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BC Supreme Court reiterates appropriate use of statistics in calculating an injured plaintiff’s life expectancy

In Sidhu v. Hiebert, 2022 BCSC 1024, the Supreme Court of British Columbia reiterated the crucial role that statistical analysis plays in calculating the life expectancy of a plaintiff in a personal injury case.

The 46-day trial – with Eyford Partners LLP representing the plaintiff’s defendant mother and father – concerned a 9-year-old boy who was left a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic when a drunk driver struck his mother’s vehicle.  Given the plaintiff’s age and the extensive medical care and in-home support that he required for his day-to-day functioning, the plaintiff’s life expectancy was, unsurprisingly, a significant issue at trial, with each additional year of life representing hundreds of thousands of dollars to be paid by the defendants.

The issue largely turned on what role statistical averages should play in calculating an injured individual’s life expectancy.

The plaintiff emphasized individual medical experts’ assessments of his conditions.  For example, he relied on an opinion from his treating physiatrist, who thought he could live a near normal life span given that every patient is unique (at paras. 657-59).  The plaintiff ultimately submitted his life expectancy ought to be reduced by eight to 16 years from the average British Columbia male life expectancy of 80 (at para. 683), for a total life expectancy of 64-72 years.

By contrast, the defendants submitted that statistical information provided the starting point for the analysis, with the court then tailoring that analysis to an individual’s circumstances (at para. 669).  Using the life expectancy models of two well-regarded statisticians, the defendants submitted the plaintiff’s life expectancy was 44 years (at para. 673).

The court accepted the defendants’ position and noted that none of the plaintiff’s experts (including the treating physiatrist) undermined the statistical evidence of the defendants’ experts (at paras. 685-700).

In accepting the defendants’ approach, the court rejected a number of criticisms leveled by the plaintiff at the statistician experts, such as their reliance on American data.  The court did, however, accept the argument that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused dramatic advances in ventilator technology, a development that could potentially improve the plaintiff’s life expectancy (at paras. 738-41).

Using the statisticians’ analysis as a starting point, the court ultimately concluded the plaintiff would live to age 50, not 44 (at para. 750).   One additional year arose from the plaintiff’s potential to lose weight (at para. 733) while the remainder apparently arose from the prospect of advances in ventilator technology (at paras. 744-51).

Associated
People
 
  • Drummond
    Lambert

    Associate

    Drummond
    Lambert

    Associate

  • Douglas R.
    Eyford, Q.C.

    Partner

    Douglas R.
    Eyford, Q.C.

    Partner

  • Jason Z.
    Murray

    Partner

    Jason Z.
    Murray

    Partner

  • Ryan W.
    Parsons

    Partner

    Ryan W.
    Parsons

    Partner

  • Sandra M.
    Katalinic

    Partner

    Sandra M.
    Katalinic

    Partner

  • Sudhir K.
    Padmanabhan

    Partner

    Sudhir K.
    Padmanabhan

    Partner

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JURISDICTION: British Columbia LEVEL OF COURT: Supreme Court of British Columbia
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