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 May, 2010

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Shoulder Impingement in ICBC Claim

May 31st, 2010

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing damages for accident related soft tissue injuries and shoulder impingement.

In last week’s case (Dial v. Grewal) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 BC motor vehicle collision.   Fault for the crash was admitted focusing the trial on the value of the claim.  The Plaintiff faced some credibility challenges at trial and the Court found that she “exaggerated” some of her testimony about the extent of her symptoms however Associate Chief Justice MacKenzie found that the plaintiff did suffer real injuries including traumatic right shoulder impingement.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 the Court made the following findings:

[4] For the reasons that follow, I find on the evidence as a whole that an appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $50,000 for the injuries the plaintiff sustained to her neck and right shoulder, the aggravation of her pre-existing low back condition and headaches, and more minor injuries to her ribs, and dizziness…

[190] The purpose of a non-pecuniary damage award is to compensate a plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. While each award must be made with reference to the particular facts of the case, other decisions may assist the court in arriving at an award that is fair to both parties: Smaill v. Williams, 2010 BCSC 73 at para. 78…

[194]     The plaintiff relies on the following cases in support of her submission that $80,000 is the appropriate quantum for non-pecuniary damages: Kasic v. Leyh, 2009 BCSC 649;Predinchuk v. Spencer, 2009 BCSC 1396; Thomas v. Bounds, 2009 BCSC 462; and Lee v. Metheral, 2006 BCSC 1841.

[195]     I find, conversely, that these cases support higher awards than is fair in this case because the defendants have no obligation to compensate the plaintiff for symptoms attributable to her pre-accident low back condition.  That said, I find that an award that is just and fair to both parties is $50,000.

[196]     As I have already discussed, the plaintiff’s testimony about her symptoms and pain was at times vague and at others, exaggerated. Nevertheless, I accept that she suffered substantial pain for months after the accident, as is supported by the medical evidence in this case. Her pain gradually improved, and she was able to substitute for her husband at work about 14 to 18 months after the accident, albeit primarily for a few hours at a time but also with a few full-time shifts. By that time, her neck and shoulder pain were manageable. The aggravation of her pre-existing low back condition had also resolved such that her back had returned to its pre-accident condition.

You can click here to access my archived posts of other recent BC Court cases awarding non-pecuniary damages for shoulder injuries.


BC Lawsuits and Court Jurisdiction, The "Real and Substantial Connection" Test

May 30th, 2010

If you want to sue somebody in British Columbia one thing that must be considered is whether the BC Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear the case.  With few exceptions, a Defendant can’t be sued in the BC Supreme Court unless they live here, consent, or if there is a “real and substantial connection” between British Columbia and the subject of the lawsuit.  Reasons for judgement were released earlier this week applying this test.

In this week’s case (Broman v. Machida Mack Shewchuck Meagher LLP) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 motor vehicle collision in Alberta.  He hired a BC lawfirm to help him with his claim.  That lawfirm told him he ought to sue in Alberta.  The BC lawfirm then hired an Alberta lawfirm to assist with the lawsuit.

Ultimately the Plaintiff was displeased with the result reached.  The Plaintiff alleged that his lawyers did not sue all the entities they should have and this compromised his rights.  The Plaintiff brought a lawsuit against the various lawyers in the BC Supreme Court.  The Alberta defendants challenged the lawsuit arguing that the BC Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction to hear the claim.   Madam Justice Kloegman agreed and ordered that the lawsuits be transferred to Alberta.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons explaining why the BC Supreme Court did not have a ‘real and substantial‘ connection with the facts underlying the lawsuit:

[25]        One of the stated purposes of the CJPTA is to bring Canadian jurisdictional rules into line with the principles laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada in Morguard Investments Ltd. v. De Savoye, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 1077.  In Morguard at 1108-1109, La Forest J. observed that reasonable limits must be placed on the exercise of jurisdiction against defendants served outside of a province if the courts of other provinces were to be expected to recognize each other’s judgments.  He did not define the “real and substantial connection” test, but remarked that it was not intended to be a rigid test. It should simply capture the idea that there must be some limits on the claims to jurisdiction.  He noted that the principles of order and fairness required consideration of the interest of the parties.  He concluded that the approach of permitting suit where there is a real and substantial connection with the action provided a reasonable balance between the rights of the parties,

[26]        When I apply the concept of order and fairness in deciding jurisdiction in the cases before me, I must side with the Albertan defendants.  They did not come to British Columbia looking to perform services for which they may be responsible to answer for in a British Columbia Court.  The plaintiff and SHB sought them out in Calgary where they practiced and where they would have expected to answer for any deficiencies in their service.  On top of that, it would be more orderly (and undoubtedly safer) for an Alberta Court, which would be more familiar with Alberta standards of practice, the legislation and law governing motor vehicle accident injury awards in Alberta, claims on the Fund, and Alberta limitation periods, to decide the issues in dispute.

