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.

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.


$110,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Low Back Pain

September 6th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for partly disabling chronic back pain caused by a collision.

In today’s case (Teunissen v. Hulstra) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2012 collision caused by the Defendant.  The crash caused a soft tissue injury which was chronic and partly disabling in nature.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Madam Justice Burke provided the following reasons:

[67]         I conclude the medical evidence clearly establishes Mr. Teunissen suffered a soft tissue injury in the accident and continues to suffer from chronic back pain. It also establishes the accident is a material contributing cause to Mr. Teunissen’s back injury, pain and resulting disability…

[92]         Mr. Teunissen is a determined and stoic individual who has persisted in trying to work and support his family, despite the chronic pain. He has demonstrated this more than once, attempting work opportunities that he previously would have had no difficulties with and which he unfortunately cannot continue.

[93]         The assessment of non-pecuniary damages depends on the particular circumstances of the plaintiff in each case. Having considered Mr. Teunissen’s age, the nature of the injuries, the severity of his symptoms and the fact they have been ongoing for five years, the poor prognosis for recovery, and the authorities, I am of the view the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $110,000.


Soft Tissue Injuries “Substantially Resolved” After 5 Years Given $45,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment

August 31st, 2017

Adding to this site’s soft tissue injury database, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for soft tissue injuries that “substantially resolved” in about 5 years.

In the recent case (Nguyen v. Bhatti) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2012 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which, the court found, were largely improved by the time of trial.  The Court assessed non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 and reduced this by 10% finding the Plaintiff failed to mitigate damages by not seeking out some treatments which could have assisted.

In arriving at this assessment Madam Justice Fitzpatrick provided the following reasons:

[126]     Having considered the entirety of the evidence, I conclude the following in relation to the injuries asserted by Mr. Nguyen:

  1. a)Pre-existing injuries: I find that Mr. Nguyen had snoring and sleep issues well before the accident which negatively affected his mental cognition (ability to concentrate, memory issues and his reported “fogginess”) and caused fatigue and lethargy. I do not accept the evidence of the Nguyens that there were no sleeping problems prior to the accident. Ms. Nguyen describes her husband’s sleeping patterns before the accident as “normal”. Nevertheless, the medical records reveal a significant snoring problem. Even Ms. Nguyen confirmed that when he snored, she often had to poke him to wake him up and stop. This could only have contributed to a less than restful sleep, which he now attributes solely to the accident. Finally, there is no medical evidence to support that these sleeping and cognition issues, to the extent that they continued after July 2012, are linked to the accident: Deo v. Wong, 2008 BCCA 110 at paras. 19-20, leave to appeal refused [2008] S.C.C.A No. 229;
  2. b)Neck, back and right shoulder: I accept that Mr. Nguyen suffered soft tissue injuries in these areas, which was an aggravation of his injuries arising from the 2009 accident which were continuing to some extent in July 2012. I find that Mr. Nguyen was greatly improved in these areas by late 2014/early 2015 and that he continued to improve after that time. I reject Mr. Nguyen’s evidence that he remains in constant daily neck, shoulder and back pain at this time. Largely based on the testing of Dr. Marks in April 2017 and Dr. Wee’s notes arising from the May 2017 visit, I find that his symptoms were substantially resolved by the spring of 2017;
  3. c)Other injuries: the defence made submissions regarding complaints identified by Dr. Wee relating to Mr. Nguyen’s right arm and elbow. As Mr. Nguyen did not assert these as a compensable injury at this trial, I will not address them further. Mr. Nguyen did assert injury to both shoulders, although Dr. Wee confirmed only injury to his right shoulder arising from the accident. Dr. Lee’s opinion does not provide any clarification in respect of this alleged injury. I accept that the first indication of any left shoulder injury only arose in September 2015 when he reported to Dr. Rapoport that he was having trouble in that area only 5-6 weeks prior. There is no medical evidence to support that he had any ongoing left shoulder injury as of September 2015 arising from the accident. I agree with the defence that if such an injury arose in 2015, it was unrelated to the accident.

[161]     In my view, the cases cited by the defence are more in line with Mr. Nguyen’s injuries, the effects on his life and the extent of his recovery, as per my findings above. I award the sum of $45,000 for non-pecuniary damages, less a 10% reduction for the failure to mitigate, resulting in a net award of $40,500.


Mistrial Declared After Late Record Production and Late Report in ICBC Injury Claim

August 29th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were recently published by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry,  declaring a mistrial in an ICBC injury claim proceeding before a jury.

In the recent case (Hilton v. Brink) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages.

