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Record damages in lawsuit

A lawyer says his client has been awarded the largest amount ever by a Canadian court for punitive damages linked to a motor vehicle accident.

Veronica Howell was hit by a pickup while she was jaywalking across a Vancouver street in January 2014. She suffered a brain injury and other injuries that the B.C. Supreme Court says "changed her life dramatically."

Howell, who was 22 at the time of the accident, was awarded $100,000 for punitive damages in addition to more than $2 million for general damages and loss of income.

Howell's lawyer, John Rice, said the punitive award is the largest he could find involving a vehicle accident.

"I couldn't find a single case in the hit-and-run context," he said in an interview Tuesday. "There had been drunk-driving contexts and others, and punitive damages awards in the tens of thousands of dollars. I think I saw one for $35,000, but this is drastically higher than any one in the past."

The court found the pickup driver, who was suspended from driving, was on the wrong side of the road when he passed stopped traffic and struck Howell.

The court ruling said Leon Machi drove off afterwards and failed to co-operate with Vancouver police and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia during the investigation. Machi claimed he was not the driver and someone named Michael had been using his truck.

Justice Heather MacNaughton ruled the evidence Machi provided under oath was not credible.

"Mr. Machi's actions are worthy of denunciation and retribution," she wrote in her decision, dated Oct. 12.



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