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Tag: Zhang v. Ghebreanenya

$65,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Shoulder Injury

Adding to this site’s archives of pain and suffering awards for shoulder injuries, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages at $65,000 for a chronic shoulder injury.
In the recent case (Zhang v. Ghebreanenya) the Plaintiff was injured as a passenger in a taxi which lost control and left the roadway.  The taxi driver was found fully liable.  The collision caused a chronic shoulder injury to the plaintiff with symptoms persisting ot the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $65,000 Mr. Justice Grauer provided the following reasons:

[27]        In his evidence at trial, however, Dr. Masri explained it this way.  Because of the symptoms of pain caused by the effect of the accident on his pre-existing degenerative condition, Mr. Zhang’s shoulder became deconditioned and weak from lack of use.  Normally, the remedy for this, once the pain subsides (as it largely has) is aggressive therapy to recondition the shoulder muscles.  In Mr. Zhang’ case, however, aggressive reconditioning is not possible because of the lack of an intact rotator cuff (the degenerative process).  But for the accident, he would not be in that same state of weakness.  Because of his pre-existing degenerative condition, he is unable to remedy it.

[28]        This explanation is consistent with the evidence of Dr. Kokan, and I accept it.  I find that because of the accident, Mr. Zhang has been left with significant weakness and intermittent pain in his right shoulder.  That a pre-existing degenerative condition contributed to this state of affairs does not interrupt the chain of causation between the accident and Mr. Zhang’s current condition: Athey v Leonati, [1996] 3 SCR 458.

[29]        In assessing Mr. Zhang’s loss, however, I take into account that his original pre-accident condition included arthritis in the right elbow that limited the strength and range of motion in that joint.  I also take into account what I consider to be a real and substantial possibility that the pre-existing rotator cuff tear would have led to symptoms of shoulder weakness and discomfort in the future in any event, albeit to a lesser extent than he now faces.

[30]        With respect to the impact of his injuries, I observe that Mr. Zhang had retired from TCM long before this accident.  The evidence of his daughter and granddaughter did not support the contention that he has been frustrated in attempting to pass on the family skill set.  The evidence does indicate that he stopped driving his youngest granddaughter to school and lessons after the accident, but this coincided with his eldest granddaughter obtaining a motor vehicle.  Nevertheless, I am satisfied on the whole of the evidence that the significant ongoing weakness in Mr. Zhang’s right shoulder and arm has had an impact on his ability to drive.  I also find that he has been impaired in his ability to prepare food (particularly to chop vegetables), to perform at least some aspects of household cleaning, and to lift heavy objects.  Socially, he goes out much less than he used to before the accident…

[54]        The plaintiff particularly commended to my attention the Gaudreault case, which involved a 43-year-old plaintiff who suffered tendon tearing in the shoulder, and had pre-existing but asymptomatic degenerative changes in the shoulder.  Mr. Justice Thompson awarded $75,000.  I note, however, that by the time of trial, the plaintiff’s shoulder continued to trouble him all day, every day, with daily neck pain and low back pain. 

[55]        No two cases, of course, are the same.  In this case, taking into account the plaintiff’s age, his pre-existing condition, the limitations imposed by his injury, the fact that the weakness will be ongoing, the impact on his housekeeping capacity and his ability to participate in family and social life, I assess his damages at $65,000.