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 ‘liability’

Martial Arts Student Waiver Held Not To Extend to Injuries Sustained in a Tournament

February 27th, 2019

Post originally published here on my other legal blog combatsportslaw.com 

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Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, allowing a lawsuit against a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor to proceed for injuries a student sustained in a tournament.

In the recent case (Peters v. Soares) the Plaintiff was a student of the defendant’s BJJ academy.  The Plaintiff participated in a tournament where he sustained injury.  He sued for damages alleging his instructor was negligent in allowing him “to compete against a participant in a higher weight class and in a competition where stand up skills were required….(when the plaintiff) had no experience or training in stand up skills“.

As part of the plaintiff’s BJJ membership agreement he signed a waiver agreeing not to sue for injuries “in connection with my participating in the Classes“.  The Defendant argued that this waiver should be upheld and the lawsuit dismissed.  The Court disagreed noting that a waiver must be interpreted as only covering “matters specifically in the contemplation of the parties at the time the release was given“.  Using this test the court found the waiver for injuries in classes could not extent to a tournament.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Matthews provided the following reasons:

[24]         Mr. Soares argues that because Mr. Peters’ claim of negligence is that the defendants knew he had no standing skills training, his claim arises from or is connected with his participation in the classes.

[25]         I do not accept that argument. Mr. Peters’ claim asserts a duty of care owed in relation to the competition, not the classes. While Mr. Peters alleges that Mr. Soares and Carlson Gracie knew his ability and training did not extend to standing skills and standing skills were required for the competition, it is not the training or lack of it that he asserts was negligent; it is inviting him to participate in the competition given what they knew about his training or lack of it. It is likely that at a trial of the negligence issue, Mr. Peters will seek to prove that the defendants’ had knowledge of his lack of standing skills training at least in part because of their interaction during the classes, but that is not the same thing as alleging negligence in relation to or arising from the classes.

[26]         In addition, there is no evidence that the competition was in Mr. Peters’ contemplation at the time he signed the membership agreement, and so there is no factual basis on which to find that Mr. Peters contemplated that the waiver provisions of the membership agreement would apply to the competition. The membership agreement was signed on September 23, 2015. Mr. Peters signed up for the competition on May 13 or 14, 2016, two weeks before he participated in it. There is no evidence that Mr. Peters was aware of or contemplated participating in the competition at the time he signed the membership agreement.

[27]         Mr. Soares has not led evidence that he had the competition in contemplation when Mr. Peters signed the membership agreement. In his affidavit, Mr. Soares described the waiver terms of the membership agreement. All of Mr. Soares’ evidence about the membership agreement and its waiver terms specifically reference the classes. He does not reference the competition at all when deposing about the waiver terms of the membership agreement.

[28]         I find that neither Mr. Peters nor Mr. Soares had the competition in contemplation when Mr. Peters signed the membership agreement.

[29]         The first Tercon inquiry is answered in the negative. The membership agreement waiver does not relate to Mr. Peters’ claim regarding the injuries he allegedly sustained in the competition and so cannot exclude Mr. Peters’ claim.


50/50 Liability Split For Intersection Crash On Amber Light

July 13th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the issue of fault for an intersection crash involving a left hand turning vehicle and a through vehicle on an amber light.

In yesterday’s case (Tan v. Nenadic) the Plaintiff was a passenger on a motorcycle.  There were two designated turn lanes and two through lanes in their direction of travel.  They were travelling in the right hand through lane.  As they approached an intersection their light turned amber.  Vehicles in the lane to their left stopped but the motorcycle continued into the intersection.  At the same time an on-coming BMW was committing a left hand turn resulting in collision.  Mr. Justice Wong found both driver’s equally to blame.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

] Mr. Kwong was driving a black 2001 BMW 330Ci convertible automobile eastbound on 49th Avenue, intending to turn left to go northbound on Boundary to attend his place of employment.  He had entered the intersection, stopped to wait for oncoming traffic to clear, before commencing his left turn.  Oncoming westbound traffic in the left travelling lane came to a stop when the light changed to amber.  It is unclear how many stopped vehicles were in that lane, but at least two to three, possibly more.

