being a total loss.
ICBC found the Plaintiff fully liable for the collision although the Plaintiff was disputing this finding.  ICBC further denied coverage to the Plaintiff (meaning for starters they would not pay to replace the vehicle nor indemnify the Plaintiff for any claims brought by the occupants in the other vehicle) arguing that the vehicle owner made a ‘willfully false statement’ when the vehicle was purchased by not accurately declaring who the principle operator was going to be.
Mr. Justice Verhoeven agreed that the vehicle owner “knowingly misrepresented the identity of the vehicle’s intended principle operator” and therefore that the insurance coverage was forfeited.  The Court provided the following valuable comments:

[5] For the reasons that follow, I conclude with considerable reluctance that Yu Jung Lau knowingly misrepresented the identity of the vehicle’s intended principal operator when he applied for the insurance, and therefore the insurance coverage was forfeited.

[6] The reason I reach the conclusion I do with reluctance is that in my view, the misrepresentation was made in order to save a relatively modest amount of insurance premium, and almost certainly without any real appreciation that forfeiture of the insurance could result, with dire financial consequences. The result is harsh for the plaintiffs.

[7] However, ICBC does not have to prove that the plaintiffs were aware of the consequences of a misrepresentation concerning the insurance.  A contract of insurance is one of utmost good faith, and one cannot commit frauds or make wilfully false statements about the subject-matter of the claim without risking the loss of the right to indemnity: Inland Kenworth Ltd. v. Commonwealth Insurance Company (1990), 48 B.C.L.R. (2d) 305 (C.A.) at 310.

[8] Judging by the number of similar cases that have come before the courts, it seems likely the plaintiffs’ lack of understanding of the consequences of a false declaration as to the vehicle’s intended principal operator is shared with many members of the public. The result in this case should serve as a warning.

$35,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For 3 Year Whiplash Injury

Keeping this site’s whiplash database current, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for a soft tissue injury claim as a result of a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Carter v. Zhan) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff was injured in the crash and alleged the consequences were permanent.  She sought damages between $149,000-$206,000 at trial.  Despite rejecting the severity of the Plaintiff’s claims, Mr. Justice Verhoeven accepted the Plaintiff did suffer a whiplash injury of 36 months duration.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $35,000 the Court provided the following reasons:
[99] On the evidence, I accept that the plaintiff has established to the requisite standard of proof in a civil case that the accident resulted in soft tissue injuries which persisted for approximately 36 months after the accident, gradually lessening over that recovery period.  Thereafter, I conclude that she suffered from only minor lingering effects.  It follows that I am not satisfied that the plaintiff has established that her injuries are essentially permanent as she claims…

[122] In determining an appropriate non-pecuniary award to compensate the plaintiff for her losses, I set out my findings in relation to the relevant Stapley factors:

1. the plaintiff was 32 years old at the time of the accident(she is now 37);

2. she suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck, jaw, shoulders, back, and pelvic girdle;

3. these injuries caused her mild to moderate pain and discomfort in her neck, jaw, shoulders, back, and pelvic girdle, primarily on the left side of her body, for approximately three years and minor lingering effects thereafter, with the pain lessening gradually over those three years.  She also occasionally suffered minor chest stiffness and soreness and headaches;

4. the plaintiff’s injuries are not permanent and she is not disabled as a result of the accident;

5. the injuries caused the plaintiff some emotional pain and loss of enjoyment of life over the three-year recovery period;

6. the plaintiff was also somewhat restricted in her physical activities over that time; and

7. the plaintiff did not suffer a loss of lifestyle as a result of her injuries.

[123] Bearing in mind these factors, I find the following cases provide some assistance in determining the appropriate range for non-pecuniary damages: Cameron v. Savory, 2008 BCSC 1708, [2008] B.C.J. No. 2429 [Cameron]; Dhanoa (Litigation guardian of) v. Hui, 2008 BCSC 907, [2008] B.C.J. No. 1307 [Dhanoa]; Mullican v. Steuart, 2003 BCSC 289, [2003] B.C.J. No. 416 [Mullican]; Lane v. Ford Credit Canada Leasing Limited et al., 2003 BCSC 701, [2003] B.C.J. No. 1042 [Lane]; Gray v. Balsdon, [1996] B.C.J. No. 667 (S.C.) [Gray]; and Johnston v. Day, 2002 BCSC 480, [2002] B.C.J. No. 920 [Johnston].

