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

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Archive for December, 2015

No Medical Report Thwarts Request for Second Defence Medical Exam

December 15th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, rejecting a defense application for a defense medical exam where they had not provided a report following an initial exam.

In today’s case (Thandi v. Higuchi) the Plaintiff agreed to be assessed by an orthopedic surgeon selected by the Defendant.  No report was produced following this assessment and the Defendant requested a further a exam with a neurologist.  In dismissing the application the Court noted that the lack of a report left the court without a proper evidentiary foundation respecting the equality of the playing field.  Master Harper provided the following reasons:

[6]             The major impediment to the defendant’s application in this case is the absence of Dr. Loomer’s report. It might be the case that the defendant could establish the necessity for a third independent medical examination before a neurologist, but the Court does not have sufficient evidence to assess that issue. Here, I rely on Koulechov v. Dunstan, 2015 BCSC 393 at para. 6, which is on all fours with this application:

[6]        It is counsel’s prerogative, of course, to control the timing of disclosure in a civil case. However, an order for a second independent medical examination under Rule 7-6 is a discretionary remedy that will only go if it is required to put the parties on an equal footing with respect to medical evidence: Stainer v. Plaza, 2001 BCCA 133 at para. 8. In the present application, in the absence of Dr. Gittens’ report, it is impossible for me to evaluate if there is any inequality in evidence or if an orthopaedic IME could redress it. …

[7]             Applying the Koulechov decision to the present application, I am not in a position to assess whether the medical complaints that involve neurological complaints were addressed by Dr. Loomer, could have been addressed by Dr. Loomer, or whether Dr. Loomer declined to opine on any neurological complaints because it was outside his area of expertise.

[8]             So quite simply, the defendant has not met the evidentiary burden necessary to justify the order sought and, therefore, I dismiss the application.

$140,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Dizziness and Imbalance

December 14th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for symptoms of chronic dizziness and imbalance following a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Kijowski v. Scott) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 collision caused  by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries and also suffered from chronic dizziness and imbalance issues.  These were expected to be permanent.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $140,000 Mr. Justice Greyell provided the following reasons:

[128]     In my view Mr. Kijowski’s injuries are considerably more significant that those sustained by the plaintiffs in the cases referred to by the defendants. As a result of his injuries, Mr. Kijowski’s life has been significantly altered in many respects: recreationally, at work, and at home. He can no longer enjoy the activities he did in the past and the prognosis for his improvement is guarded. Dr. Longridge has opined Mr. Kijowski’s dizziness and imbalance will be permanent impairments and he will have to continue with vestibular therapy indefinitely to improve his ability to function with these conditions or he will likely relapse. As he ages, he will more prone to falling and injuring himself. He has a hearing deficit as a result of damage to the cochlea which likely can be improved with binaural amplification (hearing aids). Mr. Kijowski continues to suffer from soft tissue injuries to his neck, mid and lower back which will likely improve over time with treatment. His tinnitus and hearing deficit have resulted in stress in his relationships at home. His ability to concentrate and his energy is decreased and he worries about the security of his job and the consequences that would have on his family.

[129]     After considering all the factors set out in Stapley I am of the view the appropriate amount of non-pecuniary damages is $140,000.

“Late” Formal Offer Beat by 9% Triggers Double Costs

December 14th, 2015

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding a formal offer that was bested by 9% and was delivered a few days prior to trial was capable of triggering double costs.

In today’s case (Kostinuk v. Fellowes) the Plaintiff was involved in a personal injury prosecution and issued a formal offer to settle his claim, three days before trial, for $175,000.  After a 6 day trial judgement of $192,345 was obtained.

The Defendant argued, among other things, that no post offer double costs should be awarded as the offer was issued too late.  In rejecting this argument and awarding double costs Madam Justice Brown provided the following reasons:

[10]         Reasonableness is to be assessed by considering such factors as the timing of the offer, whether it had some relationship to the claim (as opposed to being simply a nuisance offer) and whether it could be easily evaluated and whether some rationale for the offer was provided (Hartshorne v. Hartshorne, 2011 BCCA 29 at para.27). Here, although the offer was delivered on the Friday before the commencement of trial, there was an adequate period of time within which to evaluate the offer. As the plaintiff submits, by that point in time all of the evidence was available to the party. They had exchanged earlier offers. Discoveries were complete, expert opinions available. The defence would have been well able to assess the offer in the time available to it. Moreover, the plaintiff had provided an explanation that followed the offer within a few hours. The offer was within the range of likely outcomes. In the circumstances, the defendant would be able to assess the reasonableness of the offer and make a decision on it.

