Lawyer: Judge awards largest punitive damage award in pedestrian crash

By Linda Givetash and Beth Leighton

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER _ A lawyer says his client has been awarded the largest amount ever by a Canadian court for punitive damages linked to a motor vehicle accident.

Veronica Howell was hit by a pickup truck while she was jay-walking across a Vancouver street in January 2014. She suffered a brain injury and other injuries that the B.C. Supreme Court says “changed her life dramatically.”

Howell, who was 22 at the time of the accident, was awarded $100,000 for punitive damages in addition to more than $2 million for general damages and loss of income.

Howell’s lawyer, John Rice, said the punitive award is the largest he could find involving a vehicle accident.

“I couldn’t find a single case in the hit-and-run context,” he said in an interview Tuesday.  “There had been drunk-driving contexts and others, and punitive damages awards in the tens of thousands of dollars. I think I saw one for $35,000, but this is drastically higher than any one in the past.”

The court found the pickup driver, who was suspended from driving, was on the wrong side of the road when he passed stopped traffic and struck Howell.

The court ruling said Leon Machi drove off afterwards and failed to co-operate with Vancouver police and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia during the investigation. Machi claimed he was not the driver and someone named Michael had been using his truck.

Justice Heather MacNaughton ruled the evidence Machi provided under oath was not credible.

“Mr. Machi’s actions are worthy of denunciation and retribution,” she wrote in her decision, dated Oct. 12.

The punitive damages take into account that he didn’t stop after the collision and had “shown complete disregard for the suspensions of his driver’s licence,” MacNaughton said.

Rice said the judgment sends a message to the public that reckless behaviour and contempt of the law will not be tolerated.

Howell was found to be 25 per cent responsible for the accident, which reduced the total damages she was awarded.

The court’s decision noted that Machi filed for bankruptcy before the trial started.

Rice said it’s unclear how much Howell will successfully collect.

“The hope is that at least the punitive damages award would survive any bankruptcy declaration and that she would remain a creditor for that punitive damages award.”

 

$220,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Leg Amputation and Chronic Pain

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a leg amputation caused by a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Bye v. Nelson) the plaintiff was operating a dirt bike which was involved in a collision with an ATV operated by the Defendant.  The collisions caused severe injuries including a left leg amputation.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $220,000 Madam Justice Choi provided the following reasons:

[3]             …Not in dispute is that Mr. Bye’s dirt bike and Mr. Newman’s ATV collided near a curve in the road. Both vehicles were damaged, and Mr. Bye was left with a number of injuries including a fracture to his neck and multiple fractures to his legs. Although Mr. Bye was rushed to the hospital, his injuries required a through-knee amputation of much of his left leg.

[93]         Mr. Bye is a young man. He was 35 years old at trial and 31 at the time of the accident. He was an active man who enjoyed various recreational pursuits. He had been employed by Teck Metals as a carpenter commencing February 2010. It was a job he loved, which paid him handsomely.

[94]         The injuries from the accident have changed his life dramatically forever. He now suffers from daily pain and fatigue as a result of the amputation and is permanently disabled from returning to carpentry work and to many of his recreational activities. He testified that, before the accident, he enjoyed dirt biking, boating, hunting, fishing, hiking, and swimming, and that his injuries have either cut off, or severely limited his enjoyment of these.

[95]         Additionally, Mr. Bye is now a father, with his son born during the litigation, in 2016. While he is still able to play with and care for his son, many of these interactions are made more difficult by his injury. He testified to the difficulties of lowering himself to the floor to spend time with his son…

[102]      Mr. Bye has been dealing with his injuries since he was 31. He will continue to face difficulties for the rest of his life. Considering all the evidence, the Stapley factors, and case law submitted by the parties, I conclude an award of $220,000 is fair and appropriate in all the circumstances.