Court Awards $55,000.00 “In-Trust” Claim To Seriously Injured Elderly Plaintiff On Behalf Of Wife

In Sangra (Guardian ad litem of) v. Lima, the Plaintiff was an elderly man who was seriously injured as a pedestrian when he was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle. The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries, including a brain injury, cervical spine fractures, skull fractures, facial fractures, pelvic fractures, rib fractures, a torn rotator cuff, and trauma and injury to his liver and spleen. The Court would award the Plaintiff $315,000.00 in non-pecuniary damages, almost the maximum permissible for this type of damage under Canadian law.


The Plaintiff, despite his age at the time of the collision, had led a very active lifestyle. The effects of his injuries had a devastating impact on the Plaintiff’s life, and were life-altering.


Of the many types of damages sought by the Plaintiff, one was an “in-trust” claim on behalf of his wife, for services she provided to the Plaintiff from the time of the accident, until the date of trial. The Court noted that that “in-trust” claims are normally awarded for support services that are provided over and above what would normally be expected in a marital or familial relationship.


The Plaintiff’s wife missed work for over six months after the accident occurred. She spent anywhere from 12 – 15 hours per day, and often more, with the Plaintiff while he was at several different hospitals. She also actively assisted the Plaintiff’s recovery efforts by helping the nursing and rehabilitation staff with her husband’s cognitive, speech, and physical, and emotional recovery. The Court was cognizant of the fact that the Plaintiff’s wife’s time was essentially spent providing services that would otherwise have been required of occupational therapists and rehabilitation assistants.


The Court was satisfied that the test for “in-trust” awards was successfully met, and awarded the Plaintiff an “in-trust” claim in the amount of $55,000.00.


[242] Much, but not all, of the time spent, and services provided by Ms. Sangra while Mr. Sangra was at Royal Columbian, were in the nature of love and support reasonably expected of a family member. Her compensable services and her contribution to her husband’s recovery did, however, increase substantially once he was transferred to Mt. St. Joseph’s hospital, and carried on from there.


[243] I find that Ms. Sangra’s significant efforts to help her husband with his recovery while he was hospitalized, particularly at Mt. St. Joseph’s and Holy Family hospitals, augmented the rehabilitation care provided by the medical staff to Mr. Sangra’s recovery. With the encouragement of hospital and rehabilitation staff, and in addition to helping her husband with his communication, Ms. Sangra was continuously at his side assisting him to become flexible and mobile. She also fed and cleaned him, changed his soiled bedding and clothing and helped him with his toileting. The evidence establishes that hospital staff encouraged Ms. Sangra to do as much as she could to assist because of their heavy workloads. Her relentless efforts to promote her husband’s recovery have continued since his release from Holy Family Hospital. I am satisfied that her efforts are directly linked to the qualitative nature and speed of Mr. Sangra’s recovery.


[246] I have no hesitation in finding that the $27,000 proposed for Ms. Sangra’s time with her husband while at their home, is reasonable and appropriate. Her time was effectively spent providing services that would have been otherwise required of OTs and RAs, which as I have noted, helped promote his recovery to the point where she could return to work and Mr. Sangra was able to be cared for by health care providers in fewer hours.

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