$60,000 Awarded for Back Injury to Bus Rider

Bus
In the recently reported case of Prempeh v. Boisvert, 2012 BCSC 304, Madam Justice Dardi awarded $60,000 in non-pecuniary damages (pain & suffering) to a plaintiff injured while riding on a transit bus in Vancouver. The plaintiff was injured when the bus suddenly stopped in traffic.

 

Court Comments on Sudden Braking in Accident Claim

The court described the effect of the sudden braking of the bus as follows:

[12]The plaintiff, who routinely rode this route to work, was seated on the aisle seat of a double seat. She was seated across from the rear doors of the bus. She was wearing low-heeled shoes. After the bus had passed through the Intersection, the plaintiff stood up because she intended to disembark at the next bus stop. There were no other passengers standing on the bus. As she got up she held the metal handle on the back of the seat with her right hand in order to support herself. She was holding her purse in her left hand. After the bus braked abruptly the plaintiff found herself in the aisle near the front of the bus. She landed in a sitting position on her hands, buttocks and heels, facing the front of the bus and in close proximity to Mr. Boisvert. A fellow passenger assisted her to her feet and assisted her with disembarking from the front door of the bus.

In finding the bus driver liable the court noted the following:

[22]Mr. Boisvert was required to brake hard to avoid hitting the two vehicles that had stopped on the roadway in front of the bus he was operating. The first of the vehicles had stopped to turn left on Hamilton Street. The second car stopped behind the left-turning vehicle without a collision and without accompanying honking or screeching of brakes. It can reasonably be inferred that this occurred within a time frame that should have permitted a reasonably prudent user of the road driving behind those vehicles an opportunity to react and brake without incident. The application of the brakes was not a reaction to an emergency or unexpected hazard.

The Defendants argued that the plaintiff could have avoided her injuries if she had been holding on or seated at the time the accident took place. In rejecting this argument, the court said the following:

[35]In busy urban traffic the defendants reasonably expect passengers to be at the doors when the doors open at the designated bus stop; otherwise city buses would be delayed. One is expected to stand in a bus which is precisely why the buses are equipped with supports including those handles behind the seat. The plaintiff in this case held onto the metal handle on the back of her seat and through no fault of her own was thrown forward when the bus driver abruptly and vigorously braked.

[36]In short on this issue I find nothing in the plaintiff’s conduct which departed from that conduct expected of a reasonably prudent able-bodied passenger.

 

Injuries Suffered by Bus Rider

 

As a result of the accident the plaintiff sustained injuries to her low back, neck, heels and right wrist and was left with ongoing low back problems. The court found that there was an “even likelihood” that the plaintiff’s chronic low back pain would persist indefinitely.

 

Loss of Future Earning Capacity

 

The court also awarded $45,000 for loss of earning capacity and gave the following reasons for that award:

[96]It is well recognized that unknown contingencies and uncertain factors make it impossible to calculate the loss of future earning capacity with any precision. The process of quantification is not a mathematical calculation but rather one of assessment based on the evidence… The evidence in this case mandates that in my assessment I take into account that there is an equal likelihood that the plaintiff’s symptoms will improve and that she will return to full functioning within one-two years, or alternatively that her symptoms will be permanent. I also have factored in my assessment the contingency that the plaintiff could miss work or have a shortened work life because of unrelated illness, injury or disability. I have considered that she was absent from work for a period in 2010 because of an unrelated illness.

[97]Taking into account all of the evidence and the relevant contingencies, I assess the plaintiff’s loss of future earning capacity from the date of trial as $45,000.

 

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