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 September, 2018

$110,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Pain Coupled With Psychological Injury

September 26th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic injuries following a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Evans v. Keill) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 rear end collision that the Defendants admitted fault for.  The crash caused a variety of soft tissue injuries which developed into chronic pain coupled with psychological injury.  The consequences impacted her vocationally with a poor prognosis for recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Madam Justice Matthews provided the following reasons:

[166]     I have concluded that as a result of the accident, Ms. Evans has suffered pain and a loss of enjoyment of life, which will continue into the foreseeable future and from which she is unlikely to ever fully recover.

[167]     As a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident, Ms. Evans suffered from soft tissue injuries to her mid-back, upper back, neck and shoulder. She now has chronic pain in her neck and upper back. The pain is exacerbated by lifting and many different postures, including sitting, standing, certain neck angles and some yoga postures. It is exacerbated by physical activities where her neck or back bears weight, or involves lifting or working with her arms above a certain height. She experiences headaches and migraines. Over the course of two years after the accident the pain has gradually improved by about 60% but has plateaued at its present level. It is permanent and not likely to improve. She has been prescribed analgesics and has taken over-the-counter medications to cope with her pain.

[168]     Before the accident, Ms. Evans’ mood was good and she enjoyed being physically active and social. She hiked several times a week, sometimes with friends, and regularly did yoga. She had a career that she enjoyed and was justifiably proud of given her eligibility for further promotion and that she achieved it without graduating high school. Her injuries rendered her unable to do her job.

[169]     Due to the accident injuries, Ms. Evans suffered two major depressive episodes and somatic symptom disorder. She withdrew socially from her friends. She attempted suicide twice. She drank excessively.

[170]     Overall, Ms. Evans’ life is very different from what she enjoyed prior to the accident. However, after a significant and challenging struggle, she has reworked her life into a place where she is happy.

[171]     The most significant of the Stapley factors in this case are Ms. Evans’ age; the severity and duration of the pain; the impairment of her physical abilities; her associated loss of lifestyle; and the impairment of her relationships. Ms. Evans is relatively young. She was 34 years old at the time of the accident and she was 39 years old at trial. She faces the prospect of a lifetime of chronic pain and associated functional limitations. One of the most significant impacts of her injuries has been the impact on her ability to do her job as a produce manager, which she enjoyed and which was a source of pride…

[181]     In summary, some of the cases cited by Ms. Evans involve other injuries, such as thoracic outlet syndrome, disc herniation or facet joint arthroplasty, on top of chronic myofascial pain and psychological injuries. Most of the defendants’ cases do not include cases where a psychological condition has been diagnosed and/or the chronic pain is not as functionally disabling as that experienced by Ms. Evans. The cases which are most similar are Stapley and Montgomery.

[182]     Having considered the Stapley factors and all the above authorities, I assess non-pecuniary damages at $110,000.


ICBC Vehicle Theft Claim Denied With Help of Damaging Cell Phone Records

September 25th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dismissing a lawsuit seeking insurance coverage for vehicle theft.

In the recent case (Winterbottom v. ICBC) the Plaintiff owned a Ford F150 which he reported stolen.  It was located a few days later in a remote location and was destroyed by fire.

ICBC denied coverage to the Plaintiff and he sued.  In dismissing the lawsuit the Court noted that cell phone records placed the Plaintiff in the vicinity where the truck was ultimately recovered.  Mr. Justice Blok provided the following reasons highlighting the utility of these records in dismissing the claim:

[113]     Cell phone calls involving Mr. Winterbottom’s phone were the central focus of the case.  At the risk of repetition, I summarize these as follows:

a)    Six calls (three incoming, three outgoing) made between 6:08 pm and 7:21 pm, all of which utilized a cell phone tower located at Ross Road, west of Abbotsford.  This suggests that Mr. Winterbottom’s phone was located south of the Fraser River, and not at his residence, which is where he said he was located at the time;

b)    Two incoming calls, both from Mr. Waardenburg’s phone, made at 9:32 pm and 9:48 pm, which utilized a north-side Sumas Mountain cell phone tower that serviced the very area where the burned-out Truck was found;

