Reasons for judgment were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff approximately $85,000 in total damages from a 2004 BC Car Crash.
This case (BMM v. MLV) contains lengthy reasons that largely deal with the Plaintiff’s pre and post accident psychological difficulties. Ultimately the Court rejected the Plaintiff’s claim that her pre-existing depression was affected by the accident. Madam Justice Ballance concluded that “the evidence does not show that the Plaintiff’s pain and discomfort from her physical injuries caused by the Accident, exacerbated, compounded or intensified her Depression.” Paragraphs 159-190 contain the Court’s reasoning behind this conclusion and are worth reviewing for anyone interested in seeing how BC Courts can deal with a claim that pre-existing psychological injuries are aggravated by a collision.
The Court did find, however, that the Plaintiff suffered “moderate to severe” soft tissue injuries and assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $55,000. In reaching this figure Madam Justice Ballance summarized her findings and engaged in the following analysis:
 The plaintiff experienced moderate to severe soft tissue injuries to her neck and back as a result of the Accident. Although her shoulders were also implicated and she had initial sleep disturbance and was plagued with low-grade headaches that occasionally developed into migraine-like discomfort, the primary area of injury was her low back and her related left hip discomfort. I accept that during their acute phase, these injuries caused persistent and sometimes severe discomfort and pain to the plaintiff, and disabled her from attending work. Following her leave from work in 2005 and her intensive physiotherapy program, her symptoms improved significantly. She continued to be susceptible to flare-ups of her symptoms throughout the summer of 2005. Her discomfort prompted the plaintiff to attend a program at the CBI which she found considerably beneficial in improving her soft tissue injuries.
 I find that by the end of 2005, the plaintiff’s physical symptoms had largely settled, but had not resolved entirely. She was not restored to her pre-Accident condition at that time. I am satisfied that after that stage, the plaintiff experienced intermittent low back symptoms and associated pain throughout 2006 and continuing forward. Those episodes were infrequent but sufficiently bothersome to prompt her to obtain treatment from Dr. Weiss in late 2007 and endure two excruciating injections. I think that the plaintiff will probably experience intermittent bouts of low back discomfort caused by the Accident into the foreseeable future. The evidence indicates that those episodes will continue to be infrequent and rather mild in nature.
 I accept that the physical symptoms caused by the Accident brought about unwelcome and disruptive changes to the plaintiff’s enjoyment and quality of her life, especially during the first twelve months after the Accident. She was no longer the fun-loving and enthusiastic person familiar to her son, sister and co-workers. In time, she was able to gradually reintroduce and enjoy certain pursuits such as walking and some gardening, and bike-riding using her electric bike. I have found it challenging to attempt to parse out the changes in the plaintiff’s personality and life which can be said to be attributable to her physical injuries from the Accident, from those associated with her ongoing and severe bouts of Depression, which adversely affected her life but are unconnected to the Accident. I conclude that the enjoyment of certain of her activities was negatively affected at times by her low mood. Even the plaintiff agreed that her gardening could be affected by her mood. While I accept that in the first year or so following the Accident, the plaintiff’s physical symptoms made it uncomfortable for her to attend the usual family functions and pursue her normal community and political interests, I find that her sustained withdrawal from those endeavours and detachment from her sister and other extended family, are due to the plaintiff’s psychological state unrelated to the Accident….
204] Having reviewed the authorities provided by the parties, and considered the totality of the evidence pertaining to the plaintiff’s specific circumstances, I conclude that a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary damages is $55,000. A deduction of 5% is to be taken to reflect the measurable risk that her low back symptoms would have manifested without the Accident.
Tag: pain and suffering
Reasons for judgment were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff approximately $85,000 in total damages from a 2004 BC Car Crash.
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages for accident related injuries.
In today’s case (Cheng v. Kamboz) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 BC Car Crash. The other motorist admitted fault. The issue the court dealt with was quantum of damages (value of the Plaintiff’s claim).
Mr. Justice Myers found that the Plaintiff suffered from pre-existing chronic pain at the time of the crash. Specifically he found that the Plaintiff suffered from headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain and low back pain. Notwithstanding these pre-accident complaints the Court found that the Plaintiff’s pre-existing “chronic pain” was transformed into a “chronic pain syndrome” as a result of the collision. In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $45,000 for this aggravation Mr. Justice Myers reasoned as follows:
 I find that before the accident Ms. Cheng was suffering – to a lesser extent – from all the pain of which she now complains. Ms. Cheng says that she had no hip pain before the accident; however, that is not what she told Dr. Feldman when she mentioned what she referred to as being symptomatic of myasthenia gravis, to which I referred above at para. 29. Whether it was caused by the myasthenia gravis is, in this context, beside the point.
