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 ‘bc injury law’

$145,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Traumatic Brain Injury With Lingering Cognitive Impairment

February 19th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing damages for a mild traumatic brain injury with lingering cognitive impairment.

In today’s case (Gauthier v. Dubois) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 motorcycle collision caused by the Defendant.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries many of which enjoyed good recovery.  Among these were a mild traumatic brain injury which resulted in cognitive impairments which had a poor prognosis for full recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $145,000 for the injuries Mr. Justice Milman provided the following reasons:

[128]     Mr. Gauthier sustained many injuries in the accident, of varying severity. He had no broken bones. While many of his injuries have resolved, several have not.

[129]     Most significantly, I have found that Mr. Gauthier suffers ongoing cognitive impairments resulting from an injury to his brain. I also accept that he continues to have back problems and knee pain, including a risk of future degeneration in his left knee.

[130]     I have found that Mr. Gauthier suffered significant pain from his numerous injuries in the first weeks and months following the accident. Most of those injuries have since resolved. He continues to suffer occasional headaches and pain in his back and knees. There is a risk that his left knee will grow worse. He does not often seek out medical attention or therapies or take prescription drugs to ameliorate his discomfort, however.

[131]     Mr. Gauthier was away from work and disabled for several weeks. Although he has gradually recovered to a significant extent, he has not returned to his previous level of performance. While he can now do just about all of the activities he did before, he cannot do many of them as well, or without pain or discomfort.

[132]     Mr. Gauthier has suffered emotionally form his cognitive impairments and his gradual recognition of their permanence. He is anxious about driving. He cannot surf as aggressively or do other athletic activities at the same pace as formerly, although this must be attributed at least in part to his age. He is more introverted and less confident. He now questions his performance at work and his career prospects.

[133]     The plaintiff advances no argument in this regard.

[134]     Although Mr. Gauthier claims that he tends to socialize less than he did before the accident, I am not satisfied that this is a significant factor in his loss. As Mr. Harris submits, Mr. Gauthier has been able to enter into a long-term, romantic relationship since the accident where he did not have any significant attachments before.

[135]     Mr. Gauthier is still functioning at work but not at the same level. He is also unable to do the recreational activities that he enjoys, particularly surfing, at the same level. Nevertheless, he is still able to enjoy those activities.

[136]     Mr. Gauthier asserts that the impact on his lifestyle has been “severe.” In my view that is an overstatement. I accept that his lifestyle has been affected, but he has maintained his occupation as an entrepreneur and manager – his business appears to be recovering. He continues to do the same recreational activities as he did before, although not necessarily at the same level. Some of this drop in performance must be attributed to his age.

[137]     I found the following cases most helpful among those cited to me by counsel: Traynor v. Degroot, 2002 BCSC 441, aff’d 2003 BCCA 483; Joel v. Paivarinta et al., 2005 BCSC 73; Benson v. Day, 2014 BCSC 2224; Kaiser v. Williams, 2015 BCSC 646; and Sundin v. Turnbull, 2017 BCSC 15. I find that the injuries in issue here lie in the middle of that range – generally more severe than those in Kaiser ($130,000) but less severe than those in Sundin ($175,000). I find this case most similar to Traynor ($120,000 or $155,000 adjusted for inflation) and Joel ($110,000 or $134,000 adjusted for inflation).

[138]     It is important to bear in mind, however, that each case is unique and must be assessed on its own facts.

[139]     Having considered the facts of this case in light of the authorities to which I have referred, I assess Mr. Gauthier’s general damages at $145,000.


Security Guard Run Over By Fleeing Thief Found Not Contributorily Negligent

January 25th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing fault for a crash involving an unidentified motorist.

In the recent case (MacKenzie v. John Doe) the Plaintiff was working as a security guard when he noticed a shoplifter.  He pursued the shoplifter to his vehicle.  When confronted the shoplifter ran the plaintiff over and injured him.  The collision was described as follows:

[17]        The plaintiff described what happened.  When the individual was further along the sidewalk, the plaintiff observed him getting into the driver side of a parked vehicle.  The plaintiff approached the vehicle’s passenger side and opened the door, saying “store security”.  He asked for the merchandise back.  The individual responded, “fuck you”, and then put the key in the ignition, started the ignition, and immediately started reversing the vehicle into the parking lot.  

