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Friday, December 10, 2010

BC Woman Awarded over $3 Million After Suffer Catastrophic Injuries

Madame Justice Fisher, of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, awarded the Plaintiff, Pamela Margaret O'Connell, $2,938,592, plus tax gross-up and management fees to be assessed at a later date, in O'Connell v. Yung, 2010 BCSC 1764.  After the assessment of tax gross-up and management fees the award will well exceed $3 million.

Ms. O'Connell suffered extensive injuries, including a severe traumatic brain injury, when her car was crushed up against a wall by a semi tractor-trailer in the Deas Tunnel in Richmond British Columbia.  Ms. O'Connell was 58 years of age at the time of the accident.  The trial Judge discussed Mrs. O'Connell's injuries as follows:

Findings and conclusions

[57]        The evidence about Ms. O’Connell’s injuries was consistent.  I found all of the expert evidence to be credible and reliable within the scope of each witness’s expertise.  The lay witnesses were equally credible and reliable, particularly Mr. O’Connell, who was quite understated in his descriptions of his wife and the effects of her injuries on their lives.
[58]        Ms. O’Connell’s traumatic brain injury has left her with permanent cognitive deficits in the executive functioning aspects of her brain, such that she is unable to plan, organize and reason. Dr. Read aptly described Ms. O’Connell as “an island of competence surrounded by a sea of incompetence”, meaning that her average verbal reasoning abilities are surrounded by her lack of executive and planning abilities.  Dr. Hirsch described her as “one of the walking wounded”: her social skills are intact and she looks fine on the surface, but underneath is a person who is not able to look after her own needs.  In addition, Ms. O’Connell’s personality changes are quite profound.  She is no longer a person with normal emotional affect.
[59]        Ms. O’Connell has very little insight into the extent of her cognitive dysfunction.  While Dr. Joshi described her as being aware, or “fully aware”, he did not assess this in depth.  The weight of the expert medical opinion, as well as the observations of the lay witnesses, is that Ms. O’Connell’s insight is minimal.  While she seems to be aware that she has memory problems and that she is no longer able to work, she has no idea of the true extent of these problems.
[60]        The effects of Ms. O’Connell’s brain injury are permanent and the medical evidence clearly shows that she has made all of the progress she is going to make.  Her cognitive function will neither improve nor deteriorate.  However, she is at an increased risk of having seizures, delirium when ill, a mild increased risk of developing dementia and she will be susceptible to greater injury if she were to suffer another head trauma in the future.
[61]        While Ms. O’Connell made a good recovery from her physical injuries, this was accomplished with considerable rehabilitation efforts.  She continues to have stiffness and a decreased range of movement in her right hip as a result of heterotopic ossification and may require surgery and further treatment in the future.  She has reduced energy and is not able to walk or hike as she did before.  In addition, she is at risk of further degenerative changes.

The full decision can be found at the following address:

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/10/17/2010BCSC1764.htm

posted by Collette Parsons at


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