The Plaintiff produced additional medical records close to trial resulting in an updated defense report addressing the Plaintiff’s injuries.  A trial was underway with a jury being selected and the Plaintiff objected to the late report being admitted.

The Court ruled that the report, with some corrections, would be admissible but doing so would prejudice the Plaintiff and a mistrial was the only sensible outcome.  In reaching this result, which nether party wanted, Mr. Justice Abrioux noted there was “blame to go around” and provided the following reasons:

[38]         I will now address the issue regarding the additional records which were provided to Dr. Pisesky well after his First Report.

[39]         Perhaps not surprisingly, both the plaintiff and the defendant blame each other for the situation which has developed. In my view there is more than enough blame to go around.

[40]         Without reviewing all the correspondence and what occurred between the parties, the plaintiff shares significant responsibility in my view, in light of the allegations of chronic pain, for not having obtained in a timely way documents from prior health care professionals, particularly for the two years or so prior to the Accident. Had the plaintiff provided an MSP printout commencing two years prior to the Accident, as had been requested as early as the fall of 2015 and on several occasions thereafter, the records obtained after March 31, 2017 would have been produced to the defence much earlier than that. This would also apply to Dr. Newmarch’s records which contained Dr. Oyler’s 2011 Consultation Report.

[41]         But the defence shares a significant part of the blame as well. When I review the correspondence, the requests made for records, and the plaintiff’s transparent replies, this was a case which cried out for a chambers application well before early July 2017, that is a month before the scheduled trial date.

[42]         There is also the fact that the plaintiff did refer at her examination for discovery in January 2016 to the difficulties she was having pre accident. It will be up to the trier of fact to determine if she concealed the true nature of her pre accident condition but that is certainly not for me to do on this application.

[43]         The defence does appear to have moved in an appropriate manner regarding Swirski interviews and the like, but only in June and July 2017. In my view the defendant should have been much more proactive at an earlier stage.

[44]         The primary relief sought by both parties would have draconian consequences on the other were it to be granted.

[45]          If I were to rule the Supplementary Report inadmissible, then the defence would only be able to rely on Dr. Pisesky’s First Report and the trier of fact would be misled as to Dr. Pisesky’s actual opinions based on the additional documentation provided to him in July 2017. It is not in the interests of justice for the trier of fact to be deliberately mislead. The practical effect would be that the defence would have no expert medical evidence in a case where the plaintiff who, as I understand it , has continued to work essentially full time since the Accident served a report at the 84 day deadline which assesses her loss of earning capacity arising from the injuries sustained in the Accident at $300,000.

[46]         On the other hand, if I admit the report into evidence in whole or in part, the plaintiff would not have the opportunity to properly address the opinions in the Supplementary Report which was only received on July 26, 2017.

[47]         There is also the fact that the plaintiff should, in my view, have the opportunity to consider obtaining a report from an orthopaedic surgeon, which is Dr. Pisesky’s field of expertise to deal with the issues raised in the Supplementary Report, including his review of what appears to be a CT scan report. This may well not be an issue which can be addressed by a physiatrist or a general practitioner, albeit one with the qualifications of Dr. Etheridge.

[48]         The plaintiff’s submission was that if the Supplementary Report were admitted in whole or in part that the trial should be adjourned. That cannot occur. The jury has been selected.

[49]         I appreciate that both the plaintiff and the defendant would prefer this trial to proceed, but in light of the positions they have taken on this application, I see no other alternative to a mistrial. This, in my view, will provide fairness to both parties. They will now have the opportunity to put before the trier of fact the evidence they consider necessary based on the recently obtained records.

[50]         A new trial will also provide the defence to address some obvious deficiencies in the Supplementary Report, in particular Dr. Pisesky’s statements regarding the plaintiff’s credibility.

[51]         I declare a mistrial.


$115,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Disabling Mechanical Back Pain

August 29th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a disabling injury following a vehicle collision.

In the recent case (Carver v. Or) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 collision which the Defendants were found liable for.  The crash resulted in chronic and disabling mechanical back pain.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $115,000 Madam Justice Gray provided the following reasons:

[191]     I would summarize the significant factors regarding Mr. Carver as follows:

a)         Mr. Carver was 56 years old at the time of the Accident, and 62 years old at the time of the trial;

b)         The Accident caused Mr. Carver to suffer injury to the tissues of his spinal column which has resulted in chronic disabling mechanical lower back pain;

c)          Mr. Carver’s pain has disabled him from working in any capacity, has reduced his ability to care for himself, and has significantly reduced the quality of his life;

d)         Mr. Carver is completely disabled from working and his walking is impaired;

e)         Mr. Carver has suffered emotionally from the loss of his ability to work and care for himself and from chronic pain;

f)           Mr. Carver’s life has been impaired by his loss of function and the presence of pain;

g)         Mr. Carver’s injuries have impaired his ability to spend time with his daughters in activities like camping and fishing and watching them play sports, and diminished his pleasure in life because of the loss of such activities and other activities like gardening;

h)         Mr. Carver’s ability to walk, sit, stand, and twist have been reduced by the injuries he suffered in the Accident;

i)            Mr. Carver’s factors relating to loss of lifestyle are described above, but fortunately have not made it impossible for him to continue to live by himself; and

j)           Mr. Carver has been stoic. He tried for over a year to return to full-time work, and engaged extensively in physiotherapy, exercise therapy, and pool therapy.

[192]     If the Accident had not occurred, it is most likely that Mr. Carver would have simply suffered periodic waxing and waning of his lower back pain and radiation into his legs, without progression and without loss of the ability to walk, sit, and stand comfortably or the loss of the ability to work. There was a small risk that his pre-Accident condition might have worsened, but it would not likely have affected his function or resulted in significant pain until he was over 70 years old.

[193]     I have taken into account the fact that Mr. Carver suffered pneumonia, with a two month hospitalization in February through April 2015, which was not a result of the Accident.

[194]     If Mr. Carver had not suffered back pain prior to the Accident, an appropriate award would have been in the range of $130,000. Considering that there was a risk his pre-Accident condition might have worsened, a reduction of about 10% is appropriate. Mr. Carver is entitled to an award of $115,000 for his non-pecuniary damages resulting from the Accident.

 


Road Rage Assault Leads to $800,000 Civil Judgement

August 22nd, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published this week assessing damages for a plaintiff who sustained serious injuries following a road rage assault.

In this week’s case (McCaffery v. Arguello) the parties were involved in a road rage incident resulting in the Defendant existing his vehicle and  repeatedly striking the Plaintiff  “with the baseball bat, causing him serious but non-life-threatening injuries to his head, chest, left arm, hand, and wrist.

The Defendant was criminally convicted for his actions.  In the civil lawsuit damages of just over $800,000 were assessed with findings that the assault caused Complex Regional Pain Syndrome along with other partially disabling injuries.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $200,000 Madam Justice MacNaughton provided the following reasons:

[37]         Dr. Negraeff examined Mr. McCaffery on March 9, 2016 and diagnosed the following injuries:

a)    Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1: Left Hand (“CRPS”);

b)    persistent headache attributed to mild traumatic injury to the head;

c)     moderate to severe sleep disturbance secondary to chronic pain and headaches; and

d)    moderate to severe mood disturbance with anxiety and depression secondary to chronic pain and headaches.

[38]         Dr. Negraeff explained the CRPS is a form of chronic pain that usually develops in a limb after an injury to it. There are two types of CRPS depending on whether a distinct nerve injury is confirmed. In the first type, there is no confirmed nerve injury and in the second, such a nerve injury is confirmed. The hallmarks of CRPS are pain which is out of proportion to the injury and a combination of symptoms that can include swelling, skin colour and temperature changes, sweating, hair and nail growth changes, and disturbances to the movement or coordination of the limb…

[45]         I conclude that at the age of 28, in the few moments in which the Incident occurred, Mr. McCaffery became a different person. The effects of the assault will redefine Mr. McCaffery for the rest of his life, both physically and psychologically. He no longer sees himself as a “big strong guy” who could do, and did, nearly everything.

[46]         Mr. McCaffery’s personality change has also affected what had been a very positive, close, and harmonious family relationship among Mr. McCaffery, his wife, and their three children. All of Mr. McCaffery’s family witnesses testified about how his symptoms have affected his relationship with Ethan, who has been most affected by his father’s personality change and physical limitations. Ethan was old enough to have experienced and remembered his father’s much more engaged and affectionate relationship with him before the Incident. Ethan misses the activities he used to do with his father and is cautious about not hurting him.

[47]         Mr. McCaffery’s continuing pain has caused sleeplessness, and his headaches are often accompanied by dizziness…

[56]         Based on all this evidence, I conclude that Mr. Arguello’s actions have caused Mr. McCaffery to suffer debilitating and disabling injuries which have had significant life-changing effects and that, as a result, he should be compensated with a substantial award of non-pecuniary damages…

[79]         Taking all these considerations into account, I have concluded that an appropriate award for Mr. McCaffery’s pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life is $200,000.

