B.C. Supreme Court recognized the Korean practice of supporting one’s parents when a judge awarded the parents of a Korean teenager $327,634 after he was struck in a crosswalk on Hammond Bay Road in Nanaimo and later died.
Jaeheon Shim, 17, died six days after the March 2019 crash. He was hit by an SUV while on his way home from Dover Bay Secondary School, according to an online petition calling for a lighted crosswalk at the intersection.
Brandon Murdoch, then 35, pleaded guilty in 2020 to driving without due care and attention. A blood sample showed Murdoch had alcohol and prescription drugs in his system. He received a $2,000 fine, a $300 victim impact surcharge and a two-year driving prohibition.
The vehicle was owned by Toyota Credit Canada Inc.
The defendants Murdoch and Toyota Credit Canada admitted liability.
Jaeheon, who went by “Eric” to his Canadian friends, was by all accounts a generous and hard-working young man, Justice David Crerar said in his Sept. 19 decision in the Shim family’s lawsuit.
“He was active in his church group and high school, played bass in church and rock bands, practiced taekwondo, and enjoyed a strong circle of friends, both Korean-Canadian and otherwise,” Crerar said.
As well, he said, Jaeheon worked long hours in his parents’ sushi restaurant, providing services integral to its operations without a salary.
Crerar said Jaeheon “broadly assisted his parents, who speak limited English, through translation and other assistance, in business, and in life. He assisted them many hours each week, serving as an interpreter and an interface in their dealings with banks, utilities, medical appointments, and other English speakers.”
Crerar said 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?”
He said central to that issue is assessing whether and to what extent Jaeheon would have followed the traditional Korean practice of hyodo or filial piety, which generally compels children to provide economic and other support to their parents.
The defendants argued that claims based on future economic support are excessively speculative.
But Crerar said Jaeheon’s consistently demonstrated dedication to assisting his parents, coupled with the particular cultural norms of hyodo, constituted a sufficiently certain economic loss of substance.