Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing damages for a chronic wrist injury.

In today’s case (Ackerman v. Pandher) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 collision.  The Defendants admitted fault.  The Plaintiff worked as a tile setter and the chronic injury disabled him from his profession.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Mr. Justice Schultes provided the following reasons:

[29]         The medical evidence about Mr. Ackermann’s wrist injury and its effects was not disputed. It indicates that he suffered what is known as a “perilunate dislocation injury[1]” in the accident. This results in “significant soft tissue/ligamentous disruption within the wrist.[2]” Some degree of stiffness is usually seen in patients with this type of injury and his ongoing symptoms are considered to be “reasonable given the nature and extent of his injury.[3]” When he was examined in May of 2015 he had flexion (moving the hand downward from a horizontal position) of only 20%, although his abilities to pinch and grasp were good[4]. His prognosis is for increasing arthritis in the joint as a result of the injury, “with gradually worsening pain and limitation.[5]” A consulting orthopedic surgeon described his condition in 2015 as “chronic and static with a very high likelihood of deteriorating over time.[6]

[30]         If his pain worsens he may require a partial or total wrist fusion, which “typically improve[s] pain however at the cost of significant range of motion.” A total fusion would mean that he could no longer flex or extend the wrist.[7] For now his symptoms can be “slightly improved” by the intermittent use of a brace and by anti-inflammatory medication.[8]

[31]         With respect to work prospects, the orthopedic surgeon offered the opinion that “[b]etween the associated pain and the limited range of motion to his wrist, [he does] not believe that there is any chance of Mr. Ackermann returning to a physical job involving extensive use of his right wrist.” Nor did he believe that there were any “interventions” that would allow Mr. Ackermann to do so[9].

[32]         During his evidence, Mr. Ackermann demonstrated the restrictions in his range of motion of his right wrist and how moving the wrist forward and backward or from side to side causes him pain.

[33]         When he attempted to return to work after the accident he quickly found that the pain in his wrist made it impossible to perform the essential tasks of tile setting.

[34]         This injury has also undermined his ability to engage in the extensive range of physical activities that made up his life outside of work. These have included gardening, shovelling manure for his wife’s chickens, performing home maintenance tasks and minor renovations, playing sports as part of his Sunday social activities and playing with his grandchildren. He also cannot go hunting because of the effect on his wrist of firing a gun.

[35]         Using his wrist to do work of any kind causes a burning pain which is severe enough that it can also wake him up at night. He always feels pain to some extent but if he “takes it easy” it is lessened…

[132]     I think that in this case Mr. Ackermann’s circumstances demonstrate a meaningful requirement for solace, one that is greater than his physical injury might otherwise suggest. It was not contested that he was previously a person for whom the ability to interact physically with the world, and his identity as a “worker” in both his actual employment and his home life, were extremely important. The pain that is brought on by the use of his wrist is serious enough, but in my view a critical aggravating factor has been the comprehensive undermining of his sense of capability in the parts of his life that he otherwise found the most fulfilling. Even though he was rather stoic when giving his evidence, the overall sense he projected of someone who has been cut adrift from the previous fundamentals of his life was still palpable.

[133]     Taking care to distinguish these effects from the harm that has been caused to his earning capacity, which is of course to be dealt with separately, I conclude that an award of $90,000 under this heading is appropriate.

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