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B.C. court upholds $1M award by jury to mom hit by roller hockey puck

Vancouver Island mom watching son play roller hockey was hit in head by roller hockey puck and jury awarded her $804K for lost income and $175K for pain and suffering

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A woman left unable to work or manage household activities after being hit in the head by a roller hockey puck has had her $1 million jury award for injuries upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Sherry Matthews, now 70, was struck over her right eye while watching her son’s roller hockey game in Langford on Vancouver Island 10 years ago when the puck flew through a hole in the protective netting, according to reasons for judgment released this week.

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The case went to trial in 2023 for 10 days and a jury awarded her $804,000 for loss of past earning capacity and $175,000 for pain and suffering, the reasons said.

The injury left her with severe headaches, vision and breathing problems, cognitive difficulties and low energy and motivation, according to the judgment.

Doctors testified she had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury leading to persistent depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and impairment of executive functioning skills.

The City of Langford, Performance Plus Hockey, Greg Smith (the player who hit her), and the Eagle Ridge roller hockey team admitted liability but said there was not enough evidence for the award for loss of earning capacity.

The amount for pain and suffering is “not proportionate to the respondent’s circumstances and comparable judge-made awards,” they said.

The appellants were seeking an award of around $200,000 in total, according to the judgments.

The appellants argued the accident didn’t cause Matthews significant physical or psychological harm and that she had pre-existing depression, anxiety and headaches. And they said she was not a credible witness and that undermined the credibility of her called experts, it said.

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But the decision written by Justice Karen Horsman, and agreed to by Justice Susan Griffin and Justice Christopher Grauer, did not find the award for loss of past income capacity “wholly disproportionate and shockingly unreasonable” as the appellants argued.

They sought a reduction to a lost income amount of $100,000, based on past earnings in Matthews job in sales.

But the judges found that “wholly ignores” the plaintiff’s theory of what she would have earned but for the accident under a lucrative contract she was unable to enter into because of her injuries and the fact she planned to continue working until age 70.

In light of evidence, the appeal court found the lower court judge properly instructed the jury on loss of earnings, the reasons also said.

The appellants’ argument that pain and suffering damages should be no more than $100,000 was not accepted by the appeal court because the cases cited were not “reasonably comparable,” the court found.

“The jury award of $175,000 … cannot be said to be wholly disproportionate or shockingly unreasonable,” the judges concluded.

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The jury also awarded Matthews $11,000 for loss of future earning capacity and $60,000 for loss of future care, the reasons said.

“The decision rightfully recognizes the hard work and careful determination of the jury, as well as the profound injuries and losses Ms. Matthews has faced over the past decade,” said her lawyer, Keith Schille, in an email.

She showed resiliency and strength and “(we hope) this award provides some small solace despite everything she has lost,” he said.

Requests for comment from the appellants weren’t returned by deadline.

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