[8] Clear visibility of the right westbound travelling lane would likely be obscured by the line of stopped vehicles in the left westbound travelling lane for Mr. Kwong.  Mr. Kwong proceeded to make his left turn in one continuous sweep over the left westbound travelling lane, and proceeded halfway into the right westbound travelling lane, when he was struck by Mr. Nenadic’s motorcycle approaching from the east.  The car and motorcycle collided in the intersection.  The motorcycle went straight into the right front corner of the BMW, throwing Ms. Tan and Mr. Nenadic from the motorcycle.  There was considerable damage to the BMW.  Mr. Kwong apparently did not see Mr. Nenadic’s motorcycle until just before the impact…

[11] Like my late colleague, Mr. Justice Edwards, factually I have also concluded that both defendants were equally at fault.  Mr. Nenadic should have approached the intersection with more caution in order to be able to stop safely.  Mr. Kwong failed to take into account the manifest hazard in the case of Mr. Nenadic’s approaching motorcycle speeding towards him.  Had he paused for a better look before entering the right westbound oncoming lane, instead of casually continuing on, he would have avoided the collision.

[12] Accordingly, all defendants were equally culpable in fault.


Clarity on ICBC Claims Challenging Increased Premiums vs Other Damages Following Collision

July 3rd, 2012

Last week the BC Court of Appeal provided reasons for judgement clarifying in what circumstances a Plaintiff can have separate proceedings to address the issue of increased premiums following a collision versus a tort claim for other damages.  In short the Court held that a separate claim against ICBC for breach of contract or breach of statutory duty (to revisit their division of liability for insurance premium purposes) will not be a barrier to a separate tort claim for damages against the at fault motorist.  However, if a claim is filed against the tortfeasor for damages for increased premiums then a subsequent lawsuit for other damages would be estopped.

In last week’s case (Singh v. Mchatten) the Plaintiff sued another motorist for damages as a result of a motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff succeeded and was awarded damages for his deductible to be returned with a finding the Defendant was liable for the collision.  The Plaintiff then commenced a Supreme Court action for damages for personal injuries sustained in this crash.  The second action was dismissed by the Court of Appeal who found the action was estopped by virtue of the prior litigation.  In doing so the Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[19] The other flaw in the judge’s reasoning lies in her equating the respondent’s motivation in bringing the first action with a cause of action.  The causes of action in the two proceedings are undeniably the same:  damages for negligence.  In order to achieve the respondent’s goal of reversing ICBC’s fault determination and to recover the deductible, it was necessary for the respondent to sue the driver and owner/lessor and prove all the elements of negligence:  duty of care, standard of care, causation and loss.  He would have to repeat the same process in the Supreme Court action in order to recover personal injury damages.

[20] The respondent could have sued ICBC in Small Claims Court without attracting an estoppel defence in the later proceeding.  Those were the circumstances of Innes v. Bui, 2010 BCCA 322.

[21] In that case, Ms. Bui was unhappy with ICBC’s assignment of fault to her in a two-vehicle accident.  She sued ICBC in Small Claims to reverse the determination but decided to substitute Ms. Innes as the defendant.  The judge dismissed the action on the ground that he could not decide whose version of the accident to accept and since Ms. Bui bore the onus of proof on the balance of probabilities, she lost.  Then Ms. Innes sued Ms. Bui for damages in the Supreme Court and met a plea of res judicata which was upheld.  For this Court, Low J.A. reversed the decision and held that no liability determination was made in the first instance and so the doctrine did not apply.  He went on to observe:

[33]      In the Small Claims action, Ms. Innes was the wrong defendant.  She certainly was not a necessary defendant.  That action was not based in tort.  It was either in contract or under statute, or both, and the only issue raised by the pleadings was whether ICBC acted properly or reasonably in administratively assigning responsibility for the collision to Ms. Bui alone.  That was an issue only between Ms. Bui and ICBC.  Ms. Innes apparently had no say about being substituted as the defendant in place of ICBC.  She had no control over the conduct of the action and she had no right of appeal independent of ICBC.  To say that the judgment given in the Small Claims action should have the effect of denying Ms. Innes the opportunity to present her own case stretches the equitable defence of res judicata to limits which, in the interests of justice, the defence should not be taken.  In that action, Ms. Innes did not have her day in court in any real sense.

[34]      On this basis I question whether it is correct to say that the parties, in reality, were the same in the two actions or that any consideration of privy arises.

[35]      In any event, if all the criteria for res judicata were met, I would think that this is a special circumstances case in which the doctrine should not be applied.

