07 Oct Plaintiff Develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

In Redmile v. Beaulieu, 2019 BCSC 1571, the Plaintiff sustained injuries to his back and neck when he was t-boned by the Defendant. Tragically, the Defendant died at the scene and the Plaintiff witnessed this, which was extremely traumatic for him.

At trial the Plaintiff continued to suffer from physical injuries but his most serious injury was that he developed post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). The seriousness of his psychological injuries and prognosis was contested by ICBC.

Prior to the accident, the Plaintiff was a social person with a good relationship with his family. He enjoyed his work and it did not cause him undue stress. After the accident, all the lay witnesses testified that he became anxious, withdrawn, and irritable.

The Plaintiff’s psychiatrist confirmed that he met the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for PTSD. After an initial acute stress reaction, persistent anxiety related to the traumatic event caused him to develop PTSD. The Plaintiff had the typical and characteristic clinical symptoms of PTSD. He reported persistent re-experiencing and intrusive recollection of the accident. He also had flashbacks and fears related to the accident. He described recurrent anxiety and psychological distress that revolved around his experience. The death of the other driver was a constant tangible factor in his PTSD.

The Plaintiff’s psychiatrist determined that his negative mood, loss of interest, self-blame, and emotional detachment were clinical markers of mild to moderately severe PTSD. His PTSD was considered chronic, and affected his ability to cope with stressors. His obsessive-compulsive behaviours were both a factor in reducing the severity of his anxiety but were also a symptom of his PTSD.

A psychiatrist for ICBC assessed the Plaintiff’s PTSD symptoms as mild. However, this psychiatrist conceded that if the Plaintiff’s wife’s evidence was accurate, the Plaintiff’s PTSD symptoms were more significant than he had concluded.

The judge had little difficulty in finding that there was a causal link between the motor vehicle accident and the Plaintiff’s physical injuries.  He concluded that the Plaintiff’s chronic pain was caused by the motor vehicle accident. The judge also concluded that the motor vehicle caused his PTSD, which would likely continue to affect him in the future.

The judge was asked to determine whether the Plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages by not following the recommendations of the medical professionals. He had discontinued taking medication against his physician’s advice, because he did not like the side effects.  He also advised his psychiatrist that he was getting better, which was incorrect information.

The judge found that the Plaintiff’s damage award should be reduced, but only by 15%, for his failure to mitigate his damages. This was for two reasons. First, avoidance is part of PTSD. Second, it was not clear to what extent (if at all) the Plaintiff’s PTSD would have improved with medication and continued counselling.

The judge awarded non-pecuniary damages of $180,000.  This award was reduced by 15% ($27,000) because of the Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.