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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 the ‘BCSC Civil Rule 1’ Category

How Do You Restore A Trial Date if You Failed to File a Trial Certificate?

March 8th, 2013

The BC Supreme Court Rules require a trial certificate to be filed at least 14 days before a scheduled trial date.  Failure to do so requires the matter to be removed from the trial list ‘unless the court otherwise orders‘.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, addressing the framework which permits the Court to restore a trial date after if it has been removed from the trial list.  In short the Court relied on its power under Rule 12-1(9)(b) to “fix the date of a trial proceeding” to remedy the problem.

In this weeks case (Knowles v. Lan) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision.  Prior to trial ICBC sought to have the matter adjourned but the application was dismissed.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer then forgot to file a trial certificate and the matter was removed from the trial list.  Mr. Justice Halfyard restored the trial date and in doing so provided the following reasons addressing the proper framework for such a remedy:

[24]         The first question is whether Rule 12-4 (5) gives the court power to restore a proceeding to the trial list, after it has been removed for non-compliance with Rule 12-4 (2). I would say firstly that, because of the mandatory wording in Rule 12-4, the filing of at least one trial certificate is a necessary condition for a trial to proceed. As a consequence, I do not think the court could dispense with the filing of any trial certificate, but could only grant leave to file it less than 14 days before trial.

[25]         In my opinion, a party who seeks to have a trial restored to the trial list must first obtain leave to file a trial certificate “late,” under Rule 22-4 (2). If such leave is granted, and a trial certificate is filed in accordance with the order, that filing would not have the effect of restoring the trial to the trial list from which it had been removed. Could the court make such a restoration order, under Rule 12-4 (5)?

[26]         In my opinion, Rule 12-4 (5) should be read so as to include the additional underlined words, as follows:

(5)  Unless the court otherwise orders, if no party of record files a trial certificate in accordance with sub-rule (2), the trial must be removed from the trial list.

[27]         In my view, Rule 12-4 (5) is designed to prevent an action being removed from the trial list for failure to file a trial certificate as required by subrule (2). It does not state that, if a trial has been removed from the trial list, the court may restore that trial to the trial list. Nor do I think that such a power is implicit in that subrule. In order to preserve a trial date by invoking this Rule, I think the application and the order would have to be made before the 14 day deadline. That was not done here, and so this rule cannot be relied upon…

[29]         It may be that Rule 1-3 provides inherent jurisdiction to make an order restoring this action to the trial list for March 4, 2013. But it seems to me that Rule 12-1 (9) provides specific authority to do this. Subrule (9)(b) states:

(9)  The court may

. . .

(b) fix the date of trial of a proceeding,

. . .

[30]         When this action was struck off the trial list, there was no longer any date scheduled for the trial. The subrule I have just referred to does, in my opinion, empower the court to fix a date for the trial of this proceeding which coincides with the previously – scheduled trial date of March 4, 2013. I would rely on that subrule in making the order to reinstate this action for trial on March 4, 2013.

[31]         Authority might also be found in Rule 22-7(2)(e), which states in relevant part as follows:

(2)  . . .  if there has been a failure to comply with these . . . Rules, the court may

. . .

(e) make any other order it considers will further the object of these . . .  Rules.

[32]         In my opinion, the reasons I have outlined support the orders that I made on February 27, 2013.


Plaintiff Expert Witness Allowed to Attend Defendant Examination for Discovery

November 25th, 2011

The law in BC generally permits only parties and their lawyers to attend examinations for discovery.  In limited circumstances, however, the Court can permit others to attend a discovery relying on the BC Supreme Court’s ‘inherent jurisdiction‘.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.

In this week’s case (Burgess v. Buell Distribution Corporation) the Plaintiff suffered “very serious personal injury” in a motorcycle accident.  He sued the manufacturer and scheduled an examination for discovery of an engineer employed with the Defendant.  The Plaintiff argued that his expert should be allowed to attend as the claim includes “matters requiring an understanding of technical concepts relating to the design, manufacture, and testing of motorcycles and sidecars“.