[11]         The judgment was $192,354.05 (including gross wage loss) as such, the offer is just slightly below the amount awarded by the court.

[12]         I do not have information as to the arrangements between the plaintiff and his counsel. Accordingly, I cannot assess the relative positions of the parties and their ability to finance the trial.

[13]         The other factor which I consider appropriate in this particular case is that the defence was conducted by the insurer who was well able to assess the risks of proceeding to trial. The insurer did so knowing that it could be exposed to an award of double costs should Mr. Kostinuk succeed.

[14]         In my view, having considered all of the factors, it is appropriate that the defendant pay the plaintiff costs at Scale B for the steps taken up to and including the date the plaintiff served the formal offer to settle with double costs thereafter, excluding disbursements which will be at the normal rate.

Previous Discovery Transcripts, Expert Reports and Mediation Documents Ordered Produced in Indivisible Injury Case

December 8th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering broad document production from past litigation in a case of potential indivisible injuries.

In today’s case (Easton v. Chen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 collision and sued for damages.  The Plaintiff was also involved in four prior collisions that resulted in injury claims, all of which settled prior to trial.

The Defendant requested production of past examination for discovery transcripts, expert reports and mediation documents on the basis that the injuries may be indivisible.  In ordering production Master Muir provided the following reasons:

[25]         I agree with the submissions of the defendant. I am satisfied that the prior documents, the discovery transcripts and the experts reports from the prior actions could be used to prove or disprove material facts in this action and on that basis alone I would order their production. I also conclude that in any event a sufficient foundation has been laid for their production under Rule 7-1(11). Further, I conclude that it is in the interests of justice to relieve against the implied undertaking of confidentiality. Thus, the documents are to be disclosed.

[26]         The mediation documents sought raise another issue and that is settlement privilege. The defendant relies on Dholliwar v. Yu, 2015 BCSC 670 and Dos Santos (Committee of) v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, 2005 BCCA 4, for the proposition that the disclosure of these documents is necessary in order to prove what the plaintiff received in compensation in the prior accidents and to prevent injustice through potential double compensation.

[27]         In Dholliwar, Master Scarth held:

[26]      It has yet to be established here that the injuries arising from the third accident are indivisible from those in the first and second. However, on the basis that indivisibility is at issue, and that there is potential for over-compensation, it is appropriate to require disclosure of the settlement documents at this time. I accept the submission of the defendants that such disclosure is necessary, in that it may assist in the settlement of the plaintiff’s claims arising from the third accident. Disclosure at this time is consistent with the previous decisions of this Court in Pete and Murray. I am satisfied that the defendants here do not seek a purely tactical advantage, as the Court found in Phillips v. Stratton, 2007 BCSC 1298 (CanLII), but rather, they wish to have the information necessary to assess their exposure, both for purposes of settlement and in the preparation of their case for trial.

[27]      In Dos Santos at para. 34, the Court stated that “significant weight should be given to the just disposition of pending litigation in determining whether the documents sought come within an exception to settlement privilege.” In my view, to find that the documents should be disclosed at this time is consistent with this approach

[28]         Similarly in this case, indivisibility is an issue and the defendants argue there is a potential for double compensation. The only evidence available showing what the plaintiff was compensated for in the prior actions will be found in this documentation. As a result, I conclude that the mediation documents should be disclosed.

Medico-Legal Expert Criticized for Destroying Digital Recording of IME Before Trial

December 8th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, criticizing an expert for destroying digitally recorded observations made during an independent medical assessment.