[22] In the present case, the judge purported to follow Innes v. Bui.  She concluded her reasons in this way:

[32]      The facts of this case are similar to the facts in Innes v. Bui and Evans v. Campbell [(1993), 77 B.C.L.R. (2d) 211 (C.A.)].  Whether issue estoppel or cause of action estoppel is applicable, at the end of the day the court must determine whether it should exercise its discretion to bar the action by reason of res judicata or whether there are exceptional or special circumstances that should apply.

[33]      I find that all of the criteria necessary for cause of action estoppel or issue estoppel have not been met.  If I am wrong, there are special circumstances not to apply res judicata for to do so would cause a real injustice to the plaintiff.  The plaintiff has not had his day in court on his claim for damages for personal injuries arising out of the accident.  It may be that the issue of liability is res judicata, but the application was not argued on that basis.  Rather, it is argued that the plaintiff should have brought his claim for personal injuries at the same time he brought his action in Small Claims Court.  In certain circumstances that may be correct but only if the claim can be brought within the monetary limit of Small Claims Court.  However, the fact remains that the plaintiff’s claim for damages for personal injuries has never been before a court and considered.  To dismiss the plaintiff’s claim at this stage of the litigation would be denying the plaintiff an opportunity to be heard on that issue and unjust.

[23] With respect, Innes v. Bui, is not similar to the case at bar but is its mirror opposite.  The Small Claims action in this case is not framed in terms of contract or breach of statutory duty against ICBC but in negligence against alleged tortfeasors…

[29] For these reasons, I would allow the appeal, set aside the order below, and dismiss the action.

You can click here to read my comments on the BC Court of Appeal’s previous decision of Innes v. Bui.


Crashes and Winter Driving Conditions: Take Care to Be Accurate When Calling ICBC

January 16th, 2012

With the first heavy snow of 2012 hitting the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria comes the expected increase in motor vehicle collisions.  With this in mind I’m republishing a post I originally wrote in the early days of this blog reminding injured passengers of the consequences of minimizing details of wrongdoing when reporting a collision to ICBC:

Snow in BC has two reliable results 1. Car Accidents, 2. Phone calls to ICBC and lawyers about those car accidents. The second is particularly true in Victoria and Vancouver because of the local populations relative inexperience dealing with winter driving conditions.

In anticipation of the almost certain phone calls I will receive this week I write this post.

If you are the driver involved in a single vehicle accident in British Columbia, and you lost control due to the weather, all you can likely claim from ICBC are Part 7 Benefits. There is (except in some unusually peculiar situations such as an ICBC insured driver contributing to the road hazards) in all likelihood no claim from ICBC for pain and suffering and other losses in these circumstances.  Your right to claim pain and suffering and other “tort” damages only arises if someone else is at fault for your injuries. In single vehicle accidents drivers usually only have themselves or the weather to blame.

If someone else contributed to the accident (perhaps the road maintenance company for failing to act in a timely fashion or perhaps a mechanic for failing to bring your vehicle up to snuff last time you had it inspected) you will have to make a claim against them. Chances are they are not insured through ICBC for such claims and instead you will have to claim against their policy of private insurance.

Now, if you are a passenger in a single vehicle, weather related accident, and your driver did not operate the vehicle safely in all the circumstances (for example driving too fast for the known or anticipated poor road conditions) and this caused or contributed to the collision then you can bring a tort claim against them in addition to claiming your Part 7 Benefits.

If you are advancing a tort claim against a driver be weary of the defence of “inevitable accident”. ICBC defends claims. One of the best defences to a weather related accident is that it was “inevitable”. What this means is that the driver, operating safely, could not have avoided losing control of his vehicle. If this can be proven then the tort claim can be defeated.

People naturally don’t want to get those known to them in trouble and it is all too common for passengers reporting such a claim to ICBC to readily agree to how unexpected the accident was and how the driver was operating the vehicle very carefully. If this is true that’s fine. My words of caution are as follows: If the driver was not careful and you give ICBC the alternate impression with a view towards helping the driver out, your statement may severely damage your ability to bring a tort claim.

Tell the truth and know what’s at stake when doing so. If ICBC gets the false impression that an accident was inevitable you will have a much harder time advancing or settling your tort claim.
The bottom line is this: If an accident truly is inevitable and there is no tort claim so be it, but, don’t lead ICBC to this conclusion if it isn’t true. Doing so will harm your claim for lawful compensation.


Driver Fully Liable Following Passenger Ejection From Box of Pick Up Truck

November 3rd, 2011

The BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement this week assessing a driver 100% at fault for serious injuries to a passenger who was ejected from the box of his pick-up truck.

