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.

Archive for October, 2009

$25,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded in Low Velocity Impact

October 31st, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday (Boyd v. Shortreed) by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with a Low Velocity Impact (LVI).  The Plaintiff testified that she was involved in a rear-end crash and that she was injured despite having minimal damage to her vehicle.  Interestingly, the Defendant denied that the crash happened at all.

Mr. Justice Harvey rejected the Defendant’s evidence and concluded that a crash did occur.  Specifically he held that:

[33] The plaintiff reported the accident on April 19, 2005 by telephone and advised the adjuster for ICBC of the damage to her vehicle and the fact she had been injured.  Without first bringing the vehicle to ICBC, she took the car to an auto body shop for repairs and the bumper was fixed.  She testifies that the total cost of repairs was about $360.  No documentary evidence concerning the repairs was ever produced in evidence.  Photographs of the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s vehicle were of little assistance in determining whether there was any damage visible.  It is conceded that the damage amounted to nothing more than an abrasion or scratch requiring repainting.  There was no structural damage to the plaintiff’s car…

[59] There were other inconsistencies in the evidence of the defendant which cause me to reject his evidence as to the happening of the incident.  Accordingly, wherever the evidence of the plaintiff and the defendant conflict, I accept the evidence of the plaintiff as being the accurate version of events.

[60] That being found, I conclude that the defendant struck the plaintiff’s car from the rear.  While I accept there was a situation of peril created by the driver of the tractor trailer, the proximate cause of the collision between the defendant’s vehicle and that of the plaintiff was the inattention of the defendant by travelling too close to the rear of the plaintiff’s vehicle or, alternatively, the condition of the brakes on his vehicle which did not allow him to slow his vehicle in time to avoid hitting the plaintiff’s vehicle.

[61] I do not find the plaintiff’s reaction to the danger created by the tractor trailer driver to be wanting and decline to apportion any fault for the accident to her.  She reacted appropriately to a situation of emergency created by another driver who is not a party to the action.

[62] As a result, the defendant is 100% liable for the collision and resultant damages.

In valuing the Plaintiff’s Non-Pecuniary Damages at $25,000 Mr. Justice Harvey made the following findings with respect to her accident related injuries:

[76] The only new complaint arising from the accident appears to be the onset of mid-back pain.  This is based mainly on self report.  The extent and duration of these symptoms are described in some detail in the reports of Dr. O’Connor and Dr. McKenzie.  This complaint seems to have occasioned the most pain and has persisted, although significantly improved, to the date of trial.  Her recovery was estimated by the plaintiff to be at 85% of normal when she last attended Dr. McKenzie in August 2009.  There is no ongoing disability related to the complaints nor has there been for some since late in 2007.

[77] In summary, the plaintiff suffered an exacerbation of her previous symptoms in her neck and lower back.  I find these complaints had substantially resolved to their pre-accident condition inside of one year.  In April of 2006, according to the notes of Dr. Shah, there was a further onset of lower back pain but, on the whole of the evidence, I cannot relate this flare up to the accident of April 2005.  The injury to her mid-back was as a result of the accident.  It persisted longer and caused her more discomfort than the exacerbation of her pre-existing symptoms.

[78] Accordingly, taking all of this into account, I assess general damages in the amount of $25,000 in respect of her soft tissue injuries.


$95,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Pain From 2 MVA's

October 31st, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday dealing with an appropriate award of damages for soft tissue injuries and chronic pain lasting for over 6 years.

In yesterday’s case (Gosal v. Singh) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 BC Car Crashes.  The first in 2003, the second in 2005. The first crash was a rear end collision.  Fault was admitted.  As the Plaintiff was recovering from her injuries from the first collision she was involved in the second collision.

The second crash happened when the Defendant, who was parked, pulled out in front of the Plaintiff’s lane of travel.  Fault was not admitted but Madam Justice Loo held that the defendant was 100% at fault finding that he “moved his vehicle from a parked position without first determining that he could do so safely, and that (the Plaintiff) had no opportunity to avoid the collision.”

The Plaintiff suffered from various soft tissue injuries and chronic pain which lasted for over 6 years and still bothered the Plaintiff by the time of trial.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $95,000 Madam Justice Loo made the following findings:

[49] Ms. Gosal suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck, upper back, shoulders, and mid and lower back, which caused severe headaches. She was treated with physiotherapy, massage, and chiropractic treatments, but her recovery took longer because of her depression and anxiety. She was recovering when the second accident exacerbated her injuries, including her depression and anxiety.

[50] Dr. Khunkhun states that Ms. Gosal’s long-term prognosis is guarded because her symptoms have not resolved after such a long period of time since the accidents. She does not consider Ms. Gosal to be at an increased risk of any long-term sequelae such as osteoarthritis. She believes Ms. Gosal would continue to benefit from body conditioning and strengthening exercises. She observed that in the past Ms. Gosal benefitted from regular exercise and when she stops exercising regularly, her mood deteriorates and her pain increases.