[18]        At that time, the door of the vehicle hit the plaintiff in the chest, causing him to lose his balance.  His feet slid under the passenger-side door.  The plaintiff hung onto the passenger-side door as the individual reversed his vehicle out of the parking spot.  He asked the individual to stop the vehicle but the individual did not do so and then the plaintiff let go.  When he let go, the passenger-side door hit him.  As a consequence, he lost his footing, fell and struck the back of his head on the concrete, at which point he believed his legs went under the vehicle.  The individual continued driving in reverse gear all the way up a ramp where he then spun around and drove away at quick speed, quicker than the speed one would normally go when reversing a vehicle, the plaintiff testified.

[19]        The plaintiff attempted to get up.  However, a bystander said “I am not sure if you realize what just happened to you.  You should probably stay down”.  So he did.  First aid arrived shortly after and then the paramedics.

The shoplifter remained unidentified and the Plaintiff applied for statutory compensation from ICBC for the hit and run collision.

ICBC argued that the Plaintiff was partly at fault for the incident.  The Court disagreed and in finding the Plaintiff acted reasonably in pursuing the thief Madam Justice Maisonville provided the following reasons:

[88]        I find that, in this case, the vehicle had not been started when the plaintiff approached it.  I find that the car key was not in the ignition when the plaintiff opened the vehicle’s passenger-side door and, as such, the plaintiff could not reasonably anticipate carelessness or even the events as they transpired, which involved flagrant and deliberately reckless conduct…

[93]        Consequently, where the defendant’s negligence rises to a level of flagrant and deliberate recklessness, the plaintiff cannot be found to be contributorily negligent, as reprehensible behaviour from a defendant is not reasonably foreseeable. 

[94]        Another aspect of the case before me negating contributory negligence is the fact that the plaintiff was not in violation of his company’s policy, and I cite Lewis v. Todd, [1980] 2 S.C.R. 694 in support.  In Lewis, it was dark out, and an officer wearing a dark uniform was struck by a car and killed while on duty.  The trial judge found no contributory negligence.  On appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal found the officer to be 25% negligent.  However, on further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, that decision was reversed.  At page 700, the Court stated:

The Court of Appeal found that Constable Lewis should not have continued unassisted with his investigation on the road. To do so was negligent. The evidence was, however, that Constable Lewis did not depart from police practice. The trial judge did not misapprehend the evidence, or ignore evidence which would have suggested that police standards required more than one officer at an accident. There was no evidence, then, to support the conclusion that Constable Lewis needed assistance and that he was negligent in not asking for it. …

[95]        Given that there were circumstances which should have alerted other drivers to the presence of police officers on the highway, the court in Lewis held that there was no negligence on the part of the officer, including on the basis that he failed to keep a proper lookout.  

[96]        Here, in like circumstances, the defendant was well aware of the presence of the plaintiff, who asked him to stop, yet chose to ignore him and instead respond with a terse, profane answer and reverse the vehicle.  I find that the plaintiff could not have reasonably foreseen what occurred, that the defendant was flagrant and deliberately reckless, and that the plaintiff is in no way contributorily negligent for the accident which occurred.


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Myofascial Injuries

January 24th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for chronic injuries sustained as a result of two collisions.

In today’s case (Anderson v. Gagnon) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions that the Defendants were responsible for.  The collisions resulted in chronic myofascial injury which lingered to the time of trial several years later with a prognosis of some likely lingering symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:

[93]        In this case, I am satisfied that the plaintiff has suffered a myofascial injury to the paraspinal muscles of the back of her neck, the trapezius rhomboid muscles of the upper back that are chronic and will be ongoing. There are no findings of underlying disc injury or nerve root impingement or other potential injuries.

[94]        The plaintiff’s complaint of chest symptoms is not significant and likely reflect changes as a result of her myofascial pain.

[95]        I accept Dr. Travlos’ conclusion that the hip symptoms cannot be attributed to the accident. The plaintiff has been diligent in participating with various treatment opportunities and those therapists have been the mainstay of her treatment and pain management. The optimum strategy is to continue her exercise activity although she may not respond positively given the length of time the symptoms have persisted since the accident.