 Ms. Cheng was suffering from headaches prior to the accident in question. While she says they are more frequent now, the difference is minimal. Further, they are often brought on by stress at work and that is a variable which has nothing to do with the accident.
 That said, the accident exacerbated the injuries and escalated chronic pain into chronic pain syndrome. Causation for the exacerbation and chronic pain syndrome has been shown. The harm caused by the defendant is divisible from the harm caused by the prior accidents and the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition. To be clear, this is not the type of case, as was Athey v. Leonati,  3 S.C.R. 458, in which a pre-existing condition of the plaintiff made him more amenable to a specific injury (a disc herniation).
 Damages are to be assessed on the basis that Ms. Cheng is to be put in the position she was before the accident, but not in a better position.
 Ms. Cheng referred me to cases in which the damage range was between $80,000 and $100,000. The defendants’ cases ranged from $35,000 to $60,000.
 The injuries will not result in a drastic change of lifestyle for Ms. Cheng. As I have noted, she was not physically active before the accident. None of the doctors have opined that she will not be able to resume the limited walking she was doing before the accident. The same can be said with respect to going to the theatre. The migraines were present before the accident and her reduced playing of video games because of the migraines cannot be blamed to any substantial degree on the accident.
 On the other hand it must be recognised that the accident did cause her chronic pain syndrome and that it is likely to continue for some time.
 In my view, the proper assessment of damages for the exacerbation of Ms. Cheng’s prior injuries and the addition of the chronic pain syndrome is $45,000.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding just over $320,000 in damages as a result of a serious BC Truck Accident.
In today’s case (Bonham v. Weir) the Plaintiff was driving a transport truck into Fort Nelson, BC, when another vehicle “crossed the centre line and collided head on with his truck. ” The Plaintiff’s truck “burst into flames and (the Plaintiff) had to crawl out of the burning cab through a broken windshield.”
ICBC admitted fault on behalf of the driver of the other vehicle leaving the court to deal only with an assessment of damages.
Mr. Justice Smith found that while the Plaintiff’s physical injuries were relatively minor and healed within a month or two, the psychological impact of the crash had more lasting and debilitating effects. In awarding $75,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages, the court summarized his psychological injuries and their effect on his life as follows:
 Mr. Bonham was involved in a horrific collision which could easily have been fatal for him, as it was for the other driver. Although his minor physical injuries healed quickly, he suffered and continues to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. There is no doubt that his psychological complaints are genuine and that this condition has a very real and severe impact on his life. His personality has changed. He no longer interacts with family and friends as he used to. He has lost confidence in his abilities and lost interest in most of the things he formerly enjoyed. The psychological symptoms persist more than two years after the collision. Although the plaintiff can expect some improvement in his condition, some symptoms are likely to remain indefinitely.
 Non-pecuniary damages must be assessed according to the impact of the injuries on the individual plaintiff. Decisions of the court in other cases are never completely comparable and provide no more than general guidance. However, recent decisions of this court that I have found particularly helpful in identifying a range of damages applicable to this care are: Leung v. Foo, 2009 BCSC 747; Carpenter v. Whistler Air Services, 2004 BCSC 1510; and Latuszek v. Bell Air Taxi, 2009 BCSC 798.
 Taking into account the differences and similarities between those cases and this one and, most importantly, the evidence of the impact of this plaintiff’s injuries on his life, I find $75,000 to be an appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages.
Reasons for judgment were released Friday awarding a Plaintiff just over $69,000 in total damages for injuries and losses sustained as a result of a 2006 BC Car Crash.
In Friday’s case (Dermody v. Gassier) the Plaintiff was injured when his vehicle was rear-ended in South Surrey. Fault was admitted leaving the court to deal with the sole issue of damages (value of the claim).
Mr. Justice Williams found that while the Plaintiff “embellished his description of the way things were before the accident” the Plaintiff nonetheless was injured and had a pre-existing condition worsened as a consequence of this collision.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $35,000 Mr. Justice Williams summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:
 The plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries in the motor vehicle accident. Some of them were relatively transitory in nature; others were more serious and he says they have continued to impact him in a significant way.
