Tag: non-pecuniary damages

Non-Pecuniary Damages for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Assessed at $85,000

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for a left sided Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) which arose after a series of accidents.
In today’s case (Lee v. MacLean) the Plaintiff was involved in two 2003 motor vehicle accidents.  The Defendants were found liable for the collisions focusing the trial on the cause of the Plaintiff’s injuries and their value.
Determining the cause of the Plaintiff’s injuries was no easy task as the Plaintiff was injured in previous motor vehicle collisions and continued to suffer pain from those events.   By the time of his 2003 accidents the Plaintiff still had pain in his neck, right shoulder and lower back as a result of his previous accidents.  The 2003 accidents aggravated these injuries and caused new symptoms.  Specifically the Court found that the 2003 collisions “triggered the onset of the thoracic outlet symptoms on (the Plaintiff’s) left side“.
The Court heard expert evidence from Dr. Peter Fry, a vascular surgeon with expertise in thoracic outlet syndrome.  He provided the following evidence with respect to the cause and severity of the Plaintiff’s left sided TOS:

I think significantly at the present time he shows evidence of more serious compression of the thoracic outlet given that there is clinical evidence that the venous drainage of the arm on the left is impaired compared to the right side.  This is an indication of fairly severe compression in this area, basically involving not only the vein but the artery where you can develop a bruit or turbulence during provocative testing for thoracic outlet syndrome and the reproduction of neurological symptoms that appear to involve both upper and lower plexus.

This being the case, I think it is highly that at some point in time Mr. Lee is going to require definitive surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome on the left.

I would opine that the accident of October 2003 was most likely responsible for provoking or exacerbating symptoms on the left side in a setting where he clearly had previous compression of the thoracic outlet and was therefore somewhat vulnerable to this injury.

Mr. Justice Gaul assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $85,000.  The court then reduced this award by 25% to take into account the Plaintiff’s pre-existing injuries.  Mr. Justice Gaul provided the following reasons:

[118]     Applying the principles enunciated in Filsinger, I am satisfied Mr. Lee is both a “crumbling skull” and “thin skull” plaintiff.  The determination of which depends upon the precise injury.

[119]     The neck, right shoulder and lower back pains Mr. Lee complained of following the 2003 Accidents were quite similar to those he complained of after the 1990s Accidents.  I am satisfied that these symptoms would have continued to manifest themselves even if Mr. Lee had not been involved in the 2003 motor vehicle accidents.

[120]     With respect to the left side of Mr. Lee’s body, the issue is more difficult.  I accept the evidence of Dr. Fry that in 1998 Mr. Lee exhibited signs of thoracic outlet syndrome on the left side of his body, even though Mr. Lee was asymptomatic at the time.  I am persuaded by the evidence of Dr. Fry and Dr. Shuckett that the nature of Accident #1 and Accident #2 were such that they triggered the onset of the thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms on Mr. Lee’s left side and are therefore attributable to those accidents.

[121]     I also find that the concentration problems, headaches and associated vision problems that arose after the 2003 Accidents can at least be partially attributed to those accidents…

[123]     Given the pre-existing condition of Mr. Lee and the fact that the symptoms on the right side of his body were likely to have continued, notwithstanding the 2003 Accidents, I find that it is appropriate to make a 25% reduction in the non-pecuniary damages as well as the award for loss of earning capacity…

[135]     I found Mr. Lee to be a credible witness when he described the timing, nature and extent of his injuries.  In doing so, I accept that he had pre-existing pains prior to the 2003 Accidents, some of which were identical to those which developed after the 1990s Accidents.

[136]     Mr. Lee is entitled to be compensated for his injuries.  I do not find those injuries to have been as trivial or transient as suggested by the defendants.  On the whole I favour Mr. Lee’s description of the injuries and find that an appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages to be $85,000.  There will, however, be a 25% contingency discount to this amount on account of Mr. Lee’s pre-existing physical ailments.

[137]     As a result, the award for non-pecuniary damages is $63,750.