[51] Dr. Manchanda last saw Ms. Gosal on September 24, 2008. She told him that she had pain on about four or five days a week, and no pain on about two days a week. She was still looking for employment in counselling. At that time, Dr. Manchanda felt that Ms. Gosal could work in a job that was sedentary or involved light physical duties. He also felt that Ms. Gosal could complete the majority of her household chores, but that she might require a break or assistance with the heavier chores, such as vacuuming or carrying heavy laundry.

[52] Dr. Manchanda’s prognosis has thus far proved to be accurate. Ms. Gosal has worked full-time since October 6, 2008 in a job that is fairly sedentary and involves only light physical duties. There is no evidence that she has taken time off work because of symptoms arising from the accidents…

[67] I prefer Dr. Sandhu’s opinion that Ms. Gosal is not seeking secondary gains. She was looking after the household and her children’s needs as best she could, and doing her best to continue with her studies. Having observed Ms. Gosal, and on all the evidence, I conclude that she is not malingering and that her complaints of pain and depression are genuine.

[68] She continues to improve, albeit slowly. I find that there are two to three days a week when she is not in pain. Full-time employment has assisted her both physically and emotionally. Though it is now more than six years since the first accident, and more than four years since the second accident, she still suffers from depression and pain. I anticipate that over the next few years, with a regular daily exercise program, her physical pain and depression will continue to improve but may not resolve completely.

[71] I find that circumstances of Ms. Gosal’s injuries are similar to those in Foran v. Nguyen, 2006 BCSC 605, 149 A.C.W.S. (3d) 419, where the award for non-pecuniary damages was $90,000, and Jackson v. Lai, 2007 BCSC 1023, 160 A.C.W.S. (3d) 276, where the award was $100,000.

[72] I consider an award of $95,000 for non-pecuniary damages to be appropriate.

In addition to this case’s value as a precedent for valuing non-pecuniary damages for chronic pain, this case is worth reviewing for the Court’s criticism of the expert witness called by the defense.

I’ve previously written about the duty of experts to the court and highlighted judicial criticism when experts ignore this duty.  In today’s case the court made critical findings with respect to Dr. Hymie Davis, a psychiatrist who billed over $290,000 to ICBC in 2008.  Specifically Madam Justice Loo found that Dr. Davis “was presenting a case for the defence rather than providing an impartial expert opinion.  Dr. Davis’ argument that (the Plaintiff’s) injuries should have healed and that she is seeking secondary gains or malingering, is at odds with his article “The Whiplash Injury“.


ICBC Injury Claims and Your Privacy: The Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality

October 30th, 2009

When you sue for damages in the BC Supreme Court in an ICBC Injury Claim you are subject to certain rules of compelled disclosure.  These rules require you to give verbal, documentary and even physical discovery (independent medical exams).

When ICBC gets access to this private information in the lawsuit process it is subject to an “implied undertaking of confidentiality“.  What this means is this information is not to be used by ICBC for purposes outside of the lawsuit.

If you have a further ICBC Claim involving similar injuries making the previous records relevant, can ICBC provide these records to their lawyer to be used against you in a subsequent claim?  Reasons for judgement were released today addressing this issue and the answer is no, at least not without your consent or a court order.

In today’s case (Chonn v. DCRS Canada Corp dba Mercedez-Benz Credit Canada) the Plaintiff had a history of ICBC Injury Claims.  In the most recent claim the Defence Lawyer gathered documents from the previous claims and intended to use them in the current lawsuit.  The Plaintiff objected to this.  A motion was brought before the BC Supreme Court and Mr. Justice Voith was asked to decide whether “the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“ICBC”), which, by operation of statute, had conduct of the defence of each of the Earlier Actions and has conduct of the Current Action, can list the documents it obtained from the plaintiff in the Earlier Actions without first obtaining the plaintiff’s consent or leave of the court.”

In answering this question Mr. Justice Voith summarized the law behind the “implied undertaking of confidentiality” and set out the limits of ICBC’s use of records in subsequent claims.  The highlights of the decisions are set out below:

[25] A party who has documents from earlier litigation that are impressed with the implied undertaking simply cannot make use of those documents without the concurrence of the party from whom they were obtained or leave of the court. The implied undertaking protects documents or oral discovery obtained in earlier litigation from being used for any purpose “collateral” to that litigation. Thus, the documents cannot be used for internal strategic review in subsequent litigation. They cannot be used for the purposes of drafting pleadings. They cannot be sent to counsel for the purposes of obtaining an opinion in new litigation. All of these obligations bound the named defendants in the Current Action as well as ICBC in its conduct of that litigation.

[39] Once one recognizes that a central focus of the implied undertaking rule is to prevent the use of documents in subsequent litigation without consent or leave of the court, it is not sound to assert that Rule 26 displaces the application of the implied undertaking rule. Rule 26 is a rule of broad application and it governs virtually all civil actions. There are like provisions in most other jurisdictions. The result advanced by the defendants would significantly curtail the efficacy and ambit of the rule.

