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 ‘credibility’

Video Surveillance Helps Deflate Personal Injury Claim

April 6th, 2017

In the world of personal injury lawsuits, video surveillance usually amounts to hours of filming benign activity entirely consistent with a Plaintiff’s known injuries.  Occasionally, however, video helps capture images inconsistent with a Plaintiff’s presentation.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, with such an outcome.

In today’s case (Ma v. Haniak) the Plaintiff was involved in three collisions and sued for damages.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant motorists.  The Plaintiff was self-represented and sought approximately $1.4 million in damages.  The Court largely rejected the Plaintiff’s claims and awarded a small fraction of her sought damages.  In reaching the conclusion that the Plaintiff’s claim was exaggerated Mr. Justice Armstrong noted as follows when reviewing video surveillance evidence:

[114]     The defendants tendered video surveillance of Ms. Ma from 2007, 2009 and 2011.

[115]     On September 21, 2007, Ms. Ma was observed working with her brother in their newspaper delivery business. Mr. Maung is seen loading the car with the newspapers. She appears to move without any restrictions in her range of movement and appears to be flexible and capable of moving bundles of newspapers. Although she shows no overt signs of pain, it is not possible to ascertain her actual condition from the video.

[116]     Ms. Ma was able to crouch down, reach in and manually rearrange paper in her car and move several paper bundles.

[117]     Mr. Maung appears physically capable of moving bundles of newspapers to the vehicle from nearby pallets.

[118]     Between October 29, 2009 and November 2, 2009, Ms. Ma was observed and filmed by a private investigator. She was seen driving, entering and exiting her Mazda MPV without any apparent difficulty. Her movements seemed unrestricted and flexible; she carried a cane but did not use the cane to stabilize her walking or support herself.

[119]     In August 2011, more than one-and-a-half years after MVA #3, Ms. Ma was observed and filmed by a private investigator; the recording lasts between 30 and 40 minutes of film.

[120]     At Ms. Ma’s examination for discovery, she testified that she suffered pain when carrying things. She said she avoided carrying items and used the basket on her walker when necessary.

[121]     Nevertheless, on August 9, 2011 Ms. Ma was attending an appointment with Dr. Magrega and used her walker when entering and leaving the office. Later that day she is seen walking and carrying items at a McDonald’s restaurant without any apparent limitation or need for assistance. On that day Ms. Ma is seen exiting her vehicle and walking towards a restaurant with a normal gait, moving at a normal speed and without the benefit of a walker or wheelchair. She collects food from a counter and carries a tray with a drink on top and a separate bag to a table inside the restaurant; she then walks outside to her car carrying a drink and a bag for a person in the vehicle. Ms. Ma’s comportment in this video is significantly different than her comportment at trial. At trial, she used a walker to move in the room and to the witness box. She did not demonstrate the marked flexibility and physical movement that appears on the video.

[122]     What is observed on the video demonstrates significantly less restricted movement than she described in her testimony.

[123]     She testified that when using the sliding doors to enter her van, she suffered severe pain and relied on family members and a cane to open and close the doors when possible. On the date of the video, she is seen freely opening and closing the doors, leaning in and delivering food to others who had not come into the restaurant. The video of the plaintiff was dramatically different from her self-described limitations.

[124]     She testified that if she bumped into a person while being out and about, she would experience excruciating pain; she is seen to be bumped while in the restaurant lineup and shows no evidence of excruciating pain.

[125]     On the video, she was clearly functioning without evidence of pain or limitation in her movement. She walked briskly and without the use of a cane or walker. Her facial expression showed no evidence of pain or discomfort.

[126]     I except that surreptitious video presentations of injured plaintiffs can be misleading; in the circumstances of this case I am satisfied that Ms. Ma’s physical movements on August 9, 2011 were entirely incongruous with her testimony concerning her physical ability and dexterity at the time and since.

[127]     Her only explanation for the apparent differences between her testimony and the video presentation was that she was “tricked” at the discovery. She also said that the limitations in her ability to move or walk distances without a walker do not become apparent until she has been active for approximately ten minutes.

[315]     I agree with the defence that the plaintiff’s claim concerning the level of pain she has experienced after the accidents is wholly inconsistent with her appearance at trial and on the surveillance videos. Although the August 2011 video was taken almost five years before trial, the plaintiff’s examination for discovery evidence, which was given within two weeks of the video, is telling. It contradicted the plaintiff’s appearance in the video surveillance films. Her testimony and use of a walker at trial was consistent with her evidence at the examination for discovery but equally inconsistent with observations of her in the various surveillance videos. From these inconsistencies, I make an adverse finding about Ms. Ma’s credibility.