In this week’s case (Vedan v. Stevens) the Defendant driver allowed 4 children sit in the box of his pick-up truck.  The 12 year old Plaintiff was one of these children.  In the course of the trip the defendant ”first became aware of a problem when he heard pounding on the cab of his truck…he stopped the truck and determined that one of the children, the plaintiff, was no longer in the truck box. He looked back and could see the plaintiff lying in the middle of the road“.

The Court heard no evidence as to how the Plaintiff came to fall out.   At trial the motorist was found at fault for negligently allowing the Plaintiff to ride in the box.  The Plaintiff was also found 25% at fault with the Court concluding that the Plaintiff “must have at least moved from a seated position” in being ejected.  The Plaintiff appealed this finding arguing there was no evidence to support this conclusion.  The BC Court of Appeal agreed and placed 100% of the blame on the motorist.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[14] A plaintiff must take reasonable care for his or her own safety. The question when considering reasonable conduct by children is whether the child exercised the care to be expected from a child of like age, intelligence and experience. (Ottosen v. Kasper (1986), 37 C.C.L.T. 270 at 275; McEllistrum v. Etches [1956] S.C.R. 787 at 793).

[15] In this case, we do not know why Inquala stood up or even if he stood up voluntarily. As already noted, no one gave evidence about how Inquala left the back of the truck – whether he got up himself and fell out, whether he was bounced out, whether he was pushed out, whether a wasp was buzzing around him, or whether the other children were harassing him and he had to move. There was no evidence of the circumstances that caused him to get up from his seated position and, therefore, there is no basis for a finding that Inquala did not take reasonable care for his safety. Such a finding is based on speculation.

[16] In my respectful view, there was no foundation in the evidence upon which the trial judge could reasonably infer that Inquala was contributorily negligent. This conclusion is a palpable and overriding error, with which we may interfere.

[17] I would allow the appeal, set aside the part of the order which found Inquala contributorily negligent, and assess liability to Mr. Stevens at 100%.


$125,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for TBI – Adverse Inference Discussed

August 17th, 2011

Update March 21, 2014 – the Liability findings in the below case were upheld today by the  BC Court of Appeal

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Adding to this site’s ICBC Case Summary Archives, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages for a traumatic brain injury sustained in a BC vehicle collision.

In this week’s case (Meghji v. Lee) the Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle while walking in a marked cross-walk in 2003.  Both the Defendant driver and BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways were found at fault for the crash.  The former for failing to keep a proper lookout while driving, the latter for designing the intersection at question with inadequate overhead lighting.  The driver was found 90% at fault with the Ministry shouldering 10% of the blame.

The Plaintiff suffered a fracture near her left shoulder, left elbow, ankle, knee and a traumatic brain injury.   The consequences of these were expected to cause permanent dysfunction.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $125,000 Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[134]Mr. Lee struck Ms. Meghji on her left side. That caused a significant fracture to Ms. Meghji’s left upper arm, a less significant fracture just below and into her left knee and an injury to her left ankle, all of which required immediate medical intervention. There were also the soft tissue injuries that would reasonably be expected to accompany such trauma.

[135]Within a day of the accident, Ms. Meghji had surgery to her left upper arm that involved the insertion of a rod that was fixed by screws just below her shoulder and just above her left elbow. She also had a screw placed into her left ankle…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[270]Based upon the evidence of Dr. Ali and Mr. Brozak of the substantial change noted in Ms. Meghji during this time, as supported by similar observations from Ms. Chauncey’s and Ms. Wyeth’s description of Ms. Meghji’s abilities in her math class and as a teaching assistant before the accident, I conclude that Ms. Meghji has more likely than not suffered a brain injury in the accident, and that the combination of the effects of the brain injury and the depression and chronic pain disorder, which I also find was caused by the accident or flows from injuries suffered in the accident, are so inextricably intertwined that they cannot possibly be disentangled.

[271]In all of the circumstances, the defendants are ordered to pay Ms. Meghji $125,000 for non-pecuniary damages for pain, suffering, and loss of amenities and enjoyment of life.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s application of the ‘adverse inference’ principle.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff’s lawyers had her assessed by a neurologist.  The neurologist did not tender evidence at trial.  Mr. Justice Johnston used his discretion to draw an adverse inference in these circumstances finding that the privately hired doctor likely did not have helpful evidence to give in support of the Plaintiff’s claim.  The court provided the following reasons:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[240]In ordinary circumstances, I would agree that a claim of litigation privilege should be sufficient explanation for the failure to produce evidence from an expert who examined a party, and no inference adverse to that party should be drawn from the failure to produce the evidence.