[27]        S. 6 of the CJPTA has no application because the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench is a court of competent jurisdiction and is available to try these matters, without being inordinately inconvenient to Mr. Borman and SHB.  Therefore, I am transferring both of these proceedings to Alberta where they can be litigated together.  In doing so, I am well aware that Mr. Broman would ordinarily be entitled to sue his British Columbia lawyers in British Columbia.  However, as I stated earlier, at the heart of both these actions is the conduct of MM, not SHB.  There is nothing in the pleadings or the evidence before me to suggest that SHB are liable to Mr. Broman except vicariously for any negligent conduct of MM.  It would be impractical to hive off Mr. Broman’s claims against SHB from the rest of the action and I see no reason to do so.

[28]        Therefore the defendant MM shall have an order transferring the entirety of both the Vancouver and New Westminster actions to Calgary, Alberta pursuant to Part 3 of the CJPTA.  The details of the order required to ensure the effective transfer of the proceedings to Alberta can be spoken to if counsel cannot agree.

You can click here to read my other posts discussing the BC Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act and the Jurisdiction of the BC Supreme Court.


Defendant Awarded Trial Costs for Beating Formal Settlement Offer in ICBC Claim

May 29th, 2010

While Rule 37B is still being shaped in its application one pattern that is relatively well established is that if a Plaintiff is awarded less at trial than ICBC’s formal settlement offer the Plaintiff will likely be deprived of their trial costs and be ordered to pay a portion of the Defendant’s costs.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Courtenay Registry, demonstrating such a result.

In this week’s case (Berry v. LaBelle) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  He sued for damages.  The month before trial ICBC made a formal settlement offer to resolve the claim for $46,000.  This offer was rejected.  At trial the Plaintiff was awarded $30,000 in total damages by the BC Supreme Court (you can click here to read my article summarizing the trial judgement).

ICBC brought a motion under Rule 37B to be awarded double costs for all steps taken in the lawsuit after the formal offer was delivered.  Madam Justice Baker refused to award double costs, however the Court did deprive the Plaintiff of costs following the formal offer and ordered that the Plaintiff pay the Defendant’s costs from the week after the offer was made through to trial.

The Court recognized that such an order would significantly reduce the amount of damages the Plaintiff would receive.  Madam Justice Baker provided the following reasons justifying this result:

[13] Counsel for the defendant submits, and I agree, that the plaintiff did set his sights very high at trial.  In oral submissions at the end of trial, counsel for the plaintiff argued that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages was between $150,000 to $200,000; that the plaintiff should receive an award of $45,000 to $60,000 for past loss of income; and that the court should award $400,000 for loss of the capacity to earn income in future.  The submissions about income loss were particularly ambitious given that the plaintiff provided no documentary evidence whatsoever about income earned by the plaintiff before or after the accident…

[15]        I consider that the offer made by the defendant was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, although the plaintiff would, in my view, have reasonably needed some time to consider his position and seek his counsel’s advice.

[16]        As stated earlier, the plaintiff ought to have anticipated significant difficulty in maintaining a loss of income claim without the ability, or willingness, to provide documentary evidence about his earnings before or after the accident.

[17]        By the date of the defendant’s offer, the plaintiff had available to him the medical opinion evidence on which he relied at trial.  Given that the medical evidence ruled out neurological injury; plaintiff’s counsel would have had plenty of precedents available to assist in assessing the likely range of quantum of non-pecuniary damages…

[19]        Certainly the effect of the costs order the defendant is seeking would be to deprive the plaintiff of the greater part of the compensation to which I concluded he is entitled by reason of the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injury…

[21] In all of the circumstances, I am satisfied that it would be inequitable to make an award of double costs in favour of the defendant.  The defendant having elected to proceed under Rule 66, I am satisfied that the defendant’s entitlement to costs should be governed by Rule 66.  I award the plaintiff his costs, on Scale B, not to exceed $6,600, up to and including April 21, 2009, plus disbursements incurred to that date.  In respect of proceedings after that date, the defendant shall have her costs, but also limited to $6,600 pursuant to Rule 66(29); and her disbursements from and after April 22, 2009.   There shall be no order for double costs.

