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.

Posts Tagged ‘Battery’

Dark Alley Assault Occupier's Liability Lawsuit Dismissed

May 12th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, dealing with an interesting issue: Can a commercial occupier be sued for an intentional assault for having inadequate lighting in their alleyway.

In last week’s case (Vaughn v. Kelowna Speedometer Ltd.) the Plaintiff was a patron at the Blue Gator Bar and Grill in Kelowna, BC.  After several hours he left the pub.  As he was walking in the pub’s back alley he was “assaulted from behind and seriously injured“.  His assailant was unknown.  The Plaintiff sued the Pub alleging that the alley had poor lighting and this contributed to the assault.  Mr. Justice Shabbits dismissed the lawsuit finding that even if the lighting was inadequate for the conditions it did not cause the assault using the “but for” test.  In dismissing the claim the Court provided the following reasons:

[23] In my opinion, the plaintiff has not shown that but for proper lighting he would not have been injured. I agree with the submission that additional lighting may have reduced the risk of an assault, but lack of lighting did not cause the assault. The plaintiff could have been assaulted in daylight hours, or assaulted farther down the alley. It is speculation to infer that lighting was a factor in the assault occurring. Even assuming that the lighting at the rear of the Blue Gator was inadequate, the evidence is not capable of proving, on a balance of probabilities, that Mr. Vaughn would not have been injured had proper lighting been in place.

[24] Mr. Vaughn bears the burden of showing that “but for” the negligent act or omission, the injury would not have occurred. There is no evidence on which I would find that but for adequate lighting, the injury would not have occurred. I am of the opinion that it has not been shown, on a balance of probabilities, that a lack of lighting caused Mr. Vaughn’s loss.


The Significant Role of Expert Evidence in Personal Injury Trials

May 10th, 2011

When presenting a claim at trial dealing with future loss it is vital to have appropriate expert evidence to justify sought damages.  Failure to do so can result in a dismissal of the sought damages even if they are unopposed.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry highlighting the importance of medico-legal evidence in personal injury trials.

In this week’s case (Moore v. Briggs) the Plaintiff suffered a fractured skull (fractured left temporal bone) and a brain injury in a 2003 assault.

The Plaintiff sued those he claimed were responsible for the assault.  One of the Defendant’s did not respond to the lawsuit and the Plaintiff obtained default judgement against him.  The Plaintiff asked the Court to award substantial damages including an award for diminished earning capacity.  Despite the Plaintiff’s assessment of damages being unopposed the Plaintiff was only awarded a fraction of his claimed damages and he received nothing for future loss.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 and dismissing the claim for diminished earning capacity Madam Justice Dillon provided the following reasons:

[11] As a result of the assault, the plaintiff continues to have some problem with memory. This has improved over time such that it does not interfere with work or enjoyment of life, but still lingers. He also has difficulty with attention span and focus. He continues to have almost daily headaches. These often interrupt his sleep. He noticed that eye near the indentation in his temple was “lazy”, a couple of times a week at first and now hardly noticeable.

[12] For about four years after the assault, the plaintiff had problems with balance such that he could not walk a straight line and was dizzy when he looked down. He wanted to obtain employment as a greenhand on the log booms but did not consider that he could do the job. This would have increased his hourly pay to $24. Few details were provided about this job prospect. There was no medical evidence to support this inability and the plaintiff testified that any problems with balance had now resolved…

[17] Here, there is evidence of a small depressed comminuted fracture of the left temporal bone that resulted in some memory and motor impairment. From the testimony of the plaintiff, it appears that the motor impairment has resolved over time. There continue to be memory problems, the exact nature of which has not been assessed on a current basis. There are also some continuing headaches that are attributed to the fracture in 2003. The plaintiff lost about two months work and has successfully resumed his career and achieved advancement. His social life appears stable and normal. Any present loss of enjoyment of activities is because of lack of interest as opposed to ability…

[22] After consideration of these authorities and in consideration of the plaintiff’s description of his injury, and given the lack of medical information, non-pecuniary damages are assessed at $40,000…

