A look into Cameron V. Pratt

In the case of Cameron v. Pratt (2023 NSCA 90), presided over by Justice David P. S. Farrar, with concurrence from Justices Bryson and Van den Eynden, key takeaways include the plaintiff bearing the onus of proving the nature and extent of their injuries, including whether these fall within the minor injury cap. The Smith v. Stubbert range, applicable to soft tissue injuries, does not universally apply, particularly excluding concussions or brain injuries. Additionally, the combined awards for capped and non-capped injuries can surpass the Smith v. Stubbert range.

The central issue was determining who holds the burden of proving that an injury falls within the minor injury cap. The factual background involved a collision between Mr. Pratt’s motorcycle and Mr. Cameron’s van, resulting in various injuries, including soft-tissue injuries, rib fractures, and a concussion. Mr. Pratt later suffered additional injuries in a second motor vehicle accident in 2019.

The trial judge awarded damages, asserting that the onus was on the defendant to prove the injuries fell within the minor injury cap. Mr. Cameron appealed, contending that the onus should be on the plaintiff. The damages awarded were also disputed, with claims that the combined capped and non-capped injuries exceeded the Smith v. Stubbert range.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, affirming that the onus is on the plaintiff to prove the nature and extent of their injuries. The reasoning was based on the principle that the party asserting a proposition, typically the plaintiff, bears the burden of proof. The court clarified that the onus was on Mr. Pratt, who asserted his injuries fell outside the statutory cap, to prove they were not capped.

Regarding damages assessment, the Court of Appeal only intervenes if the damages are egregiously low or high. In this case, the awards were deemed appropriate, with the trial judge correctly assessing capped and non-capped injuries separately. The court emphasized that these types of injuries should always be analyzed distinctly, as their combined award can surpass the Smith v. Stubbert range.

In the cross-appeal, it was established that the Smith v. Stubbert range was not intended for concussions. The trial judge erred in applying it to Mr. Pratt’s concussion. The award for Mr. Pratt’s non-capped injuries, including the concussion, was increased on appeal. However, there was no error found in the analysis of the left knee injury, leading to the dismissal of that part of the cross-appeal.

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