06 Mar Plaintiff With Pre-Existing Mental Health Issues

In Carrillo v. Deschutter, 2018 BCSC 2134, the vehicle driven by the Plaintiff was rear-ended while stopped at a red light. Liability for the accident was admitted. Although there was no dispute that the Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries in the accident, the extent of those injuries was in contention. The Plaintiff’s pre-existing mental health issues compounded the complexity of the assessment of damages.

The Plaintiff was born and raised in Colombia.  He was forced to flee Colombia after he was targeted by paramilitary organizations. As a result of his experiences in Colombia, the Plaintiff began to suffer from insomnia, nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks. He was diagnosed with a major depression and post- traumatic stress disorder.

Prior to the accident, the Plaintiff did not suffer from any significant physical problems and was not restricted in any of his recreational activities. His social and recreational activities primarily involved his children and his church. He was physically active, and enjoyed playing basketball and soccer with his son. He also worked out at a local gym three times per week and swam at a local lake.

In order for the Plaintiff to recover damages, he had to prove that there was a causal link between the motor vehicle accident and his injuries. The Plaintiff had to prove that “but for” the Defendant’s negligence, his injuries would not have occurred. The Court was satisfied that the Plaintiff had discharged this burden and found that, on a balance of probabilities, he was injured and that his injuries were caused by the Defendant’s negligence.

The Plaintiff’s symptoms at the time of trial included headaches, significant chronic neck pain and low back pain. He had stabbing pain in his left shoulder on an intermittent basis, with restricted range of motion. He also experienced some numbness in his left hand.  It was likely that his back, neck, and headache symptoms would persist indefinitely. The evidence supported a finding that the Plaintiff’s mental health condition made it more challenging for him to manage his chronic pain.

The Court noted that it is important to recognize that people have different physical and psychological susceptibility to injuries. It is the impact of the accident on the particular plaintiff that is relevant for compensatory purposes. A defendant must take the plaintiff as he is, even where, because of his unique susceptibility or vulnerability, the injury is more dramatic or unexpectedly severe than one would expect an average person to sustain.

This Plaintiff’s pre-existing mental health issues likely negatively impacted his ability to manage his chronic pain. His injuries had a dramatic impact on him. His chronic pain and frozen shoulder adversely impact his daily activities. He was no longer able to participate in his sporting and recreational activities that he enjoyed with his friends and family. He relied on the assistance of others with respect to laundry, grocery shopping and heavier house cleaning chores.

Having considered the evidence as a whole and the application of the governing principles, it was the Court’s opinion that a fair and reasonable award for the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering was $115,000.