The Defendant opposed arguing this would add unnecessary time and expense to the Court Proceedings.  Mr. Justice Grauer disagreed with the Defendant and allowed the expert to attend.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[6] The Rules do not specifically address this issue, but it has certainly been the practice in this province that only the parties and their legal representatives may attend examinations for discovery in the absence of consent or an order of the court.

[7] In Ian Macdonald Library Services Ltd. v. P.Z. Resort Systems Inc. (1985), 67 B.C.L.R. 269, Madam Justice Southin, then of this Court, considered a similar application and said this:

[6]        I think the simple and sensible answer to this question is that counsel should be able to do so whenever the nature of the case is such that counsel cannot reasonably be expected to conduct a full and proper cross-examination of the witness being discovered without expert assistance.

[7]        Whether in any given case such expert assistance is necessary will depend, among other things, on:

1.         The issues in the action;

2.         The level of technical and scientific knowledge which can reasonably be expected of counsel generally at any given time;

3.         The extent of inconvenience to which the parties may be put if counsel must conduct part of an examination then adjourn it, consult with an expert and conduct the rest of it perhaps on some other occasion.

[9] I find that the issues in this case raise a level of technical and scientific knowledge beyond what can reasonably be expected of counsel generally.  While counsel normally are very adept at quickly, if temporarily, acquiring specialized knowledge relevant to their cases, it would be unwise I think for the court to second-guess the judgment of counsel as to what is required for the full and fair examination of an opposite party who possesses specialized expertise in this type of case.  Given the nature of the issues, I see nothing that strikes me as unreasonable about the request.

[10] What must be considered however is whether accommodating the request of examining counsel would result in prejudice to the party being examined.  If so, then the court must attempt to weigh that prejudice against the prejudice to the examining party of being deprived of expert assistance.

[11] In this case, no prejudice has been put forward by Harley-Davidson other than the concerns of disruption, increased expense, and extended time.  As to disruption, both counsel are experienced and I see no reason to suppose that this concern is likely to materialize in any meaningful way.  As to increased expense, the evidence does not satisfy me that such a result is likely.  Similarly, the time is at least as likely to be shortened as it is to be extended.

[12] Counsel for the defendant suggests that this will lead us down a slippery slope to a result where counsel will always request expert assistance at examinations for discovery in technical cases.  I very much doubt that that will follow, but in any event each case will be dealt with on its individual circumstances.  Where the examining party can establish the need, and the party being examined cannot establish prejudice, there is no reason to worry.  It did not worry Madam Justice Southin.

[13] As to the concept of proportionality, it seems to me that granting the relief requested is more likely to promote than inhibit the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of this proceeding on its merits taking into account the amount involved, the complexity of the issues and the importance of conducting a full, fair and informed examination for discovery.  Accordingly, leave is granted as requested.


Plaintiff Awarded $9,500 Costs Despite $4,000 Damage Assessement

November 7th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, with the “curious result” of costs recovery at over double the amount of assessed damages.

In last week’s case (Kargbo v. Chand) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  ICBC disputed both fault and injury.  At trial the Plaintiff’s claim was accepted and modest damages of $4,000 were awarded.  The Plaintiff sought her costs.  ICBC opposed arguing the Plaintiff did not have sufficient reason to sue in Supreme Court.

Earlier this year the BC Court of Appeal made it clear that more than the value of an ICBC Claim can be considered in deciding whether there is sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Williams went on to canvass factors other than value and concluded that the Plaintiff was entitled to $9,500 in costs under Rule 15-1(15).  The Court provided the following reasons:

[9] The problem ultimately reduces to this: If the Court determines that the plaintiff had sufficient reason for commencing or proceeding in the Supreme Court, she should be entitled to recover costs in accordance with Rule 15-1(15). If the Court finds that there was not sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in this Court, then she is not entitled to recover her costs.

[10] In Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, the Court of Appeal clarified that the issue has to be analyzed as at the point in time that the plaintiff initiated the action; there is no ongoing obligation to assess the quantum of claim.