“Outlandish” Uncorroborated Injury Claims Rejected

September 15th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, largely rejecting many “outlandish” claims in a personal injury lawsuit that were not supported by medical evidence.

In today’s case (Lamb v. Fullerton) the Plaintiff was involved in several collisions and sued for damages.  He claimed aggravation of a historic head injury and further claimed severe consequences including ‘vomiting 100 times in a day‘ and severe bowel incontinence.  The reported symptoms and any relationship to the collisions in question were not corroborated by medical evidence.  The court was critical both of the lack of evidence in support of the claim and the Plaintiff’s credibility.  In rejecting these and other portions of the claim Madam Justice Warren provided the following reasons:

9]             Mr. Lamb’s testimony was unsatisfactory.  Regrettably, I have concluded that it is almost wholly unreliable in establishing that any injury or aggravation of injury was caused by these accidents, particularly in the complex circumstances of a serious, ongoing pre-existing condition and two intervening accidents that are not the subject of this action.

[10]         Mr. Lamb unreasonably persisted in making claims that were inconsistent with either independent evidence or other aspects of his own evidence, and he made little, if any, attempt to explain the inconsistencies.  Two particularly striking examples were his insistence that his behavioural and memory problems were aggravated by the accidents in question and his repeated assertion that he broke his clavicle in the December 8, 2010 accident…

[14]         Mr. Lamb also baldly advanced claims, some of which were out of the ordinary and even outlandish, without corroborating evidence in circumstances where one would expect corroborating evidence to exist.

[15]         Mr. Lamb claimed to have been vomiting 100 times in a day.  He claimed that the bowel incontinence was so severe that he was using countless incontinence pads and 20 gallons of isopropanol annually to clean his soiled clothing.  He offered his own opinion as to the cause of these conditions, which was blood accumulating in his stomach as a result of bleeding from his esophagus caused by wincing and cringing due to the pain.  Yet, he appears to have taken few, if any, steps to obtain medical attention for these conditions; he offered no medical evidence to support his own dubious opinion as to the cause of these conditions; and he produced not even a single receipt for isopropanol or incontinence pads…

[20]         Mr. Lamb acknowledged having been untruthful in other contexts.  He admitted that he told a surgeon who performed his cataract surgery in June 2012 that he had undergone chemotherapy for leukemia but he seemed to reluctantly acknowledge during the trial that he has never had leukemia…

[85]         As I have already explained, because Mr. Lamb’s subjective reports provide the foundation of his claims it is particularly important to examine his evidence carefully.  For the reasons already expressed, I have concluded that his evidence was neither credible nor reliable.  He has failed to marshal any persuasive independent corroborating evidence.  Most importantly, he has presented no medical evidence in respect of the cause of the injuries and conditions he claims to suffer from; whether his pre-existing conditions were aggravated by the accidents; if so, the extent of the aggravation; or the impact of the two intervening accidents on his current condition.  In the circumstances of this case, such evidence is necessary in order to establish possible causes of the injuries and conditions about which he complains:  Deo v. Wong, 2008 BCCA 110 at para. 19.


Plaintiff “Antics” During Cross Examination Undermine Injury Claim

September 9th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, rejecting substantial aspects of a personal injury claim due in part to concerns about plaintiff credibility.

In today’s  case (Siddall v. Bencherif) the Plaintiff was injured in 2 separate collisions that the Defendants accepted fault for.  Much of her claim was rejected at trial where the presiding judge raised concerns about her credibility and “antics” while testifying.  In concluding that “the plaintiff was not a particularly credible or reliable witness regarding the effect that the Collisions had on her” Mr. Justice G.C. Weatherill provided the following reasons:

[183]     A plaintiff who accurately describes his or her symptoms and circumstances before and after the collision without minimizing or embellishing them can reasonably anticipate that the court will find his or her evidence to have been credible and reliable. 