In today’s case (Birkich v. Canatio) the Plaintiff, involved in a  personal injury prosecution, was examined by a physiatrist who authored a report for trial.  Prior to testifying the physician destroyed digitally recorded observations of the examination.  The Defense objected to the report from being admitted but the Court reluctantly allowed the report into evidence based on the fact that the physician explained the report accurately transcribed what was digitally recorded.  In criticizing this practice Mr. Justice Betton provided the following reasons:

[10]         Given the evidence that I do have on this voir dire, specifically from Dr. Apel, that this is a verbatim transcription (with only the editing that I have described) of what was on the now destroyed digital recording, I am not inclined to grant the defence application to not allow the report. Whether, and to what extent, the examination of Dr. Apel will affect my ultimate conclusion about the weight of her opinions is yet to be determined, but I do not want there to be any illusion that this in any way endorses the practice that Dr. Apel undertook in this case or, from her evidence, what has gone on for some 20 years. It is wrong, it is not in compliance with theRules, it is not to be endorsed, and this decision should not in any way be seen as endorsing that.

[11]         I am going to direct as part of my order here that, at the plaintiff’s expense, a transcript of my decision on this voir dire be prepared and a copy of it be provided to Dr. Apel. To the extent issues of this nature might arise in the future, in respect of Dr. Apel at least, this decision may be brought to the attention of a court dealing with issues on those occasions such that it would be considered in any decision that might be made about future reports. If there is, not that I think that there should be, but if there is any misapprehension or confusion among the bar about the nature of instruction letters and what experts should be informed of, I would hope that this decision might, in some measure, resolve that because it is simply unacceptable. It is an easy process in this digital age for that information to be retained, it is abundantly clear from the Rules what the intention is, and to be faced with these sort of issues, in my view, is something that simply should not be occurring.

Expert Who “Did Not Meet With, Examine Or Interview” Plaintiff Given Zero Weight

December 1st, 2015

In the latest case  (Preston v. Kontzamanis) of courts having critical comments for medico-legal practices, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Quesnel Registry, rejecting the opinion of a defence retained doctor who “did not meet with, examine or interview” the Plaintiff but nonetheless authored a report opining on the Plaintiff’s injuries.

In criticizing this practice Mr. Justice Parrett provided the following comments:

[125]      The defendant provided and relied upon what purported to be an independent medical report (IME) by Dr. Boyle.

[126]     Dr. Boyle readily acknowledged that he was not asked to and did not meet with, examine or interview the plaintiff.

[127]     Dr. Boyle reviewed documents and information provided by counsel and wrote his report.

[128]     These documents and that information included clinical records of various medical professionals.

[129]     This is a process that is unlikely to assist the court in any material way.  The first concession is invariably, and was in this case, that interviewing, examining and getting a personal history is important to providing an accurate and complete assessment.

[130]     This is a trend that appears to have been of relatively recent origin.

[131]     It is also a trend which has drawn adverse comment from judges of this court.  Dhaliwal v. Bassi 2007 B.C.S.C. 549 (Burnyeat, J. at paras. 2-3); Ruscheinski v. Biln 2011 B.C.S.C. 1263 (Walker, J. at paras. 85-87);Rizotti v. Doe 2012 B.C.S.C. 1330 (Tindale, J. at para. 35).

[132]     To these I would add my own comments.  Where an expert chooses to prepare a report as he did here, expecting this court to accept and rely on it.  He is presenting a report in which he effectively asserts that he accepts as true and accurate the factual base on which his opinions are based.

[133]     Where he does so without seeing, examining or taking a personal history he chooses to offer his opinion on the basis of hearsay.  Worse still he chooses to offer it on the basis of his interpretation of hearsay recorded by others.

[134]     Another difficulty presents itself with respect to the report and evidence of Dr. Boyle and the report of Dr. Hawk.

[135]     The clinical records and other documents were admitted under the terms of a document agreement which was entered as Exhibit #1.

[136]     Under the terms of that agreement the use of documents in general, which includes clinical records, is limited.  Paragraph 2 and 5 of that document are particularly notable.

[137]     In my view, Dr. Boyle’s report should be afforded the weight it deserves and in this case where credibility and exaggeration are both asserted against the plaintiff by the defendant that is no weight at all.

[138]     It was not argued in this case that the report was inadmissible and Dr. Boyle’s qualifications to give an expert opinion on this case and in these circumstances was not addressed. I leave it then to another day and for full argument for this court to consider whether the requirements are met to allow the report to be received at all in these circumstances.

Insurance Giant Argues Former In House Lawyer Cannot Act for Plaintiff Suing Them

December 1st, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing arguments by the Manufacturer’s Life Insurance Company attempting to have a former in-house lawyer of theirs acting as plaintiff counsel in a breach of contract claim against them.

