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Case Summary: VERMA V. FRIESEN, 2024 BCSC 13

The Supreme Court of British Columbia recently handed down its decision in the case of Verma v. Friesen, 2024 BCSC 13. Craig McIvor from Preszler Law was counsel at trial.

The plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident on June 20, 2018. The plaintiff was driving on Sumas Way near the intersection with Highway 1 in Abbotsford, British Columbia, when the defendant turned left in front of the plaintiff and struck the left side of the plaintiff’s vehicle. The damage caused to the plaintiff’s vehicle was so extensive that it was no longer driveable. The defendant admitted liability for the accident, so trial addressed the plaintiff’s damages.

The plaintiff is a first generation immigrant from India who moved to Canada at the age of 39. He was 57 years old at the time of trial. The plaintiff was always a hard worker and obtained his master’s degree in ayurvedic naturopathic medicine at the Punjabi University. He went on to own his own practice in ayurvedic naturopathic medicine, running a busy and successful practice. After arriving in Canada, the plaintiff made his way by owning and operating convenience stores with his wife and continued to do so despite being robbed at gunpoint on two occasions.

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As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered physical and disabling psychological injuries. He had to stop working and has had to move back to India. ICBC tried to argue that the plaintiff had a predisposition to psychological trauma resulting from the robberies and other stressors, however the court disagreed.

In her reasons, Madam Justice Donegan provides the following:

[106]   The issue here is not whether Mr. Verma has been suffering from psychological health conditions since the Accident. I am satisfied from the whole of the evidence, including the evidence of both experts, that he has been suffering from significant psychological health conditions, diagnosed as major depressive disorder (moderate to severe), GAD and PTSD, since the Accident. The symptoms Mr. Verma experiences associated with these conditions are severe, persistent, disabling and likely permanent.

[107]   Nor is the issue here whether Mr. Verma had psychological health symptoms at times prior to the Accident. He did. The issue here, as in Grewal, is: (1) whether and to what extent Mr. Verma’s psychological symptoms after the Accident are attributable to these pre-existing conditions, in which case he would have suffered them even without the Accident and should not be put in a better position; or (2) whether the symptoms were separately caused or exacerbated by the Accident in a manner which is not solely attributable to the pre-existing conditions, and is separately attributable to the Accident, and are therefore compensable. I am satisfied the evidence establishes the latter.

[108]   Earlier in these reasons, I made findings about Mr. Verma’s pre-Accident psychological health symptoms. To summarize, I found that Mr. Verma experienced such symptoms related to stressful or traumatic events that occurred in 2010 (two workplace robberies), 2014 (sale of the business in Duncan) and 2016 (single vehicle accident). The symptoms he suffered related to these events were temporary. They each resolved after a short time, following recommended treatment such as counselling or anxiety medication.

[109]   None of these pre-Accident symptoms, for the short times they lasted, caused Mr. Verma to lose any time from work, nor did they impact his daily functioning. They were not debilitating. Mr. Verma was not suffering from any symptoms related to his mental health at the time of the Accident. He was not receiving any mental health treatment at the time of the Accident. Rather, he was a hard-working, happy, healthy and fully functioning member of society at the time of the Accident.

[130]   It follows that no deduction to Mr. Verma’s damages award ought to be applied to reflect any hypothetical future disability arising from depressive and/or anxiety symptoms in the absence of the Accident. Such a hypothetical does not meet the real and substantial possibility threshold. I do not consider this a pre-existing condition from which I could find there was a “measurable risk” that he would have suffered from the debilitating psychological conditions he now suffers in any event.

[131]   To summarize, I am satisfied that Mr. Verma has established that his short-term physical and long-term psychological injuries would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligent act. I am also satisfied that this physical and psychological harm suffered by Mr. Verma in the Accident was a reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant’s negligent conduct. In other words, I am satisfied that Mr. Verma’s psychological injuries are both the factual and legal result of the defendant’s negligence.


In determining the appropriate award for damages, Madam Justice Donegan provides the following:

[142]   At the time of the Accident, Mr. Verma was a happy, jolly, healthy and ambitious person. He was involved in a loving marriage and had close relationships with his children. He was pursuing a job that he loved. He enjoyed socializing and attending family events. His future, after so many years of sacrifice and hard work, was bright. The effects of his psychological injuries have been devastating to all aspects of his personal and vocational life. He is a shadow of his former self.

[161]   I find there is a real and substantial possibility, to a very high degree of likelihood, that were it not for the Accident, Mr. Verma would have continued working at the Winks Store during the entirety of the pre-trial period. He would have continued to work long hours toward his goal of making his business, his dream business, as financially successful as it could be. That the likelihood of this possibility is very high is supported by several facts.

[162]   Mr. and Mrs. Verma moved to Canada to provide their children with better opportunities. In the course of doing so, they worked incredibly hard, from the ground up, to find a business they could run on their own. They considered Canada their home and had no intention of moving back to India at any point. After years of moving to different communities throughout the country, and operating different businesses, Mr. and Mrs. Verma finally found the one they wanted. The Vermas operated their business for two years prior to the Accident. They worked as hard as they ever did. They enjoyed the work and were experiencing some financial success. They planned to continue. On the evidence, there is simply no real and substantial possibility that Mr. Verma would have not continued to work at the Winks Store, in the manner I have described, during the entirety of the 4.33-year pre-trial period.

[213]   Mr. Verma’s injuries have also dramatically, if not totally, reduced his ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might have otherwise been open to him…

[262]   In summary, I make the following awards:

Non-Pecuniary Damages: $210,000.00
Pecuniary Damages – Past Loss of Earning Capacity: $135,000.00
Pecuniary Damages – Future Loss of Earning Capacity: $300,000.00
Future Care Costs: 0
In-Trust Claim: $250,000.00
Special Damages: $1,532.30
TOTAL: $896,532.30

This case is another example of the tactics ICBC will use to undermine a plaintiff’s injuries to avoid paying a fair settlement. The Court recognized the impact this accident has had on the plaintiff’s life and made a fair award for a very deserving client.

Congratulations to Preszler Law Firm’s Craig McIvor on this successful win. More importantly, congratulations to our deserving client.

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