[184]     Regrettably, that did not occur in this case.   The plaintiff was not particularly forthcoming during her evidence-in-chief.  Significant aspects of her story were not revealed until cross-examination at which point she was evasive and took great pains to minimize the history of her pre-Collisions physical and emotional issues.  Despite insisting that her memory was “good”, on several occasions she had to be taken to her relatively recent examination for discovery transcripts before she was prepared to recall her previous evidence.  She had difficulty agreeing that her income tax returns reflected her actual income because she could not remember whether she had worked more than what they reflected.  Although the details of her many pre-Collisions psychological and psychiatric issues were set out in voluminous historical clinical records, including the answers to questionnaires in the plaintiff’s own handwriting, she was either unable to recall, or unwilling to admit to them.  She was also unable to recall significant portions of the clinical history set out in the various expert reports filed in this action that had been provided by the plaintiff herself. 

[185]     When clinical records or other documents were put to the plaintiff that contradicted her evidence, she insisted that the documents were likely in error or that she had been misinterpreted or misunderstood. 

[186]     The poor quality of the plaintiff’s memory at times when it suited her is at odds with her obvious high level of intelligence.

[187]     During her cross-examination, the plaintiff became increasingly evasive, argumentative and adversarial.  She often launched into lengthy, rambling answers that were replete with speculation and devoid of factual foundation.  She repeatedly played down her pre-Collisions symptoms as minor and inconsequential and emphasized her post-Collisions symptoms as new and debilitating.

[188]     Although the plaintiff appeared to have no difficulty reviewing documents and answering questions during her direct examination, she requested a recess early in her cross-examination, complaining of having difficulty extending her arms to read a one page document due to pain in her arms and shoulders.  However, she did not indicate any further difficulty with her arms during the remainder of her lengthy cross-examination, interrupted as it was by other witnesses over four days.  Indeed, throughout her cross-examination she frequently used her arms to gesture during her answers, as people typically do when attempting to make a point.  She continually alternated between standing and sitting in the witness box, which is in noticeable contrast to Ms. Tencha’s observations during the Functional Capacity Evaluation that the plaintiff was capable of engaging in casual sitting for 1 hour and 40 minutes.

[189]     The plaintiff’s antics and demeanour during cross-examination, as well as her numerous and vehement attempts to convince the court of her ordeal, evoked the oft-quoted line from Hamlet: “the lady doth protest too much”.

[190]     I find that, overall, the plaintiff was not a particularly credible or reliable witness regarding the effect that the Collisions had on her, which I find she exaggerated.  Unfortunately, I am unable to give her evidence in that regard much weight. 

[191]     As a consequence, I have not found the opinion evidence of the medical experts of much assistance.  That is not because the experts are lacking in the necessary experience and expertise in their respective fields.  Indeed, they are all highly qualified.  Rather, it is because medical experts necessarily take a patient’s complaints at face value and then offer an opinion based on those complaints.  Here too they relied for their respective opinions to a significant degree on what they were told by the plaintiff without the benefit, as the court had, of a thorough and lengthy cross-examination of the plaintiff during which her self-reports and evidence generally were tested.

[192]     In contrast to the plaintiff, Sean gave his evidence in a down-to-earth and forthright fashion.  He was clear, candid, animated, articulate and passionate about his testimony.  I find that his evidence was credible and generally reliable.


Court of Appeal Split on Whether Credibility Finding on Misapprehended Evidence Warrants New Trial

January 29th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today with split reasons but the BC Court of Appeal addressing whether a new trial is warranted where a Court makes an adverse credibility finding based in part on misapprehended evidence.

In today’s case (Zajaczkowski v. Grauer) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages.  At trial the Plaintiff’s diminished earning capacity claims were dismissed with the Court finding there were issues with the Plaintiff’s credibility.  The trial judge misapprehended some of the Plaintiff’s evidence with respect to his education.  The Plaintiff’s appeal was dismissed but dissenting reasons were provided finding a a new trial was warranted in these circumstances.

The majority provided the following reasons:

[44]         While the judge clearly accepted the thrust of this evidence, which was evidence of fatigue and pain, he also found that it afforded “an insufficient factual underpinning for any compensation for loss of earning capacity”. In my view, the inability of the trial judge to find a factual underpinning for the claim lay not in an error of law; the trial judge expressly noted, at para. 51, that “a plaintiff need only show a real and substantial possibility of a future event leading to an income loss, in accordance with Perren v. Lalari, 2010 BCCA 140”. The claim for loss of earning capacity failed because the judge found the appellant had not met the evidentiary burden described in Perren. He did not accept the appellant’s own evidence of his limitations. The witnesses provided some anecdotal evidence of occasions when the appellant was limited in his work but that did not establish the appellant was, overall, unable to work as much as he had worked before his injury. As the respondents’ counsel submitted, the impact of the appellant’s lingering pain upon his capacity to work may have been so minimal as to be difficult to assess. I cannot say the trial judge erred in coming to the conclusion that the evidence did not support a claim under this head of damages. I would also dismiss the appeal founded upon this argument.

