A B.C. Supreme Court judge has awarded $326,000 in damages to a Sooke man left with multiple injuries and chronic pain from a road rage incident that occurred almost seven years ago.
The first run-in between plaintiff Marc Brown and defendant Ernest Ponton occurred in March 2016 when they had a “mutually aggressive verbal exchange” at a gas station near Sooke.
Justice Michael Stevens found that during the exchange Brown pressed the rim of his hat into Ponton’s forehead and said “You wanna f***g kill me? I’m right here, kill me,” then walked into the gas station. When he returned to his vehicle he found one of his tires had been slashed.
Ponton denied vandalizing the car and the judge made no determination as to whether he did or didn’t do it, though he said that incident set up a much more violent confrontation that occurred nearly a month later.
On April 4, Brown saw a van he believed belonged to Ponton and followed it in order to try to identify the person responsible for the tire slashing, as he did not record a licence plate in the original altercation.
When Ponton noticed he was being followed he pulled over to the gravel verge on the side of Otter Point Road, the judge said in his ruling. Brown drove ahead and pulled over some 40 to 60 feet where Ponton could see him, got out of his car and walked toward the van in a manner that was “objectively confrontational,” according to the judge.
That’s when Ponton accelerated forward, the judge found. Having enough time to react, Brown pushed off of a passenger-side fender and fell to the ground, then regrouped and got back into his car.
In the confrontation that ensued, the defendant rammed the plaintiff’s car repeatedly “with great force” and pushed it to the edge of the road where it was angled into a ditch before driving away, according to the ruling.
A witness in the Otter Point Road area of Sooke who heard screeching and saw part of the road rage incident called 911. Brown was determined to have suffered injuries to his neck, shoulder and back and has since developed chronic pain syndrome and, as an indirect result, diabetes, the judge found.
Ponton argued in court that Brown’s injuries were exaggerated and that he should be held partially responsible due to his alleged contributory negligence, but the court rejected this argument and found the defendant solely responsible.
Stevens noted Ponton did not provide any independent medical records or opinion evidence to support his testimony that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, adding he found Ponton not credible, as his testimony regarding the incident was inconsistent with facts presented in the trial.
Ponton’s argument that he struck Brown because he was acting out of fear was also rejected, and it was determined that his actions were “reckless and completely disproportionate.”
In his ruling, the judge stated that the case illustrates the damage that can be caused by drivers who behave aggressively.
With a contingency deduction, Brown, a gutter installer in his 60s who said he continues to suffer from chronic pain and numbness in his right leg, was awarded assessed damages of $326,130.55 for pain and suffering, loss of past and future income and loss of earning capacity.