ICBC Law

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Notice of Fast Track Action Does Not "Turn Any Action Into a Fast Track Action"

One practice that has arisen since the new rules of court were introduced a few years ago relates to parties occasionally slotting actions into the fast track rule when the case is not suitable for fast track litigation.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing this practice finding that a Plaintiff’s claimed damages (as opposed the Defendant’s perceived valuation) is a driving force.

In last week’s case (Narain v. Gill) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  In the early stages of litigation ICBC filed a Notice of Fast Track.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff made a formal settlement offer of  $200,000 and the Defendant provided a formal offer of $102,500.  Following trial damages of $116,737 were assessed.  At issue was the appropriate costs award.   Mr. Justice Meiklem had to decide whether the Notice of Fast track made the lesser Rule 15 costs scale applcable.  In deciding that the plaintiff’s valuation is a driving factor the court provided the following reasons:

[12]         Counsel for the third party argues that the plaintiff was notified that the third party considered this to be under Rule 15-1 with the filing of the notice and a matter is only removed from fast track by court order, either by the court on its own motion, or the application of any party and the court so orders, as provided by Rule 15-1(6)…

[17]         As I read Rule 15-1(2), the simple filing of a notice of fast track action in form 61 does not turn any action into a fast track action; rather, any party may file such notice “if this rule applies to an action” [my emphasis]. It is Rule 15-1(1) that defines when the rule applies, and it is important to note that the monetary criteria set out in subrule (1)(a) depends on the total amount of money claimed by the plaintiff for pecuniary loss and to be claimed by the plaintiff for non-pecuniary loss.

[18]         Counsel for the plaintiff in the case at bar communicated to counsel for the third party his belief that the claims being advanced exceeded the $100,000.00 limit. After that communication, there was no insistence on the action proceeding as a fast track action, and it would be reasonable to infer from third party counsel’s subsequent conduct in not adding the required notation to subsequent filings, agreeing to an extension of the trial estimate to five days and making a formal offer exceeding the $100,000.00 limit, that third party counsel had tacitly agreed with plaintiff counsel’s view that this was not an action to which Rule 15-1 should apply.

[19]         In short, I do not view the failure to add the required notation to the style of cause as an irregularity curable by amendment in order to conform to reality, as was done in the Foster case. This is not an action in its infancy that would benefit from an amendment making it clear that it is subject to Rule 15-1. This action was never clearly within the definition set out in Rule 15-1(1), and the filing of a form 61 notice did not change that.

[20]         That being said, hindsight will hopefully instruct counsel to clarify opposing counsel’s intentions, and, if necessary, seek an order by consent or otherwise to avoid similar circumstances arising in the future.

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