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 the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Punitive Damages Awarded Against Suspended Driver Involved in Hit and Run Collision

October 16th, 2017

In a rare case awarding punitive damages in a motor vehicle collision case reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, making such an award.

In the recent case (Howell v. Machi) the Plaintiff pedestrian was struck by a motorist who fled the scene of the collision.  The Plaintiff was jaywalking at the time and found partly at fault for the crash.  The Defendant was identified.  He had a suspended licence at the time of the collision.  In finding these circumstances warranted an award of punitive damages Madam Justice MacNaughton provided the following reasons:

[517]     Ms. Howell was unable to refer me to any case in which punitive damages had been awarded in a motor vehicle accident case involving a hit-and-run. However, in Legualt v. Tiapis, 2015 BCSC 517, Master Harper dismissed an application to strike a claim for punitive damages against a breached defendant for leaving the scene of an accident on the basis that she could not conclude that the punitive damages claim would prejudice or embarrass the fair trial of the proceeding. As that case did not proceed to trial, there is no authority for whether punitive damages are appropriate in a hit-and-run situation.

[518]     Punitive damages have been awarded against defendants who have shown reprehensible conduct in causing motor vehicle accidents. For example, punitive damages have been awarded in the following cases relied on by Ms. Howell:

·       In McIntyre v. Grigg, 83 O.R. (3d) 161 the Ontario Court of Appeal reduced a jury’s $100,000 punitive damage award to $20,000 against a defendant driver whose blood alcohol level, at the time of the accident, was two to three times over the legal limit;

·       In McDonald v. Wilson, [1991] B.C.J. No. 3137, Justice Hood awarded $5,000 in punitive damages and $1,000 in aggravated damages against a defendant driver who intentionally tried to strike the plaintiff. Similarly, in Stevenson v. Vance, [1988] N.S.J. No. 384, $2,500 in punitive damages was awarded against a defendant who intentionally ran over the plaintiff’s legs after stealing from a store in which the plaintiff worked as a security guard; and

·       In Herman v. Graves, 1998 ABQB 471, a plaintiff was awarded $3,500 in punitive damages arising from a road rage incident and, more recently, in McCaffery v. Arguello, 2017 BCSC 1460, I awarded $30,000 in punitive damages arising from a road rage incident.

[519]     I have concluded that Mr. Machi’s actions are worthy of denunciation and retribution beyond the compensatory awards I have made in favour of Ms. Howell. In particular, although I concluded that his failure to stop after striking Ms. Howell did not amount to further negligence on his part, it is relevant to the punitive damages analysis. I have also taken into account the fact Mr. Machi has repeatedly shown complete disregard for the suspensions of his driver’s licence.

[520]     In all the circumstances, I award Ms. Howell punitive damages of $100,000 against Mr. Machi.


BC Supreme Court – Suggesting Driver At Fault for Collision Based on Past Convictions is “Frivolous”

October 2nd, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, describing the suggestion of deciding fault for a collision based in part on a motorist’s past driving convictions as ‘frivolous’.

In today’s case (Rezai v. Uddin) the Plaintiff was a pedestrian involved in a collision with the Defendant.  Fault was disputed.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff sought to amend her pleadings to allege “The Defendant Driver had on several previous occasions driven in a manner that put pedestrians and motorists at risk of injury” based on

a.   on Nov. 27, 2008, the defendant was charged with speeding, for which he plead guilty;

b.   on Dec. 4, 2008, the defendant was charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian on a green light, for which he plead guilty;

c.   on December 5, 2008, the defendant was charged with entering an intersection when the light was red for which he plead guilty;

d.   on March 11, 2009, the defendant was charged with speeding, for which he plead guilty;

e.   on January 17, [2015], the defendant was charged with using an electronic device while driving. He failed to appear at the hearing and was deemed not to dispute the charge.

The court rejected this request noting that past convictions likely do not constitute similar fact evidence.  In dismissing the application Master Wilson provided the following reasons:

[22]         The parties agree that there is no British Columbia authority on the issue of whether a pleading alleging similar fact evidence in the context of a prior driving record should be allowed in British Columbia. The defendant refers me to some Ontario authorities in support of his position that such pleadings are improper.