[96]        Intermittent massage therapies, physiotherapy and acupuncture are reasonable treatments for the plaintiff to pursue as a means to minimize the interference in her life activities caused by pain. She may also benefit from the use of some anti-inflammatory medications in the case of flare-up of pain.

[97]        Although there is medical evidence that her ongoing symptoms might last indefinitely, or may not resolve in the near future, there are possibilities for improvement as evidenced by Dr. Travlos’ and Dr. Arthur’s recommendations and opinions.

[98]        Overall, the plaintiff is capable of doing chores and activities around her home but must be cognizant of the pain management techniques necessary to enable her to be active. Although she is capable of working full-time, some reduction in work hours may assist her with better pain management. I accept Dr. Travlos’ opinion that she is capable of working longer hours but may benefit from reducing the number of days worked during the week work. This reduction in work is essentially another tool Ms. Anderson has to manage her pain. It contributes to her overall enjoyment of life.

[99]        I am satisfied the plaintiff endures intermittent variable pain that is most taxing on days when she is more physically active or working. The plaintiff’s symptoms tend to worsen between physiotherapy or massage treatments. The symptoms rise to very discomforting levels and are ameliorated by those treatments and it would appear this pattern will continue for the foreseeable future. These injuries have limited her ability to enjoy dancing, skiing, snowshoeing, prolonged cycling, and activities with her children. The evidence suggests that she is fit and works consistently at maintaining her physical condition notwithstanding the symptoms of her injuries.

[100]     As a result of her inability to consistently and thoroughly clean and maintain her house, she has received housekeeping assistants; initially this happened every two weeks but has since been reduced to help once a month due to the cost…

112]     Taking into account the plaintiff’s age, the severity and duration of her pain, the absence of actual disability and emotional suffering, the impact on her family, the limits to her physical abilities, and her stoicism, I award non-pecuniary damages of $75,000.


Medical Malpractice Claim Not Too Complex for a Jury to Understand

January 23rd, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a defence request to have a jury struck from hearing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In today’s case (Howe v. Hwang) the Plaintiff commenced a lawsuit alleging negligence following a series of complications relating to the surgical treatment of diverticulitis.

The parties settled on damages but the issues of liability (fault) remained open for the court to decide.  The Plaintiff elected trial by jury.  The Defendants objected arguing a medical malpractice case was too complex for a jury to understand.  Master Keighley disagreed and provided the following reasons in upholding the Plaintiff’s right to trial by jury :

[41]         My authority to grant the order sought is discretionary. In exercising this discretion, I must consider the issues holistically, in determining whether, at the conclusion of my analysis, the considerations raised by Rule 12-6(5) support the defence assertion that this case is not appropriate for a decision by a jury.

[42]         It may go without saying that the jury in this case will be required to engage in a prolonged examination of documents, that the resolution of the issues before this jury will require a scientific or local investigation and that the issues are of an intricate and complex nature. Thus my discretion is engaged.  

[43]         Amongst the factors which I have considered in determining that it is appropriate to have this case tried by a judge and jury, I have considered the following:

1.     The anticipated length of the trial.

[44]         The trial will not be a long one. It is presently anticipated by counsel that it will take perhaps ten or 11 days of the three weeks set aside. This reduction in time is primarily the result of the resolution of the claims against Dr. Crowley, and the agreement which has been reached with respect to damages. The jury will not be obliged to retain the technical knowledge they acquire for many weeks before delivering its verdict

2.     The number of experts to be called.

[45]         As I have indicated, the plaintiff will be relying on two experts and the defendant on three.

3.     The volume of expert evidence.

[46]         As is the case with most expert reports, the text is dense and replete with scientific terminology. But in objective terms the reports, as I have indicated, total 32 pages, far from a vast volume of expert reports.

4.     The nature and character of the expert evidence.

[47]         The jury will be obliged to consider conflicting opinion with respect to the conduct of the defendant. I have reviewed the medical reports. While I am untrained in medical matters I have no difficulty in following the rationale expressed by the experts or understanding the terminology used. I cannot see that a jury, properly instructed, will have difficulty in coming to a conclusion on the basis of technical issues alone. The opinions of all five experts are clearly stated and, apparently, objective. Juries are, of course, often called upon to deal with conflicting expert evidence with respect to medical issues in the context of personal injury litigation. I do not regard the terminology which appears in the pleadings or the expert reports as being mysterious or opaque. I am confident that with supplementary assistance from the experts, counsel and the presiding judge, the reports may be appropriately dealt with by a jury.

