Judge awards largest punitive damage award in B.C. pedestrian crash: lawyer

Judge awards largest punitive damage award in B.C. pedestrian crash: lawyer

A woman was awarded $100,000 for punitive damages in addition to more than $2M for general damages

A lawyer says his client has been awarded the largest amount ever by a Canadian court for punitive damages linked to a motor vehicle accident.

Veronica Howell was hit by a pickup truck while she was jay-walking across a Vancouver street in January 2014. She suffered a brain injury and other injuries that the B.C. Supreme Court says “changed her life dramatically.”

Howell, who was 22 at the time of the accident, was awarded $100,000 for punitive damages in addition to more than $2 million for general damages and loss of income.

Howell’s lawyer, John Rice, said the punitive award is the largest he could find involving a vehicle accident.

“I couldn’t find a single case in the hit-and-run context,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “There had been drunk-driving contexts and others, and punitive damages awards in the tens of thousands of dollars. I think I saw one for $35,000, but this is drastically higher than any one in the past.”

The court found the pickup driver, who was suspended from driving, was on the wrong side of the road when he passed stopped traffic and struck Howell.

The court ruling said Leon Machi drove off afterwards and failed to co-operate with Vancouver police and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia during the investigation. Machi claimed he was not the driver and someone named Michael had been using his truck.

READ MORE: Hit and run, luxury style, near Qualicum Beach

Justice Heather MacNaughton ruled the evidence Machi provided under oath was not credible.

“Mr. Machi’s actions are worthy of denunciation and retribution,” she wrote in her decision, dated Oct. 12.

The punitive damages take into account that he didn’t stop after the collision and had ”shown complete disregard for the suspensions of his driver’s licence,” MacNaughton said.

Rice said the judgment sends a message to the public that reckless behaviour and contempt of the law will not be tolerated.

Howell was found to be 25 per cent responsible for the accident, which reduced the total damages she was awarded.

The court’s decision noted that Machi filed for bankruptcy before the trial started.

Rice said it’s unclear how much Howell will successfully collect.

“The hope is that at least the punitive damages award would survive any bankruptcy declaration and that she would remain a creditor for that punitive damages award.”

Linda Givetash and Beth Leighton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

The Kimberley Edible Garden Society meeting in 2020. KEGG file
Community garden proposed for McDougal Park

The Kimberley Edible Gardens and Greenhouse Society, which formerly operated a greenhouse… Continue reading

Candice Marie Neale was last seen by her family on May 5, 2021 around 11p.m. Cranbrook RCMP are asking anyone who sees Neale to contact police. (Submitted file)
UPDATE: Previously missing Cranbrook woman located, found safe and sound, says RCMP

Candice Marie Neale was reporting missing on Monday, she has since been found

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

Most Read