ICBC Law

BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Erik MagrakenThis Blog is authored by British Columbia ICBC injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Erik is a partner with the British Columbia personal injury law-firm MacIsaac & Company. He restricts his practice exclusively to plaintiff-only personal injury claims with a particular emphasis on ICBC injury claims involving orthopaedic injuries and complex soft tissue injuries. Please visit often for the latest developments in matters concerning BC personal injury claims and ICBC claims

Erik Magraken does not work for and is not affiliated in any way with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Please note that this blog is for information only and is not claim-specific legal advice.  Erik can only provide legal advice to clients. Please click here to arrange a free consultation.

Cyclist With No Recollection of Collision Has Claim Dismissed Against Unidentified Motorist

August 14th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, dismissing an injury claim against involving an unidentified motorist because the Plaintiff had, due to injuries, no recollection of the collision and no evidence to establish driver negligence.

In today’s case (Salo v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was riding his hybrid bicycle in close proximity to an SUV when something occurred and a witness “saw the bicycle and Mr. Salo inmid-air” about ten feet behind the SUV.”.

The Plaintiff suffered a brain injury in the event and had “absolutely no recollection as to what happened“.  The SUV driver was not identified.  The witness did not see what exactly transpired to send the Plaintiff airborne.

The Plaintiff sued for damages alleging the SUV driver was negligent.  The Court dismissed the claim finding the above did not discharge the Plaintiff’s burden of proof on a balance of probabilities.  In dismissing the claim Mr. Justice MacKenzie provided the following reasons:

[39]         In this case there is no direct evidence as to what caused Mr. Salo to become airborne when the SUV was stopped at the stop sign.  Both counsel have suggested possible scenarios or explanations as to what might have happened, some more fanciful or implausible than others.  But, as the defendant asserts, absent any evidence “about the movements of the SUV before the collision”, it would be pure speculation to infer negligence on the part of the SUV driver.  In addition, whether the SUV turned right a few seconds after Mr. Cunningham observed it stopped at the intersection or a moment or two later, this, in my view, does not assist the court in determining what caused Mr. Salo to become airborne near the rear of the SUV, or in drawing an inference that the SUV driver was negligent.

[40]         Given the paucity of evidence as to what occurred on July 3, 2014 when Mr. Salo unfortunately suffered significant injuries while riding his bicycle, I agree with the defendant when it submits there are no positive proved facts from which I can infer that the unknown driver was negligent.

[41]         As a result, the action is dismissed.  Subject to any agreement between the parties, the defendant is entitled to costs on Scale B.


BC Court of Appeal Denies Severe Injury Claim Because Teenaged Plaintiff “Ought to Have Known” Vehicle Driven Without Consent

August 1st, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal denying a Plaintiff access to a pool of money intended to compensate people injured at the hands of uninsured motorists.

In the recent case (Schoenhalz v. ICBC) the Plaintiff, who was 17 at the time, was badly injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a 2007 collision.  The Plaintiff suffered spinal fractures, various burns to her body, dental injuries and a pelvic fracture.  The driver of the vehicle was found to be negligent and damages of $282,992 were assessed.

The Court found, however, that the driver of the vehicle was not operating it with either the express or implied consent of the owner.  Accordingly the lawsuit against the vehicle owner was dismissed.    The driver was 15 years of age at the time and did not have a license.  The Court concluded that “at the time of the accident (the Plaintiff) knew that (the driver) was age 15 and did not have a driver’s license.”.

ICBC denied coverage to the Plaintiff and the current lawsuit was commenced.   As discussed several years ago, a Plaintiff cannot access section 20 uninsured motorist funds if they “at the time of the accident as a result of which the bodily injury, death or loss of or damage to property was suffered, was an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the person knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner, and, in the case of a leased motor vehicle, the lessee.”

A similar exclusion exists if a Plaintiff seeks to access their own Underinsured Motorist Protection coverage.  Section 148(4)(c) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation lets ICBC off the hook in circumstances where the Plaintiff ” is an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the insured knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner.

In finding ICBC was right to deny coverage the BC Court of Appeal noted as follows:

[44]         Having canvassed counsel on this line of cases and on the “adult activity” line most recently considered in Nespolon v. Alford (1998) 110 O.A.C. 108, lve. to app. dism’d.[1998] S.C.C.A. No. 452, I do not find it necessary to consider them further in this case. Both lines concern the law of negligence as applied to young persons – but this is not the context before us. As I read s. 91, this case is concerned only with whether a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s place ought to have known Ms. Reeves was driving without the owner’s consent. In my opinion, a reasonable person would (as the trial judge here acknowledged) have known this; and even if one took into account the plaintiff’s age and experience, the test would also be met. As Mr. Brown submits, the plaintiff, age 17, had a driver’s license and was aware Ms. Reeves was too young to be licensed and that the owner’s permission was needed to drive the Camaro.