[48]         In summary, although the jury in this case will be obliged to deal with technically demanding scientific medical issues and unfamiliar terminology, as well as the conflicting evidence of experts, I am not satisfied that those considerations put this case beyond the range of functions credited to juries in our system.

[49]         As previously indicated to counsel, the application is dismissed. The issue of costs was dealt with at the conclusion of the hearing.


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Back and Hip Soft Tissue Injuries

January 8th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries caused by a collision.

In this recent case (De Groot v. Heller) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2012 collision that the Defendant accepted fault for. The crash caused soft tissue injuries to her hip and low back along with an aggravation of a pre-existing arthritic condition.  The symptoms lingered to the time of trial and were expected to negatively impact her moving forward.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Greyell provided the following reasons:

[125]     In my view, the evidence establishes that it is likely that the Accident aggravated Ms. De Groot’s underlying arthritic condition in her left hip. There is no evidence connecting her prior back complaints with back complaints brought on by the Accident. The lay witnesses called to testify on her behalf each confirmed that she was active in regularly walking her dogs and that she engaged in such activities as hiking, canoeing and horseback riding on the trips she made to the interior. It is also clear on the evidence that, post-Accident, her ability to engage in those activities is limited…

[130]     At the time of the trial, almost five years had passed since the Accident. Ms. De Groot continues to suffer from pain in her lower back and hip, which prevents her from enjoying the activities she enjoyed prior to the Accident, and while she has not missed time from work, she has difficulty sitting for long periods. She has difficulty lifting and carrying her child, and performing heavier household tasks. She and her husband have experienced difficulty with intimacy due to her injuries from the Accident. Ms. De Groot’s prognosis for improvement is uncertain.

[131]     After considering the principles set out in Stapley and the cases referred to by counsel, I award Ms. De Groot $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages.


Engineer Report Excluded Based on a “Where’s the Science?” Objection

December 19th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, excluding the expert opinion of an engineer based on a report lacking adequate scientific foundation.

In the recent case (Young v. ICBC) the Plaintiff alleged being involved in a sideswipe collision caused by an unidentified motorist.  ICBC argued no such collision occurred and instead the Plaintiff likely collided with a concrete barrier.  ICBC attempted to introduce into evidence an engineering report to back up their theory.  The court refused to introduce the report and in doing so provided the following reasons criticizing its scientific foundation:

[6]             The plaintiff’s objection was summed up by her counsel in the phrase “where is the science?”.  Mr. Antifaev submits that the report’s shortcomings go well beyond the question of weight, and go to the very basis upon which expert evidence is admissible.  It involved no scientific analysis, measurements or research, but consists primarily of argument and speculation.  Mr. Sdoutz did not visit the scene of the accident but relies on Google Maps.  He did not measure anything, did not see the car, and cites no accident information, statistics or testing.  The hallmarks of scientific analysis, Mr. Antifaev asserts, are missing.  Moreover, argues Mr. Antifaev, the report is riddled with what must be considered at least confirmation bias, simply feeding back what ICBC requested in an email sent by an adjuster on June 9, 2017. 

[18]         I conclude that this evidence does not meet the Mohan criteria and should be excluded on that basis.  But even if I were to conclude otherwise, I would consider it appropriate to exercise my discretion to exclude the report as part the gatekeeping function that I am obliged to exercise vigilantly (see, for instance, JP v British Columbia (Children and Family Development), 2017 BCCA 308 at paras 148-150). 

[19]         As Mr. Harris acknowledged, an expert can only deal with the data and information that is available.  Here, as noted above, there was no data and little information available to Mr. Sdoutz.  As a result, it was impossible to undertake the sort of forensic analysis one would expect in support an opinion of this nature.  I am therefore asked to accept something of a much lower level of reliability, based upon an inadequate scientific foundation.  That, in my view, renders it unsafe to admit the report.  The potential benefit is low and the risk of prejudice high.

[20]         I make no finding of bias on the part of Mr. Sdoutz, whose expert assistance I have found valuable in the past.  I nevertheless agree with Mr. Antifaev that it is concerning that the report appears to have responded not to the initial retainer letter of January 2015, but rather to the inappropriate email of June 2017, and that its conclusions mirror the concerns raised in that email.  This adds to the risk, but my conclusion does not turn on it.