[124] Considering all the circumstances, and the principles enunciated in Stapley, I assess Ms. Carter’s non-pecuniary loss at $35,000.

$80,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for C3-4 Disc Injury With Neuropathic Pain

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding global damages of just over $90,000 as a result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Lorenz v. Gosling) the Plaintiff was injured in 2006 collision.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff’s symptoms included chronic neuropathic pain which was brought on following the collision as a result of “severe narrowing of the cord due to degeneration of the disc and facet joints at the C3-4 level of her cervical spine“.
The 56 year old plaintiff was left with chronic pain and limitations in her vocational and domestic responsibilities.   The Plaintiff was able to continue working despite her pain and nothing was awarded for diminished earning capacity.  Despite this her non-pecuniary damages were assessed at $80,000 with Mr. Justice Verhoeven providing the following reasons:

[30] Dr. Berkman’s opinion was that Mrs. Lorenz was suffering from persistent pain and weakness in her arms, and neck pain, resulting from the accident.  He says that she suffered a “significant injury to her spinal cord at the C3-4 level, with consequential development of neuropathic pain in her neck and upper limbs.”

[31] Dr. Berkman defined “neuropathic” as meaning a change in the perception of pain, and change in the processing of pain by the patient. In his opinion the pain had become “ingrained in her nervous system”.

[32] He suggested pain education, psychological support and occupational therapy.

[33] Dr. Berkman also suggested a consultation with a neurosurgeon in order to consider the advisability of surgery.  In the absence of neurosurgery, he suggested treatment such as Botox or subcutaneous Lidocaine, or a spinal cord stimulator…

[42] On the medical evidence, therefore, I am left with a substantial lack of clarity as to whether the complaints of Mrs. Lorenz are essentially permanent.  Nonetheless, I am obliged to make findings on the evidence as it is.  I conclude that there is a substantial risk that she will not experience a significant improvement in her present symptoms and complaints.  I am unable to find that this is a probable outcome.

[43] There is no question in this case that her complaints arise from the motor vehicle accident…

[97] After considering all of the authorities cited to me, and on the findings that I have made, I consider that the sum of $80,000 represents a fit and proper award for non pecuniary loss in this case.

More on the Production of Case Planning Conference Transcripts: Contested Applications

As discussed earlier this year,  Rule 5-2(7) states that “proceedings at a case planning conference must be recorded, but no part of that recording may be made available to or used by any person without court order“.  Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the test to be met for production of these transcripts when opposed by other litigants.
In last month’s case (Parti v. Pokorny) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  In the course of her lawsuit a Case Planning Conference was held.  ICBC asked for a transcript of this hearing to be produced.  The Plaintiff opposed following which ICBC brought an application for the Court to order production under Rule 5-2(7).  ICBC’s application was dismissed and in doing so Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:
[27] The words of R. 5-2(7) in their grammatical and ordinary sense support the view that a production order may be granted only exceptionally on reasonable grounds to support the making of the order. The wording of R. 5-2(7) is prohibitory in nature: “no part of that recording [of a CPC] may be made available to or used by any person without court order”.  The legislature expressly required that the court exercise discretion before allowing access to or use of the recording. The legislature must have intended that the court exercise its discretion on reasonable grounds. Thus, the order permitting access to the recording or for a transcript must only be made where there are reasonable grounds to do so….

[35] Litigants and counsel attending a CPC should be free to discuss openly and candidly all aspects of the case, including matters relating to the narrowing of the issues, the merits of the case and the issues, management of the case, or settlement prospects and procedures, without concern that some unguarded comment made during the course of the conference may later be sought to be used to their detriment. The ready availability of transcripts of the proceedings would inevitably inhibit such discussions and frustrate the objectives of the CPC procedures as well as the object of the Rules.

[36] The open court principle is well-recognized in the caselaw. The legislature is presumed to have been aware of the open court principle when it enacted R. 5-2(7) of the SCCR, limiting the application of that principle in the context of CPCs…

[48] I reject the argument of the defendant that there ought to be a presumption in favour of production of the CPC transcript. The defendant’s application fails as it has not established any compelling grounds for the exercise of the court’s discretion for the order sought.

