Personal injury cases in B.C. usually involve accidents, such as a motor vehicle collision caused by someone driving recklessly or unsafely. There are also plenty of cases in which one party intentionally injures the other. Let us say a fight breaks out and one person seriously injures the other. The aggressor may be held liable for any monetary damages sustained by the other person.
For example, a B.C. Supreme Court judge recently awarded damages to a plaintiff who sustained injuries during an “incident” more than six years ago at a shopping centre in Burnaby. This case has a number of unusual features. First, the defendant died before trial, leaving the court to largely base its decision on the plaintiff’s evidence alone. Second, the plaintiff apparently suffers from a number of health problems, notably paranoia. Despite this, the judge still determined the plaintiff was entitled to some amount of damages from the estate of the deceased defendant. (For the sake of simplicity, this post will simply refer to the deceased and his estate interchangeably as “the defendant.”)
The plaintiff and the defendant both emigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia. Although they never met in their native country, the two men became acquainted while living in B.C. sometime in 1990, according to the plaintiff. Approximately 20 years later, in late 2010, the plaintiff said the defendant asked him to repair a metal gate at his house. The plaintiff previously worked as a pipefitter and welder but retired in 2000.
The plaintiff said he repaired the gate as requested. After completing the work, the plaintiff said the defendant offered to pay him. The plaintiff declined monetary compensation but agreed to accept a bottle of homemade Slivovic brandy. This is a type of fruit brandy, usually made from plums, that is popular in central and eastern European cultures.
Nearly two years passed. On the morning of September 27, 2012, the plaintiff went to a Starbucks located at the Highgate Village Shopping Centre on Kingsway Avenue in Burnaby. The plaintiff said he had not been to this particular coffee shop in nearly two years because he knew the defendant was a regular there. After the defendant gave the plaintiff the bottle of Slivovic brandy, the plaintiff allegedly started a rumour that the defendant “had urinated into the bottle” beforehand.
As the plaintiff got out of his truck to enter the Starbucks, the defendant, who was sitting at an outdoor table, got up and moved to confront the plaintiff. The plaintiff said the defendant “began to curse at him about the statements the plaintiff had made about him urinating in the brandy.” The plaintiff said the defendant then “punched him in the chin with a closed fist, causing him to be confused and unsteady on his feet, and then delivered a number of punches to his chest.”
Eventually, the plaintiff said he managed to enter the Starbucks, where he told an employee that he had been assaulted. The employee then contacted the police. The employee later testified at trial, although she did not personally witness the altercation.
The defendant passed away sometime prior to the trial of the plaintiff’s personal injury claim. At trial, the estate denied there was any physical confrontation between the plaintiff and the defendant–but if there was, the defendant acted purely in self-defence, and that it was the plaintiff who must have provoked the incident.
In his judgment, Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson of B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver said that based on the evidence presented at trial, it was “clear that the plaintiff suffers from some sort of psychiatric condition.” The plaintiff’s wife testified that her husband suffered from “paranoia.” More precisely, she said the plaintiff has long held the unsubstantiated belief that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has “had him under surveillance, interfered with his banking, caused motor vehicle accidents that have injured him,” and attempted to poison him on at least seven occasions.
Indeed, the plaintiff apparently believed the Mounties also set up the incident between himself and the defendant. The chief justice said while he rejected this explanation for what happened, he nevertheless agreed with the plaintiff that there was an altercation and that the plaintiff “sustained injuries” as a result. The Court noted that following the altercation, the plaintiff went to Burnaby Hospital, where personnel took X-rays and later released him. The next day, the plaintiff’s wife took him to Royal Columbian Hospital in the Lower Mainland, which diagnosed him with a rib fracture.
The chief justice accepted that the plaintiff suffered this rib injury, as well as an aggravation of a pre-existing jaw injury, as a result of the altercation with the defendant. On this basis, the Court awarded the plaintiff $30,000 in non-pecuniary damages for his pain, suffering, and loss of “enjoyment of life.” The chief justice awarded an additional $2,500 in “aggravated damages,” which compensates the plaintiff for the “distress and humiliation caused by a defendant’s insulting behaviour.”
On top of that, the chief justice also ordered the estate to pay $5,000 in punitive damages. Unlike the other types of damages described above, which are meant to compensate a plaintiff for his losses, punitive damages are an exceptional award intended to punish the defendant and, in effect, send a message to society that certain conduct cannot be tolerated. In this case, the judge said the defendant’s conduct in assaulting the plaintiff in a parking lot was “reprehensible” and justified an award of punitive damages.
Whether you are injured due to negligence or intentional assault, you have the right to seek compensation from the person or party that wronged you. Contact the Preszler Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Burnaby personal injury lawyers.