BC Court of Appeal overturns damages award for crash injuries due to credibility issues

The plaintiff sustained injuries when his vehicle was rear-ended by another car

BC Court of Appeal overturns damages award for crash injuries due to credibility issues

In a recent decision, the BC Court of Appeal overturned a damages award for motor vehicle accident injuries, citing flaws in the trial judge's findings on causation due to significant credibility issues and lack of corroborative evidence.

In McGlue v. Girvan, 2024 BCCA 208, Alasdair Girvan was involved in a motor vehicle accident when his vehicle was rear-ended by the appellant, who admitted liability. The primary issue at trial was whether Girvan could prove that the accident caused or exacerbated his injuries, which included pre-existing physical and psychological conditions.

The trial court concluded that Girvan's testimony was unreliable and inconsistent. The court found that Girvan had a tendency to exaggerate or feign injuries for financial gain, undermining the credibility of his evidence. Despite this, the court ruled that the evidence as a whole supported Girvan's claim that the accident exacerbated his pre-existing injuries and caused new injuries, including a soft tissue injury to his left shoulder and a recurrence of major depression with new psychotic features.

However, the BC Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial judge's conclusion. The appellate court noted that the trial judge's findings on Girvan's credibility were "fatal" to his claim, as there was no objective evidence supporting his allegations of injury caused by the accident. The appellate court emphasized that in cases of chronic pain, where objective findings are absent, the potential for exaggeration or fabrication increases significantly.

The appeal court concluded that the trial judge failed to adequately explain how, after identifying numerous credibility issues, she could still find that Girvan had met the burden of proving causation. The appeal court found that the judge's reliance on the expert evidence was misplaced because the experts' opinions were based on Girvan's self-reported symptoms, which were not credible.

The trial judge's findings on Girvan's pre-existing conditions, such as his significant history of substance abuse and psychological issues, further complicated the case. Witnesses like Girvan's sister and a friend provided observations of his post-accident condition, but the court deemed their testimonies insufficiently credible to support a finding of causation.

Ultimately, the appeal court concluded that there was no credible evidence to support the trial judge's finding that the motor vehicle accident caused or exacerbated Girvan's injuries. As a result, the court allowed the appeal and dismissed Girvan's claim for damages.

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