News / Vancouver

Burnaby dominatrix awarded $1.5 million for brain injury in car accident

A young Burnaby woman who works as a dominatrix has been awarded $1.5 million after a judge determined she suffered a moderate traumatic brain injury in a car accident as a teenager seven years ago.

At the time of the accident in 2008, Alissa Afonina was in Grade 11 and she had scored an A in the Grade 12 film course she had taken, leading to her placement in the specialized Connect Film program for her Grade 12 year, the court was told in a civil trial to determine liability and damages.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves found that the brain injury caused by the single-vehicle crash, in which Afonina was a passenger in a Toyota pickup truck with her brother and mother left the teen with problems.

One of her teachers, Phil Byrne, told the court that Afonina was a non-conformist “Goth girl” who was very bright -- “in the top 2 per cent in terms of engagement in class activities and assignments” -- before the accident.

But after the accident, Afonina “showed signs of no impulse control, could not carry through and tasks were not done,” the teacher told the court.

“Instructions had to be repeated to her.  Things had to be read over and over.  She became socially isolated and began to have outbursts in class.  She made sexual comments during these outbursts that were inappropriate for the class setting.”

The teacher described Afonina's memory as “scattered and inconsistent” after the accident.

The judge found the driver Peter Jansson, liable for causing the accident because he drove his Tacoma truck too fast for the wet weather conditions. As he rounded a curve with almost bald tires, the vehicle slid off the wet road and crashed in a ditch while they were enroute to see a movie in Salmon Arm. Jansson argued that Afonina was a troubled youth with personal difficulties prior to the accident and would therefore have struggled to succeed in life in any event.

The court was told that Afonina was referred by a West Vancouver Secondary School counsellor to a psychiatrist for alleged emotional problems prior to the accident.

The defendant’s psychiatrist was of the view that prior to the accident, Alissa was suffering a borderline personality disorder. He relied on her self-reported use of drugs (mescaline, mushrooms and LSD) prior to the accident, as well as a self-reported hallucinations and hearing voices.

The judge rejected the defence theory, instead preferring the evidence of the neurologist called on behalf of the plaintiff, who diagnosed Afonina as having a “moderate traumatic brain injury ... with memory impairment interfering with new learning and retention.”

The neurologist said “it appears unlikely that she will succeed in post-secondary education” but that she “is capable of part-time employment, although her interests are quite restricted and behavioural problems would likely interfere with stable long-term employment.”

After the accident, the court was told, Afonina began working as a female dominatrix -- a woman who acts out the role of the dominating partner in a sadomasochistic relationship. The judge cited a previous court case that characterized prostitution as a “risky -- but legal -- activity.”

Afonina's lawyer argued his client's chosen work “shows a lack of correct thinking on the part of Alissa ... due to the loss of cognitive functioning from the brain injury.”

Afonina's current LinkedIn profile says she is a “professional dominatrix” in Burnaby. But the judge noted: “I would add that I accept Alissa’s evidence that once this matter is resolved and she has the financial wherewithal to support herself, she would not continue work as a dominatrix.”

The judge awarded a total of $1.5 million in damages to Afonina, including $825,000 for loss of future earning capacity.

The judge also awarded Afonina's mother damages of $953,000. The judge concluded the 54-year-old mother, who came to Canada from Russia in 2002 with her two children, suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in the accident that would affect her future earning capacity.

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