As readers of this blog are likely aware, Rule 37B will be replaced with Rule 9 on July 1, 2010 when the new BC Civil Rules come into force. The new rule uses language that is almost identical to Rule 37B which will likely have cases such as this one retain their value as precedents moving forward.

You can click here to access my archived posts discussing other Rule 37B cases.


Court Finds Health Care Costs Recovery Act Does Not Apply to Actions Commenced before April 1, 2009

May 28th, 2010

(Please Note:  I’ve been advised by a colleague that the case discussed in this post is under appeal and I will update this post once the BCCA’s decision is released)

As readers of this blog know, on April 1, 2009 the BC Health Care Costs Recovery Act came into force which required Plaintiffs to, in certain circumstances, advance claims on behalf of the government to recover MSP health care costs in their personal injury claims.

Today Mr. Justice Sewell released two sets of judgements addressing whether the Act applies to cases filed in Court before April 1, 2009.

In today’s cases (Fong v. Deglan and Gosselin v. Shepherd) the respective Plaintiff’s were injured in non ICBC insured cases.  Their injuries occurred before April 1, 2009 and their lawsuits were also filed before this date.  Prior to the trial the Plaintiffs applied to amend their pleadings to advance the BC Governments claim under the HCCRA.

Lawyers for the Attorney General of BC intervened and argued that these amendments should be allowed.  The Defendants opposed these applications arguing that the HCCRA does not apply to lawsuits filed before April 1, 2009.  Mr. Justice Sewell agreed with the Defendants and dismissed the applications and in so doing made the following findings:

[37]        My review of the Act leads me to conclude that it is not clearly and unambiguously intended to apply to actions commenced before the Act came into force.  The presumption against retrospectivity set out in the cases referred to above together with the internal indications in the Act itself lead me to conclude that s. 2 of the Act has no application to actions commenced prior to the Act coming into force.

[38]        I therefore conclude that the amendment sought discloses no reasonable cause of action and dismiss the application for the amendment on that ground.

[39]        I would also dismiss the application to amend on the grounds that it is not just and convenient to permit such a claim to be advanced.  It is clear that Ms. Gosselin will obtain no benefit from advancing the claim and has no legal obligation to do so.  In these circumstances I consider the amendment to be useless and unfair to the defendants.

[40]        In Langret Investments S.A. v. McDonnell (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 145 (C.A.) the court held at p. 153:

• Rule 24(1) of the Rules of Court in British Columbia allows a party to amend an originating process or pleading. Amendments are allowed unless prejudice can be demonstrated by the opposite party or the amendment will be useless. The rationale for allowing amendments is to enable the real issues to be determined. The practice followed in civil matters when amendments are sought fulfils the fundamental objective of the civil rules which is to ensure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on the merits. See McLachlin and Taylor, British Columbia Practice (2nd Ed.) pp. 24-1 to 24-2-10, and the (7 decision of this Court in Chavez v. Sundance Cruises Corp. (1993), 15 C.P.C. (3d) 305, 309-10.

[41]        In my view the proposed amendments to the statement of claim are useless in that they provide no personal benefit to the plaintiff since any amount recovered by the plaintiff as a result of the amendments would be held in trust and ultimately paid to the government.

[42]        Ms. Gosselin feels that she has a moral obligation to pursue a claim to recover the health care services costs.  However I do not consider it to be appropriate for the Court to impose moral obligations on defendants.  The legislature has set out the circumstances in which the government is entitled to recover the cost of health care services.  I do not consider it to be just to the defendants to put them uniquely in the position of being exposed to a claim that others in the same situation will not be required to answer.

[43]        The application to amend is therefore dismissed.

Clarity is always welcome when a new law comes into force.  I will continue to post about further cases interpreting and shaping this legislation.  You can click here to read my archived posts discussing the HCCRA.