You can click here to read my archived posts of other recent BC Injury Cases awarding damages for accident caused Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Damages for "Chronic Pain" Assessed at $80,000; Dr. Schweigel Criticized

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court awarding an injured Plaintiff just over $112,000 in total damages as a result of 2 BC car crashes.  In reaching verdict the court had some critical words for Dr. Schweigel who is one of ICBC’s biggest billing physicians.
In this week’s case (Frangolias v. Parry) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions in December, 2004.  Fault was admitted for both crashes.  Both cases were tried at the same time with the Court focusing on the value of the claims.  As is usual in these types of claims there was competing medical evidence.  Ultimately the Court preferred the evidence of the Plaintiff’s physicians and in assessing her non-pecuniary damages at $80,000 the Court made the following findings:

[97]    I find that Mrs. Frangolias continues to suffer debilitating chronic pain symptoms arising from soft tissue injuries caused by the December MVAs. She suffers headaches, and pain that begins in her head and extends down through her shoulders and then extends through her back to her tail bone.

[98]    Mrs. Frangolias’ headaches and pain caused by the December MVAs have had an adverse effect on her life. I accept as accurate the limitations on Mrs. Frangolias’ lifestyle described by Mr. Frangolias and Effie Ainsley. While Mrs. Frangolias is able to carry out light housekeeping duties and do some minor cooking, she is otherwise prevented from engaging in active housekeeping, cooking, and gardening.

[99]    While there are no objective signs of injury at this time such as muscle spasm, Mrs. Frangolias continues to display tenderness during medical examinations.

Mr. Justice Walker went on to make some critical comments of Dr. Scwheigel.  Specifically his objectivity as a witness was questioned as illustrated by the following paragraphs of the judgement:

[85]    The defendants relied upon the medical-legal report of Dr. Schweigel, which followed his independent medical examination of Mrs. Frangolias that took place on October 20, 2008. I have considerable concerns about the reliability of the opinions expressed in that report. My concerns arise in respect of Dr. Schweigel’s opinions relating to surveillance videos of Mrs. Frangolias taken on May 12 to 14, 2006, March 14 to April 26, 2008, and May 17 to May 23, 2008, and in respect of some of the comments contained in his report concerning his findings on examination.

[86]    The surveillance videos were marked in evidence and shown to me during the trial. The videos show Mrs. Frangolias in her front yard, driving to a grocery store, and driving to a medical appointment. Surveillance of Mrs. Frangolias must have been taken at some distance away or with a camera of poor quality since with the exception of one sequence, none of Mrs. Frangolias’ facial features are discernable.

[87]    In respect of the first DVD containing the videos from May 12 to May 14, 2006, Dr. Schweigel wrote:

This lady is seen walking in a very normal fashion. She bends quite easily on repeated occasions to inspect her flowers on the May 13, 2006 section of this video. She rotates her neck in a very agile fashion with no obvious discomfort both right and left.

[88]    I carefully watched the images on the first DVD. There were a number of occasions where Mrs. Frangolias appeared to be moving stiffly, moving her head with her body in a stiff manner, as if they were all one stiff board. There are times when Mrs. Frangolias bends over to look at the flowers in her front garden, but due to the quality of the video images, it is impossible to tell whether Mrs. Frangolias was in discomfort when she did or indeed, at any time. My concern with Dr. Schweigel’s remarks is for overstatement and more importantly, for the failure to remark on those images showing Mrs. Frangolias to be moving more slowly or stiffly…

[96]    The foregoing excerpts as some examples of the remarks that cause me to be concerned that some of the opinions expressed in Dr. Schweigel’s report lack balance and objectivity. I am, therefore, most concerned about the reliability of the opinions expressed in the report. In the circumstances, I prefer to rely upon the evidence of Drs. Liu and Travlos as well as my assessment of Mrs. Frangolias and the accounts provided by Mr. Frangolias and Effie Ainsley.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Shoulder Injury


Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a plaintiff just over $137,000 in damages as a result of a BC car crash.
In today’s case (Moussa v. Awwad) the Plaintiff was injured in a roll over accident.  She was a passenger at the time.   The driver lost control of the vehicle and “swerved across the two eastbound lanes, then off the highway and into the ditch separating the east and westbound lanes of traffic, flipping at least once, landing on the roof, and flipping back onto its wheels, this time facing west. By the time the defendant’s vehicle came to a rest, the roof was crushed and the car windows were shattered.
ICBC admitted fault on behalf of the driver focusing the trial on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which improved.  His most serious injury was shoulder pain which caused restrictions and was not expected to recover.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $75,000 Madam Justice Russell provide the following analysis:

I find that the plaintiff sustained injuries to his neck, left shoulder and left arm as a result of the Accident. While most of the injuries have resolved, the plaintiff continues to suffer pain and limitations with respect to his left shoulder. Various areas of the left shoulder have been implicated, including the AC joint, rotator cuff, and coracoid process. Although there was great confusion in the medical evidence about the mechanics of the injury to the plaintiff’s shoulder, whatever the mechanism of the injury, and in light of my finding that there was no intervening event, I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the ongoing symptoms in the plaintiff’s left shoulder were caused by the April 2004 Accident.

[154] None of the medical experts gave a positive prognosis of recovery or even improvement, and none could suggest further intervention or treatment that could contribute to a better prognosis for recovery. The plaintiff will, therefore, continue to face limitations and disabling symptoms related to pain in his left shoulder as a result of the Accident…

[160] The purpose of non-pecuniary damages is to compensate the plaintiff for losses such as pain, suffering, disability, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life from the time of the Accident for as long as such losses will likely continue. In Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at para. 45, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, the majority of the Court of Appeal emphasized that:

… the amount of an award for non-pecuniary damage should not depend alone upon the seriousness of the injury but upon its ability to ameliorate the condition of the victim considering his or her particular situation. … An award will vary in each case ‘to meet the specific circumstances of the individual case’.

[161] The Accident has impacted the plaintiff’s life profoundly. In the months immediately following the Accident, the plaintiff experienced flashbacks, intense pain and had difficulty sleeping. After the acute pain passed, the plaintiff continued to suffer from increases in pain when working and difficulty sleeping. To try to redress this, he underwent surgery, which was frightening for him, and required further rehabilitation. However, in the long run the surgery was not successful, his pain continued, and his prognosis for recovery is not good.

[162] Aside from pain, the plaintiff has experienced a loss of enjoyment of life. The plaintiff does not travel because it is difficult to carry or manage his luggage, he no longer engages in many of his recreational activities, he has experienced a great deal of emotional difficulty and he continues to restrict situations in which he may find himself a passenger in another vehicle.

[163] The plaintiff’s most significant limitation is related to work because he remains unable to work consistently and for extended periods of time at a computer and his discomfort and disability are directly proportional to the amount of time that he spends at the computer or operating a video camera. The plaintiff enjoyed his work and his career was a source of pride for him. Now his enjoyment of his work is undermined by his ongoing pain and disability…

166] In light of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff in the Accident and the negative prognoses contained in the medical evidence, I find the plaintiff is entitled to an award of $75,000 for general damages.

You can click here to access my archived summary of other recent BC Claims dealing with shoulder injuries.

Non-Pecuniary Damages for Fractured Tibia and Fibula With Intermedullary Nailing Discussed

