In the decision of a personal injury trial in Newfoundland and Labrador handed down last week, the judge rejected "fraudster" allegations made against the plaintiff and imposed a sanction in costs.
The judge ruled the defence lawyer was "grasping at straws" and pointed out that an allegation of fraud is a serious one which connotes criminal conduct. She withheld certain costs which the defendant would otherwise be entitled as a result.
Testing credibility in cross-examination at trial is one thing; labeling someone fraudulent in a pre-trial brief filed with the court is another. Most lawyers would agree that some kind of sanctioning was required to discourage this type of defence abuse.
The plaintiff was awarded $45,000 plus pre-judgment interest for soft tissue injuries which caused considerable pain, suffering and reduced mobility for "several" years - one expert witness had suggested five to seven years - before he otherwise would have suffered the symptoms. The trauma of jumping into the cab of his truck to avoid being struck by the oncoming vehicle accelerated the plaintiff's pre-existing degenerative disc disease, and aggravated the totality of the condition. Although the plaintiff had asked for a general damages award for pain and suffering and loss of amenities of $96,700, which represented the inflation-adjusted top of the range in Newfoundland and Labrador for damages for soft tissue injuries, the judge gave an award more toward the low middle of the range.
The abuse a plaintiff must sometimes endure to obtain even modest compensation for an injury is truly amazing.