c)     An outgoing call to “Todd” at 9:49 pm, which involved a hand-off from the north-side Sumas Mountain tower to a tower located near the Mission Bridge, indicating a movement of the cell phone from east to west.  This would be consistent, for example, with the movement of the phone along Lougheed Highway on the north side of the Fraser River;

d)    Nine calls made between 10:01 pm on October 21 and 12:25 am on October 22, which utilized a cell tower site west of Mission, a location consistent with Mr. Winterbottom being located either at the Mission Springs pub or at his home;

e)    One call to Mr. Nygaard-Peterson made at 12:25 am on October 22 that involved a hand-off from the west Mission cell phone tower to an Abbotsford-area cell phone tower, indicating southbound movement of the phone, plus a second call at 12:46 am that utilized the second tower only.  These calls suggest Mr. Winterbottom was not located at his home or at the pub; and

f)      Three calls made in the morning of October 22, beginning at 8:39 am.  The first call involved a hand-off between two Abbotsford-area cell towers, indicating either movement of the phone or a call made in an overlap area.  The second call utilized the Ross Road cell tower west of Abbotsford.  A third call utilized the Ross Road tower and then handed the call off to a cell tower near Sumas Mountain, thus indicating a west to east movement of the cell phone.  In all cases, the calls are not consistent with Mr. Winterbottom being located at his home.

[114]     Neither Mr. Winterbottom nor Mr. Nygaard-Peterson had any explanation why they would have been phoning one another during the time they had said both of them were located at the Mission Spring pub, although Mr. Nygaard-Peterson speculated that he might have lost his phone or stepped outside.  Mr. Waardenburg had no recollection of the calls and had no idea why he would have been in phone contact with Mr. Winterbottom so often during the relevant time frame.  Both Mr. Winterbottom and Mr. Nygaard-Peterson denied being anywhere other than the Mission Springs pub or the Winterbottom home that night.

[115]     I conclude that the cell phone and cell tower evidence given by Mr. Funk is reasonably reliable and accurate.  His evidence was not undermined in cross-examination.  The plaintiff’s assertion that all cell towers utilized by Mr. Winterbottom’s cell phone were within their standard 35 km range in relation to the pub or the Winterbottom residence ignores Mr. Funk’s evidence that the 35 km figure is merely the licenced range and does not reflect the actual range or coverage.  Mr. Funk’s extensive field testing of actual coverages satisfies me that his evidence can be reasonably relied upon to determine general areas where a cell phone was located or where a cell phone was not located.  While there may be room for occasional aberrations due to topology or physical barriers, etc., for the large number of calls involved in this case to be inaccurate would mean that there would have to be aberrations in almost every instance.  I am satisfied from Mr. Funk’s evidence that this is unlikely in the extreme.

[116]     I agree with the observation of plaintiff’s counsel that the plaintiff appeared to give his evidence in a forthright manner.  So did his witnesses, although their evidence was generally to the effect that they were too drunk to remember much.  There were, however, problems with their evidence.  For example, there was no consistency between the plaintiff and his witnesses about how he got home from the pub.  I agree that those particular inconsistencies might be explained by extreme drunkenness, but the cell phone calls are not so easily explained away.  There is no explanation why the plaintiff and Mr. Nygaard-Peterson were phoning one another when, according to their evidence, they were both at the pub or, later, at the Winterbottom residence.  Mr. Winterbottom agreed he woke up at 10 am the next morning, but he could not explain how that testimony reconciled with the five cell phone calls made from his phone between 8:39 am and 9:43 am that morning other than to say he did not remember them.  Critically, his testimony about where he was located contradicted with the evidence of his cell phone location at various points that night and the next morning.  None of this evidence adds up.

[117]     The cell phone evidence is reliable and cogent, and it persuades me that Mr. Winterbottom was not where he said he was that night.  It also indicates that at one point in the evening Mr. Winterbottom’s cell phone utilized a cell tower that serviced the same rural area where the burned-out Truck was found.  Perhaps most importantly, the cell phone and cell tower evidence persuades me that Mr. Winterbottom’s evidence cannot be relied upon.