[45]         The trial judge reasoned that while it would not be reasonable for an adult to assume that Luke “was able to give [the girls] Steven’s permission when he directed them to take the car”, it had been reasonable for an “incredibly young” 17-year-old girl to have believed he would. With respect, it seems to me that the trial judge here erred in applying a largely subjective standard in the face of statutory wording that has long connoted a well-understood objective standard. With respect, a reasonable person “ought to have known”, and indeed would have known, that neither Steven Hammond nor his mother was consenting to the Camaro being driven by an unlicensed 15-year-old. I agree with counsel for ICBC that as a matter of public policy, there is no rationale for holding the plaintiff to a lower standard in relation to her decision to become the passenger of Ms. Reeves.

[46]         In my opinion, if Ms. Schoenhalz did not “know” that the car was being driven without the owner’s consent, she “ought to have known” that this was the case. I would allow the appeal and set aside the order granted by the trial judge in this proceeding.

 


ICBC’s Inconsistent Pleadings Following a Collision “Reprehensible”

July 26th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, finding that ICBC taking inconsistent positions in lawsuits for fault after a collision is ‘reprehensible’ and awarded special costs as a deterrent.

In the recent case (Glover v. Leakey) the Defendant was involved in a crash and injured two passengers.  One sued and fault was admitted and ultimately settlement reached.  The second sued but fault was denied.  In the midst of a jury trial the Plaintiff discovered the inconsistent pleadings and asked for a finding of liability.

Due to a misunderstanding the matter proceeded to verdict and the jury found the Defendant was not negligent.  Before the order was entered the Court considered the matter and found that the liability denial was an abuse of process, stripped the defence and granted liability in favour of the plaintiff.

This week the Court went further and ordered special costs.  In findings this appropriate Madam Justice Gropper provided the following reasons:

[42]         I found that the inconsistent pleading by the defendant was an abuse of process because the principles such as judicial economy, consistency, finality and the integrity of the administration of justice were violated. The court cannot condone such conduct.

[43]         Abuse of process can be a basis for special costs. I find that in this case, the conduct of the defendant is of the type from which the court wants to disassociate itself, referring to Fullerton.

[44]         The defendant’s arguments about the merits of its position on the application and that special costs should only be for the application only, in my view, address the circumstances too narrowly. The plaintiff only discovered the inconsistent pleadings days as the jury trial was about to proceed; it was scheduled for 12 days; the jury panel had been summonsed; witnesses were on their way to or in Vernon to give evidence; expert witnesses were also arranged to be examined by video or in person; and the defendant’s counsel had threatened to apply for a mistrial if the inconsistent pleadings were raised before the trial judge or the jury. The application was made while the jury trial was underway. 

[45]         The repercussions of the abuse of process were wide spread and of significant expense to the plaintiff, who had marshalled all of her evidence. The defendant’s narrow approach fails to recognize that his conduct was not confined to the hearing of the application only; it went well beyond that.

[46]         Referring to the principles distilled in Westsea, I am satisfied that in awarding special costs in these unique circumstances meets the test of restraint but addresses the full impact of the defendant’s conduct; there are exceptional circumstances that justify such an order; the inconsistent positions on liability as between this action and the Yeomans’ action is reprehensible in and of itself, and amounts to an abuse of process; and the award of special costs in this action cannot be characterized as a “bonus” or further compensation for the plaintiff’s success on the application. 

[47]         The plaintiff is entitled to special costs arising from my finding that the conduct of the defendant was an abuse of process, including the costs of preparation and attendance at trial, as well as special cost of this application. The assessment of special costs is postponed until the defendant has exhausted all avenues of appeal.


“It is Unusual For a Trial Judge to Award Costs to an Unsuccessful Plaintiff”

July 21st, 2017

Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal upholding a trial judges award of costs in favour of a plaintiff who had their lawsuit dismissed.

In today’s case (Tisalona v. Easton) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of injuries sustained in two collisions.  The Plaintiff was awarded damages for the first crash though less than what she requested and also less than the Defendant’s pre trial offer to settle.  The claim for damages from the second collision was dismissed.  Despite this the Court awarded the Plaintiff costs for both actions which were tried together.  In upholding this result the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[75]         In the case of the 2011 action, the only issue at trial was whether the 2011 Accident had aggravated or prolonged the effects of the 2008 Accident. The trial judge concluded that it had not, but that it had been reasonable to deal with the two accidents together.

