Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for personal injuries which included the successful recovery of money spent for CBD oil and medical marijuana to treat chronic pain.
In today’s case (Culver v. Skrypnyk) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions. These resulted in partly disabling chronic back and leg pain. The treatments attempted over the years included the use of CBD oil and medical marijuana. The Court awarded recovery for the costs of these medications noting they were reasonably incurred special damages. In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Davies provided the following reasons:
Update February 3, 2015 – the below judgement was successfully appealed and remitted for a new trial. The appeal was based on grounds other than the below excerpt.
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, confirming that the principle sum borrowed when in need following collision related injuries is not a recoverable special damage.
In this week’s case (Healey v. Chung) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 pedestrian/vehicle collision. The Plaintiff claimed it was a ‘catastrophic accident’ and sought damages between $485,000 and $1,037,000. The Court noted considerable credibility concerns with the Plaintiff’s evidence and rejected much of his claim. Included in the rejected damages were funds sought due to loans from family members. In rejecting this portion of the claim Mr. Justice Ball provided the following reasons:  Monies Mr. Healey borrowed from his mother or others are not “special damages”. Mr. Healey testified that he did not recall the use to which the borrowed monies were put. Mrs. Healey testified that the borrowed money was used to pay household expenses including rent. Consequently, no evidence before the Court demonstrates that borrowed monies were used in any way, for instance, for therapy for injuries the accident caused that somehow would relate the borrowing to the accident.  Second, only interest paid on borrowed money would be a “special damage.” And absolutely no evidence before this Court demonstrates that any interest was agreed or paid in relation to the claimed loans. Consequently: no amount is allowed for the borrowed monies: Choma v. Canadian Vehicle Leasing Limited,  B.C.J. No. 1036 (S.C.) and Wong v. Hemmings, 2012 BCSC 907.
If you are injured in a collision and sell your house for more suitable accommodations can the realtor commission fees be claimed as damages? Reasons for judgment were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry addressing this.
In this week’s case (Brown v Bevan) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 intersection collision. The Defendant was found fully at fault. The Plaintiff suffered various injuries which continued to impact her at the time of trial. She ultimately sold her multilevel townhouse and moved into a one level apartment. The Plaintiff moved in part because she struggled walking up and down the stairs in her former residence. She sought damages for the realtor’s commission charged in the sale arguing that this expense was incurred due to the collision. In refusing these damages Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:  The largest and only disputed item is the claim for $33,801.79 representing the net commissions on the sale of the plaintiff’s Gilford Street town home ($20,680), storage ($599.55), costs associated with purchasing the Homer Street property including Property Purchase Tax ($10,458.08) and moving costs ($2,064.16).  The issue is whether the costs related to moving are reasonable expenses that can be claimed. But for her injuries and resultant difficulty she had negotiating the stairs inside and outside of home, the plaintiff argues she would never have sold, moved and incurred those expenses. She relies on Rodger v. McDowell,  B.C.J. No. 2009 and Piper v. Hassan, 2012 BCSC 189…  In Rodger, an award for commission expenses was made in similar circumstances where a plaintiff moved from a two level home to a one level home. The basis of the award is unclear. It apparently was based on defence submissions that “Ms. Rodgers would be adequately and appropriately compensated if she is reimbursed for real estate commission and moving expenses.”  In Piper, a claim for real estate commissions, moving costs and taxes related to changing residences was dismissed because the plaintiff’s low back injury was not proven to have been caused by the motor vehicle accident.  In this case, the plaintiff argues the expenses associated with changing residences are directly attributable to the collision and the plaintiff’s prolonged distress from having to use multiple stairs in the Gilford residence on a daily basis. She could not manage them and a move to a single level home was necessary.  In my view, these expenses are not recoverable from the defendant because: a. the principles of compensatory damages in tort require the plaintiff to be compensated for all reasonably foreseeable losses directly or indirectly caused by the tort (BG Checo International Ltd. at para 47); b. the plaintiff is not to be placed in a position better than his or her original one. The court must determine the plaintiff’s “original position” before the tort and her “injured position” after the tort. It is the difference between these two positions that is the plaintiff’s loss (Athey at para 32).  While the accident indirectly caused the plaintiff’s left heel pain and that moving residences was a foreseeable risk, on the Athey test, the plaintiff’s claim under this head must fail. I find that the plaintiff would have moved residences to a one story home in the future in any event. These expenses would have been incurred regardless, albeit sooner (perhaps a year or two) than otherwise expected. In other words, these expenses were not incurred “but for” the collision.
It is well established that a litigant in a BC injury claim is entitled to court ordered interest on successful special damages claims. What about special damages that are owing but have have not yet been paid? Is interest recoverable on these? Reasons for judgement were released last week addressing this topic and the answer is yes.
