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Judge awards Surrey pedestrian $36K for pain and suffering after car hits her in crosswalk

Ma Estella Lean Panganiban was 14 when she was hit while walking home from school
Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)

A young woman who was 14 when she was hit by a car in a marked pedestrian crosswalk in Surrey, while walking home from school in 2015, has been awarded $36,000 by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in New Westminster for pain and suffering.

The driver, Maria Sovdat, died before the trial. Ma Estella Lean Panganiban was crossing 160 Street, about 130 metres south of 96 Avenue at about 3 p.m. on Feb. 27, 2015 when she was hit. The court heard the weather was clear and sunny, the road was dry and the speed limit was 50 km/h.

Panganiban sued for physical and psychological injuries, non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering), and damages for loss of earning capacity and damages for the cost of future care. She sought $85,000 for pain and suffering,

Liability was denied.

“The defence argues that Ms. Panganiban stepped off the curb and into the path of the car when it was so close it was not possible for Ms. Sovdat to avoid hitting her,” Justice Bruce Elwood noted in his April 21 reasons for judgment.

“Causation and damages are also in issue. While the defence acknowledges that Ms. Panganiban was injured in the collision, it takes the position she fully recovered from these injuries within about six months. It disputes that the back pain, cognitive issues and depression about which Ms. Panganiban testified at trial were caused by the collision. It disputes that she suffered any loss of earning capacity as a result of the collision.”

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The court heard Panganiban was walking home from North Surrey Secondary School with Reda Naqvi, a friend and classmate.

Sovdat was driving a 2008 white Ford Focus south on 160th Street when she hit Naqvi with her front bumper

“She either hit Ms. Panganiban or else propelled Ms. Naqvi into Ms. Panganiban. One of the girls hit the windshield of the car and bounced off the hood. They both ended up on the ground,” Elwood noted. “The Court did not have the benefit of any evidence from Ms. Sovdat because she passed away three years before the trial.”

The court heard testimony from witnesses, as well as expert evidence indicating Soldat was driving 35 km/h to 45 km/h as she approached the crosswalk.

Elwood found that while Soldat had the right of way, she breached her “duty of care by placing herself in a position where she was unable to stop without hitting Ms. Naqvi and Ms. Panganiban.

“In my view, Ms. Sovdat should have reduced her speed when approaching to maintain the ability to bring her vehicle to a stop if a child entered the crosswalk,” the judge decided. “In my view, Ms. Sovdat was driving too fast for the circumstances.”

But he also found Panganiban was partially at fault by “failing to take adequate care for her own safety.”

“In my view, the appropriate result is to allocate 80 per cent of the fault for Ms. Panganiban’s injuries to Ms. Sovdat and 20 per cent to Ms. Panganiban.”

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Elwood declined to award Panganiban for loss of earning capacity or cost of future care, finding himself “unable to determine whether any expense is reasonable or medically justified in this case.

“I find that, with the exception of persistent mild neck pain and occasional headaches, which should not be material problems as she moves on with her life, Ms. Panganiban has fully recovered from her injuries. She has not suffered any lasting physical or psychological impairment of her ability to pursue education, employment, housework, recreational activities or social relationships.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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