(Illustration provided courtesy of Artery Studios Inc.)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding damages as a result of a 2007 BC motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Falati v. Smith) the Plaintiff was injured when he was struck by a vehicle.  He was walking on the sidewalk on Marine Drive in West Vancouver when the Plaintiff’s vehicle mounted the curb, drove across the sidewalk and pinned the plaintiff against a building.
The Plaintiff suffered orthopaedic injuries described as “a crush-type fracture to his left tibia and a fracture to the fibula“.  These injuries required surgical intervention with intermedullary nailing.
The Plaintiff made a reasonably good recovery although he continued to have symptoms of pain by the time of trial.   His orthopaedic surgeon gave the following evidence with respect to prognosis and disability:
At this stage, Mr. Falati has only a mild amount of identifiable impairment in the left leg, ankle and foot. He does have evidence of pain symptoms in the leg and left ankle and left foot. However, he is noted to have essentially near normal motor power function as well as near normal range of motion. As such, his current impairment level is low. Nevertheless, there is an impairment present and the exact diagnosis underlying this impairment remains unclear. As a result, defining the likelihood of this impairment remaining permanent is impossible. It is important to note that disability represents the difference between what an individual is expected to do or required to do, and what they are capable of doing, due to the presence of a physical impairment. Since Mr. Falati still does have some evidence of physical impairment, albeit mild, some element of disability does remain. The probability of such disability remaining on a permanent basis seems very low with respect to the left knee and left tibia specifically. However, with respect to the left ankle, a more clear diagnosis would be required prior to making any estimate of permanence
In assessing his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $85,000 Mr. Justice Saunders reasoned as follows:
Neither of the orthopaedic surgeons whose reports are in evidence, Dr. Penner and Dr. Jando, have expressed an opinion that the plaintiff’s foot pain and resulting limitations are likely to be permanent; Dr. Jando has offered the option of further surgery to remove the hardware. The plaintiff’s general practitioner, Dr. Kates, has pointed to both surgery, and weight loss, as possible means of addressing the complaints of persistent pain. Dr. Kates does use the phrase, “some element of permanent left ankle disability”, but as he goes on to point to the remaining hardware as a possible cause, I do not take him to mean “irreversible”. Although there is some possibility of a permanent disability in the present case, the evidence does not establish this to be a probability. Taking such possibility into account, I award the plaintiff non-pecuniary damages of $85,000.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Whiplash and likely Zygapohyseal Joint Injury

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages as a result of a BC car crash resulting in whiplash claim with a likely zygapophyseal joint injury.
Zygapophyseal joints (also known as facet joints) are the interconnecting joints joining vertebral bodies to one another and it is not uncommon for injury to occur to these joints in motor vehicle collisions.

In this week’s case (Lamont v. Stead) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision caused by the Defendant in Burnaby, BC.  Fault was admitted leaving the Court to deal with the extent and value of the injury claim.   The Defendant accepted he injured the Plaintiff however argued that these injuries substantially resolved within 9 months.  The Plaintiff disagreed giving evidence that her neck injury symptoms were ongoing through trial.
In support of her case the Plaintiff advanced evidence from Dr. Rhonda Shuckett, a well respected BC rheumatologist.  Dr. Shuckett testified that the Plaintiff likely had permanent injuries explaining as follows:

I suspect her left neck injury since the MVA is mainly attributable to soft tissue and perhaps zygapophyseal joint injury…It is already approaching two years since the subject MVA and she remains symptomatic. I think there is a good chance that she is going to continue with her current level of pain. She is not disabled but is impaired to some degree…

Mr. Justice Bernard accepted this evidence and awarded the Plaintiff damages accordingly.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $60,000 the Court made the following findings:

[30] The evidence establishes that the plaintiff’s prospects for any significant improvement in her neck pain are poor. As a consequence, she faces a considerably altered future; particularly as it relates to her life outside the workplace. Her chronic pain deprives her of much of the enjoyment she found in being physically active, in attending to her family, and in participating in family activities…

[35] In summary, I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s pain is chronic, partially disabling, and likely permanent. Similarly, I am satisfied that the evidence establishes that the plaintiff’s neck pain was caused by the defendant’s negligence, in the sense that it directly caused or materially contributed to it. There is a substantial connection between the plaintiff’s chronic neck pain and the collision, and the plaintiff has shown, on a balance of probabilities, that but for the negligence of the defendant, she would not have chronic neck pain: see Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 333…

[40]        The loss of enjoyment of life due to chronic neck pain is undoubtedly greater for Ms. Lamont than it would be for a person who has led a more sedentary lifestyle. Ms. Lamont has been actively engaged in strenuous sport throughout her adult life, and this has been a significant feature of life with her husband and children. It is, understandably, a source of great frustration and sadness to her that she has been deprived of the capacity to engage in most of the activities she loved, and to experience them with her family.