[76]         The trial judge went on to estimate that approximately one hour of trial time was devoted to evidence concerning the second accident.  None of the expert reports had addressed the 2011 Accident to any extent.

[77]         It is unusual for a trial judge to award costs to an unsuccessful plaintiff. Here the principal considerations were the de minimus nature of the additional time required to deal with the 2011 action at trial and the trial judge’s conclusion that it had been reasonable to join this claim with the more substantial action in relation to the 2008 Accident.

[78]         In my view these considerations are not arbitrary, but rather were connected to the case before the trial judge. They fall within the broad discretion afforded to trial judges following the elimination of the qualification “for good cause” from our rules. Accordingly, I would not give effect to this ground of appeal.


Court Prohibits Surveillance During Defence Medical Exam

July 16th, 2017

Useful reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, finding it is appropriate to prohibit a Defendant from conducting video surveillance of a plaintiff who is compelled to attend a Defence medical examination in a personal injury lawsuit.

In the recent case (Moquin v. Fitt) the Mr. Justice Thompson provided the following reasons justifying this restriction:

[21]         The defendant nominates a R. 7-6 medical examiner, but it is the Court that appoints the examiner and orders the plaintiff to attend for the examination at a particular time and place. On the dates of the medical examinations, the plaintiff will not be in public on journeys of his own choosing. If the defendant or the defendant’s insurer takes advantage of the opportunity created by court order to engage in surveillance then the defendant might be seen by a reasonable observer to be acting in close concert with the Court. Partisan conduct aligned with the court order may be seen as lessening or compromising the Court’s neutrality, and the Court must, of course, zealously protect its reputation for impartiality.

[22]         Barring surveillance on the trip to or from the medical examinations is hardly a significant barrier to the defendant’s ability to gather information, and in my view the imposition of a surveillance bar and the consequent chance that the trier of fact might be deprived of some relevant information is a small price to pay to guard the Court’s reputation. Returning to R. 13-1(9), I think the non-surveillance condition promotes the just determination of this proceeding — a stated object of the Rules — because it prevents the possibility of conduct which might degrade the perception of the Court’s impartiality.


BC Court of Appeal – Cyclist 50% at Fault for Collision for Passing Vehicles on the Right

July 12th, 2017

Cyclists commonly split a single lane of traffic by riding near the curb and passing vehicles stopped at an intersection on the right.  Reasons for judgement were released today noting that doing so not only violates the Motor Vehicle Act but can be negligent as well.

In today’s case  (Ilett v. Buckley) the Court overturned a trial judges finding of 100% responsibility of the Defendant driver.  The court summarized the facts as follows:

[5]             Mr. Ilett was riding on the shoulder of Admirals northbound.  He was passing to the right of the slow-moving vehicles.  Other cyclists were riding on the shoulder in the same way.  He considered the shoulder to be a cycle lane.  The road was flat for 300 yards leading to the intersection.  He was seen approaching the intersection by the driver of the vehicle that was stopped behind Ms. Buckley’s vehicle, Messa Mattina; he was visible to her for a significant distance.  Mr. Ilett scanned the traffic as he rode and he saw the large vehicle at the intersection ahead.  He saw the gap in the northbound traffic ahead of that vehicle opening.  He did not apply his brakes to slow his bicycle.

[6]             The large vehicle precluded Ms. Buckley and Mr. Ilett from seeing each other as she began her turn and he closed on the intersection.  Accepting Ms. Mattina’s testimony, the judge found that Ms. Buckley commenced her turn slowly but, before she could see Mr. Ilett approaching, she accelerated across the northbound traffic lane.  Nearly the whole of the front half of her vehicle was across the shoulder when, after hearing a screech of brakes, Mr. Ilett crashed into it.  His momentum was such that he was carried over the hood of the vehicle and onto the pavement beyond.  The impact caused him to suffer various injuries.  He was taken to hospital.

In finding the cyclist should bear 50% responsibility for this crash the Court of Appeal noted as follows:

[23]         He was riding on the shoulder of the road at speed, passing the slow-moving northbound vehicles.  He failed to recognize, as he should have, that he was not riding in a designated cycle lane and, at least under the Act, was not permitted to pass vehicles on the right as he was.  He was approaching an intersection.  He saw the gap in the northbound traffic open ahead of a large vehicle which would permit a southbound vehicle on Admirals to turn left onto Seenupin.  He could not see whether the intersection was clear because the large vehicle was obstructing his vision.  He made no attempt to slow down to see whether the intersection was clear – whether any vehicle was turning into the gap that had opened.  He proceeded to pass the large vehicle on its right, entered the intersection, and immediately collided with Ms. Buckley’s vehicle.