[40] The submission of the defendants would also significantly erode both policy objectives underlying the rule. It would impair the privacy interests of the party to the earlier action who made disclosure and gave discovery evidence. It would also subvert the policy objective of encouraging parties to “provide a more complete and candid discovery” referred to inJuman at para. 26.

[41] The intended purview of the “statutory exceptions” rule which is referenced by the Court in Juman, is limited to specific legislation which compels disclosure and which expressly overrides the privilege and/or confidentiality concerns of the holder of the information. Rule 26 does not achieve these objects. Though it requires disclosure from parties to litigation, both Rule 26(2) and the structure of Form 93 recognize the ongoing entitlement of a party to maintain a claim for privilege. While documents covered by an implied undertaking are not, strictly speaking, privileged, I believe that it would be appropriate for a party, from whom document disclosure is sought, to list those documents in its possession which are subject to an implied undertaking under part 3 of its list of documents.

This case also addressed the remedies available when there is a breach of an implied undertaking and these are worth reviewing for anyone interested in BC Privacy Law.


BC Supreme Court Addresses Scope of Expert Witness Cross Examination

October 28th, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today addressing the permissible scope of Cross Examination of an expert witness in a BC Injury Claim.

In today’s case (MacEachern v. Rennie) the Defendants called a physician to give expert opinion evidence.  This physician happened to be a treating doctor of the Plaintiff’s prior to her injuries.  While testifying the doctor was taken through his clinical records by defence counsel on an entry by entry basis.  The doctor was asked what happened on each of those clinic visits and in canvassing this the doctor gave evidence about the prognosis and treatment of Hepatitis C (which is an area the doctor apparently was not called to address).

The Plaintiff then wished to cross examine the doctor about treatments and the prognosis for Hepatitis C.  The Defence lawyer objected to this on the basis that such a cross examination would “call for new opinion that are not admissible since the Plaintiff has not served the defendants with notice of those opinion“.

Mr. Justice Ehrcke swiftly rejected the Defendant’s objections noting that they could not restrict the cross examination on a topic which they chose to ask the doctor about in direct.  Specifically Mr. Justice Ehrcke noted as follows:

[11]         With respect to the first point, the CN Defendants argue that the notice which they served on the plaintiff in connection with Dr. Glynn-Morris contains only treatment opinions and does not touch on the area of the plaintiff’s Hepatitis C. This argument misses the mark. The plaintiff is entitled to respond to all the opinion evidence led by the CN Defendants, not just that which was contained in the written statement of Dr. Glynn-Morris’ opinion. It was counsel for the CN Defendants who chose in direct-examination to ask Dr. Glynn-Morris about testing of the plaintiff for Hepatitis C. It was in direct-examination that Dr. Glynn-Morris opined that in 30 percent of people, Hepatitis C cures itself and disappears, and that he ordered a test to see if that is what had happened in Ms. MacEachern’s case. Having opened up that area in examination-in-chief, the CN Defendants cannot now restrict the plaintiff’s cross-examination about it simply on the ground that it was not covered in the written statement that they had delivered to the plaintiff.

[12]         In any event, the proposed evidence is also truly responsive as a rebuttal to the opinion of another expert witness called by the CN defendants, Dr. Baker, whose report entered at Tab 1 of Exhibit 61 states:

I note Ms. MacEachern had already contracted hepatitis C which with her ongoing ingestion of multiple drugs would likely have progressed with liver damage and possible cirrhosis and eventual liver failure.

[13] Nevertheless, the CN Defendants argue that even if the proposed line of questioning did not require notice pursuant to the provisions of Rule 40A, notice was still required because of the case management order made in respect of this trial on February 6, 2009, which provided, among other things, that the plaintiff’s reply or rebuttal reports were to be delivered by January 29, 2009. The CN Defendants point out that Dr. Baker’s report was delivered to the plaintiff on December 1, 2008. They submit therefore that any opinion evidence in reply to Dr. Baker’s report should have been delivered to them by January 29, 2009.

[14]         The short answer to this argument is that the deadlines set out in the case management order relate to expert witnesses that each party proposed to call as witnesses in their own case. The order does not, by its terms, require a party to give notice of the questions it proposes to ask in cross-examination of another party’s witnesses, even if those questions in cross-examination have the effect of eliciting an expert rebuttal or reply opinion.

[15] The case of Canadian National Railway Company v. Canada, 2002 BCSC 1669, 8 B.C.L.R. (4th) 323 cited by the CN Defendants is distinguishable, because that case did not deal with the effect of a case management order on questions asked of an opposing witness in cross-examination.

[16] To summarize:  the questions that the plaintiff proposes to ask in cross-examination of Dr. Glynn-Morris are proper, and to the extent that they elicit expert opinions, those opinions are proper reply or rebuttal. Such reply or rebuttal opinions elicited in cross-examination are not subject to the notice requirements of Rule 40A, or of the case management orders that were made in this case.