In dissent Madam Justice Saunders reasoned as follows:

[53]         The question on both past and future earnings loss is not whether the appellant’s income was diminished or will be diminished from that which he had earned before the accident, but whether it was diminished or will be diminished from that which he could have earned but for the accident. It appears that the appellant’s business was thriving, considerable work was available to him and it was, in the vernacular, a time in which he could “make hay”. If the appellant’s earnings were lessened by reason of the injury from the accident, the appellant is entitled to be compensated for the diminishment.

[54]         The evidence of the three witnesses discussed above supports the appellant’s evidence that from time to time his injury limited his hours and intensity of work. If accepted, the evidence of these witnesses alone, and combined with the appellant’s evidence, supported a claim for past wage loss of some amount, and possibly a claim for future wage loss on the capital asset approach of Brown v. Golaiy (1985), 26 B.C.L.R. (3d) 353 (S.C.)per Finch J., although certainly not in the scale claimed by the appellant at trial.

[55]         The judge did not review the evidence of these witnesses in any detail and said only that “I accept the thrust of the evidence from those witnesses, that Mr. Zajaczkowski had less energy and more pain after the accident”. The judge concluded, “Their testimony … did not lead to the further conclusion, that in the result, the Plaintiff worked less overall and earned less overall.”

[56]         It is here, I consider, that the judge’s assessment of the appellant’s credibility creates the impact that requires this court to interfere with the order appealed. In my view, one cannot say that absent the error in that credibility assessment, there would have been such a lack of credit given to the substance of the evidence of these witnesses. In other words, the misapprehension of evidence in the credibility assessment leaks into the result of the trial, with the effect that the order made by the judge in respect to earnings loss cannot stand, in my view.

[57]         In reaching this conclusion I have not addressed the last strong conclusion of the judge concerning evidence of the Balano invoice. I agree that such evidence was understood correctly by the judge, and that alone it could have supported rejection of the appellant’s evidence. However, the judge made the appellant’s evidence of his education one leg of what was a relatively brief discussion of credibility, and that leg is broken.

[58]         I would echo the words of Mr. Justice Hall in Loveridge v. British Columbia, 2007 BCCA 425: “The appellant was entitled to a correct consideration of the full substance of his case”. In the circumstances I have described, I do not consider the appellant received that consideration. I therefore conclude that the appeal should be allowed and a new trial ordered.

 


$20,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for 17 Month Long Soft Tissue Injury

November 9th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing $20,000 in non-pecuniary damages for recovered soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Scott v. Hoey) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff was 13 years old at the time of the collision and alleged she sustained injuries which permanently impacted her and sought significant damages.  The Court rejected much of the Plaintiff’s claim noting credibility concerns.  The Court did accept that the collision cause soft tissue injuries which fully resolved in 17 months.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages of $20,000 Mr. Justice Bowden provided the following reasons:

[169]     In my view the facts and reasoning of Barrow J. in Jensen v. Felker, 2008 BCSC 541, suggest that the amount of non-pecuniary damages awarded in that case approximate those that should be awarded in the case before me. After reviewing a number of authorities where short term injuries produced symptoms in the plaintiffs for 12 to 14 months, Barrow J. awarded non-pecuniary damages of $18,000.

[170]     While the evidence supports a finding that the plaintiff’s injuries resolved within a period of about six months following the accident I am prepared to assess non-pecuniary damages on the basis that some of her symptoms may have continued until November 2007, which is a period of about seventeen months after the accident.

[171]     I award the plaintiff $20,000 in non-pecuniary damages.