 The bruising and such injury abated within a short period of time, that is, within two or three weeks. The headaches continued, albeit on a diminished basis, for a period of time in the order of 12 months. The neck pain was initially a serious problem but I conclude resolved substantially within 12 to 16 months. The driving apprehension, again, resolved within a fairly short period of time and did not meaningfully impact in any long-term way upon the plaintiff.
 There is the matter of the sensation loss in the plaintiff’s feet. None of the medical experts have been able to understand what causes that, and Dr. Sovio was quite sceptical of it. Nevertheless, there appears to be no reason to find that it is not an actual condition; its onset was concurrent with the accident. I, therefore, find that it is a consequence, albeit a relatively minor one, of the incident and that it is a continuing condition.
 The most serious and sustained injury was that to the plaintiff’s back. I accept that it caused him significant pain and discomfort. Based on the medical evidence, I accept as well that there will be some residual back pain going forward….
 To clarify, I find that, at the time of the motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff’s back condition was not asymptomatic. He was having back pain with certain attendant limitations. Whether that was from the incidents at the courier job, whether it was because of degenerative conditions, or whether it was some combination, I am not able to say.
 However, I am satisfied that his back was symptomatic at the time of the accident, and, in accordance with the crumbling skull principle, he is only entitled to recover damages that reflect the difference between his post-accident condition and his pre-accident condition….
I conclude that there were weaknesses in this plaintiff’s pre-accident condition that were not symptomatic at the time of the accident injury, but which would have the effect of making the plaintiff likely to experience greater consequences from the insult of the accident. Injuries that result where such a situation is present are compensable…
 On the particular facts of the matter at hand, it is my conclusion that a fit and appropriate award of non-pecuniary damages in this case is $35,000.
In addition to the discussion addressing the award for non-pecuniary damages, this case contains a useful discussion of the “thin skull” and “crumbling skull” legal principles which is worth reviewing for anyone interested in how BC courts deal with pre-existing conditions and their interplay with traumatic injuries in BC tort claims.
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with compensation for serious injuries including Mild Traumatic Brain injury and Chronic Pain.
In today’s case (Slocombe v. Wowchuck) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 rear-end BC Car Crash. Liability was admitted so the trial focused solely on quantum of damages. The Plaintiff suffered serious injuries. Total damages of over $940,000 were awarded by Madam Justice Morrison including an award of $125,000 for non-pecuniary damages. In assessing the this head of damage the court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries and their effect on his life as follows:
 This was an accident that has caused serious injuries to the plaintiff. He suffered a mild traumatic brain injury that he appears to have recovered fully from at this point in time. Dr. Kaushansky did testify that the plaintiff could be at risk if there were a further blow to his head.
 The injury to the plaintiff’s sternum no longer poses problems. There has been a full recovery.
 The plaintiff still experiences headaches following the accident. However, the serious headaches have been resolved, and the headaches the plaintiff now gets are certainly real, but they are not of the serious and disabling nature that they were initially.
 Mr. Slocombe still complains of some neck problems, but these complaints are periodic, and are not the cause of his serious complaints at this time.
 The second worst injury was to the thoracic spine area. This pain continues, and has been referred to as a soft tissue type of injury. Dr. Rothwell was of the opinion that the degenerative disc disease processes have been generated in the spine, including the thoracic spine area by the motor vehicle accident. It is unlikely that there will be further recovery in this area. I accept this opinion.
 The most serious area of injury is to the lumbosacral spine area. This injury began at the instant of the double impact of the accident, and has continued to a painful degree to this day. I conclude that the chronic pain has had a profound effect on the plaintiff’s life in all areas, and will continue to do so. I accept the evidence of the plaintiff’s medical experts who find the motor vehicle accident was the cause of this injury.
 Mr. Slocombe had a pre-existing asymptomatic spondylolisthesis, and in my view, this became symptomatic as a result of the accident. That is the only conclusion that can be reached, from all the evidence, on a balance of probabilities.
 There was medical evidence at trial that there are other areas of injury in the lumbar spine area in addition to the spondylolisthesis that have now been rendered symptomatic.
