The Witt v. Vancouver International Airport Authority court decision was released by the Supreme Court of British Columbia on August 10, 2012.
On December 8, 2006 John Witt was walking along a roadway at the Vancouver International Airport. He walked towards a shuttle bus that would take him to his vehicle, which was parked in a long-term parking lot. Metal plates were placed on the roadway due to a construction project taking place at the airport. Mr. Witt was injured when he stepped through a gap between two metal plates, causing him to fall onto the plates.
Prior to the slip and fall, Mr. Witt suffered from a fairly significant degree of degenerative spondylosis and arthritis in his low back, right hip, and right knee. However, Mr. Witt had considerable and continuing pain and suffering in his low back, right hip, and right knee as a result of the fall. The fall made him unable to walk long distances, unable to enjoy golfing, hiking and tennis, and caused reduced sleep and energy levels. Further, the fall negatively affected Mr. Witt’s disposition and his marriage.
Mr. Witt retained a British Columbia slip and fall lawyer and sued Vancouver International Airport Authority and those involved in the construction project for the injuries that he suffered as a result of the fall.
At trial, the court found that the metal plates were not secured properly which inevitably resulted in a gap that constituted a danger in a high traffic area such as an airport roadway. The area was deemed “not reasonably safe for the use of persons such as Mr. Witt and the area constituted a trap, a dangerous condition, and an unusual danger”. The court also found that Mr. Witt did not contribute to the accident in any manner.
In assessing damages, the court found that some but not all of Mr. Witt’s back pain was a result of the fall. Also, Mr. Witt was now more susceptible to develop spinal stenosis as a result of the fall. Regarding his right hip, the court found that he continued to have severe pain from time to time and discomfort when sitting. As a result of the fall, his osteoarthritis had become more systematic and this had become the case earlier than if the fall had not occurred. The fall also caused severe pain in his hip and produced early onset degenerative spondylosis and arthritis. Regarding his right knee, the court found that, as a result of the fall, the pain and weakness experienced by Mr. Witt had accelerated the existing degenerative arthritis so that Mr. Witt now required surgery.
Medical specialists made a number of recommendations for treatment, including physiotherapy; work with a kinesiologist; localized treatment options, including corticosteroid injections; use of an off-loader brace; a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon to discuss possible hip joint replacement; a referral to a surgeon for possible decompressive surgery; and medical options, including the use of tricyclic antidepressant, tramadol or pregabalin. However, Mr. Witt did not undertake any of the treatment recommendations. Consequently, the judge found that Mr. Witt failed to mitigate his damages and reduced the order for pain and suffering damages by 20%.
The court awarded the following damages:
- $80,000 – pain and suffering damages (reduced from $100,000)
- $600, 000 – loss of future earning capacity