In today’s case (McMyn v. Manufacturer’s Life Insurance Company) the insurer argued that, as a former in-house lawyer, Plaintiff’s counsel had knowledge of their “business practices, litigation strategies, insurance policies and certain claims personnel” and it would be unfair to allow him to now use this knowledge against them.

In dismissing the application Mr. Justice Myers provided the following reasons:

[32]    With respect to the claim for LTD benefits, it is up to the plaintiff to show that she fell within the terms of the policy.  The terms of the policy are certainly not secret.  It cannot be argued or assumed that Manulife has some secret interpretation of the policy that Mr. Fishman has knowledge of.  It is hard to see that knowledge of the claims people would have any effect on Mr. Fishman’s train of inquiry on that issue, including the handling of examinations for discovery.  As in most LTD claims the real issue will no doubt be – and no one argued otherwise – Ms. McMyn’s medical condition and how that fits into the wording of the policy.

[33]    With respect to the bad faith claim, the plaintiff must show a failure of Manulife to act with reasonable promptness or a failure to deal with the insured fairly:  702535 Ontario Inc. v. Non-Marine Underwriters, Lloyd’s London, England, [2000] O.J. No. 866 (Ont. C.A.).  That will obviously depend on the way this claim was handled based on the evidence in this case.  Knowledge of how the claims people may have handled past claims will be of little or no assistance.

[34]    Manulife argued that Mr. Fishman has insight into how the claims people or Mr. Lizé perform in examinations for discovery.  That might be true.  But it must be put into perspective.  First, in terms of witnesses selected for examination for discovery or at trial, the relevant witnesses are those that have familiarity with the facts of the claim.  That is something that any lawyer would be able to ascertain through document discovery or interrogatories.  Mr. Fishman has no inside knowledge of that because he was not at Manulife when the plaintiff filed her claim.

[35]    Knowledge of how Manulife personnel perform in examinations for discovery might provide a minor advantage.  But any lawyer who had previously done an examination for discovery or cross-examination in trial of that witness would also have that insight.  It is to be borne in mind that Manulife as a major LTD insurer in Canada is an institutional litigator.  This is not a one-off claim being made against it.  Any lawyer specialising in LTD claims would be expected to act against Manulife multiple times and most likely come up against the same Manulife personnel.

[36]    Insofar as Mr. Fishman being aware of Manulife’s claims handling procedures, once again he has been gone from the company for over two years.  The issue will be the way this claim is handled.  If there are Manulife claims handling manuals their existence will come out in the examinations of discovery conducted by any counsel.

[37]    In Sandhu the Court noted, at para. 32, that the approach to this type of application is a “cautious one” and that the court should only interfere in “clear cases”.  While the Court of Appeal disqualified the lawyer, this case comes nowhere near to the facts in that case, where the lawyer had knowledge of confidential information pertaining directly to her new client.

[38]    Regarding Mr. Fishman having handled bifurcation applications, Manulife said Mr. Fishman is aware of Manulife’s preference for bifurcation of bad faith claims.  So would any lawyer who was previously on the receiving end of that type of application from Manulife.  In this case, the simple fact is that Manulife will make the application or it will not.  I fail to see what confidential strategy could have been involved in bifurcation claims that would give Mr. Fishman an advantage.

[39]    Finally, I do not place any significant weight on Mr. Lizé having been appointed as the case manager on this file.  He was not appointed until after Manulife knew that Mr. Fishman was acting on the case.  Manulife also appointed Mr. Lizé as the case manager on the Galley action.  Manulife says it would be inconvenient to appoint another case manager, because they would have to come from out of town for discoveries, trial or meetings.  However, for a company the size of Manulife that must be a small consideration.

[40]    In Atco, the Court concluded that the case the lawyer was acting on against Atco was sufficiently connected to the work he had done at Atco to raise the rebuttable presumption that he had confidential information pertaining to the new retainer.  The connections in that case were more direct than the ones here.  In Atco the lawyer knew all of the data and other corporate information relevant to Atco’s rate applications.  Here, there is only a general knowledge of claims practices and company personnel.

[41]    I conclude that the connections between this case and the work Mr. Fishman did at Manulife are not sufficient to raise the presumption that he had obtained confidential information that could be used in this case.