[23]         In Wilson v. Lind, (1985) 35 C.C.L.T. 95, O’Brien J. struck from the pleadings allegations of prior or subsequent impaired driving by the defendant. The application was brought on the basis that the allegations were prejudicial, scandalous or an abuse of process, a rule akin to our R. 9-5(1). At paragraph 12 the court held the following:

Our Courts have held for a long time, and for good reason, that prior negligence of a party is generally irrelevant to proof of subsequent negligence. …

[24]         I note that of the five driving infractions in our case, only two of them are for the same offence, namely speeding. Both were over five years old at the time of the accident. Indeed four of the five convictions were over five years old, with the fifth occurring some months after the accident. The defendant was not issued a violation ticket arising out of the accident.

[25]         The only possible purpose for Similar Fact Pleading here, given the variety of infractions, would be to enable the plaintiff to suggest that the defendant is a generally bad driver based on his driving record. However, this does not inform the analysis of whether or not he was responsible for the subject accident, any more than a clean driving record would tend to absolve him of responsibility.

[26]         It is highly improbable that the trial judge would admit the defendant’s prior infractions as similar fact evidence to support a finding of liability on the part of the defendant. Evidence of prior speeding infractions does not lead to the inference that the defendant was speeding at the time of the accident. Drivers often speed without receiving violation tickets. Proof of speeding does not conclusively establish negligence in the case of an accident. In Hamm Estate v. JeBailey (1974), 12 N.S.R. (2d) 27, evidence of driving record and habits was held to be irrelevant and inadmissible for the purpose of determining liability.

[27]         In Witten v. Bhardwaj, [2008] O.J. No. 1769, the court was asked to strike certain portions of a statement of claim that also involved a pedestrian struck by a vehicle. The plaintiff had pleaded that the defendant had a ‘pattern of reckless conduct’ that included multiple speeding offences. The allegations of speeding in the Witten case were a year before and a year after the accident in issue.

[28]         After reviewing the decision of Wilson v. Lind, Master Haberman said that there were only two purposes for the plea about the defendant’s driving record and held the plea should be struck regardless of which applied:

The plaintiff’s purpose in including these additional allegations about Paawan’s driving patterns could only involve one of two issues: 1) to enable the plaintiff to ask the court to rely on Paawan’s driving record when assessing whether he was likely speeding at the time of this accident; or, 2) to provide “colour” for the court, so that Paawan will be viewed as a bad driver generally, and hence, be seen as likely responsible for this accident. If the former, what the plaintiff seeks to plead in the impugned portion of paragraph 15 is clearly evidence, not material fact, and on that basis should be struck. If the latter, it is frivolous and should be struck.

[29]         I agree. The Similar Fact Pleading is either evidence and therefore improper to include in a pleading, or is intended to suggest that the defendant is generally a bad driver and therefore he is more likely to be the cause of the subject accident, in which case it is frivolous.


$220,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Leg Amputation and Chronic Pain

September 28th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a leg amputation caused by a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Bye v. Nelson) the plaintiff was operating a dirt bike which was involved in a collision with an ATV operated by the Defendant.  The collisions caused severe injuries including a left leg amputation.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $220,000 Madam Justice Choi provided the following reasons:

[3]             …Not in dispute is that Mr. Bye’s dirt bike and Mr. Newman’s ATV collided near a curve in the road. Both vehicles were damaged, and Mr. Bye was left with a number of injuries including a fracture to his neck and multiple fractures to his legs. Although Mr. Bye was rushed to the hospital, his injuries required a through-knee amputation of much of his left leg.

[93]         Mr. Bye is a young man. He was 35 years old at trial and 31 at the time of the accident. He was an active man who enjoyed various recreational pursuits. He had been employed by Teck Metals as a carpenter commencing February 2010. It was a job he loved, which paid him handsomely.

[94]         The injuries from the accident have changed his life dramatically forever. He now suffers from daily pain and fatigue as a result of the amputation and is permanently disabled from returning to carpentry work and to many of his recreational activities. He testified that, before the accident, he enjoyed dirt biking, boating, hunting, fishing, hiking, and swimming, and that his injuries have either cut off, or severely limited his enjoyment of these.