[11] I have been provided with a number of decisions where judges of this Court have assessed the circumstances of cases to decide whether or not an order for costs is warranted. Obviously, the plaintiff bears the onus of establishing that there was sufficient reason for filing in the Supreme Court. It is not simply a matter of assessing the anticipated value of the claim. A number of factors have been identified in the cases as being relevant to the issue. These include the following (the list is not intended to be exhaustive):

1.         the legal or factual complexity of the case;

2.         the need for discovery of documents and examinations for discovery;

3.         the need for a judgment enforceable outside of British Columbia;

4.         a bona fide preference for a jury trial;

5.         access to the summary trial procedure available in Supreme Court; and

6.         the need for the plaintiff to have legal counsel, in light of the defendant’s denial of liability, dispute as to causation, injury or loss and allegations of contributory negligence, pre-existing conditions, previous causes and a failure to mitigate.

[12] In the present case, liability was denied and in the circumstances could reasonably have been expected to represent a challenge to prove. As well, the issue of damages had the real potential of being a problem. The plaintiff had a history of prior accidents and had been hospitalized shortly after the accident in question for matters not related to the accident. She was also injured in another more serious accident some several months after the accident at bar. It was the sort of case that a self-represented plaintiff would find daunting no doubt.

[13] Taking those considerations into account, it is my view that this plaintiff had sufficient reason for bringing her proceeding in the Supreme Court.

[14] As a parenthetical observation, it is true that a party such as this plaintiff could elect to pursue the claim in the Provincial Court with legal counsel, although the prospect of incurring the expense to do so without any right to recover court costs is a legitimate factor to consider. As well, where the plaintiff elects to bring suit in the Supreme Court, she runs the real risk of an adverse costs outcome if the action is unsuccessful.

[15] In the circumstances, it is my view that the plaintiff should be entitled to costs in accordance with the Rules of Court. I recognize that might appear to produce a curious result in that the award of costs is substantially greater than the damages that she recovered. However, if the matter is considered fairly and objectively and the relevant rule applied, that result follows.

[16] There is no question that the policy which underpins Rule 14-1(1) is to encourage parties with claims of modest value to bring their action in the Provincial Court, and to provide for a penalty against one who does not. That is consistent with the concept of proportionality which is a foundational consideration of the Court’s Rules.

[17] The clear default position will be that, with respect to claims where the award is less than $25,000, the plaintiff will not be entitled to an award of costs. Nevertheless, there will be situations where there is sufficient reason to bring the action in the Supreme Court. It will be for the Court to examine the circumstances of each particular case to determine whether or not there is sufficient reason.

For more cases addressing sufficient reasons to sue in Supreme Court you can click here to access my archived posts on this topic.


Scope of "Representations of Counsel" at Case Planning Conferences Discussed

October 21st, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the scope of appropriate applications at Case Planning Conferences and further the prohibition of affidavit evidence in this venue.

In today’s case (Gill v. A&P Fruit Growers Ltd.) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 slip and fall incident.  The Defendant was found 70% at fault for this incident.

As the damages trial neared the Plaintiff brought an application to allow him to introduce evidence from two physicians by way pre-trial deposition.  The Defendant opposed arguing this order should not be made and further that such applications should not be heard at a Case Planning Conference.  Mr. Justice Willcock disagreed and provided the following feedback about the scope of CPC applications:

[17] There is still some uncertainty with respect to the scope of the prohibition against hearing applications supported by affidavit evidence on a case planning conference.  In order to effect the objectives of the Rules by making orders designed to resolve disputes efficiently and in a cost-effective manner on the merits, in my view, it will occasionally be necessary to rule on the manner in which evidence will be adduced at trial.  In some circumstances, even when such matters are hotly contested, they may be determined without affidavit evidence.  That may be the case where the issue may be determined on the basis of representations of counsel as officers of the court.

