07 Aug Testimony of Family and Friends Very Important at Trial
Never underestimate how crucial lay witness testimony is in a personal injury trial. Judges do listen to it. In the case of Goldie v. McLean, 2019 BCSC 991, the Plaintiff, a previously active 41-year-old welder, sought damages arising out of two separate motor vehicle collisions. Liability for the accidents was admitted. However, the extent to which the accidents caused the Plaintiff’s injuries and the damages that flowed from those injuries was in issue.
Many family members, friends, and co-workers testified to their observations of the Plaintiff following the accidents. One co-worker described the Plaintiff as a hard worker who took pride in his work and rarely complained. He had seen the Plaintiff exhibit signs of pain but work through it.
The Plaintiff’s brother-in-law described him as likeable, kind, generous, and a doting father. Prior to the accidents, he said the Plaintiff was very athletic, and had an impressive work ethic and handyman abilities. He noticed that the Plaintiff significantly slowed down after the accidents and that he gained weight.
The Plaintiff’s mother noticed a sharp change in the Plaintiff’s physical appearance and function after the accidents, as well as a change in his mood. She described him as having a “twinkle in his eye” before the accidents, which was now gone. To her, he now appeared sad.
The Plaintiff’s wife also testified. She impressed the judge as an honest and genuine witness. She described the Plaintiff pre-accident as being a romantic and sweet person who was physically fit, thoughtful, and caring. She said he had no physical issues or constraints prior to the first accident. She recalled him complaining that his lower back was sore shortly after the first accident. She also spoke about the Plaintiff’s inability to get restful sleep.
The Plaintiff’s wife noted that after the first accident, the Plaintiff went to physiotherapy and attempted jogging. He was more helpful around the house and took part in activities with the children. Although he was not yet back to his pre-accident baseline, there was light at the end of the tunnel. From his wife’s perspective, it was the second accident that really sent him on a downward spiral. He gained significant weight and became grumpy, on edge and short-tempered. His mood and personality changed. He was no longer happy. She attributed the change to his ongoing back pain.
The judge noted that all of the lay witnesses gave their evidence in a frank and honest manner, and did not contradict the Plaintiff’s evidence in any significant way. He accepted their evidence as reliable.
The judge was particularly impressed with the evidence of the Plaintiff’s wife. He accepted it without reservation. It was heartfelt, candid and convincing. The picture she painted satisfied the judge that the Plaintiff was not the pain-free, energetic, spontaneous, active and athletic man he was before. Everyday activities were hard for him and, as a consequence, hard for his family.
The supportive evidence of family and friends assisted the judge in concluding that the Plaintiff was entitled to damages in the amount of $416,846.70.