ICBC Injury Claims and Effective Cross Examination

October 27th, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today showing how an effective cross examination of a Defendant can make all the difference in the prosecution of an ICBC Injury Claim.

In today’s case (Mclaren v. Rice) the Plaintiff was involved in a single vehicle accident in February, 2005.  The Plaintiff was a passenger.  The Defendant lost control of the vehicle and left the roadway.  The Plaintiff was injured in this collision.  There were no witnesses to the crash itself and the Plaintiff’s injuries were so severe ( a closed head injury and a fractured skull) that he had no memory of the accident.  The Defendant denied that he was at fault for losing control of the vehicle.

Just because a driver loses control of a vehicle does not automatically make him at fault for the accident.  The Plaintiff still has to prove his/her case on a ‘balance of probabilities‘.   So how then, can a plaintiff with no memory of what happened, with no witnesses and with a defendant who denies wrongdoing prove his case?  Some of the tools that can be used are pre-trial discovery and cross examination.  Today’s case demonstrates that the lawyer involved effectively used these tools to prove that the Driver was responsible for losing control.

Mr. Justice Brooke found that the Defendant driver was at fault.  In reaching this conclusion the Court highlighted serious damage done to the Defendant’s position through cross-examination.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer was able to pick apart the Defendant’s in court evidence and the effect of this was a winning case for the Plaintiff.  Following the Defendant’s cross examination Mr. Justice Brooke reached the below conclusions about his credibility:

[24] There are significant inconsistencies and contradictions between the evidence given by Jacob Rice at trial and prior unsworn statements given by him and prior evidence given under oath. It is, of course, the evidence given at trial that I must assess, and those prior inconsistent statements go to the credibility of Mr. Jacob Rice. I find that Jacob Rice is an unreliable witness and that the inconsistencies and contradictions diminish such weight as his evidence might have had. I find that the events immediately preceding the accident are not clear in Jacob Rice’s mind because he was either asleep or inattentive as the truck proceeded across the oncoming lanes of traffic. There were no brake marks or any indication that evasive action was taken until the truck “hit the ditch”. I find that what Jacob Rice told ICBC in his statement taken on March 8, 2005, is likely what happened:

It was a pull to the left and then, I just hit the ditch and as we hit the ditch, I tried pulling it to the right and it lost control and, and spinning and from there, it just lost control.

(Emphasis Added)

[25] I find that Jacob Rice failed to apply the brakes in a timely fashion and that he failed to divert the course of the truck so as to avoid the accident which occurred. Whether he fell asleep or was merely momentarily inattentive, his conduct was negligent.


BC Personal Injury Law Round Up

October 26th, 2009

The volume of ICBC and other personal injury cases released by our Superior Courts over the past 2 days has been higher than usual so I present today’s BC Injury Law Update in a ‘round up‘ fashion.

The first case of note was from the BC Court of Appeal and dealt with limitations under the Local Government Act.  When suing a local government for damages a Plaintiff must comply with s. 286 of the Local Government Act which holds in part that a Plaintiff must give “notice in writing…within 2 months from the date on which the damage was sustained“.  Failure to comply with this section can be a bar to suing.  An exception to this limitation period, however, is contained in s. 286(3) which holds that:

(3)        Failure to give the notice or its insufficiency is not a bar to the maintenance of an action if the court before whom it is tried, or, in case of appeal, the Court of Appeal, believes

(a)        there was a reasonable excuse, and

(b)        the defendant has not been prejudiced in its defence by the failure or insufficiency.

Today the BC Court of Appeal dealt with the issue of what is a ‘reasonable excuse’.

In today’s case, Thauili v. Delta, the Plaintiff sued for injuries sustained while in a fitness class in a community center operated by Delta.  The Plaintiff did not give notice within the 2 months set out in s. 286 of the Local Government Act.  Delta brought a motion to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claim but this motion was dismissed.  Delta appealed to the BC Court of Appeal.  This too was dismissed and in so doing the BC Court of Appeal added clarity to the issues that can be considered when addressing a ‘reasobable excuse’ for not giving notice within the required 2 month period.  The highlights of this discussion were as follows:

[10] In Teller, a five-judge division of this Court considered the construction to be placed on the words “reasonable excuse”, taken in the context of s. 755 of the Municipal Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 290.  Section 755 contained the same notice requirement found in s. 286(1) of the Local Government Act as well as the same saving provision now found in s. 286(3).  Although not identically worded, there is no difference in substance between s. 755 of the Municipal Act and s. 286 of the Local Government Act.

[11] Teller did not propound a test to determine what constitutes “reasonable excuse”.  Rather, Teller instructs that “all matters put forward as constituting either singly or together a reasonable excuse must be considered.” (at 388)  The question is whether it is reasonable that the plaintiff be excused, having regard to all the circumstances.