[95]         Additionally, Mr. Bye is now a father, with his son born during the litigation, in 2016. While he is still able to play with and care for his son, many of these interactions are made more difficult by his injury. He testified to the difficulties of lowering himself to the floor to spend time with his son…

[102]      Mr. Bye has been dealing with his injuries since he was 31. He will continue to face difficulties for the rest of his life. Considering all the evidence, the Stapley factors, and case law submitted by the parties, I conclude an award of $220,000 is fair and appropriate in all the circumstances.


Negligent Ski Resort Saved From Liability Based on Waiver

September 27th, 2017

Big White Waiver

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court dismissing a lawsuit against a negligent ski resort based on a waiver patrons must agree to when using their facilities.

In today’s case (Fillingham v. Big White Ski Resort Limited) the Plaintiff was skiing on a short cut at the end of a ski run named ‘highway 33′  to a parking lot which was, at the time, open for use for skiers.  Shortly prior to this a snowplow came through exposing users of the path to a 10 foot drop to the parking lot.  The Plaintiff fell, was injured and sued for damages.

The Court found that the ski resort was negligent with Madam Justice Adair noting as follows

…as of Noon on March 4, 2013, when Mr. Fillingham was coming down Highway 33 , the rope line at the short cut was still open.  However, the path had been removed, thereby creating a hazard if the short cut was used, and the open rope line failed to mark or warn of that hazard.

[39]        I find further that, in not taking steps after clearing snow in the Solana Ridge parking lot to ensure the rope line at the short cut from Highway 33 was closed, BW Limited failed to take reasonable care and was negligent.

Despite the finding of negligence the Court went on to dismiss the lawsyuit noting a broad worded waiver covered this situation.  In reaching this conclusion the court provided the following reasons:

[51]        On the other hand, when I apply the analytical framework described by Binnie J. to the Exclusion, in my view, the intention is clear:  it is to exclude liability on the part of the Ski Area Operator to the Ticket Holder for “all risk of personal injury . . . resulting from any cause whatsoever” [underlining added].  “Any cause whatsoever” specifically includes, but is not limited to, negligence on the part of the Ski Area Operator.  Mr. Fillingham, as I have found, was very familiar with this language.  He had seen it many times, and carried on his activities on the basis that he was assuming “all risk of personal injury,” including, without limitation, risk of personal injury caused by the negligence of BW Limited.  That is what Mr. Fillingham did at Big White on March 4, 2013.

[52]        Mr. Fillingham, based on his evidence, knew that some of the time, the short cut was roped off, and some of the time it was not.  The essence of his complaint in this action is that, as of about Noon on March 4, BW Limited failed to adequately mark – by closing the rope line – a hazard it had created, and was negligent in doing so.  I have found that BW Limited was negligent.  However, in my view, what occurred is not so extraordinary or unique that it could be said the parties did not intend for it to be covered by the Exclusion.

[54]        Mr. Berezowskyj submitted that, if the Exclusion were found to be valid and broad enough to encompass Mr. Fillingham’s claim, then there are strong public policy reasons for preventing a recreational operator from relying on a ticket waiver to avoid liability in circumstances where it actively creates the hazard from which its guests were not properly protected, and were in fact invited to court.  However, in my opinion, this is not a case where an overriding public policy (evidence of which was thin at best) outweighs the case in favour of enforcement of the Exclusion.


Court Denies Defense Request to X-Ray Plaintiff in Personal Injury Claim

September 22nd, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, denying a defense request to include an X-ray as part of the defense medical examination process.

In today’s case (Tani v. Baker) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of a 2015 collision where she sustained a broken leg and shoulder.

The Plaintiff consented to attend an defense medical examination but refused to consent to an X-ray that the physician requested.  The Defendant applied to court to compel the X-ray.  In dismissing the request Master Muir provided the following reasons:

[7]             The law with respect to medical appointments is not really an issue. Rule 7‑6(1) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules provides that the court can order an examination by a medical practitioner or other qualified person if the mental or physical condition of a person is at issue in an action.

[8]             The plaintiff notes, and I will not put it higher than that, that Rule 7‑6(3) provides specifically that a person who is making an examination under this rule may ask any relevant question concerning the medical condition or history of the person being examined. There is no equivalent particularization of other testing that might be performed.