Thank You Courthouse Libraries of BC for Adding me to The Stream

May 28th, 2010

Ask any practicing BC lawyer and they will tell you that no one is better versed in accessing legal information than Courthouse Law Librarians.   If you want to stay up to date with respect to British Columbia legal information consider adding The Courthouse Libraries of BC to your list of regularly visited websites.

The Courthouse Libraries of BC Website is the virtual Law Library of the BC Courthouses and a useful and growing resource for local legal information.

In addition to having excellent access to research resources the Courthouse Libraries of BC authors a great blog called The Stream.   Mandy Ostick, the Manager of the Courthouse Libraries of BC’s virtual library has kindly asked me to be The Stream’s first featured blogger, an offer which I am proud to accept.

I look forward to participating in The Stream and would like to publicly thank Ms. Ostick for this great opportunity!


Jury Delivers "Shockingly Unreasonable" Award in BC Injury Claim

May 27th, 2010

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, in what the trial judge described as a ‘shockingly unreasonable‘ verdict by a Jury.

In today’s case (Evans v. Metcalfe) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC motor vehicle collision.  Fault was admitted by the other motorist.  The case went to trial before a Jury with Mr. Justice Romilly presiding as the trial judge.

The Plaintiff led evidence that, as a result of her accident related injuries, she was disabled from working and sought damages accordingly.  The Plaintiff’s out of pocket expenses for alleged accident related treatments exceeded $25,000.

The Jury largely rejected the Plaintiff’s claim and assessed total damages at $17,300 which included $1,000 for pain and suffering, $6,000 for special damages and $10,300 for past loss of income.  The Jury then reduced this award by 15% for ‘failure to mitigate‘ for a total award of $14,705.

The Defendant asked the Judge to enter Judgement based on the Jury’s award.  The Plaintiff argued that the Jury’s award was “unreasonable” and that the verdict should be set aside with a new trial ordered.

Mr. Justice Romilly agreed that the Jury was wrong in reducing the damages by 15% for failure to mitigate but concluded that other than increasing the judgement to the original $17,300 any changes to the Verdict should be left to the Court of Appeal.

Jury’s in BC do not give any reasons for their award and they cannot be contacted after they are discharged to gain insight into their deliberations.  Accordingly it difficult for the Court of Appeal to know how a Jury reaches a particular verdict and feedback from the trial judge is welcome.  Anticipating that this matter would be appealed Mr. Justice Romilly voiced disagreement with the Jury’s findings and provided the following criticism:

[51]        Although it has not been specifically requested of me, I feel it necessary to comment on the reasonableness of the jury’s verdict.  In doing so I am taking in mind both the utility of such comments expressed by Southin J.A. in Johnson, and the limits to them as stated by Garson J.A. in Boota.

[52]        In my opinion, as a long-time member of the bench, the jury’s award in this case has surpassed the level of “shockingly unreasonable”.  The amount of damages awarded for non-pecuniary damages represents a fraction of what was sought.  Whatever the reason, the jury felt the need to punish Ms. Evans in a way that does not accord with the law.  In my judgment I have already discussed some failures of the jury to appropriately apply the law to the actual evidence; I believe that these failures (and more) are further manifest in their wholly disproportionate award.  No jury reviewing the evidence as a whole and acting judicially could have reached the verdict issued in these proceedings; the evidence cannot support the verdict.


BC Court Rejects ICBC's "LVI" Defence

May 27th, 2010

One principle that has become clear in BC injury lawsuits is that ICBC’s LVI Policy of denying tort compensation in minimal vehicle damage accidents has no legal merit.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, demonstrating this.

In today’s case (Mendoza-Flores v. Haigh) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 separate motor vehicle collisions.  She was injured in both.   ICBC accepted that the second accident caused some injuries but argued that the first crash “was incapable of causing the injuries complained of (by) the Plaintiff“.  Mr. Justice Harvey rejected this argument with the following useful comments:

[54] Regarding as the relationship between the damage to the two vehicles and the resultant claim for injuries suffered by one of the occupants, it is trite law that the fact that the damage to the plaintiff’s vehicle was minor does not lead to a conclusion that the resultant injuries are also minor: Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236 (S.C.).

The Court went on to award the Plaintiff damages for her injuries and loss including $40,000 for her non-pecuniary damages.   In reaching this figure Mr. Justice Harvey made the following findings:

[61]        In the result, I find that the plaintiff has experienced a moderate soft tissue injury which continues to cause both discomfort and poses problems in her employment to the present time.

