Wong vs. Towns, 2015 BCSC 1333

In this case Betty Wong was 80 years of age on June 24th, 2012 when she was rear-ended by the defendant. The impact was sufficient to write off both vehicles and cause the airbags to deploy in the defendant’s vehicle. Furthermore, the collision was sufficient to cause the plaintiff, Mrs. Wong, to bite down on a dental bridge so hard that the pressure broke the tooth that supported the bridge. All of the medical experts who testified at trial agreed that the plaintiff, Mrs. Wong, suffered a mild traumatic brain injury that triggered an acute onset of dementia-related symptoms. Unfortunately for Mrs. Wong the symptoms have continued and worsened since September 2012.

The defendant’s auto insurance company and its lawyers argued that the plaintiff had pre-existing Alzheimer’s disease and that regardless of the head injury she would have developed this condition. This opinion was disputed by the plaintiff’s expert. The court found that the plaintiff had a form of latent Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and that it was asymptomatic prior to the accident.

It was noted that one of the experts testified that all persons who’ve reached the age of 80 are likely to have plaque in their brain that may have the potential to develop symptoms that resemble dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Thus this case fits squarely in the “thin skull” term as defined by the Supreme Court of Canada and not a “crumbling skull” and thus the defendant is 100%  responsible for all of the injuries as you take your victim as you find her and in this case she was asymptomatic and the motor-vehicle accident triggered the injuries.

The plaintiff was awarded $185,000 for general damages for pain and suffering for the mild traumatic brain injury which developed the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. As well, she received special damages for out-of-pocket expenses and nursing in the amount of $3,913.56 and dental costs for total out-of-pocket special damages of $10,377.

With respect to cost of future care there was actuary evidence that she will survive for another nine years, thus the cost of future care in this scenario, including home care and therapies, residential care, and medications ranges from $882,991 to $1,229,981. The plaintiff seeks the average of these care estimates or $1,000,000.

There was some issue about given Mrs. Wong’s elderly age that she would have been moving to home care in any event. At the end of the day the court awarded one year of home care in the amount of $68,292, three years of residential care for Mrs. Wong and her husband and a further three years of residential care for Mrs. Wong alone which was $681,090,  plus seven years of medication expenses for Mrs. Wong $5,285, for a total of $754,667 for cost of future care.

Mrs. Wong also made a claim for interference with homemaking capacity of $8,120 for past and future loss of housekeeping function.

In summary the court awarded:

  • General damages: $180,000
  • Special damages: $10,377
  • Cost of future care
  • One year in homecare: $68,292
  • Residential care: $681,090
  • Medications: $5,285
  • Past and future loss of housekeeping: $8,120
  • In trust claim: $46,800
  • Management fee: $5,000
  • Total Judgment: $1,004,964.00 (plus lawyer’s and doctor’s costs in favour of Mrs. Wong.)