[118]      In a case such as this, the burden is first on the insured to show a loss falling within the scope of the insurance coverage, which here is theft.  The only evidence of theft comes from Mr. Winterbottom.  I conclude that there are so many difficulties with the evidence of Mr. Winterbottom, centred on the discrepancies between his testimony about where he was compared to the cell phone location evidence, that I cannot rely on his evidence to prove that a theft occurred.


BC Court of Appeal Discusses When Special Costs Against Lawyers Personally Should be Ordered

September 19th, 2018

In exceptional circumstances lawyers can be ordered to be personally on the hook for costs when litigation goes awry.  Today the BC Court of Appeal discussed when such orders are warranted and when they are not.

In today’s case (Nuttall v. Krekovich) the Plaintiff was seriously injured in a hit and run accident.  A lawsuit was started suing ICBC as a nominal defendant pursuant to s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  As the litigation progressed the Plaintiff’s lawyer came to believe that the Defendant may have been the driver and brought an application to add him to the lawsuit.  Shortly after obtaining this order the lawyer realized he was mistaken and discontinued the lawsuit against the Defendant.

The Defendant sought costs against the lawyer personally and the Chambers judge made such an order finding  the lawyers actions were “indefensible and an abuse of process meriting sanction in the form of an order of special costs payable by him personally”.

The lawyer successfully appealed the order with the BC Court of Appeal noting the chambers judge made several errors in ordering special costs against the lawyer.  In discussing the scope of special costs being ordered against a lawyer personally BC’s highest court provided the following reasons:

[25]         It is my view that the chambers judge made several errors that warrant intervention by this Court.

[26]         First, special costs have a punitive or deterrent element and are only appropriate where the conduct in issue is deserving of punishment or rebuke. This well-known principle stems from numerous cases, most recently enunciated in J.P. v. British Columbia (Children and Family Development), 2018 BCCA 325 at para. 28. The chambers judge erred in principle by failing to consider the cautious approach to an award of special costs against a lawyer personally, as well as the kind of reprehensible conduct that would justify such an award, mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Young v. Young, [1993] 4 S.C.R. 3 and more recently in Quebec (Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions) v. Jodoin, 2017 SCC 26.

[27]         In Young the court directed judges to be “extremely cautious” in awarding costs personally against lawyers given their duties to guard confidentiality of instructions and to bring forward with courage even unpopular causes:

… A lawyer should not be placed in a situation where his or her fear of an adverse order of costs may conflict with these fundamental duties or his or her calling.

[28]         In Jodoin, the court confirmed that the threshold for exercising the power to award costs against lawyers is high, such that there must be a finding of reprehensible conduct by the lawyer. Reprehensible conduct “represents a marked and unacceptable departure from the standard of reasonable conduct expected of a player in the judicial system” (at para. 27). Mr. Justice Gascon, for the majority, described the kind of conduct that would justify such an order at para. 29:

[29]      In my opinion, therefore, an award of costs against a lawyer personally can be justified only on an exceptional basis where the lawyer’s acts have seriously undermined the authority of the courts or seriously interfered with the administration of justice. This high threshold is met where a court has before it an unfounded, frivolous, dilatory or vexatious proceeding that denotes a serious abuse of the judicial system by the lawyer, or dishonest or malicious misconduct on his or her part, that is deliberate…

[29]         Consistent with these decisions, this Court has long held that such orders should be made only in “very special circumstances”, and not on the basis of mistake, error in judgment or even negligence: see Hannigan v. Ikon Office Solutions Inc. (1998), 61 B.C.L.R. (3d) 270 (C.A.); Pierce v. Baynham, 2015 BCCA 188 at para. 41.

[30]         Second, the chambers judge erred in concluding that Mr. Krekovic’s failure to disclose the entire circumstances of his investigation was in itself sufficient to justify an order for special costs. A special costs order is not justified only because counsel fails to disclose evidence that ultimately proves to be material or incorrect: see Pierce at para. 43. The chambers judge made no finding of dishonesty, accepting that Mr. Krekovic’s motivation to bring the application was “in pursuance of his duty to his client”. Given that, his failure to disclose more about his investigation does not constitute reprehensible conduct sufficient to justify an award of special costs. This is particularly so in the context of the evidence in the application that Mr. Krekovic clearly informed the court that his own investigation had not yielded any reliable information and he was relying only on information provided to him from another lawyer, the basis for which had not been disclosed.

