Langford loses appeal of $1M award for spectator’s roller hockey injury

Langford loses appeal of $1M award for spectator's roller hockey injury

The City of Langford lost its appeal for a jury awarding a woman just over $1 million for an injury she received while watching roller hockey.

In May 2014, Sherry Matthews was watching her son play roller hockey at the Eagle Ridge Community Centre in Langford when a puck was shot through a break in the safety netting and hit Matthews over her right eye.

“Within minutes of the impact, the respondent had a visible mark and swelling above her eye,” the appeal ruling by Court of Appeal Justice Christopher Grauer said. “She went to sit alone at a nearby table to rest. It is unclear whether the respondent lost consciousness at this time because she was sitting alone and has no memory of this period of time.”

After the accident, she suffered from impaired cognition and memory, fatigue, lack of motivation, problems with her vision and sense of smell, and almost daily headaches.

Matthews says her ability to work was affected, and prior to the accident, she had been working as a salesperson for a company where she earned an income of $44,646 in commission in the four months before the accident. She had also been informed she would be provided a “more lucrative contract” with another company.

After the accident, her ability to work was affected and she was unable to earn a steady income so she supplemented her income through part-time jobs. In 2019, she left the second company and worked as a part-time florist before not working altogether for the two years before the trial.

Her former boss testified at the trial that top salespeople, which he considered Matthews to be in the top 30 to 50 salespeople he had ever come across, earned between $300,000 to $400,000 annually from residuals.

A neurologist and psychiatrist called by Matthews’ team testified she had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury due to the accident, and a occupational therapist testified that Matthews’ anxiety, low motivation, and limitations with respect to memory and executive functioning skills impaired her ability to work.

An economist testified that Matthews would have been expected to earn over $400,000 annually by 2020.

Langford called a number of people who were in attendance at the rollerhockey game, including the player who shot the puck through the netting, who all testified Matthews was not bleeding or unconscious and that no incident report was filed. “The purpose of this evidence, it appears, was to demonstrate that the accident was relatively minor,” Grauer wrote.

Another neurologist testified that mild traumatic brain injuries typically heal within days to weeks after the injury, saying “from a statistical perspective” Matthews was likely to fully recover.

The jury awarded Matthews $804,000 for loss of past earning capacity, $11,000 for loss of future earning capacity, $60,000 for the cost of future care and $175,000 for non-pecuniary loss.

Grauer wrote that for jury trials, appeal court intervention is only warranted if the award is “wholly disproportionate or shockingly unreasonable.”

For the income, Grauer said since Matthews typically brought in 180 to 240 new clients per year, and that $804,000 did not meet that standard.

Nor was $175,000 for non-pecuniary loss.

“I am of the view that the jury award of $175,000 to compensate the respondent for her non-pecuniary loss cannot be said to be wholly disproportionate or shockingly unreasonable,” Grauer wrote.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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