[49] The plaintiff argued that there should be a presumption against the making of an order for the availability or use of a CPC recording. Strictly speaking, the application of the rule does not require a presumption. I simply interpret the rule to require compelling grounds for the exercise of the court’s discretion to make the order. It makes no difference whether that is considered a presumption.

[50] The plaintiff also argues that the necessary grounds arise out of the specific case before the court. That would seem logical; however, that is not an issue I need to decide as the defendant has not demonstrated any compelling grounds for the order, whether arising out of this case or not.

[51] The application of the defendant for an order pursuant to R. 5-2(7) is dismissed, with costs.

Details Please: Privileged Documents and Disclosure Requirements of the New Rules of Court

In 2009 the BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement addressing the details necessary when listing privileged documents.  The first reasons I’m aware of addressing this issue under the New Rules of Court were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating that the law remains unchanged.
In today’s case (Anderson Creek Site Developing Ltd. v. Brovender) the Plaintiff sued various defendants claiming damages for alleged unpaid accounts.   The Defendants listed many privileged documents in the course of the lawsuit.  The Plaintiff brought an application seeking that these be described with greater detail.  Mr. Justice Verhoeven granted the application and in doing so provided the following useful summary describing the necessary details when listing a privileged document under Rule 7-1(7):

[110] Rule 7-1(7) requires that:

The nature of any document for which privilege from production is claimed must be described in a manner that, without revealing information that is privileged, will enable other parties to assess the validity of the claim of privilege.

[111] The description in the list of documents is not sufficient to respond to that requirement.

[112] The defendants argue that the description that they have given on their list of documents is not materially different than the plaintiff’s own description. That may be. That application is not before me at the moment.

[113] It is hard to know in a given case how much description is required to answer the requirement in Rule 7-1(7) without revealing privileged information. It depends on the nature of the case and the nature of the document. In this case, I would expect most documents to be transactional documents. There may be other documents as well.

[114] As a minimum, in order to have any assessment of the validity of a claim of privilege, in the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that what is required to be described are four things: first, something about the nature of the communication, that is whether it is a letter or an e-mail or memorandum or something else; second, the date upon which it was created or sent; third and fourth, the author and the recipient. With that information, it may be possible for the plaintiff to assess the claim of privilege. There may be further disclosure that is necessary at that stage; I cannot tell.

[115] So that application will be allowed to that extent. The defendants will produce a more detailed list of privileged documents disclosing that information. The plaintiff will be at liberty to reapply for a better list, in order to challenge the claim of confidentiality.

$135,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Torn Pectoralis Major Muscle

(UPDATE: May 9, 2012 … The Trial Judge’s findings regarding liability were appealed.  The Appeal was dismissed today.)

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, awarding just over $450,000 in damages for injuries and losses arising out of a 2006 BC Motor Vehicle Collision.
In today’s case (Power v. White) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2 vehicle collision.  As the Plaintiff was driving down the Island Highway a deer ran into his lane of travel threatening collision.  The Plaintiff reacted suddenly by changing into the right lane and braking as hard as he could.  Unfortunately this was not sufficient and the Plaintiff’s vehicle struck the deer.  Shortly afterwards the Defendant, who was travelling in the right lane, collided with the rear of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  Fault was at issue however the Mr. Justice Verhoeven found that the Plaintiff reacted reasonably to the threatened collision and that the Defendant was 100% at fault for failing to drive with all due care and attention.
The Plaintiff suffered various injuries the most serious of which was a tear to his pectoralis major muscle.  This injury did not fully heal and was expected to effect the Plaintiff well into the future.  The Plaintiff’s family doctor provided the following evidence with respect to the severity of this injury:

In review, Mr. Power sustained injuries to his right pectoralis major (partial tear) to the right T-6 area as well as some transient injuries to the soft tissues in his right shoulder and base of neck and right buttock area. These complaints started after his accident and have been persistent and continuous since that time. Institution of physiotherapy, chiropractic and exercised based therapy have been useful in increasing some of his functional capacity since the accident, but have plateaued in that the pain from either his right pectoralis area or the T-6 area have limited any further advancement of intensity or duration of his exercise. These injuries have significantly limited his recreational activities, particularly swimming, biking and running as well as his ability to care for his house and yard, particularly the use of his power saw, shovels and mowing his lawn. At work he generally does not have a lot of limitation as he is able to get up from his seat when he needs to but does have limited sitting capacity as has previously been outlined. He does and would have some problems turning some of the heavy valves and climbing the ladders if there is a breakdown at the mill, however he does have a partner and this has generally worked out that the partner has done this.