 When working at his carpentry, Mr. Slocombe is making mistakes that he was not making prior to the accident. He is experiencing some cognitive difficulties which the doctors, including Dr. van Rijn and Dr. Mok as well as Dr. Kaushansky attribute to the pain and mood difficulties that he has been experiencing since the accident. These difficulties are particularly apparent the longer Mr. Slocombe works. They have been confirmed by testing and also by the evidence not only of the plaintiff but also of his father and Mr. Graham, one of his clients. These cognitive difficulties are continuing…
 Tom Slocombe’s life has changed dramatically due to the accident. He no longer has the high energy, endurance and health to perform the work that he loves, carpentry, or to take part in the social and sporting activities that gave him such pleasure. He is in constant pain, and will probably be for the rest of his life. He was an active, fun-loving 25 year old with a good job, good prospects, and a steady girlfriend who became his fiancée. He had a vehicle that he was making sure he was paying for, and a life that included active sports, travel and social activities with friends and family; he was usually the initiator.
 He is no longer able to be independent financially, he has no vehicle, and he has the added difficulty of not being able to sit for any length of time. His passion for carpentry has been lifelong. It is apparent he will not be able to earn his living and continue with this line of work.
 His family and others testified to his change in disposition and mood, his inability to join their normal activities, and his difficulties in coping with his pain and sleeplessness. His enjoyment of life has been dramatically altered. There will be an award for non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $125,000.
I’ve written about this before and reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this principle in action.
In today’s case (Latuszek v. Bel-Air Taxi 1992 Ltd.) the Plaintiff was involved in a serious intersection crash in the lower mainland. The Defendant died in the collision and the Plaintiff suffered serious injuries.
These injuries included Depression, PTSD and Chronic Pain. The Court valued the non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) for these injuries at $100,000 but then reduced the award by $40,000 due to the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.
Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein summarized and applied the law as follows:
 Prior to setting non-pecuniary damages, I will address the duty to mitigate.
 There is a duty at law to take reasonable steps to minimize your loss, particularly where, as here, conservative treatments have been recommended. Because of the nature of the plaintiff’s work, as a professional driver transporting fuel, he has limited his medication to Tylenol Extra Strength or Tylenol 8 Hour. Dr. Jaworski recommended exercises in the pool and gym and brisk walking. Mr. Latuszek says he swam once in a while, but he did not go to the gym or do brisk walking. Dr. Jaworski suggested that brisk walking may be contraindicated now that he knows that Mr. Latuszek has a torn medial meniscus. Mr. Latuszek does very little regular exercise of any kind, except once or twice a week. He did not try yoga, massage therapy, relaxation therapy or the medications as recommended by his psychiatrist. He has not taken holidays in the past two years to try the anti?depressant medication, yet he understands that such medication as well as exercise, may improve, if not cure, his symptoms. The plaintiff has not prioritized his recovery.
 In light of the authorities presented by the parties, I conclude that general damages, having regard to the injuries suffered by Mr. Latuszek and the continued problems in that regard, including depression, PTSD, and chronic pain, should be set at $100,000. There will be a reduction of $40,000 for failure to mitigate. Therefore, I award $60,000 as general damages.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages for serious injuries and losses as a result of a 2001 Car Accident in Mission, BC.
What was interesting about this case (Polovnikoff v. Banks) was the very unique injuries the Plaintiff suffered as a result of this collision. Madam Justice Bruce found that the Plaintiff sustained a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and a Psychotic Disorder as a result of this crash. While accident related brain injury cases are not all that uncommon it is quite rare to see a claim with an alleged accident related psychotic disorder to proceed to trial.
Madam Justice Bruce awarded $50,000 in non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) for the Plaintiff’s brain injury and related cognitive deficits. In doing so she noted that the Plaintiff suffered from a ‘persistent cognitive impairment with predominant problems with his attention, concentration, ability to hold information, and being in the present with memory difficulties, short term and longer term memory problems‘.
The court then assessed the Plaintiff’s psychotic disorder separately and in valuing this non-pecuniary loss at $220,000 the court noted the following:
 Superimposed upon the plaintiff’s cognitive impairment is a completely disabling psychotic disorder. The plaintiff’s mental state has significantly interfered with his ability to function normally in every aspect of his life. His psychotic features adversely affect his ability to think and reason, impair his judgment, cause him to neglect personal hygiene, enhance the adverse impact of his cognitive impairments, including his ability to concentrate and short and long term memory, and make him apathetic about his life and others around him. The plaintiff is plagued by sleeplessness, anxiety, irritability, aggressive or violent feelings, lack of insight, verbal and physical inhibition, and recklessness. Mr. Stanus concluded that the plaintiff was completely unemployable in a competitive market due to his psychotic disorder.