[12] Teller expressly overruled those trial decisions which had excluded ignorance of the law as a factor to be considered in deciding whether there was reasonable excuse for the failure to give notice. …

[37] There can be no doubt that after its pronouncement, Teller became – and has remained – the governing authority on the construction of “reasonable excuse” found in the saving provision in s. 755 of the Municipal Act.

[42] As to the purpose of the section, Southin J.A. said, at 383:

What then is the purpose of the section?  Clearly one of the purposes of the section is to enable a municipality to investigate a claim fully.  But that purpose is addressed by the second branch of the concluding sentence.  The only other purpose I can think of was to protect municipalities against stale claims in order to enable them to estimate their future liabilities and make budgetary provision for them.  But I know of no authority for that surmise. It really is difficult to make much sense out of the words “reasonable excuse” in the context….

43]         After considering the provenance of the section, the state of the law as revealed by the case authorities in 1957 when the provision was, in effect, newly enacted, and the case authorities, including Horie v. Nelson (1988), 20 B.C.L.R. (2d) 1, [1988] 2 W.W.R. 79 (C.A.), leave to appeal to S.C.C. refused 27 B.C.L.R. (2d) xxxv [Horie], Southin J.A. concluded, at 388:

[T]he maxim “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is not a rule of law determinative of an issue of statutory interpretation in every instance.

In the end, the question is simply what do the words at issue mean in the context.  In my opinion, ignorance of the law is a factor to be taken into account.  So for that matter is knowledge of the law. But all matters put forward as constituting either singly or together a reasonable excuse must be considered.

Those decisions of the court below which exclude ignorance of the law as a factor are, therefore, overruled.

[50] The decision in Teller does not propound a test or establish criteria which must be met before the court may find a reasonable excuse for the failure to give notice; instead, the decision invites a determination informed by the purpose or intent of the notice provision, taking into account all matters put forward as constituting either singly or together a reasonable excuse.  The determination of whether there is reasonable excuse is contextual.  The question is whether it is reasonable that the plaintiff be excused, having regard to all the circumstances.

Ultimately the Court held that ignorance of the law can be a reasonable excuse in certain circumstances under the Local Government Act.

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The second case released today dealt with Pain and Suffering Awards for Soft Tissue Injuries.  In this case (Robinson v. Anderson) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 rear end car crash in Tsawwassen, BC.  Liability was admitted leaving the court to deal with the value of the injuries.

Mr. Justice Bernard awarded the Plaintiff $25,000 for her non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).  In so doing he summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries and their effect on her life as follows:

[18] It is not disputed that the plaintiff sustained soft-tissue injuries to her neck, back, left shoulder and right knee in the collision. Similarly, there is no suggestion that the plaintiff is a dishonest witness who is prevaricating or exaggerating in relation to her pain and the various consequences it has wrought upon her life….

[22] Causation is established where the plaintiff proves that the defendant caused or contributed to the injury: see Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458, 140 D.L.R. (4th) 235. In regard to the instant case, I am satisfied that the plaintiff has proved that the defendant caused or contributed to the injury which has manifested itself in ongoing symptoms of pain. The evidence establishes consistency and continuity in the plaintiff’s symptoms (albeit with some amelioration) and an absence of any intervening cause which might otherwise account for the plaintiff’s current pain. A dearth of objective medical findings is not determinative; this is particularly so for soft tissue injuries.

[23] Notwithstanding the aforementioned causal link, the evidence strongly supports finding that: (a) the plaintiff’s injuries are not permanent; (b) if the plaintiff takes reasonable steps to improve her fitness level, then significant, if not full, recovery is very likely; and (c) if the plaintiff does take those reasonable steps, then recovery is attainable within a relatively short time frame. In this regard, the medical opinions of both Dr. Hodgson and Dr. Werry (on May 6, 2009 and April 9, 2009 respectively) suggest that the plaintiff’s present symptoms would decrease substantially through a reduction of her “habitus” (body size and shape), increased physical activity, and working through that which is sometimes described as “the pain of reactivation”.

[24] There are similarities between the plaintiff in the instant case and the plaintiff in Nair v. Mani, [1991] B.C.J. No. 2830. Ms Nair was 49 years of age, overweight, and physically unfit at the time she was injured in a motor vehicle collision. She complained of ongoing back, thigh and knee pain. The plaintiff was not a malingerer, but the court found that she could have accelerated her improvement and lessened the impact of her injuries through exercise and weight loss. In relation to the plaintiff’s fitness the court said:

A defendant must take her victim as she finds her, be it with a thin skull or an out of shape musculature. But when it comes to the reasonable efforts expected of a plaintiff to aid her own recovery after the accident, then those reasonable steps include exercise and muscle toning so that an injury may be shaken off more quickly.

