Court awards $120,000 in non-pecuniary damages to 24 year-old plaintiff with “chronic mechanical back pain”


In reasons for judgment released today, the court in Brown v. Mitchell, 2017 BCSC 125, awarded $120,000 in non-pecuniary damages to a 24 year-old plaintiff who suffered from “chronic mechanical pain” as well as vision problems after being involved in two motor vehicle accidents.  Prior to the accidents the plaintiff worked as a dental assistant and was a competitive baseball player.  While she was able to return to playing baseball after the accidents, she suffered pain while doing so.  The court also awarded $120,000 in damages for future loss earning capacity, on the basis that the plaintiff was no longer able to work as a dental assistant and would have to retrain for work in a new field.  In giving reasons for judgment, Mr. Justice Ball wrote as follows:

[24]        The plaintiff’s case may be summarized as follows: she was involved in two motor vehicle accidents, detailed above, the first of which was more serious than the second accident. After a brief period of dizziness, the plaintiff suffered immediate pain in her right lower back which radiated into her right buttocks and right leg. The injuries reported by the plaintiff included a lack of steadiness in her vision which caused her to have difficulty tracking lines of text on a computer screen.

[25]        This second accident aggravated the neck and back pain which arose from the first accident but the symptoms were resolved within three months.

[43]        At the end of the day the evidence generally supports the proposition that this plaintiff will not have a pain free future and that painful symptoms will persist.

[46]        The plaintiff has had to change her occupation from one she was highly successful at and had trained at some considerable expense to obtain. She remains with a significant debt which she will now have to pay off without the immediate expectation of an increased salary.

[48]        Having reviewed the cases cited by counsel for both parties, I am satisfied beyond a balance of probabilities that the appropriate award of general damages in this case is $120,000.

[49]        The plaintiff had potential for advancement in the dental field and her employer testified that he would provide opportunities for that advancement to take place. The plaintiff also achieved raises in her salary during the eight months preceding the first accident. Without repeating more of the foregoing I am satisfied that the plaintiff has lost a significant capital asset in that she cannot continue her chosen profession for which she has paid a significant sum for training which was clearly successful. Her future income loss, I fix at $120,000.

The text of the full decision can be found here:



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