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Judge awards parents of killed teen $328K after weighing his potential future contributions

Jaeheon Shim, known as Eric, died after he was hit at this intersection in Nanaimo, B.C., in March 2019. (CHEK News)

Jaeheon Shim, known as Eric, died after he was hit at this intersection in Nanaimo, B.C., in March 2019.

Photo: (CHEK News)


Central to case is Korean practice of filial piety, financial contributions the teenager would've made

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has awarded the parents of a teenager who was about to graduate high school $327,635 in compensation after he was hit and killed by a vehicle at a crosswalk in Nanaimo, B.C.

Central to the case is the Korean practice of hyodo, or filial piety, and estimates of the financial contributions Jaeheon Shim would have made to his family had he lived a full life. 

According to the decision, the family was seeking up to $1,666,806 for the loss because of the young man's dedication to supporting his parents in their day-to-day life in Canada and helping to operate their restaurant. 

In the decision posted on Tuesday (new window), Justice David Crerar noted how hard it was to assess the appropriate compensation for Jiyeon Kim and Myeongsup Shim, the parents of Jaeheon, who was known as Eric to his Canadian friends.

The court's task is profoundly difficult and inherently hypothetical: what would have been the economic future path of Eric and his parents, had he lived? Crerar said in the decision. 

Two personal injury lawyers who spoke with CBC News say the case highlights the challenges of how victims of vehicular accidents are compensated in B.C.

'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.

Justice Crerar noted in the decision that Eric was by all accounts a generous and hard-working young man who was loyal and helpful to his family.

The judge in the case acknowledged the difficulty of assessing the appropriate compensation for Jaeheon Shim's parents. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The judge in the case acknowledged the difficulty of assessing the appropriate compensation for Jaeheon Shim's parents. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Photo:  (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Crerar said the teenager was integral to 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 behaviour was directed by the Korean practice of hyodo, which he clearly demonstrated and would have ultimately led him to also support his parents financially as they got older. 

Eric, an only child, also helped his parents set up and manage the restaurant's online presence, created menu items and provided general housework. 

According to the decision, the parents asked for compensation based on the loss of those services.

'Valueless' without financial support: lawyer

Personal injury lawyer Richard Parsons told CBC News that families' compensation in B.C. is limited to how much the deceased would have contributed financially. 

The Family Compensation Act says that if you're not working and supporting people, you're valueless in the eyes of the law, Parsons told CBC News.

There's lots of situations where there's just no recourse.

In his decision, Crerar acknowledges Eric's contributions but also balanced them with potential contingencies like him potentially moving away and providing less support, or establishing his own family and thus decreasing his financial contributions. 

Crerar also deducted costs the parents would have spent on Eric's education and contributions to life events like a potential wedding.

No-fault insurance to limit compensation

Paul Warnett, also a personal injury lawyer, 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 going forward. 

Under new ICBC rules, families will no longer be eligible for additional compensation as the province adopts no-fault insurance (new window) for accidents that happened after April 2021. 

Warnett said the new model severely limits compensation for victims of vehicular accidents (new window). For parents, the established amount when their child passes away will be $16,256 each. 

It's absolutely terrible the new system that's come in, he said.

In particular circumstances, depending on economic or cultural reasons, it can be totally and completely inadequate in the amount of compensation that people receive.

The new model was put forward after David Eby, then the province's attorney general, called ICBC a 'financial dumpster fire.' (new window)

Maryse Zeidler (new window) · CBC News ·