Did Brain Injury Cause Securities Trader to Make Poor Investments?

In a recent appeal decision from B.C. called Barta v. DaSilva[1] the court was asked to consider whether the mild traumatic brain injury suffered by a securities trader in a motor vehicle accident caused him to make poor financial investments, to the tune of $5 million in losses.

The accident victim, Barta, was involved in a motor vehicle collision in July 2007.  He suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) in the form of a slight concussion.

Before the accident, he earned a substantial income as a securities trader, and personally had several million dollars in stock market investments. Four days after the accident he returned to trading, but made numerous imprudent and reckless personal trades that caused him to lose a substantial portion of his own investments.  Also, despite living modestly for several years, he went out and bought a lavish new home that he could not afford, and he ended up embroiled in litigation over it – which he ultimately lost.  He asserted that his post-accident losses totalled $5 million.

Barta pointed to his accident as the cause of his reckless trading:  He claimed that in the years since, he experienced headaches, fatigue, irritability and nervousness, and also had trouble with his memory and concentration. He claimed that the MTBI from the accident impaired his ability to make careful judgments, as he had done before.

In considering Barta’s appeal of his unsuccessful lawsuit against the insurer, the Appeal Court noted that facts demonstrated otherwise:   In the year after the accident, Barta had actually made some successful, profitable trade that increased his portfolio by over $900,000 at some points, a fact that the trial judge had readily accepted.  Indeed, Barta’s pattern of trading was no different before the accident, than it was afterwards, especially in light of his co-workers’ evidence that he historically took large risks as part of his securities trading strategy.  The judge had also agreed that any losses Barta suffered had coincided with the 2008 economic crash, which especially affected the types of companies that he tended to invest in.

Although it was conceded that Barta did suffer a mild MTBI in the accident, the medical evidence provided by several brain-injury experts showed no lasting effect on his ability to make financial decisions.  The trial judge had carefully reviewed the evidence in this regard, and had concluded that the accident and resulting MTBI did not directly cause Barta’s financial losses.

Since there was no flaw in the in the analysis, and no palpable and overriding error in the trial judge’s conclusion, the Court of Appeal found no reason to interfere with it. Barta’s appeal was dismissed.

[1]2018 BCCA 68 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/hqks8