[9]             I think I can assume that often physical tests are performed on plaintiffs, but that does not include what the plaintiff refers to as intrusive investigation or intrusive testing. The argument is that if the mere statement that an expert needs certain intrusive testing is taken at face value, then any such test could be ordered and I will add, regardless of the potential ill effects of such an examination or test.

[10]         It is common ground here that there is some danger to cumulative X-Ray examinations. That was not contested by the defendant. He acknowledged that there were health concerns but argued that the intrusive argument was simply not made out here and that the testing was required so that the defendant can be on an equal footing with the plaintiff in investigation of her ongoing injuries.

[11]         The plaintiff notes that they have no updated X-Rays, however. She argues that given the purpose of the rule, which is to put the parties on an equal footing, if the plaintiff does not have any evidence of diagnostic imaging and her existing expert’s and family physician’s reports do not lead to any necessity for further imaging, then there is no basis for an order for the defendant to have such imaging.

[12]         The plaintiff’s family physician apparently says that the breaks are healing properly and that there is no further requirement for treatment. The plaintiff submits that there is an onus on the defendant applicant to show that there is a specific need in this case.

[13]         I note that in his affidavit, Dr. Stone makes no specific reference to this plaintiff. He simply notes that in order to conduct a useful IME report and give an informed medical opinion, he would require “updated and thorough medical records, including x‑ray image of the relevant injured area taken at a date no earlier than six months before a given IME appointment”. He does not say why. He does not say that he has reviewed the other medical records of this plaintiff nor does he provide any basis for a need for updated X-Ray imaging.

[14]         Further, I take the plaintiff’s point that if the plaintiff chooses to go to trial without updated X-Ray imaging and proceed on the basis of expert reports produced without such imaging, then, in my view, there is no basis on which I should order that the defendant have the benefit of this intrusive testing. I will use the plaintiff’s word.

[15]         I should add that the parties were unable to point me to any specific case that deals with this kind of application for such intrusive tests. I am not saying that it would not be ordered if there was a proper basis for it, but on the circumstances before me today, I am not satisfied that there has been any proper basis shown or any need for the X-Rays and the application is dismissed.


No, You Can’t Make the Court Take Down Reasons You Don’t Like

September 15th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal refusing to take down or modify previous reasons for judgement that a litigant was displeased with.

In today’s case (MacGougan v. Barraclough) the Plaintiff was involved in a personal injury claim and sued for damages.  In the course of litigation the Plaintiff had an outburst that ” involved the use of expletives, and pejorative descriptions of the court, which this Court described as “an obscene diatribe and bizarre behaviour”.

Reasons outline the following history of the litigation-

[6]           The jury was discharged and the action dismissed. This and other behaviour during the course of the trial resulted in Mr. MacGougan being found in contempt of court. An appeal from the dismissal was allowed (the contempt finding was not appealed) and a new trial ordered. The issue of costs of the first trial was to be disposed of by the judge presiding at the new trial. After the Court of Appeal’s 2004 decision, no re‑trial was held. Instead, Mr. MacGougan settled his claim in 2009.

The Plaintiff applied “to have portions of the reasons for judgment issued by this Court in December 2004 redacted or to have the decision removed from the Court’s website because the reasons contain information he says is inaccurate and damaging to his reputation.”

The Court dismissed the request noting the open court principle precludes such a result.  In dismissing the applicaiton the BC Court of Appeal noted as follows:

[14]        To accede to the application of Mr. MacGougan to redact the reasons would offend the principle of finality. The Court was long ago functus in relation to the appeal heard and decided in 2004. The time to make any application in relation to any alleged errors in the reasons of the Court, or, for that matter, to anonymize reasons, is before the order disposing of the appeal is entered. Such application could only be heard by the division of the Court which heard the appeal in extant proceedings.

[15]        If it is not open to a litigant, on an application such as the present, to call into question the reasons of a division of the Court which finally decided an issue, is it nevertheless open to the Court to restrict access to its reasons for decisions? This Court’s Record and Courtroom Access Policy indicates some of the circumstances in which the Court may entertain restricting access to its proceedings, which would include access to its reasons for decision.

[16]        In this case the reasons of the Court have been published on the Court website for many years, and there has been republication in various other legal paper and electronic reports. Withdrawing the reasons from the Court website would not result in the withdrawal from those other paper and electronic reports.

