Former Okanagan teacher awarded $1.6M following lengthy, complex court case | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Former Okanagan teacher awarded $1.6M following lengthy, complex court case

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November 23, 2019 - 6:00 AM

A former Coldstream teacher has won damages of over $1.6 million almost nine years after he was injured in a head-on collision, following an unusually long and detailed court case.

At the Vernon courthouse, Nov. 12, Justice Allan Betton awarded the money to Christopher John Bennett, finalizing the outcome of the case which involved dozens of expert reports, along with a lengthy trial, and had been going through the courts for over eight years.

In an 84-page decision, Justice Betton said the "passage of time" and "complicated history" had contributed to the long 32-day trial, which had taken place sporadically over 2018 and 2019. The judge also noted that 47 expert reports were filed, and Bennett's written submissions to the court were 158 pages in length. The defendant's submissions, submitted by ICBC lawyers, were 72 pages in length and Bennett's reply was a further 19 pages.

The court case stemmed from a vehicle collision where Bennett was struck when a truck driven by Thomas Austin Bell crossed the centre line causing a head-on collision. Bennett, who was 44-years-old at the time, was driving to Kal Secondary School following his lunch break when the accident occurred Jan. 11, 2011.

According to court documents Bell admitted responsibility for the accident and there is "no real dispute" as to what medical, psychological and emotional challenges Bennett had had since the accident.

However, while Bennett said all his injuries and conditions were caused by the accident, ICBC disagreed, arguing some of the injuries were in one way or another pre-existing.

Lengthy court documents show Bennett has received seven different surgeries after the incident from 2011 to 2017. He'd also received a multitude of non-surgical treatments.

Bennett had sought damages of $3,226,103 for loss of income caused by the accident, as well as future income loss from teaching, cost of future care and a variety of other reasons. ICBC had argued Bennett was owed $906,141.01 in damages.

The court document lists a comprehensive and lengthy medical history referring to umpteen expert reports. A married father with two children, Bennett had returned to work on several occasions after the accident but ultimately had stopped teaching in 2015 due to the injuries.

Justice Betton describes Bennett as a "driven individual with lots of energy and enthusiasm" and a "dedicated and energetic teacher."

While the judge says Bennett is "credible" he goes onto say the "passage of time and perhaps this litigation may have skewed" Bennett's objectivity as to his life prior to the accident.

The judge dismissed several of Bennett's claims but ultimately awarded him $1,683,236 in damages.

While the judge doesn't give a dollar figure, Bennett was also awarded expenses.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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