[24]         It is difficult to see on what basis the judge found in effect that, by virtue of s. 174, Ms. Buckley had a duty to yield to Mr. Ilett such that he effectively had the right of way when under s. 158 of the Act he was not permitted to pass the large vehicle on the right and enter the intersection as he did.  It cannot be that one applicable section of the Actis to be taken to be a factor in establishing the standard of care but another section that would apply in the circumstances is not.  It is not for the court to pick and choose between interrelated sections that apply.  Rather it must be the whole of those sections, and the extent to which taken together they bear on the circumstances, that may be considered a factor in determining the standard of care.  To do otherwise would appear to amount to legal error. ..

[33]         As stated, the cause of the accident was primarily that neither Ms. Buckley nor Mr. Ilett saw each other before the collision.  That was because neither exercised the measure of caution necessary to discharge their duty to make a reasonable effort to ensure they could proceed as they intended safely.

[34]         It is not possible to establish different degrees of fault in the circumstances of this case such that in accordance with s. 1 of the Negligence Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 333, liability is to be apportioned equally.


$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries with Anxiety and Depression

July 5th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Ponsart v. Kong) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 collisions for which the Defendants were responsible.  These resulted in chronic soft tissue injuries to her neck and back with some psychological overlay.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Butler made the following findings and provided these reasons:

[76]         With these conclusions in mind, I make the following specific findings about the nature and extent of Ms. Ponsart’s injuries and symptoms:

·       She suffered a Grade II strain of her neck and low back in the First Accident. At the time of the First Accident, she had recovered from the injuries suffered in the May 2011 accident. The pain in her thoracic spine around that time was primarily caused by breast enlargement that was alleviated by the surgery in 2013.

·       The First Accident also caused the plaintiff to experience significant anxiety and depression, which affected her ability to take part in work and leisure activities. Nevertheless, as her physical condition improved, she was able to take part in many activities. By 2013, she was doing strenuous training. While she functioned marginally at times, that was primarily a result of her psychological condition.

·       Her anxious nature predisposed her to experiencing anxiety and depression. However, there is no evidence suggesting that she would have experienced the emotional problems she faced without the First Accident.

·       The plaintiff was functioning reasonably well before the Second Accident, although she was still experiencing some neck and low back pain. Her emotional condition had improved from the summer of 2014.

·       The Second Accident aggravated the plaintiff’s soft tissue strain to the cervical and lumbar spine. The injury was not as serious as what she experienced in the First Accident, although she was partially disabled for two to three months. The Second Accident had a significant impact on her emotional well-being. It caused additional anxiety and depression, although not to the extent of a major depressive disorder.

·       By the time of the Third Accident, the plaintiff’s physical condition was manageable, although she was still experiencing minor neck and low back pain, which by that time had become chronic.

·       The Third Accident caused a further aggravation of the injuries from the two prior accidents. It had a significant impact on her, both physically and emotionally because of her increased headaches. She now suffers from chronic headaches including severe migraines. The exacerbation of her neck and back symptoms lasted for approximately six months before returning to the pre-accident status.

·       As a result of the accidents, the plaintiff is left with a minor degree of chronic neck and low back pain. She is able to manage all tasks of daily living and most of her recreational pursuits most of the time. However, because of the accidents, she is more susceptible to anxiety and depression than she was before the First Accident.

·       As will be evident from these conclusions, much of the plaintiff’s suffering was emotional. As I have described, there is no doubt it was caused by the First and Second Accidents.

[84]         As I have described, a major component of the plaintiff’s injury is emotional or mental. As the Supreme Court of Canada recently affirmed in Saadati v. Moorhead, 2017 SCC 28, such losses are compensable where, quoting Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., 2008 SCC 27, they are “’serious and prolonged and rise above the ordinary annoyances, anxieties and fears’ that come with living in civil society”. The plaintiff has clearly met the burden of proving serious and prolonged disturbance to her emotional well-being arising from the injuries in the First and Second Accidents.

[85]         When I consider the facts I have found about the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, I conclude that a fair award for non-pecuniary loss is $85,000. This award does not include any amount for two discrete injuries or symptoms: the exacerbation of the plaintiff’s neck and shoulder pain that occurred in the six-month period after the Third Accident; and the headache symptoms that the plaintiff suffered after that accident.


BC Supreme Court – Double Costs Does Not Mean Double Disbursements

June 28th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, confirming that an order for double costs does not also mean a party is entitled to double disbursements.