[21]         It follows that Mr. Sdoutz’s report must be excluded. 


Motorcyclist Not At Fault for Crashing in “Agony of the Moment”

December 13th, 2017

The legal principle of “agony of collision” sometimes also called “agony of the moment” gives wide latitude to a Plaintiff who is confronted with a sudden and unexpected hazard on the roadway due to someone else’s negligence.  This principle was in action in reasons for judgement published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.

In today’s case (Biggar v. Enns) the Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle and was riding in a staggered fashion behind the Defendant who was also operating a motorcycle.  The Defendant rounded a curve and was out of sight of the plaintiff.  During this time the Defendant took his eyes off the road and drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic.   He crossed back over the centre line and re-entered his intended lane of travel roughly perpendicular to the proper direction of travel.

At this moment the plaintiff rounded the corner, saw the Defendant in his lane and braked hard losing control of his bike and crashing.

The Defendant argued the Plaintiff was partly at fault as a more prudent motorist could have avoided the hazard he posed.  The Court disagreed and in doing so relied on the agony of collision principle finding the Defendant fully at fault.  Madam Justice Sharma provided the following reasons:

[50]         In my view, the phrase “agony of the moment” aptly describes the plaintiff’s situation. The plaintiff’s first reaction was to avoid colliding with the defendant, or an oncoming vehicle.  Therefore, it was a reasonable course of action for him to brake hard which caused his bike to fall and slide. The defendant agreed that in order to avoid hitting him, the plaintiff had to brake hard, and that made the plaintiff’s bike fall.

[51]         In my view the evidence is clear that the plaintiff was riding in a prudent and careful manner. There is no evidence that his speed was inappropriate for the conditions of the road or any other circumstance.

[52]          As noted earlier, I do not accept the defendant’s argument that once he lost sight of the defendant in front of him, the plaintiff should have slowed down more than he did. Also, I have already concluded the plaintiff was driving at an appropriate rate of speed, and that he had already slowed down.

[53]         Drivers are entitled to assume that other people will be driving in a prudent and safe manner. In Bern v. Jung, 2010 BCSC 730 the plaintiff lost control of a bicycle because of a sudden and unexpected presence of the defendant’s vehicle travelling in the wrong direction. The Court noted, at paras. 13-14, that the plaintiff was forced to act quickly and apply his brakes quickly and that he should not be found contributorily negligent for doing so.

[54]         In this case the plaintiff was entitled to assume that his friend had negotiated the curve safely; coming upon the defendant situated in front of him and perpendicular to his line of traffic was unexpected and sudden. The plaintiff cannot be blamed for doing what I find to be the only reasonable thing he could do to avoid a more serious accident: applying his brakes hard. I conclude it was the defendant’s string of actions (looking to the canyon, and trying to get back in position instead of waiting on the shoulder) that caused the accident.

[55]         For all those reasons, I find the defendant 100% liable for the accident.


$135,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic, Partly Disabling Soft Tissue Injuries

December 11th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries caused in a motor vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Slater v. Gorden) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 rear-end collision.  The Defendant accepted fault.  The crash caused various soft tissue injuries which turned into a chronic problem.  The Plaintiff’s injuries disabled her from her general duties as a police officer and limited her to administrative work.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $135,000 Madam Justice Forth provided the following reasons:

[84]         As stated earlier, Ms. Slater suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, left shoulder, lower back and left hip area. She continues to suffer from daily pain and stiffness primarily in her low back and left hip area.

[85]         Ms. Slater presented as someone who likes to be in control, and it appears that the ongoing symptoms and their lack of resolution have been particularly difficult for her to adjust to. She testified as to the impact that the accident has had on her life, in that she feels she has lost everything that she worked “super hard” to achieve: her career, her personal life, and her physical well-being.

[86]         With respect to her career, she has lost the ability to perform the type of police work that provided her the greatest enjoyment, that is, general duty police work out on the road. The accident has caused a significant change to Ms. Slater’s ability to undertake general police duties. She has not been medically cleared to work, and the medical opinion supports that Ms. Slater currently cannot return to general police duty. Further, it appears unlikely that she will be able to do so in the future. She has been able to remain an RCMP officer but on administrative duties only.