[25] The plaintiff’s weight is not relevant to causation; however, it is germane to the plaintiff’s duty to mitigate her losses. It is trite law that a plaintiff has an ongoing duty to mitigate his or her damages. In the case at bar, as in Nair v. Mani, the plaintiff’s duty to mitigate includes taking reasonable steps to reduce her body habitus and increase her fitness level…

[28] Assessment of just and fair compensation for non-pecuniary losses by reference to other cases is a daunting task. Each case is unique in its plaintiff and set of circumstances; nonetheless, I accept that the cases cited by the parties assist in defining reasonable upper and lower limits for a non-pecuniary damages award in the case at bar. The most salient factors of the case at bar are: (a) the absence of proof of a permanent or long-term injury; (b) the existence of some amelioration of symptoms; and (c) the absence of enduring and incessant debilitating pain. In relation to (c), I accept that the plaintiff has suffered from pain since the accident and that it has had an adverse effect upon many aspects of her life; I simply note that the intensity of the pain has not been to the degree suffered by many other plaintiffs.

[29] Having due regard to all the foregoing and the cases cited by counsel, I find that a fair and just award for the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary losses is $25,000.

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In the third case released today the Court was asked to deal with the issue of fault when the occupant of a parked car opens his door and is struck by a cyclist.

In today’s case (Hagreen v. Su) the Defendant was parked and opened his car door.  As he did so the Plaintiff, who was travelling on his bicycle, drove into the open door and was injured.  The Defendant was found 100% at fault for the Plaintiff’s injuries and in so finding Mr. Justice Brooke summarized and applied the law as follows:

] On the day of the accident, Mr. Hagreen was wearing a helmet as well as reflective stripes on his jacket and boots and was proceeding eastward. Cars were parked on his right side in the 2400 block of East Broadway, and as a matter of course, the plaintiff said that while monitoring the vehicle traffic in the two lanes to his left, he also monitored the driver’s side of the parked cars, in order to alert himself to any potential risk. Mr. Hagreen estimated his speed at 25 to 30 km/hr when he said, without any warning, the driver’s door of Mr. Su’s vehicle opened; that he, Mr. Hagreen, yelled, “Whoa,” but immediately hit the door. He described his upper body hitting the door, and he injured his ankle as well when he hit the ground. Emergency services were called, the first responder being a fire truck before the ambulance arrived, and Mr. Hagreen was transported to hospital. He indicated that he believes that he passed out in hospital, but after being seen by a physician, he was told that he could go home. Mr. Hagreen said that when he tried to put his shirt on, he could not lift his left arm above his head, and this resulted in x-rays being taken of his left arm region. Mr. Hagreen saw his family doctor, Dr. Montgomery, who prescribed Tylenol and Codeine to treat the pain throughout the plaintiff’s upper body, principally in the area of the right collar bone. As a result of continuing complaints of pain in the left collar bone, the plaintiff was referred for physiotherapy which provided some relief for what he was told were soft tissue injuries. Mr Hagreen was off work for seven days, and on his return, he avoided heavy lifting and stretching which resulted in other employees having to do that work.

[4] The defendant, Mr. Su, said that on the day of the accident, it was raining and his child was ill, so he had moved the car to the front of the house to take the child to the doctor. He said that he checked what was behind him, and he saw a cyclist about six or seven houses back, and he felt that he had enough time to get out. He said that he put one leg out and turned his body when the bicycle crashed into the door. In cross-examination, Mr. Su acknowledged giving a statement shortly after the accident, and in that statement, he said that he opened the car door slightly and made shoulder check, then he opened the door further and moved both of his legs out, when he saw the bike approaching “really fast” and the resulting collision occurred. Mr. Su had earlier indicated that he had passed the test in English for a second language, although most of his customers speak Chinese rather than English. Mr. Su was asked in cross-examination whether it was true that he did not see the bicycle until the door was opened and that it was then too late, and he acknowledged that that was true but indicated that it was some few years past. It was put to Mr. Su that he did not see the bicycle until it was too late, to which he said yes, and it was put to him that that was the truth, to which he also said yes.

[5] I am satisfied that the defendant is solely responsible for the collision, having opened his door when it was unsafe to do so. Section 203(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318, says:

(1) A person must not open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so.

[6] I find that the defendant, Mr. Su, is wholly responsible for the collision and that the plaintiff took all reasonable steps available to him to avoid the collision, but that the door was not opened by Mr. Su until the plaintiff was so close that he had no opportunity to brake or to take evasive action. I now turn to the question of damages.

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The last ICBC related case released today dealt with the issue of costs.  In this case (Mariano v. Campbell) the Plaintiff sued for injuries as a result of a car crash.  The claim was prosecuted under Rule 66 and the trial took 4 days (which exceeds the 2 days allowed under Rule 66).

When a Plaintiff sues and succeeds in a Rule 66 lawsuit their ‘costs’ are capped at $6,600 “unless the court orders otherwise” as set out in Rule 66(29).

