An Abbotsford man whose vehicle was hit by a logging truck in Chilliwack has been awarded nearly $137,000 in damages.
Christian Paul Hugo Steenhuisen went to B.C. Supreme Court seeking $1-million from Pacific International Log Trading Inc. and truck driver Jesse Lee Francis. Justice Anita Chan presided over an eight-day trial that was held in Abbotsford in mid-January and delivered a verdict March 13.
Steenhuisen, 58, was driving his Ford F150 pickup truck in Chilliwack around 3 p.m. on July 20, 2015 with his wife and son as passengers. He was heading west and stopped in the left turn lane at the intersection of First Avenue and Broadway Street. The logging truck driven by Francis was heading west on First Avenue in the curb lane and turned to go north on Broadway.
The logging truck clipped Steenhuisen’s large driver-side mirror. Steenhuisen testified that his truck was lifted up and rocked in a side to side motion. His son told the court the truck was “shaken violently” and his wife testified that “her side of the vehicle was lifted up high enough that she believed the Ford was going to flip over.”
Steenhuisen said he was shaky for hours after the accident ended up in the emergency room of Langley Memorial Hospital later that day. The doctor who saw him said he reported no injuries to himself or his family, though Steenhuisen denied that at trial. He testified that he was “shaking non-stop” at the ER and the doctor refused to X-ray his neck.
Steenhuisen saw several more doctors, including a neurologist, frequently complaining about tremors, headaches and neck pain.
But medical issues from before the accident that muddied the waters for his claim.
He had neck surgery in 2004, getting two vertebrae fused together to address migraine headaches and he was in two car accidents, in 1990 and 2007. Following the second one, he stopped lifting any more than 20 pounds, and experienced pain when he moved his neck. That was significant because he owned a business in the construction industry (Stonehouse Enterprises), building and repairing sidewalks, curbs and driveways.
After the Chilliwack accident he testified that he could no longer handle the physical demands of concrete work, and he had trouble with the business side as well. Steenhuisen testified he had an estimate to do for Mainland Civil Works to repair concrete in a new subdivision in July 2015, but he couldn’t focus well enough to do the calculations.
Steenhuisen closed Stonehouse Enterprises in 2017 and has lacked regular employment since.
At trial, expert witness for the plaintiff, Dr. Navraj Heran, testified that some but not all of Steenhuisen’s injuries were caused by the accident, including “aggravation of underlying degenerative changes in neck with resultant pain” and “post-traumatic occipital region headaches.”
Expert witnesses for the defence disagreed. Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Robert Josefchak suggested Steenhuisen’s pain was caused by natural progression of cervical degeneration, and “that these degenerative changes would have progressed regardless of the accident in 2015.”
Neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Matishak testified that none of Steenhuisen’s conditions were caused by the accident.
In the end, Justice Chan agreed.
“Based on the evidence, I find there is a real and substantial possibility that the plaintiff would be suffering from his current symptoms without the accident,” she wrote in her decision. “The plaintiff had a vulnerable neck, due to his prior surgery, prior accident, and his strenuous physical work in the concrete business. He had an underlying and pre‑existing degenerative condition. The possibility that the plaintiff would have experienced these symptoms without the accident is real and substantial, and not mere speculation.”
Still, Chan awarded $80,000 for lost of past income, $50,000 in non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) and small amounts for cost of future care and special damages.
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