In last week’s case (Thibeault v. MacGregor) Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following analysis:  I agree with Mr. Walton that the plaintiff is entitled to interest pursuant to the Court Order Interest Act (COIA) on the special damages I have awarded, even though the charges for physiotherapy have not yet been paid. The relevant section of the COIA provides: (1) Subject to section 2, a court must add to a pecuniary judgment an amount of interest calculated on the amount ordered to be paid at a rate the court considers appropriate in the circumstances from the date on which the cause of action arose to the date of the order. (2) Despite subsection (1), if the order consists in whole or part of special damages, the interest on those damages must be calculated from the end of each 6 month period in which the special damages were incurred to the date of the order on the total of the special damages incurred (a) in the 6 month period immediately following the date on which the cause of action arose, and (b) in any subsequent 6 month period. [emphasis added]  Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th ed. defines “incur” as “[to] suffer or bring on oneself (a liability or expense)”. The plaintiff became liable for the cost of her physiotherapy payments when she either attended or missed her appointments.
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, underlying the importance of having medical opinion evidence in support of claimed special damages in an injury claim.
In this week’s case (Redl v. Sellin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision. Fault was admitted by the Defendant and there was no disagreement that the Plaintiff suffered from a chronic pain disorder as a result of her collision related injuries. What was disputed was the significant treatment related expenses the Plaintiff advanced at trial.
The Plaintiff advanced special damages of over $46,000. The Court disallowed many of these noting there was no medical evidence to justify many of these expenses. In rejecting much of the sought special damages claim Mr. Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:  Ms. Redl is advancing a claim for special damages which is remarkable in its size and scope. The total amount sought is $46,501.22…  Generally speaking, claims for special damages are subject only to the standard of reasonableness. However, as with claims for the cost of future care (see Juraski v. Beek, 2011 BCSC 982; Milina v. Bartsch(1985), 49 BCLR (2d) 33 (BCSC)), when a claimed expense has been incurred in relation to treatment aimed at promotion of a plaintiff’s physical or mental well-being, evidence of the medical justification for the expense is a factor in determining reasonableness. I accept the argument expressed through Dr. Frobb, that a patient may be in the best position to assess her or his subjective need for palliative therapy. I also accept the plaintiff’s counsel’s argument that in the circumstances of any particular case, it may be possible for a plaintiff to establish that reasonable care equates with a very high standard of care. In the words of Prof. K. Cooper-Stephenson inPersonal Injury Damages in Canada, (2d ed., 1996) at p. 166: Even prior to the Supreme Court’s endorsement of the restitution principle [in Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd. and Arnold v. Teno], in the area of special damages the courts had been prepared to allow optimum care, and damages were awarded for expenses of a character that stretched far beyond the resources of even an affluent Canadian. That being said, and while Dr. Frobb’s paradigm of the patient becoming their own physician may have at least a superficial appeal, plaintiffs are not given carte blanche to undertake any and all therapies which they believe will make them feel good.  In the present case, Ms. Redl undertook an extraordinarily wide variety of therapies, some without advice, and some less conventional than others. She did so at considerable expense. It is probable, in my view, that she undertook this course of action in part through a desire to recover quickly and in part on the basis of her positive past experience, pre-accident, with massage therapy and chiropractic. However, her firm beliefs notwithstanding, there is no medical evidence that the therapies she undertook accelerated her return to work or have otherwise improved her physical condition. With regard to the palliative effect of the therapies, Ms. Redl did not experiment with trying one modality at a time. She did not experiment with lengthening the time between appointments. There is no evidence that the palliative effect of these therapies was any greater than what may have resulted from the use of over-the-counter medications. Ultimately, the evidence does not persuade me on a balance of probabilities that Ms. Redl’s physical or mental well-being is or could reasonably have been expected to be any greater as a result of undertaking these frequent therapies, than it would be if she had stuck to her pre-accident pattern of weekly or bi-weekly massage and monthly chiropractic treatments.  I am allowing, as special damages, the cost of her first 12 massage therapy sessions ($936.50), and her first 12 chiropractic treatments ($930), as such would have been reasonable during the acute phase of Ms. Redl’s recovery. Beyond that, I find that had the accident not occurred, the pre-accident pattern of these treatments likely would have continued up to the present date, even had the accident not occurred, and no greater frequency of treatment has been demonstrated to have been reasonable.  I am further allowing the cost of massage therapy sessions she underwent when on cruise vacations in September 2010 and March 2012, when she experienced flare-ups ($650). I am also allowing the physiotherapy ($210) and kinesiology ($453) expenses, as they were incurred on medical advice, and the 14 acupuncture treatments rendered at Dr. Frobb’s clinic ($2,100). The expense of the Pilates course is also allowed ($3,974.92), as being in furtherance of core strengthening, which Dr. Frobb referred to as a priority. I am disallowing the balance of the massage therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic expenses, and the claims for naturopathic and reflexology treatments, as not having been demonstrated as reasonable.
Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry (Culos v. Chretien), rejecting compensation for the cost of an MRI recommended by a Massage Therapist. In finding this was not an appropriate special damage in the circumstances (ie -without the request coming from a medical doctor) Mr. Justice Rogers provided the following comments: The plaintiff is not entitled to the cost of the MRI or the magnetic belt that he claims. The former is not recoverable because the massage therapist who recommended it to the plaintiff did not have the qualifications to either prescribe the scan or to interpret its result. The magnetic belt sounds like a bit of Old West quackery. No evidence at trial supplied a foundation for a finding that this belt was necessary to control or cure the plaintiff’s complaints.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a Plaintiff to provide particulars of claimed special damages.
