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Compensation for Pain and Suffering Increased by $10,000 for Heroin Addiction

Picco v. British Columbia (Attorney General) 2015 BCSC 1904 was a claim for injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident. A police car struck the plaintiff’s vehicle with so much force that it was propelled into another lane where it was struck by an oncoming vehicle. The plaintiff suffered neck, shoulder, back and hip injuries that caused him moderate pain over an extended period but did not have a remarkable effect on his daily life. In addition to the usual heads of damages the plaintiff claimed a “gross-up” of non-pecuniary damages to compensate him for a heroin addiction which he claimed had developed as a result of his accident-related injuries.

The plaintiff had a pre-accident history of heavy alcohol consumption and abuse of a wide range of street drugs (including marihuana and crystal meth), as well as a period of dependence on narcotic analgesics beginning three years before the accident. He had participated in drug addiction treatment prior to the accident, but after the accident he developed an addiction to heroin and was enrolled in a methadone treatment program at the time of trial. He argued that the accident-related injuries led to his heroin addiction, and that this had caused him greater pain and suffering than his prior drug use.

Noting that “defendants must compensate the plaintiff as they found him,” the court found that the plaintiff had “poor pain-coping mechanisms and greater than normal susceptibility to addiction to narcotic analgesics, accompanied by a risk [that] he could migrate to heroin, given its close chemical proximity to narcotic analgesics,” as indicated by expert opinion. The court also found that the plaintiff had a substantial risk of addiction relapse, irrespective of the Accident. The non-pecuniary damage award was augmented by $10,000.

Case law summary by: Trevor Morley