An Abbotsford man who was rendered a quadriplegic in 2008 at the age of nine has so far been awarded $1.35 million in costs, with the courts finding the impaired driver who crashed into his family’s vehicle 90 per cent liable.
The ruling in support of Arshdeep Singh Sidhu, 23, was made June 17 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. He was awarded $950,000 in an in-trust claim and $403,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
Other amounts still to be awarded to Sidhu include future loss of earning capacity and the cost of future care.
The crash took place in the early morning of March 30, 2008 at the intersection of Townline and Upper Maclure roads in Abbotsford.
Sidhu was in the back seat of his family’s 2006 Nissan Pathfinder, which was being driven by his mother, Balwinder, as they returned from a family wedding in Surrey.
Also in the back seat was a visiting relative, while Sidhu’s brother was in the front passenger seat.
His dad, Rajvinder, was accompanying out-of-town family members in another vehicle.
According to court documents, Sidhu said he had a stomach ache and, as they neared home, he asked his mom if he could move his seatbelt from his left shoulder to his right, and she agreed.
Meanwhile, the driver of a Toyota truck, Jan Abram Hiebert, had left with another man from a party in Abbotsford where they had been drinking.
Hiebert sped through a stop sign at the intersection and drove into the passenger side of the Pathfinder, which spun, mounted a curb and rolled onto its side.
Sidhu suffered a catastrophic spinal injury, which a doctor at trial described as “the worst injury you can have in a spinal cord patient if you’re still alive.”
Evidence was also presented that the injury was caused by the improper placement of the seatbelt.
Hiebert later pleaded guilty to five counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm and was sentenced in 2009 to 15 months in prison and a four-year driving ban.
Sidhu was in Grade 4 at the time of the crash and was described as “an outgoing, happy child and a bright student” who enjoyed playing sports and spending time with his brother. He had dreams of becoming a lawyer.
The crash resulted in his becoming a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic who requires around-the-clock care.
Sidhu has since graduated high school and earned a two-year general studies diploma at University of the Fraser Valley, with hopes of taking more courses.
Besides Hiebert, also named in the lawsuit were Sidhu’s mom for allowing him to move his seatbelt, his dad as owner of the Pathfinder and the man who hosted the party where Hiebert was drinking.
Also named were Nissan Canada, Nissan Motor Co., Nissan North America and Abbotsford Nissan, alleging that the seatbelt assembly in the rear passenger seats of their Pathfinders was not property fitted for children and that they neglected to warn buyers.
But Madam Justice Carla Forth ruled that Hiebert was 90 per cent responsible and Sidhu’s parents were 10 per cent at fault, dismissing the claims against the other defendants.
“His decisions were egregious. He is mostly responsible for destroying the life of a young child and his family,” Forth said of Hiebert.
She commended Sidhu for his ability to focus on the positive and his “high level of resilience” to the daily challenges he faces.
“The plaintiff is cognitively intact, is aware of all of his losses, and it is inspirational that he continues to be so positive in light of what has been taken away from him,” Forth said.
The court documents include figures that will be used to determine Sidhu’s award for future care costs.
Those figures indicate that Sidhu’s total annual care currently amounts to approximately $760,000, including care aides, medical supplies, mobility equipment, rehabilitation therapies and home modifications.
Based on the expert evidence presented at trial, Forth estimated Sidhu’s life expectancy to be 50 years.