[41]        Given the relatively profound nature of the loss to this plaintiff (including compromised household management and parenting), the chronic pain which she must endure, the age of the plaintiff, and the very poor prospects for significant improvement, and, having regard to the similarities between the cases cited by the parties and the case at bar, I assess the non-pecuniary losses of the plaintiff at $60,000.

BC Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuits – A Video Discussion

Here is a video I recently uploaded to YouTube providing a brief overview of some of the unique legal issues that provide an advantage to abuse victims when suing in the BC Civil Courts:

Last month I authored a handful of articles discussing some of the unique laws that apply to Civil abuse claim lawsuits.  These include the law of limitation periods, the law of non-pecuniary damages, and the law of vicarious liability.
Due to some of the positive feedback I received after authoring these articles I thought it may be helpful to summarize some of my advice in this brief video.  I hope this video and these articles are of some assistance.

How Much Is My BC Injury Claim Worth? – A Video Discussion

Here is a video I recently uploaded to YouTube discussing some of the factors that go into valuing a BC Personal Injury Tort Claim:

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked as a BC Personal Injury Lawyer is ‘how much is my claim worth?’.
This is an important question for anyone injured through the fault of another in British Columbia.  When negotiating with ICBC (or another Insurance company) the playing field is typically imbalanced in that the Claims Adjuster has lots of experience in valuing personal injury claims.   Unless you are an injury claims lawyer you understandably would have little experience in valuing these claims and may need help valuing your losses.
It is important to empower yourself for the negotiation because in tort claims the insurer is negotiating on behalf of the person that injured you.  With this in mind, here is a brief video introduction discussing some of the common ‘heads of damages‘ that are frequently addressed in BC personal injury lawsuits.  I hope this information is of some assistance and helps to balance the playing field.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Video Surveillance; "Golden Years" Doctrine Discussed


As I’ve previously written, video surveillance in and of itself does not harm a persons ICBC claim, being caught in a lie does.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this fact.
In today’s case (Fata v. Heinonen) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 BC collision.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered several injuries including “an obvious impingement syndrome at the shoulder“.  The Defendant disputed the severity of the Plaintiff’s injuries at trial.  Instead of relying on independent medical evidence, the Defendant sought to harm the Plaintiff’s case by relying on video surveillance which was taken the year following the collision.
The surveillance showed the Plaintiff doing various activities such as grocery shopping and unloading and loading objects into his vehicle.  This video surveillance did not harm the Plaintiff’s claim.  Why?  Because it did not show anything that contradicted the Plaintiff’s evidence at trial.  In explaining why the surveillance did not harm the Plaintiff’s claim Madam Justice Griffin held as follows:

[45] The videotape surveillance was not inconsistent with Mr. Fata’s evidence or that of his physicians.  Mr. Fata’s evidence was that his physicians and physiotherapist had recommended that he continue to use his left arm and shoulder, and that he attempts to do so.  No one has suggested that he has no use of his left arm and shoulder.   Neither Mr. Fata nor the physicians, who gave expert opinions on his behalf, suggested any marked limitation in Mr. Fata’s range of motion.  His primary complaint is that he has pain when he uses his left arm and shoulder.  The videotape did not disprove this evidence, nor did it seriously cast doubt on it.  A videotape cannot capture all pain but may illustrate signs of severe pain, for example, if the person being watched grimaces on doing certain activities.  Mr. Fata was not displaying obvious signs of pain.  The videotape perhaps illustrates that whatever pain Mr. Fata might have with ordinary day-to-day activities is manageable.

[46] I have concluded from reviewing the videotape evidence carefully and considering Mr. Fata’s explanations of it, as well as from my review of the medical evidence and Mr. Fata’s evidence of his ongoing symptoms, that Mr. Fata does continue to suffer ongoing symptoms in his left arm and shoulder that were caused by the motor vehicle accident of November 13, 2006.  Given the passage of time, it is likely these symptoms will continue indefinitely.  These symptoms are not severe, as Mr. Fata still has use of his left arm and can do most activities.  However, the symptoms are such that Mr. Fata does suffer pain with the use of his left arm and particularly with excessive use or lifting his arm over his shoulder.  The pain restricts him from some of these types of activities he might otherwise do.