 Clearly the plaintiff has undergone a catastrophic loss of enjoyment of life. While there is some doubt about how successful Festival Foods was as a going concern, it is apparent from both the plaintiff’s testimony and the collateral witnesses called by the plaintiff that he really enjoyed running the company and that he had significant skills and talents that have been lost entirely as a result of this disabling mental illness. The plaintiff requires constant supervision and is unable to carry out the simplest tasks. He no longer pays any attention to his physical care and hygiene and has lost interest in all of his pre-accident physical and recreational activities. Based on these factors I award the plaintiff $220,000 for non-pecuniary damages arising out of the psychotic disorder.
Madam Justice Bruce then went on to reduce this award significantly to $68,200 to account for the many other factors that played a potential role in the development of a psychotic disorder in the absence of this accident. This made for a lengthy judgement almost 500 paragraphs in length. Below are the highlights of the courts discussion reducing the award for damages for the Plaintiff’s psychotic disorder:
C. Reductions from Non-Pecuniary Damage Award for Psychotic Disorder
 This award must be reduced by 2% to reflect the small but measurable risk that the plaintiff’s alcohol consumption may have led to the psychotic disorder regardless of the July 2001 accident. This award must be reduced a further 45% to reflect the adverse impact of alcohol consumption on the progression of his psychotic disorder and the involvement of alcohol addiction in the symptoms that are currently a part of the plaintiff’s clinical presentation.
 Turning to the other accidents and subsequent events, it is apparent from the medical reports of Dr. Hunt and the clinical notes of Dr. Yokoyama that the December 2000 accident was the beginning of the plaintiff’s emotional distress albeit his major psychiatric symptoms appeared after the 2001 accident. Both Dr. Gopinath and Dr. Hunt attribute the plaintiff’s “superimposed psychological and psychiatric disturbances” to the injuries he suffered in both the December 2000 and the July 2001 accidents. Only Dr. Smith ruled out any causal relationship between any of the other accidents and the plaintiff’s current psychiatric illness: December 31, 2008 report at p. 19. This accident also appears to be the most seriously disabling for the plaintiff next to the July 2001 accident. Thus I would allocate to this accident 10% responsibility for the damages awarded to the plaintiff for the mental illness he suffers from.
 The accident witnessed by the plaintiff in January 2002 caused him to have a panic attack and increased his anxiety level for a brief period. The clinical notes of Dr. Yokoyama indicate the anxiety was improving after only a few days. In addition, this is clearly a non-tortious cause that does not reduce the defendants’ liability. The accident that occurred on October 21, 2002 was also fairly minor and nothing in Dr. Yokoyama’s clinical records indicates the plaintiff suffered any lasting emotional trauma as a result of this event. Accordingly, I attribute no responsibility for loss to the defendant in that case.
 The plaintiff was involved in an accident on September 24, 2003. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his father when this accident occurred. The van driven by Mr. Polovnikoff became hooked to the rear of a truck and this caused the van to be swung in a circular motion causing damage to the front bumper and two broken windows. When Dr. Hunt saw the plaintiff on November 27, 2003, he was confused, irrational, and having abnormal mental thoughts. The plaintiff disclosed that he was too frightened to drive or be a passenger in a vehicle because of the possibility of another accident. Dr. Hunt was so concerned about the plaintiff’s mental stability that he considered having him committed to hospital for acute psychiatric care.
 While the plaintiff appeared much more disturbed than in previous assessments, Dr. Hunt had already seen psychiatric problems developing in June 2003 before this accident had occurred. In addition, there is no follow up visit with Dr. Yokoyama, which was unusual for plaintiff, to indicate that this state of high anxiety continued for an extended period. Indeed, the next visit to Dr. Yokoyama was on February 24, 2004 after another accident had occurred. Thus, although it is apparent this accident caused some deterioration in the plaintiff’s condition, I am unable to find that it was either substantial or long term in its effect. The accident on February 18, 2004, which Dr. Yokoyama concluded had aggravated the plaintiff’s agitation level, was also short lived in effect. During the next visit to Dr. Yokoyama on March 17, 2004 there is no reference to any aggravation of his ongoing concussion symptoms. Thus I reduce the award for both these events by a nominal 2%.
 The accident on May 30, 2004 in the parking lot of the Astoria hotel seemed significant to Ms. Lustado. She considered this to be a turning point in their relationship because of the noticeable deterioration in the plaintiff’s emotional demeanour. Dr. Yokoyama’s clinical notes on June 2, 2004 indicate that the plaintiff developed anxiety and tension after this accident in addition to an aggravation of his soft tissue injuries. On August 30, 2004 there is also a reference in Dr. Yokoyama’s clinical records to “regression – post concussion syndrome” which I interpret as some deterioration in the plaintiff’s mental state. Accordingly, I reduce the award by 5% to reflect the damage caused by this defendant’s negligence.
