Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for multiple, complex, orthopaedic injuries caused by a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Tompkins v. Bruce) the Plaintiff was injured in a serious 2006 collision which was caused when the Defendant, who had been drinking and was driving while over the legal limit, crossed the centre line and collided with the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The Defendant was found fully at fault for the crash.
The Plaintiff suffered multiple injuries including rib fractures with a collapsed lung, a left hip fracture, a fractured femur and a fractured patella. These injuries required surgical intervention. The Plaintiff had a total hip replacement and likely needed a total knee replacement in the future.
The Plaintiff was a plumber and gas fitter and was rendered totally, permanently disabled from his own occupation. He was left with a minimal residual earning capacity. In assessing non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $200,000 Mr. Justice Curtis provided the following reasons:
Wayne Tompkins was 50 years old, living in Pemberton and happily employed as a tradesman when the June 3, 2006 collision occurred. As a result of the injuries suffered by Mr. Tompkins which were caused by the negligent and criminally irresponsible driving of Tawnya Ley Bruce, Mr. Tompkins’ life has been permanently and very significantly altered.
He has lost his ability to work in his trade at employment he enjoyed. He has lost a great deal of his mobility and cannot enjoy activities such as skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, slow pitch, tennis and similar activities as he once did. He cannot stand or sit for long periods of time. His mood is depressed and his anger harms his relationship with other people ? particularly in the case of Nancy Larkin, his romantic partner after the accident who left him largely because of his anger and irritability. In addition, Mr. Tompkins now faces the prospect of further surgeries, such as two knee replacements, another hip replacement, the prospect that the condition of his knees and hip may get worse ? and that each surgery comes with a risk of loss of function, dangerous embolisms, scar tissue, long recovery periods and possible poor results.
On the other hand, Mr. Tompkins is an intelligent man whose depression and anger can quite likely be treated and improved. He now has his own home in Chilliwack where he lives with his dog close to his sons and grandson. He is capable of driving his car, at least as far as Chilliwack to Whistler. There is a good chance that continued physical training will maintain his strength and may well improve his mobility and flexibility ? he has been capable of walking without a cane in the past, and even of lifting Nancy Larkin who weighs 115 pounds from her wheelchair into a car and it is not unlikely that his condition may again reach that level. He did own and operate a boat after the accident and could again, and fishing is still possible. While his trade work as he once did it is no longer open to him, there is the possibility he may find rewarding employment in some other field…
Mr. Tompkins has been particularly unfortunate in having three major joints ? both knees and his left hip damaged in the collision. Those injuries are permanent and the condition of those joints likely to get worse. Considering that and his altered mood and other injuries, I find the sum of $200,000 a fair and reasonable amount for non pecuniary damages.
If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.
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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