$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Chronic STI's and an Anxiety Disorder
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff close to $120,000 in total damages as a result of motor vehicle related injuries and losses.
In today’s case (LaFarge v. Natt) the Plaintiff was involved in 3 BC motor vehicle accidents. The Plaintiff was not at fault for any of the crashes. The lawyer representing the defendants admitted the issue of liability so the trial focused on the sole issue of damages.
Since all 3 defendants were represented by the same lawyer and fault was admitted for each of the crashes the court did not attribute damages to each specific crash rather damages were assessed globally. This is not uncommon in BC Injury Claims were ICBC is the insurer for multiple at fault defendants.
Mr. Justice Truscott found that the Plaintiff suffered chronic soft tissue injuries and an anxiety disorder as a consequence of these collisions. In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $60,000 he summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries and their effect on her life as follows:
 I accept that the plaintiff is continuing to suffer from physical injuries sustained in the first accident of March 1, 2002 and aggravated slightly in the following two accidents of October 5, 2002 and May 1, 2003.
 I accept that her injuries are now chronic as it is over seven years after the first accident when these injuries were first sustained.
 I do conclude that she has developed a restriction of movement as a pain avoidance technique as Dr. Feldman says. As he states her chronic pain is clouded by her pain focused behaviour without any real pain behaviour being identified…
 The critical issue on the plaintiff’s claim for damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life is whether her anxiety issues constitute a psychological disorder or something less, and whether they are caused by the injuries she sustained in the motor vehicle accidents…
 I conclude that the initial attack in August 2004 has not been proven to be causally related to her motor vehicle injuries, and some attacks since, as Dr. Buch says, are possibly caused by unrelated aversive social transactions or other stresses in her life. In fact on consideration of all the evidence of the other stresses in her life I find it just as likely that some of her anxiety attacks are not related to her motor vehicle injuries.
 Whether or not her anxiety attacks have reached the level of a psychological disorder, I also conclude the plaintiff has satisfied the onus of proving that at least some of her anxiety attacks are causally related to the injuries in her motor vehicle accidents.
 Accordingly, with some of these anxiety attacks caused by injuries in the motor vehicle accidents and some by other stresses in her life, the issue becomes what the defendants should be responsible for…
 My conclusion that some of the anxiety attacks are causally connected to the plaintiff’s motor vehicle injuries while the initial anxiety attack of August 2004 is not proven to be so causally connected, and other unidentified anxiety attacks thereafter are likely not causally connected appears to fit the legal doctrine described in Athey as the “crumbling skull” doctrine which recognizes a pre-existing condition inherent in the plaintiff’s original position. The defendants are not obliged to compensate the plaintiff for any disability effects of the pre-existing condition which the plaintiff would have experienced anyway or did in fact experience.
 Here it is my conclusion that the plaintiff’s damages throughout should be discounted by 25 percent to reflect my finding that the first anxiety attack in August 2004 was not causally connected to her injuries and also to take into account the likelihood that other identified anxiety attacks since are unrelated to her injuries and are therefore unproven to be causally connected to her injuries.
 I consider the plaintiff’s cases to be more appropriate to consider, particularly Pelkinen v. Unrau where the injuries and psychological consequences to the plaintiff there were somewhat similar and the award for non-pecuniary damages was $90,000 less ten percent for failure to mitigate for a net award of $81,000.
 Here the plaintiff submits that an appropriate award to her would be $80,000 and I am prepared to accept this figure for general damages subject to a reduction by 25 percent to allow for the unrelated anxiety attacks to include the August 2004 attack. The award for non-pecuniary damages will therefore be in the amount of $60,000.