[31]         Moreover, I cannot agree that disclosure of further information would necessarily have yielded a different outcome in the application. The chambers judge placed considerable importance on “the discrepancy between the date of birth that he had given for the Mr. Dhillon identified by Mr. Folick, and the date of birth of the Mr. Dhillon whom his investigation had previously identified as a potential defendant”. In fact, there was no discrepancy in the most recent date of birth provided by the investigator, Mr. Loncaric, and the date of birth later provided by Mr. Folick. The only discrepancy was with the earlier information Mr. Loncaric had given, which had not been confirmed. Had the application judge been informed of these or other details – such as the inconclusive information pointing to another Mr. Dhillon – the order may have nonetheless been granted. It is also important, in my view, that Mr. Dhillon did not attend himself to oppose the application. Instead, the application was opposed only by ICBC, who put the issue of the sufficiency of the information squarely before the court.

[32]         Additionally, Mr. Krekovic’s conduct after the order was granted demonstrates an effort to be prudent. He did not enter the order or serve the amended notice of civil claim without making further inquiries of Mr. Folick’s office about the reliability of the information, and as soon as he learned that the information was in fact incorrect, he advised Mr. Dhillon’s’ counsel that the action would be discontinued against him.

[33]         In my opinion, Mr. Krekovic’s conduct was far from being characterized as reprehensible.

[34]         Finally, the chambers judge referred to Rule 14-1(33) as allowing for an order for special costs. Rule 14-1(33) gives the court discretion to make various orders if it considers that a party’s lawyer “has caused costs to be incurred without reasonable cause, or has caused costs to be wasted through delay, neglect or some other fault”. One of those orders is that the lawyer “be personally liable for all or part of any costs that his or her client has been ordered to pay to another party”.

[35]         This rule, which does not distinguish between party and party costs and special costs, has expanded the scope of conduct which might support a costs order against a lawyer. As explained in Nazmdeh v. Spraggs, 2010 BCCA 131, there is no requirement for “serious misconduct” to justify an order that a lawyer pay party and party costs, but it is still necessary to find reprehensible conduct on the part of the lawyer to justify an order for special costs. Moreover, the lower standard mandated by Rule 14-1(33) must also be exercised with restraint, as the Court reasoned at paras. 103‒104:

[103]    The power to make an order for costs against a lawyer personally is discretionary. As the plain meaning of the Rule and the case law indicate, the power can be exercised on the judge’s own volition, at the instigation of the client, or at the instigation of the opposing party. However, while the discretion is broad, it is, as it has always been, a power to be exercised with restraint. All cases are consistent in holding that the power, whatever its source, is to be used sparingly and only in rare or exceptional cases.

[104]    The restraint required in the exercise of the court’s discretion is not to be confused with the standard of conduct which may support its use. Care and restraint are called for because whether the unsuccessful party or his lawyer caused the costs to be wasted may not always be clear, and lawyer and client privilege is always deserving of a high degree of protection.

[36]         In conclusion, it is my view that Mr. Krekovic’s conduct in making the application to add Mr. Dhillon as a defendant did not approach the kind of reprehensible conduct required to justify an order for special costs against him as counsel.

[37]         I would allow the appeal and set aside the order of the chambers judge that Mr. Krekovic personally pay the special costs of Mr. Dhillon. I would also award costs to the appellant of this appeal and for the application for special costs in the court below.


Claim Dismissed Involving Broken Armrest Leading to Hip Fracture

September 18th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, dismissing a personal injury lawsuit alleging a breach of the Occupier’s Liability Act.

In today’s case (Hamilton v. The Owners, Strata Plan VIS3782) the Plaintiff broke his hip after falling while leaning on an armrest of a bench owned by the Defendants.  The armrest “broke away and the plaintiff says that unexpected loss of support put him off balance. His body twisted to the left and he fell to the ground.”.