[24] The plaintiff also claims loss of future earning capacity because of inability to obtain employment on the log booms. He calculated this amount based upon expectations of work life to age 65 at the remuneration rate that he said he would have received as a greenhand. This is contrary to the capital asset approach which has been adopted in this Court (Parypa v. Wickware, 1999 BCCA 88 at para. 63). However, the evidence on this aspect of the claim is scant and unsupported by any medical or actuarial evidence. Further, the plaintiff had successfully advanced in his work at present and said that this is his employment of choice. Further, there was no evidence that his employment aggravated his symptoms. The plaintiff must establish that there is a real and substantial possibility that his earning capacity has been impaired to some degree as a result of the injuries sustained in the assault (Romanchych v. Vallianatos, 2010 BCCA 20 at para. 10). In my view, there is little likelihood of any substantial possibility of an actual income loss in the circumstances here. There is nothing to suggest that the plaintiff will be unable to perform the tasks required in his work of choice. Nothing is awarded under this head of damage.


Saanich Police Officer Found "Grossly Negligent" For Fatally Shooting Disturbed Man

April 15th, 2011

(UPDATE January 10, 2013In reasons for judgement released today the BC Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in the below discussed case finding that the trial judge’s reasons did not adequatly address the important evidence presented at trial)

Important reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing lawsuits for damages against police officers when excessive force is used in the line of duty.

This week’s case (Camaso v. Egan) has been covered in the conventional press and I don’t intend to repeat all the well publicized details.  From a legal perspective, however, this case is useful for anyone interested in the law of police officer liability in British Columbia.

In this week’s case the Saanich Police Department were called to deal with a disturbed man.   Constable Dukeshire was one of the officers who responded to this call.  Shortly after encountering the disturbed individual Constable Dukeshire shot him several times resulting in his death.  He was found negligent making the City of Saanich liable for his actions under the principles of vicarious liability.  Damages of almost $350,000 were awarded to the disturbed man’s survivors under the BC Family Compensation Act.

Mr. Justice Burnyeat of the BC Supreme Court went further and found the officer grossly negligent for the death.  Paragraphs 269-308 are worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in this area of law.  Some of the highlights of Mr. Justice Burnyeat’s reasons were as follows:

[272]It is not in dispute that Constable Dukeshire shot Mr. Camaso.  Having established that, the onus shifts to Constable Dukeshire to establish that the shooting was justified.  In Prior v. McNab (1976), 16 O.R. (2d) 380 (Ont. H.C.), Reid J. stated in this regard:

… It is enough to allege and prove an assault.  Plaintiff need not prove that the force used was excessive.  He need prove only that it was used upon him.  The onus of proving that the force was not excessive would lie on the policeman.  This is clear from the decisions of our Court of Appeal.

The onus on a plea of justification in the use of force lies on him who asserts it: Miska v. Sivec, [1959] O.R. 144, 18 D.L.R. (2d) 363.  This applies to one who sets up the defence of self-defence (as in Miska) or on one who relies on a statutory duty:  O’Tierney v. Concord Tavern Ltd., supra, per Roach, J.A., who said, at p. 534:

It was implicit in a plea of justification even based on a statutory duty that the degree of force used was not excessive and the party making that plea must prove it.

That onus would lie on the police if sued. (at p. 385)…

[282]The “Use of Force Continuum” that is taught to all officers and which is part of the Policy of the Saanich Police Department provides for a continuum from “presence” to “communication” to “open hand control” to “taser” to “capsaicinoid aerosols” (pepper spray) to “empty hand impact techniques” to “impact weapons” to “lateral neck restraint” to “firearms”.

[283]After Mr. Camaso came out from behind his vehicle the first time, Constable Dukeshire moved directly to “firearms” without going through any of the earlier stages of the continuum.  After Constable Dukeshire saw that Mr. Camaso was not holding a weapon which could cause him harm from afar, Constable Dukeshire failed to deescalate the situation in order to establish “presence” and in order to establish “communication”.  This failure to do so breached the duty of care which Constable Dukeshire owed to Mr. Camaso.