[62]        The plaintiff never fully recovered from the effects of the first accident although it would seem, from the evidence, she was heading toward a complete resolution of her symptoms. Her symptoms just before the second accident were appreciably better than they are presently…

[67]        While unresolved to some extent, I do not view the evidence as proving the plaintiff’s injuries as permanent. Both from an investigative and treatment standpoint it appears there were, and are, further steps available to the plaintiff.

[68]        Reviewing her injuries and comparing them to the authorities I have been referred to, I conclude that $40,000 represents a proper global assessment of the plaintiff’s general damages arising from the two accidents.

You can click here to read my archived posts discussing other BC Court cases dealing with so-called Low Velocity Impacts.


BC Court of Appeal Discusses Pain and Suffering Damages for Fibromyalgia; Overturns Trial Award

May 27th, 2010

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing an appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for accident related Fibromyalgia.

In today’s case (Poirer v. Aubrey) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 rear-end car crash in BC.  She suffered injuries which resulted in chronic pain.  There was evidence that some of the effects of her injuries were likely permanent.  At trial the Plaintiff was awarded just over $220,000 in total damages for her injuries and loss (click here to read my summary of the trial judgement).

The Plaintiff appealed arguing that the damage award was low and the trial judge made an error in finding that there was a ‘real and substantial possibility…that (the Plaintiff’s) pain and discomfort will be relieved and her functioning improved“.  The BC High Court agreed that the evidence did not support such a finding and that the trial award was low.  The Court substituted an award of $528,503 which included an increase in the non-pecuniary damages award of $60,000 to $100,000.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss for chronic pain from soft tissue injuries at $100,000 the BC Court of Appeal noted as follows:

[25]         I consider the evidence establishes that, as the judge said, there is a “real and substantial possibility” Ms. Poirier’s injury will prove to be permanent.  There is no cure.  There is treatment for her condition, but the prospect of her pain being relieved to a significant degree is indeed guarded.  She is unlikely to ever be pain free and can at best hope that, with continued treatment, she may in time achieve a sufficient reduction in her pain and increase in her functioning that would permit her to regain some of the enjoyment of her life she has lost and to undertake part time employment.

[26]         Ms. Poirier cites three awards in particular that she says reflect what plaintiffs who have suffered somewhat comparable non-pecuniary losses to hers have been awarded: Hooper v. Nair, 2009 BCSC 862; Barnes v. Richardson, 2008 BCSC 1349, aff’d 2010 BCCA 116; and Djukic v. Hahn, 2006 BCSC 154, aff’d 2007 BCCA 203.  The respondents cite Heartt v. Royal, 2000 BCSC 1122; Mowat v. Orza, 2003 BCSC 373; and Esau v. Myles, 2010 BCSC 43.  These awards reflect a broad range: those cited by the respondents are $50,000 to $70,000; those cited by Ms. Poirier are $85,000 to $125,000.  I consider Ms. Poirier’s loss to be more consistent with the losses in the awards she cites.  Of particular significance is the permanent nature of her injury that causes her ongoing debilitating pain, the effect it has had and will continue to have on the enjoyment of her life, and the uncertainty there is that her condition will in time improve even to the point of permitting her to return to work part time.

[27]         I would set aside the judge’s award of $60,000 for non-pecuniary loss and substitute an award of $100,000.


Can You Successfully Sue For Injuries in a "No Impact" Collision?

May 26th, 2010

Further to my previous post on this topic, the law is clear that a Plaintiff can successfully sue a Defendant for physical injuries even if the Defendant never makes contact with a Plaintiff.  Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.

In today’s case (Bern v. Jung) the Plaintiff was injured in 2 separate incidents.  In the first incident the Plaintiff was riding a bike down a ramp into a parkade.  At the same time the Defendant was leaving the parkade and drove his vehicle ‘in the wrong direction in the entrance lane towards the ramp area‘.  The Plaintiff “immediately applied his brakes, losing control of his bicycle and falling over the handlebars.  He fell out into the roadway.   Fortunately (the Defendant) was able to avoid striking (the Plaintiff)”.