BC Court of Appeal – Scientific Evidence Not Needed in LVI Injury Claims

March 10th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal (Pacheco v. Antunovich) overturning a trial judgement which dismissed an injury claim following a so-called low velocity impact.  The Court found the trial judge made palpable and overriding errors in his assessment of the evidence.  In reaching this conclusion the Court of Appeal provided the following comments:

[35]         As previously noted, the judge found the appellant’s claim of injuries arising from the accident not to be reasonable or credible in the absence of independent or scientific evidence of how the mechanics of such a minor collision could have caused the injuries claimed. With respect, in my view the judge erred in finding that the appellant only “thought” her car was pushed forward in the collision when she in fact said that it was pushed forward (although she did not know how far). He also misapprehended her evidence that the collision caused two black dents to her bumper by describing them as “two small scratches” (a description advanced by defence counsel). He did not consider or he overlooked the appellant’s evidence that at the time of the collision her hands were on the steering wheel and her right foot on the brake, and how that positioning of her body might be relevant to the mechanics of the collision and her subsequent complaints of lower back and right side gluteal pain. Most significantly, however, he appears to have ignored the opinions of each of the appellant’s doctors that her lower back and right side gluteal pain were caused by the collision, which the respondents did not counter by any evidence to the contrary…

[43]         The need to carefully examine any inconsistencies and contradictions in a plaintiff’s evidence, with the evidence as a whole, before rejecting that party’s evidence based on demeanor alone, was echoed in Jezdic. In that case, which also involved a minor collision, Sigurdson J. dismissed the action based on a negative assessment of the plaintiff’s credibility. That assessment, however, included identifying “significant inconsistencies” in the plaintiff’s evidence, both internally and with his findings of fact (para. 41), noting all the while that “there is no rule of law or physics that a person cannot be injured in a low speed collision” (para. 33).

[44]         In this case, the judge did not assess or find any inconsistencies or contradictions in the appellant’s evidence, either internally within her evidence or with other established facts. With respect, his findings of credibility seem to be driven, in large part, by his inference from the appellant’s demeanor at trial that she was exhibiting pain exaggeration behaviour and, also, from his erroneous findings of fact as noted above.

[45]         In the result, the appeal must be allowed and a new trial ordered.


Brain Injury Claim Dismissal Upheld Following Credibility Concerns

December 4th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today (Minhas v. Sartor) by the BC Court of Appeal upholding a trial judgement which rejected a claim for an alleged “severe and permanent brain injury” following concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility.

In upholding the trial judgement the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons demonstrating how the negative credibility finding impacted the injury claim:

[18]        In the main, the assumptions relied upon by the doctors in reaching their opinions derive from Mr. Minhas’s account of himself. However, the judge found that Mr. Minhas was dishonest, that his evidence was not to be believed, and that the history he provided to the doctors was inaccurate. She said:

[111]    I am satisfied that all of Mr. Minhas’s testimony – with the possible exception of statements against interest – must be regarded with scepticism and given little or no weight. I am also satisfied that to the extent any expert’s opinions are based in whole or in part on information provided to the expert by Mr. Minhas, the opinions of that expert must be carefully scrutinized and are likely to be unsupported.

[112]    I am reminded of the statement made by Justice Southin, as she then was, in Le v. Milburn, [1987] B.C.J. 2690, as follows:

When a litigant practices to deceive, whether by deliberate falsehood or gross exaggeration, the court has much difficulty in disentangling the truth from the web of deceit and exaggeration. If, in the course of the disentangling of the web, the court casts aside as untrue something that was indeed true, the litigant has only himself or herself to blame. (para. 2).

[19]        The judge’s conclusion of Mr. Minhas’s veracity and reliability, with respect, was not surprising given the many instances of dishonesty on his part evident in the record. That evidence includes different versions given by Mr. Minhas at different times as to his education, different versions advanced by him of his work history in Alberta, his routine filing of false tax returns with Revenue Canada, an account made by him to an insurance adjuster (in a previous motor vehicle accident) that he had been working when his tax return did not reflect any employment, his admission that he was prepared to threaten physical harm to get what he wanted, his filing a false claim (or claims) with Workers’ Compensation, his travel outside the country while claiming he was entitled to disability benefits, his testimony he received a generous dowry from his wife’s family in contradiction to his wife’s evidence that her family did not pay a dowry, his preparation of a false resume, and his provision of false employment references. This is only a partial listing of the inaccuracies and untruths that riddle Mr. Minhas’s account of his pre-accident life and his personal history.

[20]        Also germane to the assessment of the existence of brain injury is evidence that Mr. Minhas was not the easy-going person before the trial he and others testified he was. The pre-accident evidence demonstrates incidents in which Mr. Minhas was threatening or aggressive to others…

[24]        There is no real challenge taken to any of the judge’s descriptions of the evidence, although there is explanation proffered. But it was up to the judge whether to accept the explanation, and it is not up to us. As this was a case highly dependent on credibility findings, it seems to me that if the claim of brain injury was to be won, it was to be won at trial. Without the finding of fact that Mr. Minhas had suffered a brain injury, it is simply premature to analyze the theories of causation.