Mr. Power has sustained significant injuries from the accident. His functional limitations have been outlined in detail. They are significant for his recreational and household and yard activities. At this time I do not see a significant future recovery for these and at the moment I am unable to find a surgeon who would consider repairing this injury, although I will persist in searching the literature for a possible solution for this problem. Mr. Power has shown he is determined to remain active, having returned to work promptly after his accident, followed all of my instructions as well as his therapist’s instructions to the letter and done a persistent and significant job in increasing his activities to what is now his limit due to pain in the aforementioned areas and I do not see his disabilities resolving in the near future.

Mr. Justice Verhoeven awarded the Plaintiff $135,000 for his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).  In reaching this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[82]         In this case, Mr. Power has suffered a very significant and permanent loss to the lifestyle he previously enjoyed. Virtually all of his previous physical activities have been severely curtailed. Prior to the accident Mr. Powers physical vigour was central to his life and lifestyle. His mood and emotional well being have been negatively affected. His relationship with his wife has been harmed. His ability to improve and maintain his property, quite obviously a source of great pleasure and pride to him formerly, is all but completely gone. He has not and will not in future be as physically fit as he previously was. It is reasonable to infer that this may affect his health long term. I think it likely that Mr. and Mrs. Power will sell their five acre property and move into a residence that does not require so much effort to maintain…

[84]         In all these circumstances, I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss at $135,000.

More on Rule 37B; Settlement Offers, Acceptance and the Discretion of the Court

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing whether the BC Supreme Court has discretion to make costs awards after a formal settlement offer is accepted that specifically addresses costs consequences.
In today’s case (Hambrook v. Sandhu) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 BC collision.  He sued for damages.  The defence lawyer (instructed by ICBC) made a formal offer to settle the case for $75,000 plus costs up to the time that the offer was made with the Defendant being entitled to costs thereafter.  (this offer was made under the old Rule 37 which has now been repealed).
The Plaintiff initially dismissed the offer and continued in the lawsuit.   Three days before trial the Plaintiff accepted the offer.  The parties could not agree on the costs consequences.  The Plaintiff argued that Rule 37B (the rule that governed at the time of acceptance) gave the Court discretion to award her costs up to the date the offer was accepted.   Mr. Justice Verhoeven disagreed and held that when a settlement offer is accepted that specifically spells out the costs consequences there is no discretion for the Court to exercise under Rule 37B.  The Court provided the following reasons:
[28] But it has also been held that a settlement agreement containing terms as to payment of costs leaves the court with no room for the exercise of discretion pursuant to Rule 37B:  Buttar v. Di Spirito, 2009 BCSC 72 at para. 17..

[30] Madam Justice Gerow held that the court had no discretion to award costs in the matter before her. She stated at para. 11:

[11]      Both parties advanced arguments that the court has discretion under Rule 37B to make an order regarding costs. However, it is my opinion that the court has no discretion to make an order regarding costs in this matter. Mr. Buttar accepted the offer put forth by the defendants, including the offer regarding costs, without reservation. It is my view that Rule 37B does not confer a discretion on the court to set aside an agreement that has been entered into between the parties regarding costs.

[31] On this basis, where a party has specified the costs consequences of acceptance of its offer to settle, within an offer to settle to which Rule 37B applies, and a settlement agreement results in accordance with the offer, the court does not retain a discretion to depart from the terms of the agreement.

[32] Put another way, it remains open to litigating parties to make an offer to settle within the meaning of Rule 37B and to specify the costs consequences of acceptance of the offer. In my view this is a positive result. It allows the parties to create their own bargain. It provides for certainty, and avoids the need for applications to court where a settlement agreement is reached, while preserving the court’s discretion in cases where no settlement occurs…

[37] In my view the agreement that the parties made was unambiguous. The defendants’ offer was clear in relation to the costs consequence of acceptance; the defendants would pay the costs until the date of the offer, and if the plaintiff were to accept the offer after that date, then the defendants would be entitled to costs after that date.