The Plaintiff sued alleging negligence and a breach of the Occupier’s Liability Act.  The Court found that the armrest was indeed defective from natural wear but the Defendants were not liable as they did not know about this and applying a reasonable standard of inspection likely would not have known about it.  In dismissing the claim Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[52]         In this case, there is evidence that this type of bench, when exposed to the elements on a long-term basis, does deteriorate over time and that the bench broke at the very spot where the deterioration is most likely to occur. That is evidence from which it can be inferred, on the balance of probabilities, that there was some defect or deterioration in the wood that caused the armrest to break off when the plaintiff put his weight on it. I find that the plaintiff has satisfied the first branch of the test referred to in Thomas.

[53]         On the second branch of that test, the question is whether the presence of that defect amounted to an objectively unreasonable risk of harm. That depends on whether the Strata knew or reasonably should have known about it, and whether a reasonable owner, knowing about the defect, would have repaired or removed the bench before the date of the plaintiff’s fall. The standard is one of reasonableness, not perfection.

[54]         The evidence is clear that the Strata Council had received no complaints about the bench and was not aware of any defect. The evidence of Ms. Lennard is that benches were inspected regularly to ensure they were secure and in good condition. That inspection was undoubtedly more cursory or less exacting than what the plaintiff’s experts suggest, but there is no evidence that residents of a strata who volunteer to serve on a garden committee had or should have had the same knowledge as experts in wood products.

[55]         Dr. Nichols said the purpose of the inspection he recommends is to “simulate the strains or stresses applied to the wood structure during use.” Mr. Moffatt said, on discovery, that the benches were used “extensively and intensively during the summer months.” As counsel for the Strata notes, the “ordinary stresses and strains” were not just simulated, but were actually being applied on a regular basis.

[56]         I find that the standard of inspection put forward by the plaintiff is one of perfection rather than reasonableness. But even if that standard is applicable, the plaintiff’s expert, Mr. Anderson’s opinion was that the detailed inspection be done only at least once a year. The logical time to perform an annual inspection would have been in the spring—before the period of most intensive use and immediately after the season of greatest exposure to rain. There is no evidence from which it can be inferred that the defect that caused the plaintiff’s fall in December 2015 would have been present or detectable on an inspection six to eight months earlier.


$140,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for Collision Related Chronic Pain

September 18th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages of $140,000 for injuries leading to chronic pain following a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Ferguson v. Watt) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered “injuries to her jaw, chest, thumbs and left knee, as well as soft tissue injuries“.  While many of the injuries recovered the Plaintiff continued “to suffer from chronic pain in her neck, upper back, right shoulder and left knee, and fluctuating levels of sleeplessness, depressed mood and frustration.“.

The Defendant unsuccessfully challenged the Plaintiff’s credibility at trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $140,000 Madam Justice Marzari provided the following reasons:

[196]     I find on all the evidence that Ms. Ferguson’s injuries have resulted in chronic, persistent, disabling pain which continues to impact her. The life she has ahead of her is not likely to be as enjoyable as a result of the accident and the injuries that continue to affect her – causing pain, discomfort, sleep disruption, loss of self esteem, limiting her recreational activities, causing her to take medication that may compromise her long term health, diverting time and energy to attend therapy, causing her to have less energy to engage in activities outside of work, and causing her stress and anxiety about her future. Most significantly, the accident has forced her to abandon the operating room. This has affected her identity as a capable and significant contributor to the direct care of patients, and has led her to question her own worth. While she still identifies as a nurse, and continues to wear her scrubs years after the accident even in her management roles, her sense of loss in this regard is acute and ongoing.

[197]     I would note in this case in particular that Ms. Ferguson’s stoicism and perseverance in working through her pain has undoubtedly reduced her financial losses. I do not find, however, that it suggests that she is any less in pain, or less emotionally affected by the loss. To the contrary, I find that she has worked harder to make up for any lag in her physical or mental abilities caused by the accident and her ongoing symptoms and medications.

[198]     In these circumstances, I find that her non-pecuniary losses are particularly significant and require compensation. I award $140,000 in non-pecuniary damages.


Plaintiff Ordered to Pay Double Costs After Jury Dismisses Injury Claim

September 14th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, ordering a Plaintiff to pay double costs to a Defendant after a jury dismissed her injury claim.

