An RCMP officer who lives in Mission has been awarded almost $3.2 million in damages from two car crashes that occurred while he was on the job.
The decision in favour of Jeffery Neufeldt, 41, was rendered Mach 24 by Justice Kenneth Ball in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack.
According to Ball’s written decision, the first crash occurred on Sept. 23, 2013, when Neufeldt was an RCMP constable assigned to patrol a Port Coquitlam neighbourhood that had been the scene of a stabbing earlier that day.
The documents state that Neufeldt was dispatched to a suspected domestic-violence incident at a private residence and, when he arrived, the suspect – Jude Marcellus – fled the scene in a 1990 Honda Civic.
Neufeldt followed the Civic, and saw it hit an unoccupied parked vehicle. The officer then boxed in the Honda, and Marcellus reversed it and ran into the front end of the police cruiser.
“The windows in Mr. Marcellus’ vehicle were smashed out by the force of the collision and the rear end crumpled,” Ball wrote.
Marcellus was arrested, and police found that he was intoxicated and was in possession of brass knuckles and stolen property, according to the documents. A sawed-off shotgun and an improvised explosive device were found at his residence.
Marcellus later pleaded guilty to several offences and spent some time in jail and a psychiatric facility.
Neufeldt, meanwhile, suffered “musculoskeletal injuries to the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of his spine, as well as chronic, continuing headaches,” Ball stated.
Neufeldt, married with four kids, was unable to return to work for six months, and, when he did, was given administrative desk duties. He continued to suffer from his injuries and “never fully recovered from the first accident,” according to the documents.
“He took prescribed medication in the form of naproxen and Tylenol 3 on a daily basis while working and was unable to drive a police vehicle for extended periods of time due to pain and the need to stretch frequently,” Ball wrote.
Neufeldt returned to full active duty in June 2015, although he was “still subject to the limitations and pain symptoms,” the documents state.
The second crash took place on May 30, 2016, when Neufeldt was a front-seat passenger in a police cruiser being driven by another officer, who was being trained by Neufeldt.
The pair were stopped at a red light when they were rear-ended. When they got out of the vehicle, the driver who had hit them reversed his car and sped away.
The pair followed the fleeing vehicle but lost sight of it, and a police dispatch broadcast alerted other officers across the Lower Mainland. “Choke points” were set up at main intersections around Coquitlam and on approaches to the Port Mann Bridge to Surrey.
The licence plate and make/model of the vehicle were run through police databases, but they were unable to identify the driver or locate the vehicle, the court documents state.
Neufeldt suffered “significant pain” in his hips, back and neck, and felt dizzy and nauseous immediately after the crash, the judge wrote.
He had suffered a concussion and, over the next several months, Neufeldt experienced ongoing headaches and neck and back pain “from which there was no relief,” Ball wrote in his decision.
Neufeldt also suffered from irritability, mood swings, short-term memory loss and sensitivity to loud noise and bright light.
“Communication, socialization and computer messages all became difficult for the plaintiff and triggers for frustrated, angry outbursts,” Ball stated.
Neufeldt’s treatment included physiotherapy, chiropractory, massage therapy and psychiatry, through which he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
Neufeldt briefly returned to work in April 2018, but he testified in court that he was, and would be, unable to perform all the duties of a police officer.
“The plaintiff testified he would be a hazard driving a police vehicle while also trying to detect driving infractions, listen to and respond to police calls, and deal with the in-vehicle computer,” Ball stated.
“He was also concerned about attending specific calls with split-second decision-making, particularly those involving decisions to arrest an individual or to use deadly force options.”
Testimony in court indicated that, had Neufeldt been able to continue working, he likely would have been promoted to the rank of corporal and later to sergeant before his expected retirement at age 62, which would provide him with his full pension.
Neufeldt has looked at further educational training, but said he does not believe the would physically be able to read the materials needed to complete a course, the documents state.
Ball awarded Neufeldt $2.4 million for loss of future income. The remaining award covers expenses such as past wage loss, costs of future care and special damages.
Marcellus and ICBC were the main defendants in the lawsuit.