Plaintiff who developed drug addiction after accident awarded $248,996 in damages

Personal Injury Blog

In reasons for judgment released today, the court in Smith v. Wind, 2017 BCSC 342, awarded a 47-year-old plaintiff $248,996 in total damages following a motor vehicle accident.  The plaintiff in Smith was rear-ended and sustained soft-tissue injuries to his shoulder and neck.  He subsequently developed an addiction to Oxycodone.  Prior to the accident the plaintiff had used OxyCocet to deal with knee pain, and had also suffered from a heroin addiction.  In discussing the evidence and ultimately awarding $65,000 in non-pecuniary damages, Mr. Justice Dley said as follows:

[5]             Mr. Smith is 47 years old. He is married and has two children, aged 19 and 10. He is the breadwinner for the family.

[7]             He has had addictions to drugs including heroin and has been to detox residential facilities and taken counselling for addictions.

[25]         In September 2012, Mr. Smith said that Dr. Baldelli prescribed Oxycodone for his shoulder pain. He became addicted to the drug and went through a painful weaning off.

[26]         In March 2015, when the pain increased, Mr. Smith bought Oxycodone from Craigslist. It was as a result of his wife’s intervention that he sought further treatment for the addiction. He has since remained drug-free, but remains concerned that he is at risk to re-use if the pain worsens.

[46]         Dr. Baldelli was of the view that the pain from the shoulder injury was the catalyst of Mr. Smith’s addiction to Oxycodone, even though he had pre-existing knee and reflux issues.

[51]         Mr. Smith was also treated by Dr. Coleman, an addiction specialist. Dr. Coleman, in his September 19, 2014 report, referred to Mr. Smith’s long history of codeine use prior to the collision. Dr. Coleman was concerned that an active substance dependence disorder may have been “smouldering” for a number of years prior to the collision.

[107]     Mr. Smith suffered depression and developed a dependency on Oxycodone. His addiction and weaning off caused him emotional suffering which impacted his family life.

[108]     Dr. Baldelli did not attribute Mr. Smith’s emotional suffering or addictions solely to his shoulder symptoms. Instead, Dr. Baldelli opined that all of his ailments contributed. It is not necessary that the shoulder injury be the sole cause of Mr. Smith’s emotional or addiction issues. It is sufficient if he proves that the shoulder injury materially contributed to the other health issues.

[110]     It is apparent from the opinions of Drs. Baldelli and Coleman that Mr. Smith’s use of Oxycodone caused him to develop a dependency. Although his substance dependence disorder may have been “smouldering” prior to the collision, it was ignited after the collision. Mr. Smith’s knee and reflux disease were factors in his being prescribed Oxycodone, but so was the shoulder injury. I, therefore, conclude that the shoulder injury was a material factor in the addiction and the depression that ensued.

[120]     Mr. Smith’s neck and headaches cleared up shortly after the collision. However, Mr. Smith suffered from drug addiction and depression. These issues affected his relationships with his family. He became withdrawn and distant. His marriage was in jeopardy.

[121]     Mr. Smith had a difficult time weaning off Oxycodone, and suffered a relapse in 2015. He has now recovered and is clean, although there remains the risk of future relapses.

[135]     I have assessed the non-pecuniary loss at the high end to ensure that Mr. Smith is fully compensated for his loss, particularly because of the possible future surgery and any risks (albeit low) associated with it. I assess Mr. Smith’s non-pecuniary damages at $65,000.

The full decision can be found here:  http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/03/2017BCSC0342.htm

McQuarrie