[17]        More importantly, in my view, restricting or preventing access to the Court’s reasons because a litigant disagrees with a description of an event or circumstances would do considerable harm to the principles of transparency, access, and the openness of our courts.

[18]        The leading cases germane to the open court principle include Dagenais v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835, and Re Application to Proceed in Camera, 2007 SCC 43. Public access to the courts and the reasons of the courts allows everyone the opportunity to see that justice is done, and that justice is administered in a non‑arbitrary manner in accordance with the rule of law.

[19]        Recently Cromwell J. in Endean v. British Columbia, 2016 SCC 42 said:

[66]      The open court principle embodies “[t]he importance of ensuring that justice be done openly”, which is “one of the hallmarks of a democratic society”: Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. New Brunswick (Attorney General), [1996] 3 S.C.R. 480 (“C.B.C. v. New Brunswick”), at para. 22, quoting Re Southam Inc. and The Queen (No. 1) (1983), 41 O.R. (2d) 113 (C.A.), at p. 119; Vancouver Sun (Re), 2004 SCC 43, [2004] 2 S.C.R. 332, at para. 23; Named Person v. Vancouver Sun, 2007 SCC 43, [2007] 3 S.C.R. 253, at para. 31; and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 2, [2011] 1 S.C.R. 19, at para. 1. As this Court has previously remarked, “[p]ublicity is the very soul of justice”: C.B.C. v. New Brunswick, at para. 21, quoting Scott v. Scott, [1913] A.C. 417 (H.L.), at p. 477; Vancouver Sun (Re), at para. 24; Named Person, at para. 31. And, as Wilson J. summarized in Edmonton Journal v. Alberta (Attorney General), [1989] 2 S.C.R. 1326, at p. 1361, the open court principle is rooted in the need

(1) to maintain an effective evidentiary process; (2) to ensure a judiciary and juries that behave fairly and that are sensitive to the values espoused by the society; (3) to promote a shared sense that our courts operate with integrity and dispense justice; and (4) to provide an ongoing opportunity for the community to learn how the justice system operates and how the law being applied daily in the courts affects them.

[20]        Departing from the open court principle, which in this case would entail restricting the public right of access to the reasons of the Court, should not be embraced lightly, and, as the Court policy provides, should generally only involve exceptions recognized by law, serious risks to privacy, and other important interests such as the administration of justice. In my view, none of those exceptions are engaged here.

[21]        The application is dismissed. There is no order as to costs.

 


Court Rejects Defence Doctor As Not A “Reliable and Credible Witness”

September 7th, 2017

A finding that a witness lacks credibility is damaging.  This is particularity so when it comes to an expert witness for hire.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, making such a finding with respect to a a doctor hired by Defendants in a personal injury claim.

In today’s case (Palangio v. Tso) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions and sued for damages.  The Defendants admitted fault but disputed the plaintiff’s injuries.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendants had the Plaintiff assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon who provided an opinion minimizing the plaintiff’s injuries.  In finding that this expert witness lacked reliability and credibility Madam Justice E.A. Arnold-Bailey provided the following critical comments

[222]     I did not find Dr. Sovio to be a reliable and credible witness in this case. With regard to reliability I find that Dr. Sovio was quick to assume that the Plaintiff was trying to conceal facts that could be material to his examination, for example, in relation to the subsequent accident, whereas had he read the letter of instruction he was sent prior to his examination of the Plaintiff he would have appreciated there was nothing secret about the Subsequent Accident and that the Plaintiff had disclosed it to other medical experts. Furthermore, I note that certain turns of phrase Dr. Sovio used in his report created a negative or false impression of the Plaintiff, like “he seems to be convinced he needs these [the lidocaine injections administered by Dr. Caillier] on a regular basis or he gets more discomfort.” This statement by Dr. Sovio creates the impression that the Plaintiff determines that he needs these injections, completely overlooking Dr. Caillier’s involvement as the pain treatment specialist who administers them. His choice of language is designed to imply that the Plaintiff is malingering or exaggerating his pain in terms of continuing to need the injections. This is contrary to the impartiality the Court expects from an expert witness.