In this week’s case (Amezcua v. Norlander) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions. The Defendants applied, at a Case Planning Conference, that the Plaintiff produce particulars of special damages. In agreeing that this was an appropriate order Master Baker provided the following reasons:
…In particular leading authorities on pleading confirm that it is appropriate to expect a party to plead details of special damages and, if they are not given, to demand particulars. The author of Odgers On High Court Pleading and Practice cites, as an illustration, Hayward v. Pullinger & Partners Ltd.:
But when any special damage is claimed, without sufficient detail, particulars will be ordered of the alleged damage…
More recently and locally the authors of Conduct of Civil Litigation in British Columbia comment:
Special damages must explicitly be claimed and proved.
And further, in relation to past wage loss:
…but the weight of the authority treats these as special damages which therefore must be specifically pleaded; the defendant is also entitled to particulars.
I cite this latter quote not in respect of wage losses per se, but for the implicit assumption that a defendant is entitled to particulars of special damages.
I cannot see, then, why a party should not be required to particularize his or her special damages to date. The same, of course, cannot be said for general damages, but the defence is not asking for that. The plaintiff will therefore give particulars of her special damages to date.
Further to my recent post on this topic, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing the recovery of private MRI costs in a personal injury lawsuit.
In last week’s case (Piper v. Hassan) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 rear-end collision. The Defendant admitted fault for the crash. The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries and an aggravation of pre-existing back pain and depression. The Plaintiff sought substantial damages at trial although much of the claim was not accepted with the Court finding that much of the Plaintiff’s symptoms would have occurred absent the collision due to pre-existing degenerative changes in the plaintiff’s back.
In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff obtained a private MRI. At trial the Plaintiff sought to recover the cost associated with this. The Defendant opposed this arguing it was not a reasonable expense. Mr. Justice Pearlman disagreed and allowed recovery of this item. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons: Mr. Piper also paid $1,975 for the full spine MRI performed May 18, 2007. The defendant submits this was an unnecessary expense. I disagree. Dr. McGrath had recommended an MRI study. At a time when the plaintiff was experiencing increased back pain and sought medical advice to determine its cause and possible treatment, it was not unreasonable for him to pay for a private MRI, rather than wait in line for publicly funded radiology. The full spine MRI assisted both Dr. Yu and Dr. McGraw in their diagnoses of the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries attributable to the motor vehicle accident, showed the progression of degenerative changes to the plaintiff’s spine, and aided Dr. McGraw in forming his opinion that the plaintiff had not suffered a disc herniation. I find that the plaintiff is entitled to recover $1,975 for the MRI study.
ICBC typically covers only a portion of physiotherapy expenses under an individuals own plan of insurance. Treatment expenses over and above ICBC’s insured amounts typically are referred to as ‘user fees‘. Provided that such therapies are reasonably incurred following a collision the fees associated with them are usually recoverable as ‘special damages‘ in a tort claim against the at-fault motorist.
As with most special damages, however, it is important to document these expenses. Failure to do so can result in the claimed expenses being denied. Such a result was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In last week’s case (Daitol v. Chan) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision. At trial the Plaintiff sought recovery of $1,500 of estimated user fees as special damages. The Plaintiff unfortunately did not have receipts to prove she incurred these expenses. Madam Justice Griffin denied this portion of the Plaintiff’s claim and in doing so provided the following reasons reminding Plaintiff’s the importance of documenting their damages:
Ms. Daitol advances a claim for the user fees she was required to pay for her physiotherapy sessions. She estimates that she paid in the range of $1,500-$1,900 in fees out of her own pocket. She therefore advances a claim for special damages of $1,500.
Unfortunately, Ms. Daitol, who was not represented by her current counsel at the time, did not keep track of her physiotherapy expenses and has no corroborating evidence regarding the number of treatments or the exact cost of them. At best, her evidence as to her total out-of-pocket cost was a guess. While I do not believe that Ms. Daitol would in any way attempt to mislead the court, nevertheless, her evidence as to her physiotherapy expenses is inherently unreliable due to the fact that she did not in any way keep track of her sessions or the cost of them. As such, I do not award her any amount in respect of this claim.
Further to my previous posts on this topic, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, disallowing the cost of a private MRI as a special damage in a personal injury claim.
In last week’s case (Madsen v. Bekker) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 collision. In the course of the Plaintiff’s lawsuit the Plaintiff obtained three private MRI’s. The Plaintiff advanced the costs of these MRI’s as special damages at trial. In declining to compensate the Plaintiff for these expenses Mr. Justice Truscott provided the following brief reasons: I decline to award anything for the three MRIs because the plaintiff decided to do these on his own, when Dr. Hobson told him that they were not medically indicated. In the circumstances there is no evidentiary basis for such an award.
It is worth pointing out that the costs associated with Private MRI’s can be recovered in a personal injury claims if a medical practitioner gives evidence that the expense is reasonably incurred for a valid medical purpose related to the claim.
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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