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B.C. city loses appeal of million-dollar award for spectator's hockey puck injury

Roller-hockey players are pictured in this undated stock photo. (Shutterstock) Roller-hockey players are pictured in this undated stock photo. (Shutterstock)
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British Columbia's highest court has struck down an appeal by the City of Langford, which argued that a million-dollar payout to a woman who was hit in the face with a roller-hockey puck at a municipal arena was disproportionately high given her injuries.

A jury awarded Sherry Lynn Matthews $1.05 million for injuries and lost earnings after she was struck over the right eye while watching from the stands as her son played roller hockey at the Eagle Ridge Community Centre in 2014.

The puck had slipped through an opening in the arena's safety netting, leaving a bruise and swelling on her forehead, B.C. Appeal Court Justice Karen Horsman wrote in the decision quashing the appeal Thursday.

In the days following the accident, Matthews suffered from nausea, headaches and sensitivity to light.

She underwent a CT scan at the hospital, which revealed a fracture to her nose, however evidence presented at trial was inconclusive about whether the fracture was caused by the accident or aggravated by it – or neither.

What is clear is that the Matthews's income declined in the years following the mishap, though the reasons for that were also contested at trial. In 2019, she left her job after deciding she could no longer perform her work competently.

A neurologist and a psychiatrist testified at trial that Matthews likely suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, causing anxiety, depression and impairment of executive functions.

The City of Langford maintained that the accident did not cause lasting physical or psychological harm, saying her symptoms were related to pre-existing conditions.

Ultimately, the jury sided with Matthews, awarding her $804,000 for loss of past earning capacity, $11,000 for loss of future earning capacity, $60,000 for future care and $175,000 for non-pecuniary losses.

Langford appealed on two grounds: that $804,000 for loss of past earning capacity was an inflated sum, and that $175,000 for non-pecuniary damages was not proportionate to her pain and suffering.

In upholding the lower court's decision, Horsman found no evidence that the jury erred in assessing either award.

"In the present case, it must be assumed that the jury found the respondent’s injuries to be devastating, ongoing, and likely permanently disabling," the judge concluded.

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