The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $45,000 in non-pecuniary damages for his soft tissue injuries and shoulder impingement.

This case is also worth also worth reviewing for the Court’s explanation of the “Golden Years” doctrine.

  • The “Golden Years Doctrine” Explained

In personal injury claims BC Courts recognize that no two cases are exactly alike and the assessment of non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) depends on the unique facts of any given case.

One principle that is sometimes used in assessing non-pecuniary damages is the “Golden Years” doctrine.  This principle recognizes the fact that the retirement years are particularly special and an injury affecting a person in their golden years may warrant a greater award for non-pecuniary damages.  Madam Justice Griffin succinctly summarized this principle as follows:

[88] The retirement years are special years for they are at a time in a person’s life when he realizes his own mortality.  When someone who has always been physically active loses his physical function in these years, the enjoyment of retirement can be severely diminished, with less opportunity to replace these activities with other interests in life.  Further, what may be a small loss of function to a younger person who is active in many other ways may be a larger loss to an older person whose activities are already constrained by age.  The impact an injury can have on someone who is elderly was recognized in Giles v. Canada (Attorney General), [1994] B.C.J. No. 3212 (S.C.), rev’d on other grounds (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 190 (C.A.).

[89] In short, it is Mr. Fata’s loss of enjoyment of life in recreation, home chores, and work that should be compensated for in an award for non-pecuniary damages…

[91] On the facts of this case, where Mr. Fata has suffered a loss of some enjoyment of life in every aspect of his life, I conclude that an appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $45,000.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Post Traumatic Tendinopathy

(Please note the Trial Court’s decision regarding mitigation of damages in the below post was overturned on Appeal.  You can click here to read the BC Court of Appeal’s judgement)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with an assessment of damages for a shoulder injury, specifically a post traumatic tendinopathy.
In today’s case (Gregory v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision in White Rock, BC.  Her vehicle was struck while travelling through an intersection by the Defendant who failed to stop at a stop sign.  Fault was admitted by ICBC focusing the trial on the Plaintiff’s injuries.

  • Non-Pecuniary Damages Discussion

The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries to her neck and back that healed before trial.  The Plaintiff’s worst injury was to her left shoulder.   Dr. Day, an orthapeadic surgeon gave evidence that the Plaintiff suffered an “abnormality in the subscapularis tendon at the site of the superior border.  In addition there was inflammation in the subacromial bursa.”  Dr. Day also testified that the plaintiff had a “post traumatic tendinopathy causing some discomfort“.
The Plaintiff required surgery to “clean up” a “thick, tight subacromial bursa” because this caused irritation.
Following this the Plaintiff continued to have some shoulder pain which was aggravated by certain movements.  The Court accepted that this would likely continue into the future.  In assessing the non-pecuniary loss the Plaintiff suffered as a result of her injuries at $60,000 Madam Justice Kloegman found as follows:

[11] Due to the plethora of shoulder injury cases in the case law, it is important to distinguish the plaintiff’s shoulder injury from some of the shoulder injuries suffered by other plaintiffs in other cases. In the case at bar, the plaintiff does not have:

1.       neurological deficit;

2.       instability in her shoulder;

3.       frozen shoulder;

4.       restricted range of motion;

5.       dislocation or subluxation;

6.       arthritis; and

7.       muscle wasting.

[12] However, I accept that the plaintiff does have ongoing chronic pain in her shoulder which is exacerbated by certain movements. There was no suggestion that the plaintiff was a malingerer or was exaggerating her symptoms. Notwithstanding that pain is a subjective symptom, the medical professionals found some objective corroboration in the tendinopathy and bursitis. Unfortunately, the plaintiff will likely continue to suffer various degrees of pain in her left shoulder in the future. To this extent she is mildly restricted in her activities and potential for employment.

[13] In summary, I find that the accident caused injury to the plaintiff, primarily in her left shoulder joint, which injury is mildly impairing and likely of a permanent nature. This injury has caused and will continue to cause the plaintiff pain and suffering, and has caused and will continue to cause some loss in her ability to earn income both in the past and the present. ..

