12 Aug Surrey Man Injured in Accident Caused by Defective Truck – Part 3
This is the last of a series of three posts on the recent decision in Hans v. Volvo Trucks North America Inc., 2016 BCSC 1155. This post deals with the issue of damages awarded to Mr. and Mrs. Hans for injuries sustained in the accident. See the first post for a discussion of the facts underlying the case and the second post for an analysis of Volvo’s responsibility for the accident.
As you may recall from our first post on this case, Amandeep and Pavandeep Hans’ lives were forever changed when their Volvo 780 semi-trailer truck suddenly lost all electrical power on a dark, wintery night. Amandeep lost control of the fully-loaded vehicle which ended up in the ditch following a truly terrifying series of events. He sustained profound psychological and psychiatric injuries which left him completely disabled from work. The couple sued Volvo for negligent design and manufacture of the 780 truck, as well as for failing to warn them of the possibility of a total failure of its electrical system. The Court ultimately agreed that Volvo’s negligence caused the accident.
The remaining question for the Court was one of damages.
Pavandeep suffered a minor concussion and soft tissue injuries in the accident. Those issues resolved within about a year. The Court concluded that $15,000 would adequately compensate her for pain and suffering.
However, the couple’s overall losses were far greater in scope. Prior to the accident they had embarked on a plan to launch their own flat-bed trucking business, called Sai Trucking. They had taken a number of steps towards this goal, which would have begun operation in the year following the collision. Amandeep’s injuries meant that he could no longer participate in that business. Pavandeep was also unable to participate because she had to spend much of her time supervising her husband, due to his ongoing mental health issues and suicidal ideation. When she could enlist others to watch Amandeep, she attempted to earn income as a driving instructor, bus driver and interpreter, among other things.
The Hans claimed for the income they would have earned as a husband and wife driving team (approximately $98,000 per year) between the date of the accident in 2009 and the trial in 2016, as well as for the projected income they would have earned from the Sai Trucking venture during those years. The Court awarded $690,000 to the couple for the loss of driving income and a total of $348,000 for the Sai Trucking income. Regarding the latter, Justice Davies applied significant discounts to the Hans’ claimed amount to account for possibilities that Sai Trucking might not have been as successful as they hoped. He deducted an additional $295,500 to reflect the fact that Pavandeep would not have been able to work as the manager of the Sai Trucking business and a long-haul truck driver at the same time. From this total of $742,500, the Court deducted the income that the couple received in that period of time, resulting in an overall past lost earnings award of $517,826.
Turning to future earnings, the Court employed a calculation called a “net present value,” which took into account factors such as interest and inflation in determining the appropriate amount to award for a loss that occurs in the future. The Court considered that Amandeep would have earned $49,250 per year as a long-haul truck driver until retirement age, with a net present value of $985,000. The Hans collectively would have earned $1,900,000 from Sai Trucking, for a total of $2,885,000. However, Pavandeep had recovered from her injuries and retained the ability to earn $48,000 per year to age 65, with a net present value of $960,000. The Court deducted this from the collective Sai Trucking earnings and awarded total future lost earnings of $1,925,000.
The evidence before the Court established that Amandeep required 24-hour supervision to prevent further suicide attempts and to monitor his ongoing mental health conditions. Volvo argued that no such award was necessary as Amandeep had not attempted suicide since 2012. He had also taken two extended trips to India without supervision and without incident. The Court accepted the Plaintiffs’ medical evidence which indicated that ongoing supervision was still required and awarded Amandeep the cost of supervision. However, Justice Davies applied contingencies to reflect the possibility that future psychiatric interventions or trips to India would reduce or obviate the need for supervision. The Court ultimately awarded Amandeep $75,000 for medications, $22,000 for ongoing therapies $1,684,000 for 24 hour supervision and $198,868.75 for treatments already undergone.
Finding that Pavandeep had provided care to her husband far exceeding what would be expected from the marital relationship, the Court also awarded her $165,000 to reflect her sacrifice. Finally, the Court assessed Amandeep’s pain and suffering at $265,000.
The award to the Amandeep and Pavandeep Hans totaled the very substantial sum of $4,867,694.75.