Malpractice Damages Clear $1 Million

A damages assessment released in July by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, Trial Division, enjoys the rare distinction of exceeding the $1 million level.

The plaintiff in Courtney v. Cleary sued his family doctor for unreasonably delaying a diagnosis of throat cancer. The injuries suffered by the plaintiff, involving “commando” surgery and long-term disability, were far more significant than they needed to be with timely diagnosis and treatment.

A recent edition of Brown’s Economic Damages Newsletter has calculated the damages awarded, with pre-judgment interest but excluding the general non-pecuniary damages award, as $920,939. The non-pecuniary damages award for pain and suffering and loss of amenities was $165,000, and this would attract interest also. The total would be in the area of $1.1 million.

The only other decision in a personal injury case awarding more than $1 million in damages was the one I achieved in the Williams case, overturned by our Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal overturned us unfairly on an issue which was neither pleaded nor argued on appeal. I was unable to obtain leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which is given in only about 1 in 10 civil cases.

Should the Courtney decision be appealed I wish Mr. Courtney and his lawyer the best of luck, because in this province no matter how good the plaintiff’s case and no matter how well reasoned the trial judge’s decision, an appealed plaintiff should never refuse luck or prayer.