[223]     I also note that Dr. Sovio is not qualified to provide opinion evidence on chronic pain and pain management. He admitted that he has no training with regard to the treatment of headaches, and that he has had no clinical training regarding the treatment of pain.

[224]     In addition, Dr. Sovio was quick to assume that the First and Second Accidents were very minor accidents involving relatively minor forces. Initially he was evasive about his sources, and then when referred to a portion of the record that did not necessarily support such a conclusion, he resorted to his overall impression gleaned from the records. It is also to be noted that Dr. Sovio had no criteria as to what informed his opinion that an accident was minor, relatively minor, or moderate. I find his assessment of the nature of the accidents and the forces involved to be purely subjective and outside his area of expertise.

[225]     Dr. Sovio neglected to refer to the pain he had noted the Plaintiff to have at his C2-3 vertebrae in the “Impressions and Discussion” section of the report, referring only the Plaintiff experiencing mild discomfort on palpation of the paravertebral muscles. I find that he was inaccurate in summarizing his findings, or he was careless. I do not accept his evidence as he tried to explain this oversight away. Either way, the reliability of his report and his testimony was further undermined.

[226]     Where the opinions of Dr. Sovio as to the causes, extent, or treatment of the Plaintiff’s injuries arising from the First and Second Accidents conflicts with the opinions of Dr. Caillier, Dr. MacInnes, and/or Dr. Sidhu, I reject Dr. Sovio’s evidence without hesitation. Even Dr. Sovio acknowledged that an orthopedic examination may not reveal findings in relation to individuals experiencing legitimate pain and chronic pain, and in my view the Plaintiff is precisely such an individual.


BC Court of Appeal Denies Severe Injury Claim Because Teenaged Plaintiff “Ought to Have Known” Vehicle Driven Without Consent

August 1st, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal denying a Plaintiff access to a pool of money intended to compensate people injured at the hands of uninsured motorists.

In the recent case (Schoenhalz v. ICBC) the Plaintiff, who was 17 at the time, was badly injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a 2007 collision.  The Plaintiff suffered spinal fractures, various burns to her body, dental injuries and a pelvic fracture.  The driver of the vehicle was found to be negligent and damages of $282,992 were assessed.

The Court found, however, that the driver of the vehicle was not operating it with either the express or implied consent of the owner.  Accordingly the lawsuit against the vehicle owner was dismissed.    The driver was 15 years of age at the time and did not have a license.  The Court concluded that “at the time of the accident (the Plaintiff) knew that (the driver) was age 15 and did not have a driver’s license.”.

ICBC denied coverage to the Plaintiff and the current lawsuit was commenced.   As discussed several years ago, a Plaintiff cannot access section 20 uninsured motorist funds if they “at the time of the accident as a result of which the bodily injury, death or loss of or damage to property was suffered, was an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the person knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner, and, in the case of a leased motor vehicle, the lessee.”

A similar exclusion exists if a Plaintiff seeks to access their own Underinsured Motorist Protection coverage.  Section 148(4)(c) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation lets ICBC off the hook in circumstances where the Plaintiff ” is an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the insured knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner.

In finding ICBC was right to deny coverage the BC Court of Appeal noted as follows:

[44]         Having canvassed counsel on this line of cases and on the “adult activity” line most recently considered in Nespolon v. Alford (1998) 110 O.A.C. 108, lve. to app. dism’d.[1998] S.C.C.A. No. 452, I do not find it necessary to consider them further in this case. Both lines concern the law of negligence as applied to young persons – but this is not the context before us. As I read s. 91, this case is concerned only with whether a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s place ought to have known Ms. Reeves was driving without the owner’s consent. In my opinion, a reasonable person would (as the trial judge here acknowledged) have known this; and even if one took into account the plaintiff’s age and experience, the test would also be met. As Mr. Brown submits, the plaintiff, age 17, had a driver’s license and was aware Ms. Reeves was too young to be licensed and that the owner’s permission was needed to drive the Camaro.