In today’s case the Plaintiff was awarded a total of just over $115,000 after trial.  She brought an application to be permitted an additional $3,200 in costs.  Madam Justice Loo allowed this application.  This case is worth reviewing in full to see some of the factors courts consider when addressing additional costs to the successful party in a Rule 66 Lawsuit.


ICBC Injury Claims and Your Driving History

October 22nd, 2009

When you are involved in a suit for damages in an ICBC injury claim can you access the opposing parties driving history?  Reasons for judgement were recently brought to my attention making just such an order.

In the recent case (Rothenbusch v. Van Boeyen) the Plaintiff claimed damages against the Defendant.  Liability (fault for the car crash) was at issue.  During the examination for discovery the Plaintiff’s lawyer asked the Defendant how many speeding tickets he had.  He could not recall exactly and indicated “one or two“.   The lawyer then asked for him to produce his driving history and he refused.

In the application for production of the Defendant’s driving history Master Caldwell of the BC Supreme Court held that “(the Defendant) was unable to provide an actual firm answer (as to how many speeding tickets he had)…The defence says that the driving pattern is not particularly relevant, unlike defence requests for previous medical records and that type of thing.  She indicates that this is a highly invasive application with respect to the privacy of the Defendant, and that unlike a plaintiff who opens their life up to investigation when they commence an action, the same cannot be said of the defence.  I am not really satisfied that that is necessarily the case, particularly in a situation where liability is at issue as it is here.  I am satisfied based on the questions asked and answered  and the form of the answers contained in the discovery transcript, that this record as sought may be producible.”

Despite ordering production of this record the Court went on to note that the same may not be admissible at trial.  Specifically Master Caldwell held that “Whether or not (the driving record) is relevant and passes the test of admissibility of trial will be up to the trial judge…I will order that the Defendant provide a copy of his driving record for a period of three years prior to the …accident”.


ICBC Part 7 Benefits and the Definition of Vehicle "Occupant"

October 22nd, 2009

Reasons for judgment were released today involving a tragic BC Pedestrian/Truck Crash addressing an injured Plaintiff’s entitlement to “no-fault” accident benefits.

In today’s case (Schuk v. York Fire & Casualty Insurance Company) the Plaintiff was outside of the vehicle (which was hauling a trailer) she was riding in for the purpose of putting chains on it.  While doing so she was struck by a tractor-trailer unit and suffered catastrophic injuries.  Her vehicle and the various trailers of the vehicles involved were insured with different companies.  The Plaintiff applied for ‘no-fault‘ accident benefits to all of the insurers and they all refused payment because they could not agree which of them was responsible for paying the benefits.

The obligation for ICBC to pay no-fault benefits turns in part on whether a person is “insured“.  The definition of an “insured” is contained in s. 78 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation and includes “an occupant of a vehicle that is licenced in the Province…” and “a pedestrian who collides with a vehicle described in an owner’s certificate” The determination of which insurer was ultimately responsible to pay the Plaintiff her benefits turned on whether she was an “occupant” of her vehicle at the time of this accident or a “pedestrian“.

Mr. Justice Myers held that the Plaintiff was a “pedestrian” and in so doing made the following observations with respect to the test for being an “occupant“:

[16]    The Regulation defines occupant, but does not define pedestrian.  Occupant is defined in s. 1(1) as follows:

“occupant” means a person operating or riding in a vehicle or camper and includes

(a)        a person entering or alighting from a vehicle or camper, and

(b)        a person, other than a garage service operator or an employee of a garage service operator, who is working, or whose dependant is working, in or on a vehicle or camper owned by that person;

[17]    There are a large number of cases which have addressed this issue in factual situations similar or analogous to the case at bar.  For example, in Kyriazis v. Royal Insurance Co. of Canada (1991), 82 D.L.R. (4th) 691 (Ont. Gen. Div.), affirmed (1993), 107 D.L.R. (4th) 288 (C.A.), the plaintiff pulled his car over to clean the snow off its windshield. Abbey J. held that he was not an occupant.  In doing so, Abbey J. rejected a line of authority – primarily from the United States – which applied what was referred to as a “zone of connection test”.  That test regarded the intent of the injured person as a significant determining factor of whether he or she was an occupant when not inside the vehicle.  Abbey J. focussed on the definition of occupant contained in the insurance policy before him, which was virtually identical to that in the Regulation.  He stated:

The word “occupant” is defined by reference to various physical activities or processes.  An “occupant” is a person who is driving an automobile, being carried in or upon an automobile, entering or getting onto an automobile or alighting from an automobile.  The plain meaning of the words used, it seems to me, suggests an intention to draw the line between an occupant and a non-occupant at the point that an individual, who is not driving, can no longer be said to be either entering or getting on to an automobile or, alternatively, alighting from an automobile…

[22]    However, the definition of “occupant” in the Regulation, and the definition in the policies involved in the other cases I have cited above, do in fact refer to the activity of driving, or getting in or out of a vehicle.  On that basis, I do not see a reason for departing from the approach in Kyriazis and the other cases I have cited above.