[87]         She is concerned that she will not have the same opportunity for advancement. She does not find her job in the Serious Crime Unit as enjoyable as her previous role, and she finds it more depressing and mentally draining as she has to deal with serious files for extended periods. Her current role mainly involves computer work in the office, which she finds far less stimulating than the general duty work.

[88]         Ms. Slater has become more withdrawn from her work colleagues, family and friends; her relationship with her common-law husband has ended; and she has not been able to participate in her children’s activities to the same extent. Her sleep is affected and she frequently wakes up at night.

[92]         I have reviewed the various cases provided, and in assessing the particular circumstances of Ms. Slater, I am of the view that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $135,000.


Defense Doctor Opinion Rejected After Finding He Acted As “Advocate”

December 6th, 2017

Adding to this site’s archived judgments of judicial criticism of expert witness ‘advocacy’, reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, rejecting the testimony of a defense hired expert.

In today’s case (Nagra v. Stapleton) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 collision that the Defendant admitted responsibility for.  Despite voicing some concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility the Court accepted his medical evidence that he suffered injuries to his neck and low back as a result of the crash.

In the course of the trial the Defendants called a physician they hired who provided an opinion minimizing the collision’s connection to the injuries.  In rejecting this evidence Mr. Justice Cole found this expert “seemed to be more of an advocate” and provided the following critical comments:

[40]         Dr. Laidlow, called on behalf of the defendant, also confirms that movement of the neck noted during joint examination did seem to be consistent with what was observed spontaneously. Dr. Laidlow also found restrictive range of motion in the plaintiff’s neck but was of the view that his physical symptoms are at the same level or consistent with the plaintiff’s physical symptoms as a result of the 2012 motor vehicle accident.

[41]         I have difficulty with Dr. Laidlow’s evidence as he seemed to be more of an advocate, he was argumentative, and based his report, in part at least, on the fact that because there was no record of neck pain prior to his examination of the plaintiff, that the neck pain had been resolved to the state it was prior to the motor vehicle accident.

[42]         Dr. Laidlow’s opinion is based on the assumption that the neck pain that the plaintiff reported at the end of June 2013, continued on through 2013 and 2014, since the plaintiff was still experiencing neck pain when the June 2014 accident occurred. This assumption was made despite the fact that the plaintiff provided no information to suggest he was experiencing these pain symptoms in 2014 at the time of the accident. Dr. Laidlow admitted that he found no clinical records between 2014 and the date of the accident where the plaintiff reported ongoing neck pain or headaches. Dr. Laidlow reviewed the report of the plaintiff’s family doctor to indicate that there were no reports in his records of pain symptoms similar to those sustained in the accident. Instead, Dr. Laidlow relied on a report by Dr. Novak from June 16, where he indicated that the plaintiff was suffering from chronic neck pain “likely since 2012”.

[43]         I prefer the evidence of Drs. Watson and Waseem, however, the weight to be given to their evidence is diminished because I do not find the plaintiff to be a credible witness.


BC Supreme Court Discusses When Short Leave Applications Should Be Granted

December 4th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, providing a general overview of when a short-leave applications should be granted and criticizing the frequency with which such applications are brought by defence lawyers in personal injury lawsuits.

In today’s case (O’Callaghan v. Hengsbach) the plaintiff claimed physical and psychiatric injuries from a collision and sued for damages.  The Defendant had the plaintiff assessed by a neurologist.  After the time limit for delivery of expert reports the Defendant brought sought to have the Plaintiff examined by a psychiatrist and requested short leave to bring the application.  The Court dismissed the request and in doing so Master Baker provided the following reasons of the protocol that should be followed when seeking short leave –

[16]         The Masters in chambers, almost daily, are asked to give short leave under Rule 8-5(1). I have heard three of these applications in 1 ½ days of chambers; in one application, plaintiff’s counsel told the court that it was the third short leave application by the defence in that case since October 17. Interestingly, on a quick search I found no authorities to guide the court in granting or refusing applications for short leave. The rule itself offers little guidance, other than an application may be made in circumstances of “urgency”.

[17]         Such applications should be restricted to emergent circumstances and should not reward inefficiency, inattention to a particular case, or a lack of oversight. To abridge the time limits imposed by the Supreme Court Civil Rules is, presumably, to prejudice the other party who is, naturally, entitled to rely on timelines imposed by the Rules and to expect the opposing party to do likewise.

[18]         In the absence of guiding authorities, I suggest the following considerations, non-exclusive, should guide the parties and the court in considering short leave applications:

  1. a)       The application, of course, is to be made by Requisition, usually without affidavits, and may be made before a Registrar, Master, or Judge.
  2. b)       While undue formality in the application is discouraged, the application should be made in court, on the record (even if by video or telephone) and not online as an e-filed application.
  3. c)       Applicant’s counsel should notify the opposing counsel or party of an intention to apply for short leave so that counsel can appear. At the very least applicant’s counsel should canvass with his or her friend their availability on the proposed chambers date and whether he or she is opposed to the short leave.
  4. d)       The applicant should be prepared to give a full accounting of the facts, circumstances, context, and chronology leading to the application for short leave, all of which should establish that the applicant has been affected or surprised by events or developments not reasonably foreseeable.
  5. e)       If opposing counsel is not present should, as in the case of without notice applications, be prepared to give both favourable and unfavourable details.
  6. f)        If any important or pivotal fact or element is disputed by opposing counsel the applicant should be prepared to offer affidavit evidence on the point and, as always, counsel should not speak to his or her own affidavit if the matter is contested.
  7. g)       Busy schedules for the applicant counsel will usually not be sufficient reason for short leave; in that case counsel should arrange for a colleague or agent to speak to the chambers application on the usual notice required by the rules.

[19]         Ultimately, taking these points into consideration, the court will balance the prejudice both to the other party by potentially disrupting their schedules and trial preparations as well as service to other clients and to the applicant by virtue of reasonably unforeseen facts, circumstances, or developments that have inhibited the applicant’s preparation in the normal chronology that the rules contemplate and mandate.

[20]         Some areas of the law tend to offer more emergencies or crises than others; family law would likely fall in this category. Despite this, however, of late more applications for short leave seem to arise from personal injury/motor vehicle accident cases than in any other. And most of those applications for short leave seem to be on behalf of the defence, seeking short leave to bring an application for an IME close to trial. In that respect, this case is completely typical of that growing practise.

[21]         In many cases, the applicant can point to genuine circumstances giving rise to surprise or the advent of claims or circumstances the applicant could not have reasonably anticipated. This, and many similar applications, is not in that category. In too many cases, in my view, the defence, either assuming that settlement is likely or simply by applying triage or prioritizing in busy offices with large caseloads, have not given due attention and focus in a timely way to the possible claims and damages of the plaintiff. Lawyers are extremely busy professionals. They have many cases other than the one specifically before the court. Every master and judge knows that. Still, that cannot be permitted to affect the other party’s right to due process and adherence to the rules unless clearly justified; it is the court’s function to prevent that.

[22]         I have opined often, from the bench, about the template nature of pleadings in personal injury cases[3]. Often, it seems, the only change to pleadings are the names of the parties and the date and location of the accident. The damages claimed and particulars of alleged negligence are almost rote. Still, when a party specifies concussion, cognitive impairment, nightmares, sleep disruption, and driving related anxiety (which, to be fair, not all plaintiffs claim), it should be an obvious announcement to the defence that psychiatric enquiry is justified.

[23]         With the advent of standardized pleadings, an obvious problem for the defence arises: what really are the damages (if any) to this particular plaintiff?  It is my conclusion that very often the true issues in the claim are not established until expert medical (and sometimes economic) reports are delivered. And, yes, very often these reports are delivered at or very near the 84-day deadline. I do understand the defence dilemma in that, but even when faced with standardized pleadings, nothing prevents the defence from, as here, conducting the usual steps for disclosure and discovery. The chronology or timing of that is very much for the defence to decide and control.

[24]         In this particular case, Ms. Stewart is right; there were multiple indications to the defence that Ms. O’Callaghan was not only making a claim for psychiatric injuries, but that she was firm in her allegation and that in her view the damages were significant and long-lasting. Both the clinical records and her discovery evidence should have reinforced that assertion. Her denial of the facts contained in the defence notice to admit was a further obvious sign. But preceding all of those indicators was the NOCC which, despite my complaints of template pleadings in general, was clear in alleging specific psychiatric or psychological injuries and consequences of the accident.