[45]         The trial judge reasoned that while it would not be reasonable for an adult to assume that Luke “was able to give [the girls] Steven’s permission when he directed them to take the car”, it had been reasonable for an “incredibly young” 17-year-old girl to have believed he would. With respect, it seems to me that the trial judge here erred in applying a largely subjective standard in the face of statutory wording that has long connoted a well-understood objective standard. With respect, a reasonable person “ought to have known”, and indeed would have known, that neither Steven Hammond nor his mother was consenting to the Camaro being driven by an unlicensed 15-year-old. I agree with counsel for ICBC that as a matter of public policy, there is no rationale for holding the plaintiff to a lower standard in relation to her decision to become the passenger of Ms. Reeves.

[46]         In my opinion, if Ms. Schoenhalz did not “know” that the car was being driven without the owner’s consent, she “ought to have known” that this was the case. I would allow the appeal and set aside the order granted by the trial judge in this proceeding.

 


“It Is Not Necessary To Call Expert Evidence On Each Issue”

June 26th, 2017

In recent years expert evidence has become more common in injury litigation and it is not unusual to see litigants sometimes err on the side of overkill.  To this end helpful comments were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, highlighting this practice and reminding litigants expert evidence can be used judiciously.

In the recent case (Truax v. Hyrb) the parties were involved in a collision and fault was at issue.  The Defendant brought an application seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit and argued that the Plaintiff failing to adduce expert engineering evidence should lead to an adverse inference.  In rejecting this suggestion Mr. Justice Dley provided the following comments about the over-use of expert evidence:

[20]         The defence argues that the failure by the plaintiff to introduce engineering evidence of the collision is “telling” and that an inference should be drawn against Mr. Truax. I agree that the absence of engineering evidence is telling – there is no need to call such expert evidence when common sense prevails.

[21]         Litigation has become a costly venture; oftentimes unnecessarily so. Litigants are far too quick to secure expert testimony when it is not required. Perhaps that is out of an abundance of caution and concern that the absence of expert evidence will be a failing of counsel.

[22]         Each case should be considered on its unique circumstances. It is trite to say that it is not necessary to call expert evidence on each issue. Expert testimony should be restricted to those matters where it would actually assist the court because the evidence is so specialized, scientific or complex. Expert evidence should not be viewed as a default or automatic step in litigation strategy.

 


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Aggravation of Chronic, Disabling Pre-Existing Condition

June 14th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a collision which aggravated long-standing pre-existing health complications.

In today’s case (Cheema v. Khan) the Plaintiff was disabled since 2003 due to arthritis and depression.  She was involved in a 2012 collision that the Defendants admitted fault for.  The collision aggravated her pre-existing issues.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Chief Justice Hinkson provided the following reasons:

[103]     There is no question that Ms. Cheema was unemployable after 2003. She had been on long-term disability from employment as a linen worker since 2004 due to rheumatoid arthritis and major depressive disorder. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the 1990s. The pain was in her neck initially, followed by bilateral hand pain since 2000. Her rheumatoid arthritis affected her hands, wrists, feet, ankles and shoulders. In the month preceding the Collision, the plaintiff had a flare up of her rheumatoid arthritis. Since 2000, the plaintiff had also suffered from longstanding, severe and chronic major depressive disorder, chronic anxiety and panic attacks leading up to the Collision.

[104]     I am unable to accept the plaintiff’s submission that her condition prior to the Collision was stable. She suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, Morton’s neuromas and a severe major depressive disorder prior to the Collision, and these conditions compromised her ability to ambulate, cook, clean and perform other household activities. I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s severe rheumatoid arthritis and severe depression waxed and waned prior to the Collision, but overall were worsening, and would have continued to worsen even if she had not been involved in the Collision.

[105]     I find, however, that the Collision caused an aggravation of her pre-Collision neck, back and shoulder pain and headaches, and likely had a negative effect on the symptoms arising from her rheumatoid arthritis.

[106]     I conclude that the plaintiff’s neck, back and shoulder pain and headaches were worsened by the Collision and that without the accident she would not have suffered from those difficulties as much as she has for the four years that have followed the Collision.

[107]     I accept the evidence of Dr. Shuckett that stress has a negative effect on someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and has had such an effect on the plaintiff and accelerated the progress of her disease.

[108]     I am also persuaded that the Collision had a negative effect on the plaintiff’s psychiatric state that has resulted in a downward spiralling effect causing the plaintiff to brood about her physical condition and limit her activities, in turn worsening her depression, in turn compromising her participation in certain activities and so on…

[133]     I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $75,000.