In today’s case (Lafond v. Mandair) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff made a formal settlement offer of $300,000.  At trial the Plaintiff beat this quantum being awarded just over $343,000.

The Plaintiff sought double costs and disbursements.  The Defendant agreed double costs were in order but argued that double disbursements were not recoverable.  The Court agreed and in doing so provided the following succinct reasons:

[14]         Double costs may be awarded for some or all steps taken after delivery of the offer to settle. A step in the proceeding is a formal step that moves the action forward: Canadian National Railway Company v. Chiu, 2014 BCSC 75 at para. 7.

[15]         Incurring a disbursement is not a formal step as contemplated by the Civil Rules.

[16]          I, therefore, conclude that under Rule 9-1(5)(b), double disbursements are not to be awarded as part of double costs. Thus, a successful offer to settle can be rewarded with an entitlement to double costs for tariff items, together with actual and reasonable disbursements.


“It Is Not Necessary To Call Expert Evidence On Each Issue”

June 26th, 2017

In recent years expert evidence has become more common in injury litigation and it is not unusual to see litigants sometimes err on the side of overkill.  To this end helpful comments were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, highlighting this practice and reminding litigants expert evidence can be used judiciously.

In the recent case (Truax v. Hyrb) the parties were involved in a collision and fault was at issue.  The Defendant brought an application seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit and argued that the Plaintiff failing to adduce expert engineering evidence should lead to an adverse inference.  In rejecting this suggestion Mr. Justice Dley provided the following comments about the over-use of expert evidence:

[20]         The defence argues that the failure by the plaintiff to introduce engineering evidence of the collision is “telling” and that an inference should be drawn against Mr. Truax. I agree that the absence of engineering evidence is telling – there is no need to call such expert evidence when common sense prevails.

[21]         Litigation has become a costly venture; oftentimes unnecessarily so. Litigants are far too quick to secure expert testimony when it is not required. Perhaps that is out of an abundance of caution and concern that the absence of expert evidence will be a failing of counsel.

[22]         Each case should be considered on its unique circumstances. It is trite to say that it is not necessary to call expert evidence on each issue. Expert testimony should be restricted to those matters where it would actually assist the court because the evidence is so specialized, scientific or complex. Expert evidence should not be viewed as a default or automatic step in litigation strategy.

 


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Aggravation of Chronic, Disabling Pre-Existing Condition

June 14th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a collision which aggravated long-standing pre-existing health complications.

In today’s case (Cheema v. Khan) the Plaintiff was disabled since 2003 due to arthritis and depression.  She was involved in a 2012 collision that the Defendants admitted fault for.  The collision aggravated her pre-existing issues.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Chief Justice Hinkson provided the following reasons:

[103]     There is no question that Ms. Cheema was unemployable after 2003. She had been on long-term disability from employment as a linen worker since 2004 due to rheumatoid arthritis and major depressive disorder. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the 1990s. The pain was in her neck initially, followed by bilateral hand pain since 2000. Her rheumatoid arthritis affected her hands, wrists, feet, ankles and shoulders. In the month preceding the Collision, the plaintiff had a flare up of her rheumatoid arthritis. Since 2000, the plaintiff had also suffered from longstanding, severe and chronic major depressive disorder, chronic anxiety and panic attacks leading up to the Collision.

[104]     I am unable to accept the plaintiff’s submission that her condition prior to the Collision was stable. She suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, Morton’s neuromas and a severe major depressive disorder prior to the Collision, and these conditions compromised her ability to ambulate, cook, clean and perform other household activities. I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s severe rheumatoid arthritis and severe depression waxed and waned prior to the Collision, but overall were worsening, and would have continued to worsen even if she had not been involved in the Collision.

[105]     I find, however, that the Collision caused an aggravation of her pre-Collision neck, back and shoulder pain and headaches, and likely had a negative effect on the symptoms arising from her rheumatoid arthritis.

[106]     I conclude that the plaintiff’s neck, back and shoulder pain and headaches were worsened by the Collision and that without the accident she would not have suffered from those difficulties as much as she has for the four years that have followed the Collision.

[107]     I accept the evidence of Dr. Shuckett that stress has a negative effect on someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and has had such an effect on the plaintiff and accelerated the progress of her disease.

[108]     I am also persuaded that the Collision had a negative effect on the plaintiff’s psychiatric state that has resulted in a downward spiralling effect causing the plaintiff to brood about her physical condition and limit her activities, in turn worsening her depression, in turn compromising her participation in certain activities and so on…

[133]     I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $75,000.