[21] As I have found that the plaintiff is likely permanently impaired, albeit to a minor degree, the cases of Thauli, Grant and John are more helpful. Reviewing these cases and keeping in mind the more severe injuries described in those cases, I am of the view that $60,000 is reasonable compensation for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering in this case.

  • Failure To Mitigate

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the law of mitigation.  Here Madam Justice Kloegman found that the unreasonably failed to follow her doctors advice to have a cortisone injection in her shoulder.  The court found that there was a chance that this would have improved her symptoms.

The Plaintiff did not follow her doctor’s recommendation apparently because of “what she read on the internet” and discussions she had “with her claims adjuster and chiropractor“.  The court found that these were unreasonable explanations for not following the doctor’s advice and as a result reduced the Plaintiff’s damages by 10%.  The Courts discussion of mitigation can be found at paragraphs 34-35 of the reasons for judgement.

BC Civil Sexual Assault Lawsuits Part 3 – Non-Pecuniary Damages

Further to my recent posts on BC civil sexual assault claims addressing limitation periods and vicarious liability, I will now address another topic in this unique area of law – the assessment of non-pecuniary damages.
Non-pecuniary damage” is the legal phrase that describes compensation for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.  When a person is harmed at the hands of others, be it intentionally or negligently, the harmed individual is usually able to claim compensation for their losses including for non-pecuniary loss.  Some of the factors that go into valuing non-pecuniary loss in British Columbia are discussed here.
Historically there was no ceiling in the amount of money that could be awarded to an injured plaintiff for non-pecuniary loss in Canada.  This changed, however, in 1978 when the Supreme Court of Canada heard a “Trilogy” of cases and handed down a significant decision which held that there should be a cap on Canadian awards for non-pecuniary damages.  Specifically the Canadian high court held that “Save in exceptional circumstances…an upper limit of non-pecuniary loss”  should be set at $100,000.
This cap on non-pecuniary damages has been the subject of much criticism and recent court challenges, however, none of this has resulted in change.  Unless there is legislative intervention or a reversal by the Supreme Court of Canada this cap will continue to remain in place.  This figure has been subject to inflation and now, in 2010, the rough upper limit is set at approximately $320,000.
With that introduction out of the way that brings me to today’s topic.  Does this ceiling for non-pecuniary damages apply to civil sexual assault cases?  The answer is no and this was made clear by the BC Court of Appeal in a case named S.Y. v. F.G.C.
In the S.Y case the Plaintiff was the victim of sexual abuse.   At trial a Jury awarded her $650,000 including $350,000 for non-pecuniary and aggravated damages.  This amount greatly exceeded the Canadian cap on non-pecuniary damages which was at $260,000 at the time.
The Defendant appealed arguing that non-pecuniary damages in sex assault cases are caught by the trilogy therefore the Jury’s award was in excess of what was permitted by law.  The BC Court of Appeal disagreed with this submission and made it clear that in British Columbia victims of sexual abuse are not caught by the Canadian cap on non-pecuniary damage awards.  Specifically the Court held as follows:
I am not persuaded that the policy reasons which gave rise to the imposition of a cap in “the trilogy” have any application in a case of the type at bar…The policy considerations which arise from negligence causing catastrophic personal injuries, in the contexts of accident and medical malpractice, do not arise from intentional torts involving criminal behaviour…A cap is not needed to protect the general public from a serious social burden, such as enormous insurance premiums.  Insofar as damage awards may be so high as to be wholly erroneous, or wholly disproportionate, an appellate court may intervene to correct disparity, and to foster consistency…In some cases, sexual abuse victims may require and deserve more than the “cap” allows, due to the unpredictable impact of the tort on their lives.  Judges, juries and appellate courts are in a position to decide what is fair and reasonable to both parties according to the circumstances of the case.
Just as with limitation periods and the principles of vicarious liability, the law of non-pecuniary damages in sexual assault claims in BC recognizes that these cases are unique and certain advantages are provided in prosecuting such claims in the Civil Courts.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer