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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

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Archive for the ‘BCSC Civil Rule 20’ Category

Litigation Guardians Are Not Immune From "Loser Pays" Costs Consequences

September 20th, 2012

Update September 25, 2013 – The below decision was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons released today

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I’ve written many times about the BC Supreme Court’s “loser pays” system which generally requires a losing litigant to pay for the winner’s costs and disbursements.  If a lawsuit is started on a child’s behalf and on reaching adulthood they take over the claim themselves can the former litigation guardian still be exposed to loser pays costs consequences?  The answer is yes as was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.

In this week’s case (McIlvenna v. Viebeg) a lawsuit was commenced on behalf of an infant plaintiff in 2003.  By 2009 the Plaintiff was an adult and took over the prosecution of his claim himself by filing an affidavit of attainment of majority.  The matter proceeded to trial and the claim was ultimately dismissed.  The Defendant was awarded costs.  An issue arose as to whether the Plaintiff or the previous litigation guardian were liable to pay these.  The Court held that the Litigation Guardian was liable for costs up until the Plaintiff reached the age of majority and the Plaintiff was liable from that point onward.   Mr. Justice Sigurdson provided the following reasons:

[17]         Although Bird J.A.’s comments on the liability of litigation guardians for costs in Miller were dicta, they were considered dicta.  Bird J.A. concluded that an infant ratifying the action after attaining the age of majority does not inherit and replace the litigation guardian’s liability for costs.  I have seen nothing in the authorities that lends support to the position that a defendant’s possible entitlement to costs from a litigation guardian disappears when the infant reaches majority.  I expect that subsequent to Miller, litigation guardians starting actions (and filing affidavits at the time) understood their potential liability for costs and the fact that it continued at least up to the infant’s majority.  Rule 20-2(12) and (13) do not suggest that the filing an affidavit upon attaining the age of majority removes any possible past liability of the litigation guardian for costs. 

[18]         While it is true that a possible adverse costs order may deter a person from suing as a litigation guardian, there are also policy reasons that support awarding costs in favour of successful defendants.  In any event, I think the underlying law has been clear for more the 50 years that a litigation guardian assumes potential liability for costs if he or she starts an action as a litigation guardian and is not successful. 

[19]         Accordingly, my conclusion is that Shawne McIlvenna, the plaintiff’s former litigation guardian, is responsible for the costs that I have already ordered, up to February 27, 2009, when the plaintiff filed his affidavit of majority. ..


Rule 20-2: Disabled People Must Use a Lawyer to Sue in the BC Supreme Court

May 9th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing the requirement that disabled people must be represented by a lawyer (or the Public Guardian and Trustee) when suing in the BC Supreme Court.  In short the Court held that despite some minor changes in language, the current Rule 20-2 is to be applied identically to the former Rule 6(4).

In today’s case (Sahyoun v. Ho) the plaintiff was “incapable of managing himself or his affairs” and his father was appointed as his committee.  Shortly after this the committee started a complex lawsuit on the Plaintiff’s behalf against numerous defendants.  He did not hire a lawyer to assist with the process.   Some of the Defendants brought a motion seeking directions as the lawsuit was not brought in compliance with Rule 20-2.  Mr. Justice Voith found that the Court has no discretion to deviate from Rule 20-2 and ordered that the lawsuit be stayed.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[13] Rule 20-2 of the Rules of Court deals with persons who labour under a legal disability. The relevant portions of the Rule provide:

Start of proceedings by person under disability

(2) A proceeding brought by or against a person under legal disability must be started or defended by his or her litigation guardian.

Lawyer must be involved

(4) A litigation guardian must act by a lawyer unless the litigation guardian is the Public Guardian and Trustee.

Committee as litigation guardian

(6) If a person is appointed committee, that person must be the litigation guardian of the patient in any proceeding unless the court otherwise orders.

[14] Rule 20-2(4) is very similar to R. 6(4) of the former Rules of Court. Arguably, the wording is now stronger. Formerly, R. 6(4) stated that the litigation guardian “shall act by a solicitor…” R. 20-2(4) now states that the litigation guardian “must act by a lawyer…”. Both “shall” and “must” are, however, defined in s. 29 of the Interpretation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 238 as “imperative”.

[15] Rule 22-7(2) sets out the powers of this court when there has been non-compliance with the Rules:

Powers of court

(2) Subject to subrules (3) and (4), if there has been a failure to comply with these Supreme Court Civil Rules, the court may

(a) set aside a proceeding, either wholly or in part,

(b) set aside any step taken in the proceeding, or a document or order made in the proceeding,

(c) allow an amendment to be made under Rule 6-1,

(d) dismiss the proceeding or strike out the response to civil claim and pronounce judgment, or

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

[16] This court has interpreted the requirement that a litigation guardian “act by a lawyer” as set out in R. 20-2(4), and formerly under R. 6(4), very strictly. In Daniel v. ICBC, 2002 BCCA 715,  the plaintiff had sustained a brain injury in a car accident as child. When he was 23 years of age his mother sought to act on his behalf as his committee under the Patients Property Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 349.

[17] She was not able to afford to retain a lawyer. Southin J.A. (in Chambers) did not permit her to proceed and stated:

[3] As I see the present situation, Mrs. Daniel has no status whatever in this Court on her own to sue on behalf of her son even if the Style of Cause here were to be amended accordingly.

[4] Since, obviously, the Daniels are not able to afford solicitors to act for them, this action cannot be brought in Mrs. Daniel’s name. To put it another way, as this action was intended to be on behalf of Attila, either he must bring the action or his guardian ad litem must bring the action, but a guardian ad litem must act through a solicitor and not in person. Those are the rules. The only other suggestion I can give is that Mrs. Daniel see the Public Trustees Office and see whether anything can be done….

[28] I have decided to stay the action. I do not believe it would be appropriate, at this stage, to strike the plaintiffs’ claim. It may be that the plaintiffs will be able to find a lawyer to assist them. In saying this, I am mindful that the continued existence of the action, notwithstanding the fact that it has been stayed, is a source of some difficulty for the Defendant Physicians.


Can A Litigation Guardian Be Ordered to Attend an Independent Medical Exam?

October 26th, 2010

(UPDATE:  Please note Leave to Appeal the Below Decision was granted by the BCCA on January 25, 2011)

When a mentally incompetent person brings a lawsuit in BC they must do so through a litigation guardian or a committee.  Generally, when personal injuries are the subject of a lawsuit, the Defendant is entitled to have the Plaintiff attend an ‘independent’ medical exam.  What about the litigation guardian?  Can they be ordered to attend an independent medical exam?  The BC Supreme Court Civil Rules are silent on this point however, reasons for judgement were released today considering this question using the Court’s ‘inherent jurisdiction’.

In today’s case (Bishop v. Minichiello) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  He was an infant at the time and brought the lawsuit by way of litigation guardian.  The Plaintiff became an adult prior to the lawsuit resolving.  Normally, when this occurs, the Plaintiff files an affidavit and overtakes the lawsuit without the litigation guardian.  In today’s case the Plaintiff did not do this apparently because his injuries may have rendered him “unable to appreciate the extent of his own injuries and unable to effectively conduct the litigation on his own behalf.”.

The Defendant brought a motion that both the Plaintiff and his litigation guardian attend a series of medical exams.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that the Rule authorizing the Court to compel a Plaintiff to attend an Independent Medical Exam does not empower a Court to extend the order to a litigation guardian.  Mr. Justice McEwan noted that while this was true it could be remedied by resorting to the Court’s inherent jurisdiction.  In granting the application the Court noted as follows:

[12] The defendant submits that although Rule 7-6 (1)-(3) makes no specific provision for a person other than the party to be examined to attend and answer questions, Wong (guardian ad litem) v. Wong [2006] B.C.J. No. 3123 (C.A.) established that the court may, in the interests of justice make ancillary orders to give effect to the purpose of the Rules, found in Rule 1(5) [now Rule 1-3]. In Wong, the question was whether the court could order a plaintiff to video tape an examination…

[13]         Rule 20-2 reads:

(3)        Unless a rule otherwise provides, anything that is required or authorized by these Supreme Court Civil Rules to be done by or invoked against a party under disability must:

(b)        be invoked against the party by invoking the same against the party’s litigation guardian.

[14]         Rule 13-1 reads:

(19)      When making an order under these Supreme Court Civil Rules, the court may impose terms and conditions and give directions it considers will further the object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules.

[15]         On the question of inherent jurisdiction I think the characterization found in R & J Siever Holdings Ltd. v. Moldenhauer 2008 BCCA 59, is most apt:

In addition to the powers conferred by the Rules of Court, the Supreme Court of British Columbia, as a superior court of record, has inherent jurisdiction to regulate its practice and procedures so as to prevent abuses of process and miscarriages of justice: see I.H. Jacob, “The Inherent Jurisdiction of the Court” (1970) 23 Current Leg. Prob. 23 at 23-25. As the author said, at 25,

The inherent jurisdiction of the court may be exercised in any given case, notwithstanding that there are Rules of Court governing the circumstances of such case. The powers conferred by the Rules of Court are, generally speaking, additional to, and not in substitution of, powers arising out of the inherent jurisdiction of the court. The two heads of powers are generally cumulative, and not mutually exclusive, so that in any given case, the court is able to proceed under either or both heads of jurisdiction.

[16]         The Rules do not, properly speaking, confer jurisdiction. To the extent that they reflect a consensus of the Judiciary (and the Bar) as to the presumptions, or expectations, or shifts in onus that will contribute to the just and expedient conduct of litigation, they are useful in bringing predictability and stability to civil procedure. To the extent that they do not reflect such a consensus, they cannot be regarded as mandatory impediments to doing the right thing in any particular case.

[17]         The silence of Rule 7-6 on the question of ordering the litigation guardian to attend an independent medical examination, does not, in and of itself, preclude the making of such an order, if it otherwise makes sense to do so in order to advance the speedy, just and inexpensive determination of the proceeding on its merits.

[18]         Whether such an order is appropriate requires the court to weigh the plaintiff’s objection against the defendant’s rationale for the request…

[20]         The plaintiff’s objection to the attendance of the litigation guardian is primarily that a conversation between the litigation guardian and the examining physician creates a form of statement that is not controlled within the process and that might well lead to conflict or confusion later, if the guardian and the Doctor do not agree as to what was said.

[21]         The defendant’s point is, primarily, that in a case where the defence is guessing as to the mental status of the plaintiff, it would be prudent to have the person who knows him best, and who is also the litigation guardian, available to answer questions about his condition, especially where it is suggested that, among the effects of the injuries suffered in the accident, is a lack of insight or appreciation on Brandon Bishop’s part of the harm that has occurred.

[22]         In Tsantilas (Litigation Guardian) v. Johnson, Cranbrook Registry #18128 (20100211) Melnick, J. made a similar order in a case involving both counsel who appear in this proceeding. In what I gather to be a case of an under-age person, the court ordered the attendance of the litigation guardian at an assessment…

[23]         I think that as long as the case continues to be conducted by Charlotte Bishop as litigation guardian, the implication that, for reasons related to his injuries Brandon Bishop is unable to conduct the litigation will remain, along with the implication that talking to him will not yield the whole story. The plaintiff’s concerns about possible confusion do not outweigh the defendant’s interest in the appointed examiners getting accurate and complete information. Accordingly, Charlotte Bishop, as litigation guardian, must attend and answer the questions posed by the examiners as they require.