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B.C. hospital worker awarded $1.2M in accident damages

Corinna Jean Thiessen had to leave her job where she was known as "Ms. Sunshine."
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An April 2017 rear-end car accident left a Chilliwack woman unable to work.

A Chilliwack hospital worker has been awarded $1.2 million in damages after an April 3, 2017 accident left her with what a judge called permanent and "seriously debilitating injuries."

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nigel Kent said in his Sept. 11 decision that Corinna Jean Thiessen, 56, was rear-ended, leading to injuries that forced her to stop working.

Defendants Diane Mae Kepfer and Anthony John Warren admitted the accident was Kepfer’s fault but both defendants as joint owners of the vehicle would be liable.

However, their pleadings denied Thiessen suffered any injury, loss, damage or expense as a result of the accident.

Kent said Thiessen was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Blazer northbound on College Street in Chilliwack when she was struck in the rear by a 2006 Pontiac Montana, owned by the defendants and driven by Kepfer.

The Blazer suffered relatively minimal damage, the cost of which was estimated in the amount of $735. The Pontiac was more significantly damaged and required repairs in excess of $3,200.

At the time of the accident, Thiessen was working for Fraser Health Authority at the Chilliwack General Hospital as an activity worker. She was known as “Ms. Sunshine” at work because of her outgoing personality and her yellow clothing, according to court documents.

She was off work for two months, returning on a gradual basis. Soon after, Kent said, Thiessen began missing work or left shifts on an intermittent basis through to May 30, 2018, by which time her medical condition caused her to stop working on what became a permanent basis.

The judge said Thiessen has constant neck pain in the nape of her neck shooting down and across her shoulders, and headaches that have become more intense and frequent over time and lasting up to three days.

She also experiences unpredictable neck spasms which intensify the pain and throbbing and which often trigger loss of bowel control.

Kent said as a result of her symptoms, Thiessen’s energy levels, balance, sleep and mood have all been negatively affected.

He said she often wakes in the early morning with her head pounding and now-poor balance has resulted in several falls.

“She requires a shopping cart as a walker when she is in the store,” Kent said.

“I found the plaintiff to be a credible and reliable witness and I accept her testimony without hesitation,” he said of Thiessen.

Kent said witnesses testified that before the accident Thiessen was very active: she canoed, hiked, camped, biked, and played darts and billiards. She was also responsible for 95% of household chores.

Kent said since the accident Thiessen has undergone a wide variety of treatments and medications.

“These ‘take the edge off’ but do not fix the problem,” the judge said.

Kent awarded Thiessen:

• $200,000 in non-pecuniary general damages;

• $234,000 for past loss of earning capacity;

• $475,000 for future loss of earning capacity;

• $62,600 for loss of pension benefits;

• $100,000 for future care;

• $145,000 for loss of housekeeping capacity; and,

• $8,099 in special damages.