[284]Rather than calling for backup, Constable Dukeshire pursued Mr. Camaso on his own.  Saanich Police Department Policy required Constable Dukeshire to engage a supervisor.  He failed to do so.  Saanich Police Department Policy required Constable Dukeshire to take charge and coordinate the efforts of the other two Constables.  He did not do so.  Rather than pursuing Mr. Camaso as the leader of a team or as part of a team, Constable Dukeshire pursued Mr. Camaso without the knowledge of the location of Constables McNeil and Murphy, and without attempting to coordinate their activities with his own.  No call was made by Constable Dukeshire for a supervisor to coordinate activities.  No attempt was made by Constable Dukeshire to allow Constables McNeil and Murphy to catch up to him in order that they could assist him in apprehending Mr. Camaso under the Mental Health Act….

[289]It was not reasonable for Constable Dukeshire to continue to aim his gun at Mr. Camaso when Mr. Camaso appeared to be complying by going down onto the ground as was requested by Constable Dukeshire.  His service revolver should have been holstered….

[295]Even with one or two potential weapons in Mr. Camaso’s hands, Constable Dukeshire who weighed almost one hundred pounds more and stood almost a foot taller than Mr. Camaso could not have had a reasonable belief that it was necessary to shoot Mr. Camaso for his own preservation.  It was always apparent to Constable Dukeshire that Mr. Camaso did not have a gun in his hands. …

[299]Putting myself in the position of Constable Dukeshire or putting a reasonable officer in the position of Constable Dukeshire, it is not reasonable to conclude that it is part of the responsibility of Constable Dukeshire to shoot Mr. Camaso three times and it is not possible on reasonable grounds to conclude that the force he used was necessary for the purpose of protecting himself and others from imminent or grievous bodily harm.  Putting myself in the position of Constable Dukeshire or putting even an inexperienced officer in the position of Constable Dukeshire, it is not possible on reasonable grounds to conclude that the force that was used was necessary.  Constable Dukeshire did not act on reasonable grounds when he shot Mr. Camaso.

[300]I find that Constable Dukeshire breached the duty of care owed to Mr. Camaso when he did not use the least amount of force necessary to carry out his duties, when he failed to remain a safe distance away from Mr. Camaso, when he failed to properly assess the situation before approaching Mr. Camaso, when he failed to plan an appropriate method to deal with the situation, when he advanced on Mr. Camaso thereby failing to deescalate the situation once it appeared that Mr. Camaso was beginning to comply with his commands, and when he failed to wait for backup support.  Constable Dukeshire breached his duty owed to Mr. Camaso to use only so much force as was reasonably necessary to carry out his legal duties.

[301]In the circumstances, I find Constable Dukeshire liable in negligence because I find that there was duty of care owed to Mr. Camaso, that there was a breach of that duty of care, and that the breach of the duty of care caused the death of Mr. Camaso.

[302]At the same time, Constable Dukeshire has failed to establish that the shooting was justified and that the force that he used was not excessive.  In fact, the Plaintiffs have shown on the balance of probabilities that the force that was used was excessive.  I find that Constable Dukeshire cannot rely on s. 25 of the Criminal Code of Canada or the provisions of ss. 16 and 28 of theMental Health Act.  His use of force was not justified.  I cannot find that Constable Dukeshire believed on reasonable grounds that it was necessary for his self-preservation to use the force that he did.  I have reached the conclusion that Constable Dukeshire is liable in damages as a result of his failure to act in good faith and with reasonable care…

307]In reviewing all of the circumstances of this case, I conclude that Constable Dukeshire was grossly negligent.  When the pursuit of Mr. Camaso commenced, Constable Dukeshire was not involved in a dangerous activity.  However, as soon as Constable Dukeshire removed his service revolver from its holster and aimed it at Mr. Camaso, he was involved in an activity where it is plain that the magnitude of the risks involved were such that more than ordinary care had to be taken.  If more than ordinary care was not taken, a misstep or a mishap was likely to occur such that loss of life or serious injury would be almost inevitable.  More than ordinary care was not taken.  The loss of the life of Mr. Camaso resulted.  I also find Saanich vicariously liable for the damages caused by Constable Dukeshire.


