A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has awarded the parents of a teenager who was about to graduate high school $327,635 in compensation after he was struck and killed by a vehicle at a crosswalk in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Central to the case is the Korean practice of hyodoor filial piety, and estimates of the financial contributions Jaeheon Shim would have made to his family if he had lived a full life.
According to the decision, the family was seeking up to $1,666,806 for the loss due to the young man’s dedication to supporting his parents in their daily lives in Canada and helping them operate their restaurant.
In it decision published on TuesdayJudge David Crerar noted how difficult it was to assess appropriate compensation for Jiyeon Kim and Myeongsup Shim, the parents of Jaeheon, who was known to his Canadian friends as Eric.
“The court’s task is deeply difficult and inherently hypothetical: What would the financial future of Eric and his parents have been had he lived?” Crerar said in the decision.
Two personal injury lawyers who spoke to Breaking: say the case highlights the challenges of how victims of vehicle accidents are compensated in BC.
‘Loyal and helpful to his family’
In March 2019, Jaeheon Shim was struck and killed by a vehicle while in a crosswalk at the intersection of Hammond Bay Road and Ventura Drive.
Driver Brandon Murdoch was behind the wheel. Toyota Canada Credit is also listed as a defendant in the case. The decision says the defendants have admitted liability.
Judge Crerar noted in the decision that Eric was “by all indications a generous and hard-working young man” who was “loyal and helpful to his family.”
Crerar said the teen was an integral part of the family’s sushi restaurant, where he acted as an interpreter for his parents, who spoke limited English, in their dealings with banks, suppliers and non-Korean staff.
The parents argued that Eric’s behavior was directed by the Korean practice of hyodowhich he clearly demonstrated and which would have ultimately led him to also financially support his parents as they grew up.
An only child, Eric also helped his parents set up and manage the restaurant’s online presence, created menu items, and handled general household chores.
According to the decision, the parents requested compensation for the loss of those services.
‘Worthless’ without financial support: lawyer
Personal injury lawyer Richard Parsons told Breaking: that family compensation in BC is limited to how much the deceased would have contributed financially.
“The Family Compensation Act says that if you don’t work and support people, you have no value under the law,” Parsons told Breaking:.
“There are many situations where there is simply no remedy.”
In her decision, Crerar recognizes Eric’s contributions, but also balances them against possible contingencies such as him moving away and providing less support, or him establishing his own family and therefore decreasing his financial contributions.
Crerar also deducted costs the parents would have spent on Eric’s education and contributions to life events such as a possible wedding.
No-fault insurance to limit compensation
Paul Warnett, also a personal injury attorney, said the case recognizes family expectations that come with different cultural backgrounds.
But Warnett warned that this level of compensation for vehicle-related cases will be severely limited in the future.
Under new ICBC rules, families will no longer be eligible to receive additional compensation as the province adopts no-fault insurance for accidents that occur after April 2021.
Warnett said the new model severely limits compensation for victims of vehicle accidents. For parents, the amount established when their child dies will be $16,256 each.
“The new system that has arrived is absolutely terrible,” he said.
“In certain circumstances, depending on economic or cultural reasons, the amount of compensation that people receive may be totally and completely insufficient.”
The new model was proposed after David Eby, then the province’s attorney general, called ICBC a “financial dumpster fire.”