[23]    Ms. Schuk was not operating or riding in the vehicle, entering into it, nor alighting from it at the time of the accident.  Although the purpose of pulling over and getting out the vehicle was to put chains on it, the parties are in accord that Ms. Schuk was not actually working on the vehicle at the time of the collision.  Therefore none of the criteria for an occupant contained in the definition are met and she was not an occupant.

[24]    Pedestrian is not defined.  However, that was also so in most of the cases I cited above at para. 18.  The approach taken in those cases is that for the purposes of the scheme of automobile insurance, a victim of a car accident is either an occupant or a pedestrian; in other words if the victim does not fall within the definition of a passenger, then she is an occupant.  That appears to me to be the case with the legislation and regulation in issue in the case at bar.  Accordingly Ms. Schuk was a pedestrian at the time of the accident.

[25]    Ms. Shuk was therefore an insured for the purpose of no-fault benefits under both MPIC and ICBC coverage.


BC Court of Appeal Weighs in on Litigation Privilege

October 22nd, 2009

Further to my previous posts on Litigation Privilege in British Columbia, reasons for judgement were released today adding further clarity to this area of the law.

In today’s case (Shooting Star Amusements Ltd. v. Prince George Agricultural and Historical Association) the Plaintiff brought an application for the production of certain documents which the Defendant refused to produce on the grounds of Litigation Privilege.   Madam Justice Bruce ordered that the documents be produced.  The Defendant appealed.  In dismissing the appeal the BC Court of Appeal made it clear that when asserting a claim for privilege the party must offer evidence in support of this claim.  Specifically the Court held that:

it is only common sense that where a claim of privilege is contested, a court would normally require something more than counsel’s opinion offered in the course of argument.  As Mr. Cassie argued on behalf of the plaintiff, it has been clear at least since this court decidedHamalainen (Committee of) v. Sippola (1991) 62 B.C.L.R. (2d) 254, 3 C.P.C. (3d) 297 that the party asserting privilege in respect of a document bears the onus of establishing the privilege.

The defendant argued that the order for production would cause irreparable harm because the materials ordered to be disclosed would provide details of settlement discussions and legal advice.  The Court noted that such evidence was not before the trial judge.  Interestingly, the court stated that just because a claim for litigation privilege fails in a document production application the party is free to raise the claim again at trial and the trial judge will need to consider whether the documents can stay out of evidence for grounds privilege.  Specifically Madam Justice Newbury stated

I note that although the defendant was ordered to disclose the minutes, unredacted, to the plaintiff, this does not mean they, or the information they contain, will be admissible at trial.  A claim of privilege can still be asserted by the defendants if and when the plaintiff seeks to introduce the minutes into evidence and it will be for the trial judge to determine whether any kind of privilege does indeed attach.


Driving While Using Hand Held Cell Phone Soon to be Prohibited

October 21st, 2009

Driving while using a cell phone increases the chances of an accident.  In fact, a recent study has shown that distracted drivers can be more likely than impaired drivers to cause an accident.

With statistics like these in mind the BC Government has introduced amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act which come into force in January, 2010 making it unlawful to text/e-mail while driving and also making it unlawful for drivers to use a hand-held cell phone while driving.

These new laws are changes for the better and hopefully will reduce the number of accidents on our roads.  The BC Government’s press release introducing this law came out today and states as follows:

VICTORIA – B.C. roads will be safer following legislative changes to prevent the use of hand- held cellphones, portable electronic devices and text messaging while driving, Solicitor General Kash Heed announced today.

“We’re taking action today because British Columbians have made it clear they support stronger restrictions on cellphones and other devices that take a driver’s hands off the wheel and their eyes from the road,” said Heed. “Simply put, you cannot talk, type or dial on any hand-held device while driving.”

Changes to the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) upon legislative approval are to take effect on Jan. 1, 2010. At that point, only hands-free cellphones and devices that require one touch to activate will be permitted. Drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) will not be permitted to use hands-free phones in addition to other prohibited activity.

A new fine in the amount of $167 will begin to be levied on Feb. 1, 2010. If drivers are caught texting or emailing they will receive an additional three penalty points. Further, drivers in the GLP will receive the $167 fine and three penalty points for any violation of this legislation.

“As physicians, we often see the consequences of those injured in a car crash because a distracted driver was using a cellphone,” said Dr. Brian Brodie, president of the BC Medical Association. “This is preventative legislation that focuses on being responsible with new technology in a way that doesn’t put people’s lives at risk.”

Clayton Pecknold, vice-president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police said, “Police have been looking forward to these changes because it gives us another enforcement tool to create safer roads in this province.”

According to independent research and studies, cellphone use while driving is the number-one cause of distracted driving. On average, about 117 people die each year in B.C. and 1,400 are sent to hospital because someone was not paying attention behind the wheel.

In the coming months, government will launch an awareness campaign to educate drivers on the new law and the importance of paying attention to the road, pedestrians and other cars around them.