[25]        I see no basis upon which we may interfere with the judge’s conclusion that Mr. Minhas did not prove he had sustained a brain injury in, or caused by, the accident. I would dismiss the appeal.


“The Use of an Interpreter, on its Own, Is Irrelevant to the Issue of Credibility”

November 27th, 2014

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court addressing whether a witness who has a good understanding of English should have their credibility negatively assessed where they choose to testify trough an interpreter.  In short, the Court held that this factor alone is irrelevant in assessing credibility.

In today’s case (Kim v. Khaw) the Plaintiff was injured in a vehicle collision that the Defendant was responsible for.  The Plaintiff sued for damages and testified using a translator.   The Plaintiff had a good understanding of English and as a result the Defendant argued the Plaintiff’s credibility should be negatively impacted by using the buffer provided by a translator.   Madam Justice Sharma disagreed and in doing so provided the following reasons:

[100]     Mr. Kim’s comprehension of English was good; therefore, does his decision to use an interpreter impact his credibility?

[101]     There is no doubt that hearing evidence through the filter of an interpreter can be challenging: Wang v. Hu, 2003 BCSC 552 at para. 24; R. v. A.F., 2010 ONSC 5824 at para. 87. The court must be alive to the fact that the impact or nuance of interpreted testimony may be “lost in translation”, especially during cross-examination. For example, inconsistencies in explanations or expressions may be the inevitable result of there being no exact translation, or perhaps many translations, for an English word, phrase or concept in the foreign language.

[102]     It is unfortunate, but inescapable, that hearing evidence through an interpreter may make it more difficult to consider and weigh that evidence. Difficulty, however, cannot be a bar to fairness; fairness is the measure against which the court must gauge whether the fact that evidence was given via an interpreter is relevant to or affects the credibility of that witness’ testimony.

[103]     Mr. Kim felt more comfortable testifying in Korean. A major issue in this case is whether his mental status has been detrimentally affected by the Accident. This required him to discuss and reveal highly personal and emotional information, including his intimate relationship with his wife and his interactions with his children. He testified about matters that all doctors accepted he felt enormous shame and guilt about. I find it reasonable and understandable that he would choose to testify in his native language even if he does understand English well. This is especially true because he is not just a witness, but a party, in the case.

[104]     The comfort of one’s native language, even when English is understood, is surely a factor for many witnesses who testify via an interpreter. That comfort would be seriously eroded if, without reasonable justification, a court were to take into account a witness’ preference for interpretation when weighing their evidence or assessing their credibility. It is my view that the use of an interpreter, on its own, is irrelevant to the issue of credibility. To find otherwise could unfairly prejudice participants in the trial process who used interpreters and could undermine public confidence in the trial process. In my view, there must be some evidence, or a reasonable inference that can be drawn from evidence, that the witness’ use of the interpreter was not necessary for them to fairly participate in the trial, but rather was a deliberate intent to gain some advantage: Mee Hoi Bros. Co. v. Borving Investments (Canada) Ltd., 2014 BCSC 1710 at para. 13 and 21 [Borving].

[105]     In this case, Mr. Kim demonstrated that he does understand spoken and written English, and that he speaks English (although, from the very little I heard, with a heavy accent and somewhat haltingly). I understood the defendants to rely on Mr. Kim’s facility with English as another reason the court should not rely on his testimony. I find that to be irrelevant to the weight I attach to his evidence. In this case, the defendants’ counsel was able to conduct a vigorous and effective cross-examination of the plaintiff despite the interpretation.

[106]     I do not discount the possibility that counsel may want to argue that the use of an interpreter, where one was not absolutely necessary, caused the trial to be longer which should be recognized in a costs award, but that issue is entirely different from credibility.


Credibility Concerns Lead to Outright Rejection of Personal Injury Claim

April 7th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, outright rejecting a personal injury claim as a result of credibility concerns.

In today’s case (Fancy v. Gareau) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear end collision.  Fault was admitted.   At the time of the collision the Plaintiff was on a WCB claim.  She claimed the collision caused a neck injury and that this was not a pre-existing problem.  In the course of the trial this claim proved unreliable and the Court ultimately dismissed the claim.  In reaching this result Mr. Justice Parrett noted as follows:

[69]         Perhaps the most startling reversal in her evidence was the cross-examination of the plaintiff about a portion of Exhibit 8.