 The accidents that occurred on November 18, 2004, March 22, 2005, and November 29, 2006 do not appear to have aggravated to any measurable degree the psychotic disorder suffered by the plaintiff. By November 2004 his symptoms were well developed and the visits with Dr. Yokoyama after these accidents indicate the major concern in each case was an aggravation of the soft tissue injuries.
 Finally, the plaintiff was involved in an assault in or about July 2006 which I find exacerbated his emotional problems and led to deterioration in his mental health. Dr. Gopinath reported that following this assault the plaintiff was clearly more paranoid in general and in regard to the police in particular. Dr. Gopinath believed the plaintiff had been “badly shaken up” by this experience and developed symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. He was having sleep difficulties, waking up with nightmares, and panic attacks. Dr. Gopinath’s December 16, 2008 report also features this assault as significant in the plaintiff’s clinical presentation and he acknowledged in his testimony that the plaintiff’s psychotic symptoms worsened after this event. It was also partly due to this assault that Mr. Polovnikoff moved his son and Ms. Lustado to Keremeos. They wanted to get away from the police and the other stressors in the plaintiff’s life.
 While this event is significant, it must be acknowledged that the plaintiff’s psychotic symptoms were well entrenched at this time and his inability to function normally in all aspects of his life had already been a reality for some time. Dr. Gopinath had observed severe psychotic symptoms as early as October 2005 when the plaintiff first came to him for treatment. Accordingly, I find the award should be reduced by a further 5% as a result of this tortious intervening event.
 In summary, the non-pecuniary award arising from the psychiatric illness suffered by the plaintiff in the amount of $220,000 must be reduced by a total of 69%. The reduced award is therefore $68,200. The total award for non-pecuniary damages is $118,200 ($50,000 plus $68,200).
If you advance a BC Personal Injury Claim (a tort claim) the courts impose a duty on Plaintiffs to mitigate their losses. What this means is a Plaintiff must take reasonable steps to minimize their losses. If a Plaintiff unreasonably fails to follow medical advice or fails to return to work in a timely fashion despite being physically able to do so the court may reduce damages accordingly.
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this legal principle.
In today’s case (Leung v. Foo) the Plaintiff was injured when travelling as a passenger in a single vehicle collision. Fault was admitted by the driver of the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The Plaintiff sustained ‘moderate soft tissue injuries’ and a disc herniation as a result of this collision. Mr. Justice Cohen valued the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) at $65,000 and then reduced these damages by 10% due to the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate ‘. The Court summarized and applied this area of law as follows:
 The defendants submit that any award of damages should be reduced to reflect the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate through her delay in seeking psychological assistance, her refusal to participate in physiotherapy, her being discharged from CBI, and her failure to pursue an active exercise program in the face of medical advice to do so.
 Damages are not recoverable for any loss that a claimant ought to have avoided. A claimant has a duty to mitigate losses, which includes taking all reasonable steps to minimize any loss that results from an injury, and bars a claimant from claiming any part of the damages that can be attributed to his or her neglect to take such steps.
 Mitigation limits recovery based on an unreasonable failure of the injured party to take reasonable steps to limit his or her loss. A plaintiff in a personal injury action has a positive duty to mitigate, though the onus of proof on this issue rests with the defendant. See: Graham v. Rogers, 2001 BCCA 432, leave to appeal dismissed,  S.C.C.A. No. 467.
 In Maslen v. Rubenstein, at para. 11, the Court of Appeal held that where the court finds that injury has been suffered and mitigation issues are raised, the court must decide whether the defendant has established that by following advice which the plaintiff received or ought to have obtained, the plaintiff could have overcome the problem or could in future overcome it. The advice might, for instance, be to eliminate treatment, make “lifestyle changes” or adopt psychotherapy, physiotherapy or an exercise regimen. Where appropriate remedial measures would resolve the problem, damages can be awarded only in respect of the period up to the date when, in the estimation of the fact-finder, the problem ought to have been resolved, or ought to be resolved.
 Failure to follow a recommended exercise program commonly results in a reduction in damages for the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.
 The defendants submit that the plaintiff has not given a satisfactory explanation as to why she did not exercise. In addition, the plaintiff would have the Court accept that she did not seek the assistance of a psychologist because she lacked the sophistication necessary to do so in the face of her perception that Dr. Leung refused to give her a referral.