Civil Damages for Intentionally Inflicted Injuries: BCCA discusses "Self Defence" and "Provocation"

June 22nd, 2010

Not many cases for damages as a result of intentionally inflicted injuries make their way through the BC Courts.   The main reason is that Defendants usually are not insured for damage claims for harm caused by their intentional actions.  When a Plaintiff sues a Defendant for intentionally inflicted injuries collecting on the judgement can sometimes lead to a dead-end.  (These are called ‘dry judgements’ and you can click here to access a previous article on this topic).

Although these cases rarely proceed to trial the law is straightforward, if someone causes injuries to you by intentionally applying force you can sue for your damages for the “battery“.  A few defences to a lawsuit for damages from battery can be raised and these include self defence and provocation.   Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Court of Appeal addressing these areas of law.

In last week’s case (Friedmann v. Thomson) the Plaintiff claimed damages as a result of an assault and battery committed by the Defendant.  The Defendant apparently struck the Plaintiff with an aluminum baseball bat.  The Plaintiff succeeded at trial with the Judge finding that “(the Defendant) came at (the Plaintiff) with the bat, and she turned away and he hit her on the back“.

The Court awarded the Plaintiff $27,276 for her injuries and losses.  The Defendant appealed arguing that the trial judge incorrectly applied the law of Self Defence and Provocation.  The BC Court of Appeal disagreed and upheld the award for damages.  In reaching this conclusion the BC High Court provided the following useful summary of the principles of self defence and provocation in Civil Lawsuits for damages from intentional assaults/battery:

[10]         The test that Mr. Friedmann had to meet at trial is set out in Mann v. Balabass, [1970] S.C.R. 74:

In an action for assault, it has been, in my view, established that it is for the plaintiff to prove that he was assaulted and that he sustained an injury thereby. The onus is upon the plaintiff to establish those facts before the jury. Then it is upon the defendant to establish the defence, firstly, that the assault was justified and, secondly, that the assault even if justified was not made with any unreasonable force and on those issues the onus is on the defence.

[11]         The trial judge carefully considered all of the evidence. There is nothing to suggest that she did not consider the totality of the circumstances confronting Mr. Friedmann when he said he was acting in self-defence. The ultimate focus was on the point of the assault on Ms. Thomson. By that time, she had indicated that the dispute was over, she had turned to leave, and Mr. Friedmann struck her. Central to the trial judge’s finding was that the earlier events, by that time, did not give rise to a reasonable apprehension by Mr. Friedmann that he would be assaulted.

[12]         Nor, in my view, can it be said that the circumstances amounted to provocation such as to cause Mr. Friedmann to lose his power of self-control. A.M. Linden, Canadian Tort Law, 6th ed. (Vancouver: Butterworths, 1997) at 81 states:

In order to amount to provocation, the conduct of the plaintiff must have been “such as to cause the defendant to lose his power of self-control and must have occurred at the time of or shortly before the assault.”  Prior incidents would have relevance only “if it were asserted that the effect of the immediate provocative acts upon the defendant’s mind was enhanced by those previous incidents being recalled to him and thereby inflaming his passion”. One cannot coolly and deliberately plan to take revenge on another and expect to rely on provocation as a mitigating factor.

[13]         Mr. Friedmann did not testify that he lost control and, even if he had, it is apparent that his testimony would not have been accepted. The trial judge did find, and was no doubt correct, that Mr. Friedmann was “in a rage”. That, however, does not necessarily equate to the loss of control amounting to provocation. Further, it is clear that, from Mr. Friedmann’s perspective, he held a degree of resentment toward the people milling about what he regarded as his private space. He did not call the police at any time. He was found by the trial judge to have hit Ms. Thomson because in his view she deserved to be hit.

[14]         In my opinion, to accede to the appellant’s arguments of provocation would give the principle a far too expansive meaning.

[15]         Notwithstanding Mr. Mackoff’s very able submissions, I would dismiss the appeal with costs to the respondent.