The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff should bear some responsibility.  Mr. Justice Powers disagreed and found that the Defendant was 100% responsible for the incident despite not striking the Plaintiff.  In reaching this decision Mr. Justice Powers noted as follows:

[13]        I find that the defendant has not proven that Mr. Bern was contributorily negligent.  Mr. Bern was entitled to assume that other people would be acting properly.  The evidence does not establish that his speed was excessive to the extent that it was negligent.  I find that the sole cause of the accident was Mr. Jung’s decision to take a shortcut and travel against the direction in which traffic was supposed to flow and could reasonably be expected to flow.

[14]        Mr. Bern lost control of his bicycle and fell because of the sudden and unexpected presence of Mr. Jung’s vehicle travelling in the wrong direction.  Mr. Bern was forced to act quickly and to apply his brakes forcefully.  He essentially acted in the agony of the collision and should not be found contributorily negligent because he did so.

[15]        I find that Mr. Jung is 100% liable for the accident on June 21, 2007.

The Plaintiff suffered various injuries including pain in his clavicle, one or two fractured ribs, a fractured right triquetrum (a small bone on the outside portion of the back of the hand) and broken teeth which required dental work and root canals.

Some of the injuries were aggravated in a subsequent rear end accident.  The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $50,000 for his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) as a result of both accidents.  In reaching this figure Mr. Justice Powers summarized the effect of the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[36] I find that Mr. Bern indeed was a physically active and motivated individual before the first accident.  He made an honest effort to attempt to return to his prior physical active state, but is continuing to have some difficulty because of the soft tissue injuries, leaving him with lingering symptoms.  The second accident aggravated those injuries and probably extended the time in which they will affect Mr. Bern.  The second accident aggravated the problems he had with his shoulder, neck and back.  The aggravation of his pain and problems he is suffering in attempting to exercise also added to his depression and anxiety.  I accept that on occasion he is anxious about driving and that this results from the second motor vehicle accident, but that it does not prevent him from driving…

[40] I do find, however, that on the balance of probabilities, in other words that it is more likely than not, that those symptoms will be reduced over time…

[44] I find that general damages should be $50,000.00.  I apportion $15,000.00 of that amount to the second accident.  I am satisfied that the second accident aggravated the existing injuries and contributed to some additional injuries.  However, the significant injuries and pain and suffering arise from the first accident.


More on Circumstantial Evidence and Your ICBC Injury Claim

May 25th, 2010

Further to my previous post on this topic, historic reasons for judgement were released today on the BC Supreme Court website demonstrating that circumstantial evidence can be enough for a Plaintiff to win their ICBC injury claim.

In today’s case (Tweedie v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured while out for a morning jog in 1999.  There were no witnesses to the incident that injured the Plaintiff.  The result of the Plaintiff’s trauma was such that she could not remember how she was injured.   In her dazed state of mind she initially thought she tripped while jogging however, on learning about how serious her injuries were (these included several broken ribs, multiple fractured bones in her foot and a fractured fibula) the Plaintiff assumed she must have been struck by a vehicle.

The Plaintiff sued ICBC directly for compensation under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act (the section dealing with unidentified motorist claims).  ICBC denied liability arguing there was no proof that a motor vehicle collision caused the injuries and that even if the injuries were caused by a vehicle there was no proof that the driver of the vehicle was negligent.  Mr. Justice Wilson disagreed and found that ICBC is liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries as a result of the collision.  In reaching this verdict the Court relied exclusively on circumstantial evidence.  Mr. Justice Wilson provide the following useful summary of the law regarding finding fault in an injury claim based wholly on circumstantial evidence:

[3]           The principles are well-established for assessing liability where the evidence is circumstantial, but it is still useful to refer to them.  In the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Montreal Tramways Company v. Leveille, [1933] S.C.R. 456, the Court considered the claim of injury, a deformity to an unborn child alleged to have been brought about as a result of the child’s mother falling while on the tramway.  At p. 466, Mr. Justice Lamont considered the issue of whether there was evidence on which the jury could reasonably find the existence of a causal relationship between the accident to the mother and the deformity of the child’s feet, and said this:

The general principle in accordance with which in cases like the present the sufficiency of the evidence is to be determined was stated by Lord Chancellor Loreburn inRichard Evans & Co., Limited v. Astley, [1911] A.C. 678 as follows:

It is, of course, impossible to lay down in words any scale or standard by which you can measure the degree of proof which will suffice to support a particular conclusion of fact.  The applicant must prove his case.  This does not mean that he must demonstrate his case.  If the more probable conclusion is that for which he contends, and there is anything pointing to it, then there is evidence for a court to act upon.  Any conclusion short of certainty may be miscalled conjecture or surmise but courts, like individuals, habitually act upon a balance of probabilities.