[38] After July 1, 2008, when the new rule came into effect, the defendants’ offer remained open for acceptance in accordance with its terms. The defendants had not withdrawn it or amended it. The new rule affected the costs consequences in the event that the offer was not accepted, and the court went on to render a judgment. That did not occur…

[61] The plaintiff will receive costs in accordance with Appendix B, Scale B, for the time leading to delivery of the defendants’ offer to settle. The defendants will receive costs following that date. No argument was presented to me that there should be any distinction between the tariff items and disbursements. The applicable costs will include both tariff items and disbursements.

In my continued efforts to get us all prepared for the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules I will again point out that Rule 37B will be replaced with Rule 9 under the New Rules. The new rule uses language that is almost identical to Rule 37B which should help cases such as this one retain their value as precedents.

$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Soft Tissue Injury of Foot

Reasons for judgement were released today (Lutz v. Lim) awarding a Plaintiff just over $64,000 in total damages as a result of 2 BC motor vehicle collisions.
Fault was admitted for both crashes leaving the court to deal with the issue of damages.  The Plaintiff suffered a complicated soft tissue injury to his right foot as a result of the first crash.  The Plaintiff’s doctors gave the following opinion with respect to the Plaintiff’s foot injury:
In summary, Mr. Lutz continues to experience significant pain in his right foot, in spite of orthotics and custom-made workboots. He is able to function at work but finds that, after he has been on his feet for more than two hours at a time, the pain in his foot increases. I believe he has a permanent partial disability as a result of the initial motor vehicle accident of April 26th, 2005, when a car ran over his right foot….

Because of the change of foot position, the increased metatarsalgia, and the swelling that occurred around the time of the accident, I think that the accident has given him significant change in his foot shape and deterioration in his foot function as it existed prior to this point.

I think, with regard to the future, he will require custom orthotics and shoes to maintain his employment…

I also think that this would help him improve his recreational activities.

I think that there will be ongoing disability from this injury. He is unlikely to be able to take employment that requires a greater degree of loading of the forefoot than he presently has. His job is well-suited to his various musculoskeletal injuries, but if he has to take part in a job that requires a greater degree of physical activity, I suspect that his foot will become the most rate-limiting area. Therefore, a job more strenuous than he presently has would be inappropriate unless further reconstructive surgery was done to his foot.

In awarding the Plaintiff $45,000 for his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for his foot injury Mr. Justice Verhoeven summarized the severity of the injury and the effects on the Plaintiff’s life as follows:

[101] Doing the best I can on the evidence, I conclude that the plaintiff has suffered a substantial amount of damage to his foot in the MVA. I conclude, as well, that the MVA has caused a permanent disability in his foot. I conclude that the risk of surgery being required is caused by the MVA injuries. On the evidence, I am unable to find that there was a measurable risk of surgery being required prior to the MVA injuries….

[110] In my view, and adopting the language used by Major J. in Athey v. Leonati, the plaintiff’s foot injury is more in the nature of a “thin skull” case than it is of a “crumbling skull”. The plaintiff’s prior foot injury left him vulnerable to future injury. There is little more than speculation to suggest that his current complaints and his ongoing need for treatment would have or might have occurred in any event. There is therefore insufficient evidence to allow me to reduce the award based upon such a contingency…

[124] In summary, the plaintiff now has had foot pain steadily for the past four-and-a-half years. He has a permanent partial disability with ongoing discomfort in relation to the foot. There is some restriction on his work activities, although he has not made a claim for loss of earnings or earning capacity. He was 38 years of age at the time of the first MVA. He is now 42. There is a significant risk of surgery being required as a result of the accident injury. Although he has not lost any time from work and for the most part he has carried on with his pre-MVA activities, I take into account his stoical nature. He has had to wear orthotics in his footwear and this will continue indefinitely. He suffered a minor injury to the right hand as well.

[125] I accept the submission of plaintiff’s counsel that an appropriate compensation for non-pecuniary loss arising out of MVA No. 1 is $45,000.

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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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