In the recent case (Brar v. Ismail) the Plaintiff alleged injury following a collision and sued for damages.   Prior to trial the Defendants offered to settle for $50,000.  A further offer of $65,000 was tabled.  Neither side compromised and the Plaintiff proceeded to trial where damages of over $500,000 were sought.  The Defendants attacked the Plaintiff’s credibility and introduced surveillance evidence which the court called “compelling”.

The Jury ultimately dismissed the claim.  In ordering that the Defendants were entitled to pre offer costs and post offer double costs Mr. Justice Myers provided the following reasons:

[23]     The issue of whether an offer to settle ought reasonably to have been accepted is determined by the factors existing at the time of the offer and not with the hindsight of a judgment or jury verdict.

[24]     The main point this question hinges on is whether the credibility issues were obvious and significant enough to the plaintiff so that she ought to have accepted one of the offers.

[25]     From at least the time the video surveillance was delivered, it was obvious that the plaintiff’s credibility would be front and center.  There were inconsistencies between what it showed and what she relayed to her experts.  It was also obvious these inconsistencies would have a significant impact on her case.  I do not agree with the plaintiff that what was seen in the video was not far off what she had had told her experts or said in evidence.  Often video surveillance is not compelling; here it was.

[26]     Moreover, as argued by the defendants, the plaintiff also had further credibility difficulties that ought to have been apparent to her counsel:

·        The plaintiff’s evidence was that she hit her head in the accident and had immediate dizziness and nausea including vomiting at the accident scene; however, these complaints were not documented in her GP’s records during her initial visit, which was only hours after the accident.  Her GP testified that he would have made a note of these complaints if they were made to him.

·        The plaintiff’s evidence that she was disoriented and vomited at the accident scene was contradicted by Mr. Ismail’s evidence and that of his brother;

·        In her discovery, the plaintiff said she had not done any form of work, whether paid or voluntary.  She had also stated during her examination for discovery that she never helped her husband in his business (even though she was president and 100% shareholder).  However, at the trial she acknowledged she had in fact done work for her husband’s business since the accident.  Further the surveillance video showed the plaintiff working at an elections voting station.

·        At examination for discovery the plaintiff stated she did not have any other sources of income other than what she received from her employer, Swissport.  She also said she did not own any other properties other than her primary residence.  However, her income tax records showed significant amounts of rental income, and she later admitted at trial that she and her husband received rental income from a property she was on title for.  Her reported rental income was more than she had ever earned from Swissport before the accident.

[37]     I said I would return to the timing of the second offer  There was nothing to prevent the defendants from providing the surveillance far sooner, given its importance; as noted above, it was completed in January 2018.  The fact that it was disclosed in compliance with the rules does not mean that its timing cannot be a consideration with respect to the discretion to award double costs.  As well the $65,000 offer, which was not delivered until five days before trial, could have been delivered sooner.  This would have given the plaintiff more time to consider her position, without prejudicing the defendants.  Therefore, in my view, the defendants should receive ordinary costs up to and including the first five days of trial and double costs after that.


Occupier’s Liability Claim Dismissed Where Plaintiff Did Not Know Why He Fell Down Stairs

September 4th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing an occupier’s liability lawsuit involving a plaintiff who was injured after falling down stairs.

In the recent case (Goddard v. Bayside Property Services Ltd.) the plaintiff “fell on a wooden exterior staircase outside a fire exit” at the rear of a property owned by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff did not know why he fell and did not produce any evidence documenting the stairs being a hazard at the time of the fall.  In dismissing the claim via a summary trial application Mr. Justice Ball provided the following reasons:

[17]         In this case, the plaintiff advanced a theory about what caused his fall, but the Court cannot speculate in respect to a theory; the cause of the fall has not been established on the evidence called by the plaintiff.

[18]         The standard of care under the Act and at common law for negligence is the same: it is to protect others from an objectively unreasonable risk of harm. Whether a risk is reasonable or unreasonable is a question of fact and must be determined based on the circumstances of the case: Agar v. Weber, 2014 BCCA 297 at para. 30.

[19]         The existence of stairs by itself is not an unreasonable risk of harm, but a risk that persons in our society face on a daily basis. The existence of stairs is not therefore something from which the defendants needed to protect the plaintiff: Trinetti v. Hunter, 2005 BCCA 549 at para. 11; Delgado v. Wong, 2004 BCSC 1199 at para. 25.

