Tragic Crash Victim’s Family Wins Significant Compensation in Landmark Case

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The teenage life of Jaeheon Shim, affectionately known as “Eric” amidst Canadian friends, ended brutally when a Toyota RAV4 crashed into him at the intersection of Hammond Bay Road and Ventura Drive on March 6, 2019. A mere week later, the young lad breathed his final breath in a hospital ward, with dreams of his impending graduation from Dover Bay Secondary School cruelly unfulfilled.

Having acknowledged their part in the tragedy, Brandon Murdoch, the 33-year-old driver, and vehicle financiers, Toyota Credit Canada, pleaded guilty in 2020 to operating without due diligence.

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Months after the premature loss of their only son, parents Jiyeon Kim and Myeongsup Shim pursued a civil lawsuit against Murdoch and Toyota Credit, seeking compensation up to $1.67 million. Their claim hinged on the deemed monetary equivalent of Jaeheon’s involvement in managing their restaurant business and executing familial duties at home including personal translation, driving and housekeeping services.

In the court proceedings, Justice David Crerar faced the daunting task of ascertaining the projected financial assistance that the teenager would have offered his family. Such a responsibility, Crerar expressed, was significantly formidable and intrinsically speculative.

Stressing Justice Crerar’s ruling was the cultural context of hyodo, a traditional Korean practice where children are expected to support their parents financially and domestically. This resonated with Jaeheon’s parents, and their claim was substantiated by a Korean studies professor from the University of British Columbia. The expert witness expounded on the critical role of the eldest son in a traditional Korean family and emphasized that these obligations may remain strong even amongst diaspora communities.

While recognizing Jaeheon’s industrious and generous character, Justice Crerar cautiously tread a balancing act between the family’s loss of income and potential divergences that their son could have strayed from home, forged his own family, or reduced financial backing for his parents. Additionally, Crerar took into account the presumed expenditures the parents might have borne with Jaeheon’s potential aspirations for further education, marriage, or home purchase.

The resultant compensation of $327,635 awarded by Justice Crerar primarily covered the parents’ deprivation of financial support. Auxiliary damages factored in were the loss of domestic aid, guidance, translation and driving services. A special earmarking exceeding $18,000 was made towards funeral expenses in the tragic aftermath of the young man’s death.