 The defendants submit that the plaintiff’s actions do not suggest a woman incapable of securing her own treatment. On the contrary, the plaintiff took several proactive steps in relation to the treatment of her injuries. The plaintiff found another GP in Dr. Wong, having lost faith in Dr. Leung; arranged her own massage and chiropractic treatments; discontinued physiotherapy; and decided against the steroid injections suggested by Dr. Adrian.
 The defendants also say that it is clear that counselling was discussed with the plaintiff in March 2008 by Dr. Wong. Yet the plaintiff did not see Dr. Jung until September 2008, approximately six months later. This is not evidence of a person anxious to obtain psychological treatment. Rather, such delay and ambivalence is consistent with a person who was told that psychological treatment was recommended in 2006 (via Dr. Leung’s May 2nd medical-legal report) but failed to take any immediate steps in that regard. The plaintiff herself admitted that she did not pursue psychological treatment or start an exercise regimen because she was too busy with work. She gave the same reason for missing appointments with CBI.
 The defendants submit that plaintiff’s decisions to not pursue treatment may well have delayed or prevented the improvement of her symptoms, a state of affairs for which the defendants should not be held responsible.
 I agree with the defence position on mitigation and find that the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate resulted in an extension of her recovery beyond that considered reasonable for her injuries, and that the plaintiff’s general damages award should be reduced by 10%.
Shortly after the accident the Plaintiff was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The Plaintiff did not claim that her MS was caused by the car crash at trial. The Plaintiff’s MS caused troubling symptoms including “hearing loss, vision problems, fatigue, vertigo, balance difficulties, headaches, problems with memory, speech coordination, weakness, dizziness and stiffness.”.
The main focus of this trial was whether the Plaintiff had any ongoing symptoms from her car crash by the time of trial or whether her ongoing symptoms were related to other causes such as the MS. The court found that the Plaintiff indeed was injured in the car crash and continued to suffer from injuries by the time of trial. In valuing the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering at $60,000 Mr. Justice Curtis made the following comments about her MVA related injuries imposed on her symptoms of MS:
 Having MS has made it difficult for Ms. Winkelmans to recover from her car accident injuries as is recorded in the medical reports. There are times when she cannot exercise and stretch as she should because of her MS symptoms. The defendant, through negligence, having injured someone who cannot recover as quickly or as fully as a normal person remains in law on the “thin skull” principle liable to pay compensation for the problems caused by the accident injury, even although they are greater because the plaintiff’s recovery is impaired by her health. The consequences of the accident injuries to Ms. Winkelmans are, because of her MS, more severe than they would be to a person not burdened with her health issues. On the other hand, the defendants are not liable to compensate her for what she would have experienced from her previous neck and back problems or for what her MS would have brought on without the intervention of the car accident.
 In summary, I accept that Ms. Winkelmans’ neck and back, including her lumbar spine suffered injury caused by the January 2000 collision and that she suffers a degree of continuing headaches, neck pain and back pain to the present time because of her injuries. While the extent to which her accident injuries has contributed to her overall condition has not prevented her from working or doing her normal activities, it has introduced continuing pain into her life which will continue in the future – which is particularly difficult for a person who already suffers from MS. On this basis, I assess Ms. Winkelmans’ claim for general damages for pain and suffering and loss of the amenities of life at $60,000.
How do courts value pain and suffering (non pecuniary damages) when a person with a severe pre-existing injury is injured in a subsequent event? Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, (Monych v. Beacon Community Services Society) dealing with this issue.
In today’s case the Plaintiff was initially injured in a severe motor vehicle collision in 1992. As a result of this he was rendered a quadriplegic. Despite this he was able to lead ‘a relatively active life until November 2006. He regularly left his home in his manual wheelchair and in his car for exercise, hobbies, entertainment and to visit friends and family. Prior to the November 2006 accident, Mr. Monych could use a manual wheelchair, drive a car, dress himself, bend at the waist and pick up objects, repair his vehicles and regularly engage in sexual activity with his girlfriend. Since the November 2006 accident Mr. Monych has been unable to do most of these things. ‘
In 2006, while in the care of the Defendant, the Plaintiff was injured while being transferred from his wheelchair. The Plaingiff fell during this tranfer. As a result of this fall the Plaintiff broke both his legs. Madam Justice Gerow found that the Defendants were responsible for negligently assisting in the transfer of the Plaintiff.