[18] It has long been the case that the courts have given evidentiary weight to the representations of counsel with respect to evidence to be called at trial, availability of witnesses and procedural questions going to trial management.  In Nichols v. Gray (1978), 9 B.C.L.R. 5 (C.A.), the Court of Appeal reaffirmed a chambers judge’s discretion to give weight to statements of counsel relating to the evidence and the conduct of trial.  It is in that context that the new Supreme Court Rules were enacted.  The prohibition against hearing applications supported by affidavit evidence must be interpreted in the light of that practice.

[19] I adopt as applicable to case planning conferences the views expressed by N. Smith J. in Jurczak v. Mauro, 2011 BCSC 512, and by Gray J. in Enns v. Cahan, 2011 BCSC 54, in addressing the similar provision in the trial management rule prohibiting the granting of orders requiring affidavit evidence: that it is for the trial management judge to decide whether a particular application requires affidavit evidence and whether any affidavits that have been tendered are relevant.

[20] In the case at bar, as in Jurczak, the evidence in the affidavits that were before me added nothing to the submissions of counsel and counsel’s advice to the court with respect to matters that ought to be canvassed at a case management conference, specifically the witnesses availability for trial and the importance of cross-examination of those witnesses to the defence case.  The affidavit evidence that I would have to weigh on the application was like that described in para. 14 of the judgment in Jurczak:

[14]      All of that relates to matters of evidence that counsel expected or wanted to put before the trial judge, the availability of that evidence, and the readiness of the defendant to proceed to trial.  Those are matters of which counsel are expected to advise the court at the TMC and the court is, of course, entitled to assume counsel’s statements are true.  Affidavits in which their legal assistants simply say the same thing about these procedural matters are of no further assistance.

[21] The enumeration of orders that may be made at a case planning conference is exhaustive but Rule 5-3(1)(k) confers a broad discretion on the case planning judge to make orders respecting expert witnesses and Rule 5-3(1)(v) confers a broad discretion to make any order that advances the objectives of the Rules.  The judicial exercise of these discretionary powers requires that some consideration be given to the nature of the orders more specifically enumerated in Rule 5-3.  The Rules contemplate active judicial management of litigation and, in particular, judicial regulation of the role of expert witnesses at trial.  The Rules require that case planning and trial management be conducted with an eye to efficiency and the proportionality of the expense of the process to the value, importance and complexity of the matters in issue.  In my view, an application for an order that expert witnesses be deposed before trial rather than testifying by a video conference at trial is clearly an order of the type that may be made at a case planning or trial management conference, if the factual matrix necessary for making such an order can be established.  Such an order is in the nature of the procedural orders enumerated in Rule 5-3.


Plaintiff Independent Medical Exams and Litigation Privilege Discussed

October 4th, 2011

Useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing the scope of litigation privilege when a Plaintiff attends an independent medical exam arranged on their behalf in the course of a personal injury lawsuit.

In this week’s case (Lanteigne v. Brkopac) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff’s lawyer had her assessed by a neuropsychologist to explore the possibility of organic brain injury.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer chose not to order a report from the neuropsychologist following the assessment.

ICBC brought an application to compel the neuropsychologist to produce a copy of his clinical records of the assessment.  Master Taylor dismissed the application finding that the notes generated during Plaintiff arranged independent medical exams are subject to litigation privilege.  In addition to canvassing several cases addressing this area of law Master Taylor provided the following useful comments:

[15] On the other hand, the plaintiff says this is not a case where Rule 7-6(1) is applicable because the court did not make an order under this subrule for the plaintiff to attend to be examined by Dr. Coen. Rather, the plaintiff attended upon Dr. Coen by referral from her own counsel. Accordingly, says the plaintiff, what actually applies is the law of privilege, not Stainer v. Plaza.

[16] Thus, the issue is framed – can a defendant or third party who has not obtained a doctor’s report by compulsion of a court order, and prior to disclosure of any medical-legal reports by the plaintiff or in the absence of any reports, obtain access to the non-treating doctor’s notes and clinical findings, or are said notes and clinical records privileged as forming part of the brief of the plaintiff’s solicitor until the time when the plaintiff chooses to rely on the non-treating doctor as a witness at trial and the doctor’s notes must be disclosed…

[21] In my view it is improper to categorize the non-treating doctor or any other third party consultant retained on behalf of the plaintiff as a witness in which there is no property. The very fact that the plaintiff consulted with that physician or other individual during the course of litigation removes that individual from the “witness” category until such time as the plaintiff and counsel make a determination about whether or not that physician will be used as a witness at the trial, and preserves the right of privilege. The fact that the consulted doctor or other consultant never gives evidence preserves the privilege for all time unless waived by the plaintiff.

[22] While the defendant and third party submit they could have the plaintiff examined by their own doctor or proceed with an examination of the doctor pursuant to Rule 7-5, they complain that those alternatives are costly, and, accordingly, the court should assist them by ordering the records of Dr. Coen be produced and thus save them the cost of proceeding with the other alternatives. The defendant also submits that Rule 1-3 provides the court with sufficient justification to order Dr. Coen to provide his notes of the plaintiff’s examination.

[23] In my view, the defendant and third party have not shown any meritorious reason for abrogating the plaintiff’s litigation privilege related to the information obtained by Dr. Coen from the plaintiff as a result of the referral to Dr. Coen by the plaintiff’s solicitor. Nor, in my opinion, does Rule 1-3 provide justification for abrogating the privilege.


Exclusion of Witnesses Results in New Trial in Chronic Pain Case

August 25th, 2011

This week the BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement ordering a new trial following a chronic pain case which resulted in a $525,000 damage assessment.

In this week’s case (Houston v. Kine) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 collision.  She allegedly suffered from PTSD and a chronic pain disorder as a result of the crash.  The matter went to trial although did not conclude in the time initially allotted.

There was a 5 month gap before the trial recommenced.  During this break ICBC undertook surveillance of the Plaintiff over two periods of time.  The Defence lawyers, however, failed to disclose this evidence in compliance with the Rules of Court.  As a result the trial judge refused to let the evidence in.  The Court went further, however, and held that the witnesses who made the videos could not testify as to their observations of the Plaintiff as doing so would undermine the decision to exclude the video evidence.

The Defendants appealed arguing that the witnesses were wrongly excluded.  The BC Court of Appeal agreed and found that while “the defendants’ choice at trial to withhold the existence of the videotapes….was inappropriate” and that this evidence was rightly excluded it was improper to exclude the witnesses themselves to testify.  In ordering a new trial the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[31] The obvious difficulty with the viva voce evidence was that the observers were unknown to the defendants prior to the hiatus in the trial. The earliest that they could have been identified was in November of 2009. By then, the plaintiff’s preparation for trial was all but over. To constrain the defendants’ ability to react to the plaintiff’s evidence to “prevent surprise or ambush” in my view unfairly restricted their ability to have the proceeding determined on its merits. As the trial judge accepted that there was no restriction on calling lay witnesses, she erred in imposing that restriction respecting witnesses who could comment on the plaintiff’s activities during the hiatus in the trial.

[32] The trial judge’s second reason for refusing to allow the observation witnesses to testify was that:

It would be inconsistent with my previous order and with the objects of the Rules, expressed in R. 1(5), “to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits,” to allow the defendants to, in effect, ambush the plaintiff with this evidence, which has been disclosed only recently.

[33] In my view the trial judge here misapplied Rule 1(5), focussing on speed in the completion of the proceedings at the expense of their merits. The Rule and the third factor in Stoneemphasize the importance of the determination of a proceeding on its merits. In order to determine a proceeding on its merits, the admissible evidence that is tendered by a party and is relevant to matters in issue should be considered.

[34] In addition, given that the original trial estimate was exceeded by the plaintiff’s case, necessitating the adjournment of the trial that caused the hiatus that brought about the acquisition of new evidence by the defendants, I am unable to accept that the delay resulting from the proposed evidence should have been treated any differently from the delay that was occasioned by the initial inadequate trial time estimate. The failure to do so prevented the determination of these proceedings on their merits. I conclude that the trial judge erred in law in refusing to permit the witnesses to give viva voce evidence at the trial…

[36] Here, the credibility of the plaintiff was a critical factor in the trial judge’s assessment of quantum, and the evidence of the observers was intended to directly address the plaintiff’s credibility. In my view, the refusal of the trial judge to permit the defendants to adduce evidence to challenge the plaintiff’s physical abilities at the date of the trial was unfair, and given the importance of this evidence to the ultimate award of damages for future diminished earning capacity and future cost of care, I see no alternative but to order a new trial on damages. I would thus allow the appeal and order a new trial.


Case Planning Conferences Not Necessary to Get CPC Consent Order

June 17th, 2011

Useful reasons for judgement were released yesterday (Stockbrugger v. Bigney)  by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding that parties can apply for a Case Planning Conference Order by consent even if they have not had a Case Planning Conference.  While such a power is not set out expressly in the Rules of Court Mr. Justice Macaulay relied on the principle of proportionality to justify this result.  The Court provide the following helpful reasons:

[2] Even though the Supreme Court Civil Rules do not expressly provide for consent case plan orders, permitting the parties to file a consent case plan order is not prohibited and is entirely consistent with the object of the rules to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits (Rule 1?3(1)). Further, under sub-rule (2), the object is to be achieved, “so far as is practicable,” by conducting the proceedings in a proportionate manner.

[3] It is important, in considering proportionality, to keep in mind that every court appearance adds a layer of cost for the litigants. Part 5 of the rules, which governs case planning conferences, recognizes this factor. It does not require a case planning conference in every proceeding. In short, the parties may conduct a proceeding entirely without a case plan order if they so choose and the court finds no basis upon which to intervene and direct that a case planning conference take place.

[4] The foregoing is evident from Rule 5-1(1) which permits any party of record to request a case planning conference and Rule 5-1(2) which permits the court, any time after the pleading period has expired, to direct that a case planning conference take place. I see no reason for refusing parties the opportunity to consent to a proposed case plan without adding the cost of what may well be an entirely unnecessary hearing.

[5] Nothing in the rules prohibits a consent case plan order. If a party requests, or the court directs, that a case planning conference take place, Rule 5-3(3) requires that the judge or master conducting the case planning conference “must, at the conclusion of the case planning conference, make a case plan order.” I do not interpret that sub-rule as excluding a consent case plan order absent a case planning conference.

[6] Further, Rule 8-3 governs applications for orders by consent. An application for an order by consent, in the ordinary course, is made by filing a requisition, a draft of the proposed order and evidence that the application is consented to (Rule 8?3(1)(a)-(c)). Sub-rule (2) provides that a registrar may, upon being satisfied that the application is by consent and the appropriate materials filed, refer the application to a judge or master, depending on the jurisdiction necessary to make the particular order. Rule 8-3 does not give rise to an inconsistency with Rule 5-3(3).

[7] I observe that Rule 5-3(4) requires that case planning orders are to be in Form 21. Form 21 includes a case plan. Rule 8-3, on the other hand, provides for an order in Form 34. Form 34 is easily adaptable, as the parties sought to do here, to incorporate a case plan in compliance with Form 21. The solution is, in my view, adequate, proportionate and cost effective for the parties.

[8] Even if there is some inconsistency in the forms as drafted, Rule 1-2(3) permits the court to order that any provision of the rules does not apply “if all parties to a proceeding agree.” If necessary, I would apply this sub-rule to permit consent case plan orders.


Want of Prosecution, Proportionality and the New Rules of Court

May 30th, 2011

One of the overarching changes in the current Suprene Court Rules is the introduction of the principle of ‘proportionality’.  When any applicaiton is brought before the Court the presiding Judge or Master must consider this concept in applying the Supreme Court Rules.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, discussing this in the context of a dismissal application.

In last week’s case (Ellis v. Wiebe) the Plaintiff sued various Defendants for alleged misrepresentation in the course of a purchase and sale agreement relating to property.   The lawsuit started in 2004 and by 2011 still had not been resolved.

The Defendant Wiebe brought an application to dismiss the lawsuit for want of prosecution (failure to prosecute in a timely fashion).  Madam Justice Bruce held that while the delay in the prosecution was inordenate and inexcusable there was no prejudice and did not dismiss the claim for this reason.  The Court did, however, go on to dismiss the claim on it’s merits.  Prior to doing so the Court made the following findings with respect to the application of the proporitonality principle in want of prosecution applications:

[8] The parties do not dispute the test to be applied by the court in determining whether an action should be dismissed for want of prosecution. The test is concisely summarized in Shields v. Nishin Kanko Investments Ltd., 2008 BCSC 36 at para. 25, wherein Mr. Justice Parrett cites the comments of Scarth J. at para. 3 of March v. Tam, 2002 BCSC 1125:

… I conclude that the principles of law which govern the exercise of the Court’s discretion in the circumstances of this case may in summary form be stated as follows: The defendants must establish that there has been inordinate delay and that this delay is inexcusable. If those two factors are established a rebuttable presumption of prejudice arises and the onus shifts to the plaintiff to prove on a balance of probabilities that the defendants have not suffered prejudice or that on balance justice demands that the action not be dismissed.

[9] The authorities also consistently hold that the court must look to the objects of the Supreme Court Rules as these relate to the particular circumstances of the case to determine whether an action should be dismissed for want of prosecution….

[10] When the Supreme Court Rules were amended in July 2010, a new subsection was added to Rule 1-3 to further refine the meaning of “just, speedy and inexpensive determination”. Rule 1-3 (2) provides as follows:

(2)   Securing the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of a proceeding on its merits includes, so far as is practicable, conducting the proceeding in ways that are proportionate to

(a)      the amount involved in the proceeding,

(b)      the importance of the issues in dispute, and

(c)      the complexity of the proceeding.

[11] In my view, Rule 1-3 (2), in part, reflects the approach adopted by our Court of Appeal to the issue of dismissal for inordinate delay; that is, the facts of each case have a significant impact on the outcome of any particular application for dismissal based on want of prosecution. While the principles of law are relatively straightforward, it is the application of these principles to widely varied fact situations that is critical. As noted in Rhyolite Resources Inc. v. CanQuest Resource Corp., 1999 BCCA 36, at para. 16:

Cases vary so infinitely that it is not always easy to apply to one factual situation the decision in another very different factual situation. However, it is the task of the court to seek to apply in a rational fashion the principles that have been laid down in the decided cases, always bearing in mind that the facts in each case are going to have a significant influence on the actual outcome of the individual application. I believe, with respect, that this approach or principle can be found well expressed in a case that was cited to us, Lebon Construction Ltd. v. Wiebe (1995), 10 B.C.L.R. (3d) 102 (C.A.), a recent decision of this court. That was a builder’s lien case and in that class of case, one would expect a swifter pace to the action than might be the case of say a personal injury case where a very serious injury and the course of recovery of a plaintiff must be assessed over time. Although it is always desirable to move on promptly with litigation, the simple fact is that in certain cases the interests of justice demand a rather more stately and measured pace than would be proper with regard to another class of action. Although it is desirable that all cases proceed with reasonable promptitude, the key word is reasonable and the ultimate consideration must always be: what are the interests of justice?


More on the Affidavit Evidence Prohibition At TMC's and CPC's

May 5th, 2011

Further to my recent post on this topic, the law regarding the Affidavit Prohibition at Case Planning Conferences and Trial Management Conferences appears to be taking shape.  Useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, taking a common sense approach to this prohibition.

In this week’s case (Enns v. Cahan) the Plaintiff sued for damages under the Family Compensation Act.  A trial management conference was held and the Defendant brought an application to strike the Plaintiff’s Jury Notice.  The Defendant did not provide any affidavits in support of his application relying only on the pleadings and an expert report which was intended to be introduced at trial.  The Defendant argued the case was too complex for a jury.