[70]         This document was a spreadsheet prepared by the plaintiff and her husband as a part of their submission to the Workers Compensation Board to help establish that she had suffered “an upper back injury”.  In item 11 on page 2 of the spreadsheet the plaintiff specifically refers to the August 5, 2008 Physiotherapy Initial Notification (Exhibit 10) referred to above.  The excerpt contained in item 11 specifically notes that the “Injury Recorded on Claim: Neck” and then records the following submission regarding the document:

Corroborating Documentation of stiff neck from workplace injury (July 8, 2008) – this injury is NOT from the MVA as suggested by CD in Item 32.

[71]         The last column of this spreadsheet is entitled “Proof of:” and is divided into two columns, the first of which is “Upper back/left arm injury”.

[72]         The plaintiff entered “Yes” in this column with respect to Item 11.

[73]         When confronted with this document the plaintiff conceded that when the Workers Compensation Board case manager said that the neck injury was not as a result of the workplace injury but from the motor vehicle accident she disagreed and said ‘no, I injured my neck in the workplace accident’.

[74]         When pressed on this point she advised the court that:

The upper back, to me, includes the neck.

[75]         This evidence was given without the faintest embarrassment or apparent realization that the previous day she had testified that:

When I say upper back I do not mean my neck.

[125]     This is a personal injury action in which the issue is causation.  Simply put the question amounts to this – Was the plaintiff injured or did she have existing injuries or conditions aggravated by the motor vehicle collision on September 30, 2008?

[126]     The evidence presented to the court by the plaintiff is devoid of medical evidence and opinion touching on the issue of causation.

[127]     The only expert opinion placed before the court is that of Dr. McKenzie who first saw the plaintiff some 28 months after the motor vehicle collision.  In providing Dr. McKenzie with the history he used as the foundation of his opinion the plaintiff misrepresented and altered the facts and withheld critical information about her physiotherapy treatments and pre-existing symptomology.

[128]     The effect of her actions destroyed any value of Dr. McKenzie’s opinion…

[139]     The plaintiff’s action is dismissed.

 


“Exaggerated” Injury Claim Dismissed by BC Supreme Court

February 6th, 2014

Update March 10, 2015 – The below decision was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal which found that the trial judge made “palpable and overriding error” in the assessment of the evidence.  A new trial was ordered.

_______________________________________

Credibility plays a vital role when advancing a claim with subjective injuries.  Negative credibility findings can undermine such a claim as was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.

In this week’s case (Pacheco v. Antunovich) the Plaintiff was involved in “a very minor” rear end collision in 2012.  The Court found that the Defendant was “travelling at a speed of no more than two kilometers per hour at the time of the collision“.   The Plaintiff alleged injury and sought over $100,000 in damages at trial.  The Court rejected the entirety of the claim and ordered the Plaintiff to pay the Defendant’s costs.  In reaching this decision the Court was critical of the Plaintiff’s credibility and provided the following reasons:

[10]         The credibility of the plaintiff is very important in a case like this where the foundation for most of the plaintiff’s complaints is subjective. Therefore, it is prudent for me to deal with the issue of credibility.

[11]         The plaintiff was cross-examined on her medical records for the period before the collision. It is clear from those records that the plaintiff attended her doctor on a very regular basis in the months and years preceding the collision. Although the plaintiff testified that she was active in sports before the collision, her medical records seem to indicate that she visited her doctor in relation to ongoing pain and repercussions she claimed she was still suffering from her previous injuries. In fact, one of these visits in which she complained of this type of pain occurred about a month before the collision.

[12]         Another result of the cross-examination of the plaintiff on her medical records was the fact that she previously complained of weight gain and hair loss in September 2010. This is exactly one of the claims she alleges in this action as a result of the collision.

[13]         Further, throughout the trial and at five or ten minute intervals, the plaintiff would stand up from her seat and continuously stretch so that I could “see” the pain she experiences when she sits in one position for a period of time…

[19]         I did not find the plaintiff to be a very credible witness at trial. Her testimony was not reasonable within the circumstances of the very minor “fender bender” in this case. I find that she had a strong penchant for gross exaggeration and, as such, I do not accept her evidence…

25]         I find that the plaintiff has failed to prove on a balance of probabilities that she suffered any injury as a result of the collision. The plaintiff’s action is therefore dismissed with costs.