A B.C. Supreme Court judge has concluded a former Burnaby firefighter was "not a reliable historian of his own injuries” as he attempted to convince the court a minor car accident had rendered him incapable working or performing basic movements, like bending over a sink or car engine.
Nicholas Brian Gee, a former lieutenant in the Burnaby Fire Department, was in court in January to sue another driver for more than $1 million for a 2014 fender bender in Coquitlam.
He said the accident had aggravated a pre-existing lower back condition and led to an unsuccessful disk surgery, chronic pain and a dependence on pain meds.
(Gee had been in seven previous car accidents since 2003 and fractured his back in an earlier workplace fall, according to court documents.)
He told the court he could no longer bend or kneel since the 2014 accident and a subsequent failed disk surgery in 2016.
He also said he could no longer hunt or fish and that his partner at home now had to do all the heavy lifting in the house and yard – “making (Gee) feel less worthy,” according to a ruling by Justice Francesca Marzari earlier this month.
At trial, however, Gee was shown 2017 surveillance video footage of himself bending under the hood of a truck, “repeatedly and somewhat vigorously” washing a car and shovelling gravel in his backyard.
A long-time friend also testified he had accompanied Gee on a 2017 hunting trip to Vanderhoof (a 12-to-14-hour car ride) and that Gee had killed, quartered, loaded and hung up a moose in camp without his friend’s help.
Based on the testimony of the other driver in the accident, Marzari also concluded Gee had intentionally increased the damage to his car before taking it to ICBC for assessment.
A few years from early retirement in 2014, Gee has been on disability ever since, claiming his dependence on pain medication made him unfit to continue work as a full-time emergency dispatcher. But Marzari said none of the six doctors who testified thought his mental functions were impaired or that his use of pain medication was an impediment to his ability to return to work.
“I find that Mr. Gee never sought a return to work, nor did he explore his options for a gradual return to work, including what modifications or accommodations could be made for him in terms of managing his pain and medications,” she said.
Despite finding that Gee was an “unreliable historian of his own condition or other events” who “significantly exaggerated his pain and disability,” Marzari awarded him nearly $200,000 in damages.
“I am satisfied that the accident has had a detrimental effect on Mr. Gee’s mental and physical health, that his level of back pain has increased as a result of the accident but not to the extent that he initially claimed, and that he underwent life threatening surgery that would not have been recommended but for the accident,” she wrote.