The Plaintiff’s injuries and their consequences were summarized as follows:
 After reviewing the evidence, I am satisfied that as a result of the fall Mr. Monych suffered fractures to both his legs. The evidence is that the fractures have not healed and the prognosis is that it is unlikely they will. No surgical intervention is anticipated or recommended…
 As a result of the leg fractures Mr. Monych’s legs were splinted, causing him a severe restriction of his ability to move around. While his legs were splinted, he was bedridden and he developed the ischial ulcers. As stated earlier, Dr. Clinton-Baker’s opinion is that the long hospital stay was a result of the bilateral leg fractures and the ischial ulcers that developed for the first time while in hospital. I accept Dr. Clinton-Baker’s opinion that the ischial ulcers developed during the long hospital stay that was necessary because of the bilateral leg fractures…
 After considering all of the evidence, I have concluded that but for the accident the injuries causing Mr. Monych’s long hospital stay have resulted in a deterioration of Mr. Monych’s condition to the point where he is restricted to his bed and his electric wheelchair. If the accident had not occurred Mr. Monych would not have suffered the increased restrictions and limitations on his activities
In valuing the Plaintiff’s losses for general damages Madam Justice Gerow noted a very important principle when determining the value of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life namely that “to rob a disabled person of what little she has left is a monstrous injury, for that little she has is, for her, the whole of her life.”
In awarding $120,000 for the Plaintiff’s general damages the court engaged in the following analysis:
 The evidence from Mr. Monych, the lay witnesses and his caregivers is that Mr. Monych can no longer use a manual wheelchair, do self-assisted transfers to the toilet or shower, do independent transfers, bend at the waist to pick something up, change his own catheter bag, dress himself or drive an automobile. He has not been able to have a shower or use a toilet since the accident. As well, he can no longer take part in many of the extracurricular activities he used to, including visiting friends, going to the park with his girlfriend and working on automobiles. Prior to the accident of November 4, 2006, he was able to do all those things.
 As well, the evidence establishes that Mr. Monych’s personal life has been impacted. Prior to the accident, he had an intimate relationship with his girlfriend and that has not resumed since his return home from the hospital. Although Mr. Monych says he would like to resume a sexual relationship, the movement of the bones in his legs deters his girlfriend.
 Mr. Monych and the defendants have provided me with a number of cases to assist in determining the appropriate award for pain and suffering. Mr. Monych submits that an award for general damages of $160,000 is appropriate, and that the range is $70,000 to $160,000. The defendants submit that their authorities support an award for general damages in the range of $30,000. I have considered the authorities presented by the parties. As in most cases, there are aspects of the decisions which are helpful, but they also have features which distinguish them from this case.
 The defendants rely on Ranta v. Vancouver Taxi Ltd. (9 July 1990), Vancouver B882210 (S.C.), as support for the argument that the appropriate amount for general damages is $30,000. In that case, the plaintiff, who was a quadriplegic, sustained a broken leg due to the negligence of a taxi driver. In my view, the case has little application to the case at bar. Harvey J. found that the plaintiff had failed to establish that the defendants’ negligence caused his present and continuing disability. The injuries that were attributable to the accident were much less severe than the injuries Mr. Monych has suffered and had no long lasting impact.
 I agree with the comments in Boren v. Vancouver Resource Society for the Physically Disabled, 2002 BCSC 1134 at para. 60:
Counsel for the defendant submits the award for non-pecuniary damages should be limited to a consideration of the physical injury sustained October 11. I disagree. Rather, the circumstances here raise issues similar to those in Bracey (Public Trustee of) v. Jahnke,  B.C.J. No. 1850 (S.C.), varied on other grounds (1997), 34 B.C.L.R. (3d) 191 (C.A.), in which Oliver J. observed at para. 27 that:
To rob a disabled person of what little she has left is a monstrous injury, for that little she has is, for her, the whole of her life.
 I am satisfied that Mr. Monych has suffered pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of the November 4, 2006 accident. As stated above, the evidence establishes that as a result of the accident, Mr. Monych suffers ongoing disabilities that have caused a severe restriction to his independence and ability to pursue the activities he was involved in prior to the accident. He has lost the independence of being able to transfer himself, his ability to exercise and go out independently in his manual wheelchair, his ability to drive vehicles, his sex life and much of his social life.
 Having considered the authorities and the evidence concerning the effect of the injuries on Mr. Monych, and allowing for the probability that his activities would have become more restricted, and his independence more compromised over time due to his ongoing medical conditions, I am of the view that the appropriate award for non pecuniary damages is $120,000.