The application was dismissed with Madam Justice Gray finding that the case could appropriately be heard by a Jury.  Prior to making this finding the Court provided the following useful reasons about when it’s appropriate for a contested application to be heard at a TMC given the affidavit evidence prohibition:

[9] Rule 12-2(11) provides that:

(11)  A trial management conference judge must not, at a trial management conference,

(a) hear any application for which affidavit evidence is required, or

(b) make an order for final judgment, except by consent.

[10] Mr. Brun, Q.C., argued on behalf of Mr. Cahan that his application could proceed without affidavit evidence and on the basis of submissions by counsel alone. Mr. Brun provided the Court with a copy of the Bruce-Aldridge report and seeks to rely on that and the statement of claim as the basis for his application. Mr. LeBlanc argued on behalf of Mr. Enns that Mr. Cahan’s application requires evidence and that it is therefore one of the prohibited orders set out in Rule 12-2(11).

[11] The new Rules include Rule 1-3 as follows:

(1)  The object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules is to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits.

(2)  Securing the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of a proceeding on its merits includes, so far as is practicable, conducting the proceeding in ways that are proportionate to

(a) the amount involved in the proceeding,

(b) the importance of the issues in dispute, and

(c) the complexity of the proceeding.

[12] The new Rules have procedures which enable the court and the parties to design the procedure necessary to resolve a particular issue which is in question. The question of whether an application requires affidavit evidence will not always be determined by what remedy is sought. The question of what is in dispute will play a role, as well. In this case, Mr. Brun’s submissions are based on the Bruce-Aldridge report and the statement of claim. It is not necessary to require the parties to go to the trouble and expense of preparing affidavits when counsel can simply provide the court with a copy of the report in question and the pleadings.

[13] In my view, requiring affidavit evidence would not be consistent with the object of securing the inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits. Here, counsel agree that the Bruce-Aldridge report was tendered by Mr. Enns as a report he intends to rely on at trial as an expert report. As I have said, that report, together with the statement of claim, form the basis of Mr. Brun’s submissions. As a result, Mr. Cahan’s application can proceed as an application before the trial management judge.


Can the BC Supreme Court Order a Plaintiff to Travel Out of Province for an Independent Medical Exam?

April 29th, 2011

Further to my post discussing court ordered medical exams and travel, I’ve recently had the opportunity to review whether the current Supreme Court Rules place limits on Court ordered travel for independent medical examinations.  The line, it seems, is drawn at out of Province “medical practitioners“.

While I’m not aware of any cases addressing this issue under the current rules, the issue was addressed by the BC Court of Appeal under the former Rule 30(1) which reads almost identically to the current Rule 7-6(1).

In the leading case under the former rules (Hewitt v. Buell) the BC Court of Appeal held that orders for medical examinations are to be limited to BC physicians because “the phrase (medical practitioner)…as it appears in Rule 30(1) can have no meaning other than one entitled to practice in British Columbia.  This is what the chambers judge concluded and in my view he was right.

The BC Court of Appeal went on to hold that applications for out of Province examinations with “other qualified persons” (ie- experts other than medical practitioners), can be ordered in rare circumstances.

I’ve now had the opportunity to cross reference this judgement with the new Rules of Court.  It appears that the out of Province restriction for exams with “medical practitioners” remains in place.  The reason being is that Rule 7-6(1) reads almost identically to the former Rule 30(1).  Additionally, the current Rules of Court do not define “medical practitioner” requiring the Court to turn to Rule 1-1(2) which states that “Unless a contrary intention appears, the Interpretation Act and the interpretation section of the Supreme Court Act Apply to these Supreme Court Civil Rules“.

“Medical Practitioner” is defined at section 29 of the BC Interpretation Act as “a registrant of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia entitled under the Health Professions Act to practice medicine and to use the title ‘medical practitioner’.”

So, if an out of Province medical exam is contested, a good place to start in opposing a defence application is to review whether the out of Province physician is a registrant of the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons.