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December 23, 2009

GCS that Fluctuates Above 9 May Still be Considered Catastrophic

Liu v. 1226071 Ontario Inc. (Canadian Zhorong Trading Limited)(2009), 97 O.R. (3d) 95 (C.A.).

The Court of Appeal has released a decision that may make it more difficult to resist a declaration that a claimant is catastrophically impaired.

In Liu, the plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident on April 9, 1999. His initial Glasgow Coma Score (“GCS”) was 3/15. His GCS steadily increased and by the time he arrived at hospital 26 minutes later, his GCS was 14. The definition of “catastrophic impairment” is brain impairment that results in a score of 9 or less on the GCS according to a test administered “within a reasonable period of time after the incident by a person trained for that purpose”. The trial judge concluded that the appellant did not suffer a catastrophic impairment, and as a result, he was not entitled to receive a damage award for future medical, rehabilitation or attendant care expenses, which the jury assessed at $858,000.00. The issue of catastrophic impairment was therefore very important to both sides.

The Court of Appeal held that as long as there is one GCS score of 9 or less within a reasonable time following the accident, the plaintiff’s impairment falls within the definition of catastrophic impairment. The fact that there may have been other, higher scores also within a reasonable time after the accident is irrelevant.

This decision has implications in both the accident benefits sphere and on tort damages. Although it simplifies the definition of catastrophic impairment to a certain extent, it permits claimants who have met the definition for a limited period of time to access increased damages. It remains to be seen whether this decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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