[241]However, where, as here, counsel has assumed control of medical management of a plaintiff’s injuries, the circumstances are not ordinary.

[242]Dr. Grimwood would ordinarily have been expected to coordinate Ms. Meghji’s treatment, including referrals to specialists as he thought advisable. In this case, Dr. Grimwood appears to have largely ceded that responsibility to Ms. Meghji’s counsel, largely because counsel were able to arrange examinations by medical specialists much sooner than could Dr. Grimwood.

[243]Where counsel becomes actively involved in arranging treatment, or in treatment decisions, or in selection of treatment providers to the extent that it becomes difficult or impossible to determine whether any particular doctor is involved for treatment purposes, or to advise counsel, the protective cloak of litigation privilege becomes tattered.

[244]In such circumstances, counsel and the party who permit the line between treating physicians and physicians retained to advise counsel to become blurred must accept some risk that the protection ordinarily afforded by litigation privilege might be lost.

[245]Ms. Meghji testified that she saw Dr. Cameron for headaches. In the face of that evidence, I infer, from the refusal to produce evidence from Dr. Cameron, that any opinion generated as a result of his examination of Ms. Meghji was not helpful to the claims she makes in this trial. I also infer that, while examining for headache, had Dr. Cameron observed any signs that suggested to him that Ms. Meghji had suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, his observations or opinion would have been produced at trial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


When Servient Motorists Become Dominant

July 2nd, 2011

Section 175 of the Motor Vehicle Act addresses when a motorist faced with a stop sign gains the right of way when crossing a highway.   In short, motorists faced with a stop sign can enter an intersection after stopping provided that approaching traffic is not “so close that it constitutes an immediate hazard“.  Once a motorist complies with this requirement and “proceeds with caution” into the intersection they gain the right of way and approaching traffic must yield the right of way.

Anyone who has spent any time on the road knows that this reversal of the right of way is not always honoured by motorists.  However, failure to follow section 175 of the Motor Vehicle Act can not only lead to a moving violation, but also to a significant apportionment of fault following a collision.  This was discussed in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Court of Appeal.

In last week’s case (Lutley v. Southern) the Defendant (Appellant) was attempting to cross Oak Street in Vancouver, BC.  The Defendant was travelling on 67th Avenue.  She had a stop sign in her direction of travel.  At the intersection Oak Street had 6 lanes of travel.  The Plaintiff (Respondent) was travelling in the lane furthest away from where the Defendant entered the intersection.  As the Plaintiff approached the intersection she was faced with a flashing green light.  Neither party saw each other’s vehicle until it was too late and a collision occurred.

(Accident Reconstruction Software courtesy of SmartDraw)

At trial both parties were found at fault with a 60/40 split of liability in the Plaintiff’s favour.  The Defendant appealed arguing the Plaintiff should have shouldered more than 40% of the blame.  The BCCA dismissed the Appeal finding that while there was a range of acceptable outcomes in apportioning blame there was no error in law in the trial judge’s assessment.  There was, however, a strong dissent written by Mr. Justice Chiasson stating as follows:

[48] The respondent was under a positive obligation to be able to stop before entering the intersection.  She was unable to do so.   The appellant was lawfully in the intersection and entitled to the right of way.  The respondent was passing stopped vehicles on her left with clear knowledge of potential danger at the intersection.  On the evidence of the respondent and Mr. Nagy, it is apparent that the appellant had been in the intersection for some time.  The respondent gave various estimates of how long the 67th Avenue light had been green (from four to six seconds; it turned green when she was approximately three normal city blocks away; there was ample time for a pedestrian or motor vehicle to traverse the intersection). The appellant had no indication that there was a vehicle in the curb lane or that the respondent would enter the intersection in complete disregard of her statutory obligations.

[49] Lane six presented a new danger to the appellant. While in my view her speed through the intersection was not inappropriate, she testified that she did not slow down before entering lane six.  The judge rejected her evidence that she looked up the lane and he concluded both vehicles were, at that point, travelling too quickly.  Had the appellant slowed it is possible that she may have seen the respondent, although this also may have placed her into a position where the collision would have been more serious.

