The primary issue in this personal injury appeal was the trial judge’s finding of causation for damages awarded to the claimant following a motor vehicle accident. The case was heard before the Honourable Justices Stromberg-Stein, Voith, and Skolrood. The appellants sought to overturn the damages awarded, arguing that the trial judge made a palpable and overriding error by awarding damages in the absence of proof of causation.

Trial Court Findings

The trial court found the injury claimant had suffered exacerbations of pre-existing physical injuries and new psychological injuries due to the accident. However, the court also found his  testimony inconsistent and unreliable, noting his willingness to exaggerate injuries for financial gain. This undermined the credibility of the expert evidence supporting the injury claims (Girvan v. McGlue,2023 BCSC 902 ).

Issues on Appeal

The central issue on appeal was whether the trial judge erred in finding causation given the significant credibility issues surrounding the claimant’s testimony. The appellants contended that the judge’s reliance on expert evidence, which was based on self-reports, was misplaced due to his lack of credibility.

Legal Analysis and Findings

Justice Stromberg-Stein, writing for the Court of Appeal, concluded that the trial judge did not adequately explain how she reached her conclusion on causation despite recognizing the credibility issues with his testimony (McGlue v. Girvan, 2024 BCCA 208). The judge had found that corroborative objective evidence was necessary to support Girvan’s claims but failed to identify such evidence in her judgment.

  1. Credibility and Reliability:
    • The trial judge found the claimant’s testimony inconsistent, noting his willingness to feign or exaggerate injuries, which tainted his entire testimony.
    • Inconsistent accounts and lack of accurate medical history to experts undermined the reliability of the expert opinions on causation.
  2. Expert Evidence:
    • Dr. Anton’s opinion on the claimant’s injuries was based significantly on  self-reports, which were found unreliable.
    • Dr. Griffiths’ evidence was nearly negated due to her tendency to overstate the injuries without considering his pre-existing conditions.
    • The psychiatrist Dr. Lu’s opinion on the claimant’s psychological injuries was undermined by his lack of awareness of the claimant’s ongoing substance abuse and pre-existing psychological issues.
  3. Lack of Corroborative Objective Evidence:
    • The court noted that in cases involving chronic pain and psychological injuries, the absence of objective findings increases the potential for exaggeration.
    • Given the credibility issues, the trial judge should have required corroborative objective evidence to substantiate the expert opinions and the claims of injury exacerbation.
  4. Misapprehension of Evidence:
    • Justice Stromberg-Stein concluded that the trial judge misapprehended the evidence by finding causation without sufficient objective support.
    • The decision to award damages was based on a flawed analysis that did not reconcile the credibility findings with the causation conclusion.

Dismissal of the Injury Claim

The appellate court allowed the appeal, finding that the trial judge made a palpable and overriding error by awarding damages without sufficient evidence of causation. The court dismissed the injury claim, emphasizing the necessity of clear, convincing, and corroborative evidence to support claims of injury exacerbation, particularly when the claimant’s credibility is in question.

This case reiterates the importance of credible testimony and corroborative objective evidence in establishing causation in personal injury cases, particularly when pre-existing conditions and psychological injuries are involved.

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