Jury award essentially equivalent to nothing: BC Court of Appeal

The award for non-pecuniary damages was so plainly unreasonable to the appellate court

Jury award essentially equivalent to nothing: BC Court of Appeal
Non-pecuniary damages award was so plainly unreasonable according to the court

The British Columbia Court of Appeal increased the award for non-pecuniary damages, finding the amount awarded by the jury as plainly unreasonable and essentially equivalent to a de minimis award of $0.

In Valdez v. Neron, 2022 BCCA 301, Nestor Valdez sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident owned and driven by Marie Neron. Valdez was a ramp agent, earning $73,000 before his accident.

He could not return to work, and at trial, he claimed that he remained disabled due to his neck, shoulders, right knee, and left thumb. Neron argued that Valdez’s pre-accident physical condition already included his shoulders, knee, and thumb.  

The jury awarded Valdez a total of $19,000, which included $600 non-pecuniary damages. On appeal, Valdez sought a new trial, claiming that the verdict was clearly unreasonable. 

The appeal was allowed to the limited extent of increasing non-pecuniary damages.

The appellate court found considerable evidence on record for the jury to make credibility findings. However, there was no guidance regarding the range that could be awarded for non-pecuniary damages, said the court.

The appellate court considered the award of $600 equivalent to a de minimis award of $0 and cannot be reconciled with the pecuniary loss awards.

The court said that the verdict for non-pecuniary damages could not be so plainly unreasonable that no jury acting judicially could have reached it.

However, the appellate court found a new trial unnecessary since the record is sufficient to assess non-pecuniary damages. Non-pecuniary damages were assessed at $35,000 based on Valdez’s age, extent of injuries, and basis for the jury’s skepticism due to Valdez’s unreliable self-reporting and evidence at trial.

The appellate court allowed the appeal and substituted an award of $35,000 for non-pecuniary damages.

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