The Court went on to note that punitive damages were warranted even though the Defendant was criminally convicted.  In assessing punitive damages at $30,000 the court provided the following reasons:

[122]     At para. 33 of Thomson v. Friedmann, 2008 BCSC 703, aff’d 2010 BCCA 277, referring to Whiten v. Pilot Insurance Co., 2002 SCC 18, Justice Gerow reviewed the factors a court should consider when determining whether to award, and the quantum of, punitive damages. In addition to the overall purpose of such damages, in relevant part, the factors she outlined included that:

a)    punitive damages should be assessed in an amount reasonably proportionate to such factors as the harm caused, the degree of the misconduct, the relative vulnerability of the plaintiff, and any advantage or profit gained by the defendant;

b)    punitive damages should take into account any other fines or penalties suffered by the defendant for the misconduct in question;

c)     punitive damages should generally only be awarded where the misconduct would otherwise be unpunished or where other penalties are or are likely to be inadequate to achieve the objectives of retribution, deterrence, and denunciation;

d)    the purpose of punitive damages is to give the defendant her or his “just desert”, deter the defendant, and others, from similar misconduct, and to mark the community’s collective condemnation about what has happened. Punitive damages are only awarded when compensatory damages are insufficient to accomplish these objectives;

e)    punitive damages are awarded in an amount that is no greater than necessary to accomplish their purposes and are generally moderated; and

f)      the court should assess whether the conduct of a defendant should be punished over and above the requirement to pay non-pecuniary, pecuniary, and aggravated damages.

[123]     In this case, Mr. Arguello was prosecuted and convicted of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm. He was sentenced to a six-month conditional sentence, during which for three months he was subject to a curfew, and one year of probation. At the sentencing hearing, Mr. Arguello’s criminal counsel submitted to Judge Moss that the fact that Mr. Arguello was facing a civil lawsuit for damages should be a factor in favour of a conditional sentence. In his sentencing reasons, Judge Moss considered the fact of the civil lawsuit.

[124]     The compensatory damages I have awarded are significant, but they compensate Mr. McCaffery for his actual losses and damages. In the circumstances of this case, I am satisfied that an award of punitive damages is also necessary to make it clear to the public that Mr. Arguello’s conduct departed so markedly from the ordinary standards of decent behaviour as to be worthy of further punishment.

[125]     Mr. Arguello’s decision to follow Mr. McCaffery’s vehicle for five kilometres up the Upper Levels Highway, cut aggressively in front of it, slam on his brakes and cause a collision, and then to exit his vehicle with a baseball bat with which he repeatedly hit Mr. McCaffery, cannot be countenanced in civil society where hundreds of thousands of drivers use our roads and encounter driving manoeuvres which upset or anger them. Road rage incidents are increasingly common in our busy lives and on our busy roads as drivers’ jockey for position. They cannot be tolerated.

[126]     I accept that Mr. Arguello expressed regret for the injuries he caused by his behaviour, but at the same time, he asked for consideration for the legal fees he expended to defend himself criminally and the impact of the Incident on his family. As the person determined to be fully responsible for the Incident, both criminally and civilly, his submissions indicated to me that he had not entirely understood the community’s condemnation of his behaviour.

[127]     Therefore, in addition to the compensatory damages I have ordered, I award Mr. McCaffery the sum of $30,000 in punitive damages.


Cyclist With No Recollection of Collision Has Claim Dismissed Against Unidentified Motorist

August 14th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, dismissing an injury claim against involving an unidentified motorist because the Plaintiff had, due to injuries, no recollection of the collision and no evidence to establish driver negligence.

In today’s case (Salo v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was riding his hybrid bicycle in close proximity to an SUV when something occurred and a witness “saw the bicycle and Mr. Salo inmid-air” about ten feet behind the SUV.”.

The Plaintiff suffered a brain injury in the event and had “absolutely no recollection as to what happened“.  The SUV driver was not identified.  The witness did not see what exactly transpired to send the Plaintiff airborne.

The Plaintiff sued for damages alleging the SUV driver was negligent.  The Court dismissed the claim finding the above did not discharge the Plaintiff’s burden of proof on a balance of probabilities.  In dismissing the claim Mr. Justice MacKenzie provided the following reasons:

[39]         In this case there is no direct evidence as to what caused Mr. Salo to become airborne when the SUV was stopped at the stop sign.  Both counsel have suggested possible scenarios or explanations as to what might have happened, some more fanciful or implausible than others.  But, as the defendant asserts, absent any evidence “about the movements of the SUV before the collision”, it would be pure speculation to infer negligence on the part of the SUV driver.  In addition, whether the SUV turned right a few seconds after Mr. Cunningham observed it stopped at the intersection or a moment or two later, this, in my view, does not assist the court in determining what caused Mr. Salo to become airborne near the rear of the SUV, or in drawing an inference that the SUV driver was negligent.