There was undoubtedly evidence to go to the jury that the mother’s accident was caused by the fault of the Company, and the jury’s finding on that point cannot be disturbed.  That such fault caused the deformity of the child cannot, from the nature of things, be established by direct evidence.  It may, however, be established by a presumption or inference drawn from facts proved to the satisfaction of the jury.  These facts must be consistent one with the other and must furnish data from which the presumption can be reasonably drawn.  It is not sufficient that the evidence affords material for a conjecture that the child’s deformity may have been due to the consequences

of the mother’s accident.  It must go further and be sufficient to justify a reasonable man in concluding, not as a mere guess or conjecture, but as a deduction from the evidence, that there is a reasonable probability that the deformity was due to such accident.

At p. 469, he referred to the decision of the House of Lords in Jones v. G.W. Rly. Co. (1930), 47 T.L.R. 39, in which the Court had to consider whether there was evidence on which a jury could properly find negligence on the part of the defendant’s servants which caused or contributed to the death of a husband of the first plaintiff.  He quoted from the decision of Lord MacMillan:

The dividing line between conjecture and inference is often a very difficult one to draw.  A conjecture may be plausible, but it is of no legal value, for its essence is that it is a mere guess.  An inference in the legal sense, on the other hand, is a deduction from the evidence and if it is a reasonable deduction, it may have the validity of legal proof.  The attribution of an occurrence to a cause is, I take it, always a matter of inference.  The cogency of a legal inference of causation may vary in degree between practical certainty and reasonable probability.  Where the coincidence of cause and effect is not a matter of actual observation there is necessarily a hiatus in the direct evidence, but this may be legitimately bridged by an inference from the facts actually observed and proved.

And then, on p. 474, after considering the difference in the jurisprudence in Quebec under the Civil Code and in the rest of Canada under the common law, he said:

… under either the French or English jurisprudence, the presumptions or inferences to be receivable as proof must be a deduction from established facts which produce a reasonable conviction in the mind that the allegation of which proof is required is probably true.  That conviction may vary in degree between “practical certainty” and “reasonable probability”….

The question, however, is whether he instructed the jury sufficiently?  In a case such as this it is, in my opinion, essential that the judge should instruct the jury that the presumption which they are entitled to admit as proof must not be a mere guess on their part, but must be a reasonable deduction from such facts as they shall find to be established by the evidence.

That is the standard which must be met here, where I am the trier of fact.

[4]           In a decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, Plett v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (1987), 12 B.C.L.R. (2d) 336, under the heading “Circumstantial evidence”, at p. 341, Mr. Justice Wallace said this:

In cases such as this, in which the evidence is circumstantial, inferences of negligence cannot be drawn unless there are positive proven facts from which such inferences can be made.

In Caswell v. Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Ltd., [1940] A.C. 152, [1939] All E.R. 722 (H.L.) a case concerning an industrial accident to a workman, Lord Wright stated at pp. 169-170 what is, in my respectful opinion, the correct approach to a case which turns solely on circumstantial evidence:

My Lords, the precise manner in which the accident occurred cannot be ascertained as the unfortunate young man was alone when he was killed.  The Court therefore is left to inference or circumstantial evidence.  Inference must be carefully distinguished from conjecture or speculation.  There can be no inference unless there are objective facts from which to infer the other facts which it is sought to establish.  In some cases the other facts can be inferred with as much practical certainty as if they had actually been observed.  In other cases the inference does not go beyond reasonable probability.  But if there are no positive proved facts from which the inference can be made, the method of inference fails and what is left is mere speculation or conjecture.

In the present case there are, I think, certain known facts which enable some inferences to be drawn.  Beyond that point the method of inference stops and what is suggested is conjecture.  It is not necessary to recapitulate the facts which have been fully stated by my noble and learned friend, Lord Atkin.  I shall be content to state what I regard as proved by the method of inference, and reject what appears to be made to be a matter merely of conjecture.