[20]         The fact of the plaintiff’s fall does not establish that the occupier failed to take reasonable care to ensure the plaintiff was reasonably safe. The plaintiff’s uncontroverted evidence, which was accepted by the defendants, is that he does not know what caused him to fall. If that is the case, he cannot establish the defendants caused the fall and he fails then to establish either negligence or breach of a duty under the Act.

[21]         Further, given the detailed description of the inspection and maintenance of the staircase involved by the staff and owners of the strata, the defendants have met the requisite standard of care under both the Act and common law negligence.

[22]         While the Court heard argument concerning allegations the plaintiff was negligent and submissions relating to quantum of damages, I do not regard those matters as necessary for the purpose of giving judgment.

[23]         In the circumstances of this case, the plaintiff has clearly not met the onus which he bears, and as a result the action falls to be dismissed.


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Soft Tissue Injuries Resulting in Chronic Pain

September 3rd, 2018

Reasons for Judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries.

In the recent case (Kagrimanyan v. Weir) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end collision caused by the Defendants.  Liability was admitted.  The crash caused various soft tissue injuries which led to chronic pain.  Full resolution of the Plaintiff’s symptoms was not expected.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Riley provided the following reasons:

[54]         I must consider the nature of Ms. Kagrimanyan’s injuries, and the impact of those injuries on Ms. Kagrimanyan’s quality of life. In terms of the immediate or short term effects of the accident, Ms. Kagrimanyan suffered a neck sprain and soft tissue injuries causing intermittent headaches, neck and upper back pain, and lower back pain extending into her leg. The headaches, neck and upper back pain have largely resolved over time. However, Ms. Kagrimanyan continues to suffer from lower back pain which has become chronic. There is a consensus amongst the medical experts who testified at trial that Ms. Kagrimanyan has plateaued in her recovery, and that she is likely to have some degree of continuing pain, made worse by fatigue or prolonged physical effort, including standing or even sitting in one position for an extended period of time.

[55]         In assessing the extent of Ms. Kagrimanyan’s loss, I must take into account that at the time of the accident she was 35 years old, and she is now 40. According to the evidence, she will continue to suffer from some degree of pain, at least on an intermittent basis, for the balance of her life. Ms. Kagrimanyan may be able to better manage or cope with her limitations through improved physical conditioning, but I find based on all of the expert medical testimony that Ms. Kagrimanyan is not likely to achieve full recovery. This is a significant factor when determining a damage award that will fairly and reasonably compensate Ms. Kagrimanyan for the injuries she has suffered and the resulting impact on her life.

[56]         I also accept that Ms. Kagrimanyan has become deconditioned over time, and that with improved physical fitness she may be better able to manage her discomfort and limitations. On this point, I accept the testimony of Dr. Gray that while enhanced conditioning may improve Ms. Kagrimanyan’s ability to cope with pain, it is unlikely to eliminate the pain itself.

[57]         In terms of the overall effect of the accident on Ms. Kagrimanyan’s quality of life, I find that the injuries and resulting chronic pain have impacted and will continue to impact her recreational, social, and domestic activities. She is unable to engage in some of the recreational pursuits she used to enjoy. She is still able to socialize and do housework, but finds these things more difficult than they used to be. She has also experienced and will continue to experience pain and fatigue at work. As Dr. Gray put it, Ms. Kagrimanyan’s injuries have left her with a mild form of disability. While able to remain “durably employed”, Ms. Kagrimanyan experiences increasing discomfort over the course of the work day, and as the work week progresses.

[58]         I conclude that Ms. Kagrimanyan should be awarded non-pecuniary damages of $75,000. This quantum of damages takes into account all of the non-pecuniary impacts of the accident, including added difficulty in performing household tasks. Although Ms. Kagrimanyan has made a discrete claim for housekeeping as a cost of future care, the particular nature of Ms. Kagrimanyan’s injuries and their impact on her ability to do housework is, in my view, properly addressed under the rubric of non-pecuniary damages. The only exception is with respect to heavy duty or seasonal housework, a discrete category of housework that can be dealt with by way of a pecuniary damage award as explained below.