[40]         Given the paucity of evidence as to what occurred on July 3, 2014 when Mr. Salo unfortunately suffered significant injuries while riding his bicycle, I agree with the defendant when it submits there are no positive proved facts from which I can infer that the unknown driver was negligent.

[41]         As a result, the action is dismissed.  Subject to any agreement between the parties, the defendant is entitled to costs on Scale B.


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.

 


ICBC’s Inconsistent Pleadings Following a Collision “Reprehensible”

July 26th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, finding that ICBC taking inconsistent positions in lawsuits for fault after a collision is ‘reprehensible’ and awarded special costs as a deterrent.

In the recent case (Glover v. Leakey) the Defendant was involved in a crash and injured two passengers.  One sued and fault was admitted and ultimately settlement reached.  The second sued but fault was denied.  In the midst of a jury trial the Plaintiff discovered the inconsistent pleadings and asked for a finding of liability.

Due to a misunderstanding the matter proceeded to verdict and the jury found the Defendant was not negligent.  Before the order was entered the Court considered the matter and found that the liability denial was an abuse of process, stripped the defence and granted liability in favour of the plaintiff.

This week the Court went further and ordered special costs.  In findings this appropriate Madam Justice Gropper provided the following reasons:

[42]         I found that the inconsistent pleading by the defendant was an abuse of process because the principles such as judicial economy, consistency, finality and the integrity of the administration of justice were violated. The court cannot condone such conduct.

[43]         Abuse of process can be a basis for special costs. I find that in this case, the conduct of the defendant is of the type from which the court wants to disassociate itself, referring to Fullerton.

[44]         The defendant’s arguments about the merits of its position on the application and that special costs should only be for the application only, in my view, address the circumstances too narrowly. The plaintiff only discovered the inconsistent pleadings days as the jury trial was about to proceed; it was scheduled for 12 days; the jury panel had been summonsed; witnesses were on their way to or in Vernon to give evidence; expert witnesses were also arranged to be examined by video or in person; and the defendant’s counsel had threatened to apply for a mistrial if the inconsistent pleadings were raised before the trial judge or the jury. The application was made while the jury trial was underway. 

[45]         The repercussions of the abuse of process were wide spread and of significant expense to the plaintiff, who had marshalled all of her evidence. The defendant’s narrow approach fails to recognize that his conduct was not confined to the hearing of the application only; it went well beyond that.

[46]         Referring to the principles distilled in Westsea, I am satisfied that in awarding special costs in these unique circumstances meets the test of restraint but addresses the full impact of the defendant’s conduct; there are exceptional circumstances that justify such an order; the inconsistent positions on liability as between this action and the Yeomans’ action is reprehensible in and of itself, and amounts to an abuse of process; and the award of special costs in this action cannot be characterized as a “bonus” or further compensation for the plaintiff’s success on the application. 

[47]         The plaintiff is entitled to special costs arising from my finding that the conduct of the defendant was an abuse of process, including the costs of preparation and attendance at trial, as well as special cost of this application. The assessment of special costs is postponed until the defendant has exhausted all avenues of appeal.


“It is Unusual For a Trial Judge to Award Costs to an Unsuccessful Plaintiff”

July 21st, 2017

Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal upholding a trial judges award of costs in favour of a plaintiff who had their lawsuit dismissed.

In today’s case (Tisalona v. Easton) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of injuries sustained in two collisions.  The Plaintiff was awarded damages for the first crash though less than what she requested and also less than the Defendant’s pre trial offer to settle.  The claim for damages from the second collision was dismissed.  Despite this the Court awarded the Plaintiff costs for both actions which were tried together.  In upholding this result the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[75]         In the case of the 2011 action, the only issue at trial was whether the 2011 Accident had aggravated or prolonged the effects of the 2008 Accident. The trial judge concluded that it had not, but that it had been reasonable to deal with the two accidents together.

[76]         The trial judge went on to estimate that approximately one hour of trial time was devoted to evidence concerning the second accident.  None of the expert reports had addressed the 2011 Accident to any extent.

[77]         It is unusual for a trial judge to award costs to an unsuccessful plaintiff. Here the principal considerations were the de minimus nature of the additional time required to deal with the 2011 action at trial and the trial judge’s conclusion that it had been reasonable to join this claim with the more substantial action in relation to the 2008 Accident.

[78]         In my view these considerations are not arbitrary, but rather were connected to the case before the trial judge. They fall within the broad discretion afforded to trial judges following the elimination of the qualification “for good cause” from our rules. Accordingly, I would not give effect to this ground of appeal.