[50] While a dominant driver is entitled to assume servient drivers will obey the rules of the road, a dominant driver cannot act unrealistically.  It is an unfortunate reality that servient drivers like the respondent do disregard their obligations and dominant drivers cannot ignore that fact.  A dominant driver passing through an intersection who is confronted with a new risk – a seemingly empty curb lane the view of which is obstructed – must proceed with some caution.

[51] An appellate court rarely will interfere with a trial judge’s apportionment of liability (MacDonald (litigation guardian of) v. Goertz, 2009 BCCA 358, para. 58), but will do so if the judge has made a palpable and overriding error of fact, misapprehended the evidence or erred in principle.  It is an error of law not to take into account the fact a party was the dominant driver (Bedwell v. McGill, 2008 BCCA 6, para. 59) or to fail to recognize the significance of a servient driver’s negligence (Gautreau v. Hollige, 2000 BCCA 390, para. 18; quoted in Bedwell)

[52] In my view, the trial judge erred in law by failing to conclude that the appellant was lawfully in the intersection and had the right of way and in failing to address the onerous responsibility of the respondent. The respondent was passing on the right of stopped vehicles, was the servient driver and obliged to yield the right of way to the appellant and was entering an intersection with a flashing green light with the obligation to be able to stop her vehicle before entering the intersection.  I would place the majority of fault on the respondent and would apportion liability 85% against her and 15% against the appellant.


Servient Driver Found 100% at Fault for Intersection Collision

June 7th, 2011

Reasons for Judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the issue of fault for an intersection collision.

In today’s case (Minosky v. Brar) the motorists were involved in a two vehicle collision.  They both claimed the other was at fault and both sued each other.  Both trials were heard at the same time.

The collision occurred at the intersection of 121st Street and 64th Avenue in Surrey, BC.  The Minosky vehicle was heading northbound on 121st.  He was faced with a stop sign.  The Brar vehicle was heading in the ‘fast’ eastbound through lane on 64th.  As the Minosky vehicle attempted to drive through the intersection he struck the Brar vehicle.

Madam Justice Brown found the Minosky vehicle 100% at fault for the collision for failing to yield the right of way and not complying with the duty set out in s. 175 of the Motor Vehicle Act.  In coming to this conclusion the Court provided the following useful reasons:

[8] I conclude that the Brar vehicle was much closer than Mr. Minosky believed it to be when he left the intersection.  It was an immediate hazard.  Ms. Brar was not speeding and was attending to traffic.  She had no opportunity to stop and avoid the collision.

[9] Mr. Minosky argues that, based on Ms. Brar’s estimates of speed and distance, Ms. Brar would have had ample opportunity to avoid Mr. Minosky’s vehicle if she saw him moving out from the stop sign.  Mr. Minosky argues that Ms. Brar said that she was some two to five car lengths from Mr. Minosky when she concluded that he wasn’t going to stop.  Had this been so, she would have travelled by Mr. Minosky before he had an opportunity to enter her lane of travel.

[10] This argument places too much weight on Ms. Brar’s estimates of distance.  When she first concluded that Mr. Minosky was not going to stop, it would have been an emergency situation.  She said she slammed on her brakes and honked, but was not able to avoid the collision.  In these circumstances, I do not expect that a person would be able to measure with precision the distance between her vehicle and the vehicle with which she was about to collide.  I give little weight to Ms. Brar’s estimates of distance.  Many people are poor judges of distance.  However, I do accept her evidence of how the collision happened.

[11] Section 175 of the Motor Vehicle Act places the burden on Mr. Minosky to yield to traffic that is approaching so closely that it constitutes an immediate hazard.  Mr. Minosky has not satisfied me that he yielded as required.  Rather, I have concluded that when he entered the intersection, the Brar vehicle was an immediate hazard.  I find that Mr. Minosky is 100% at fault.


Leave to Appeal In Bradley Denied; Welcome Certainty for Indivisible Injury Compensation

May 11th, 2011

In an ICBC Claim decided last year the BC Court of Appeal simplified the approach for compensation for indivisible injuries caused by multiple events.  ICBC sought to overturn this decision and recently the Supreme Court of Canada refused leave (meaning they decided not to hear the case putting an end to the appeal).  For the sake of convenience here are the Court of Appeals key reasons explaining how indivisible injuries should be treated in British Columbia:

[32]        There can be no question that Athey requires joint and several liability for indivisible injuries.  Once a trial judge has concluded as a fact that an injury is indivisible, then the tortfeasors are jointly liable to the plaintiff.  They can still seek apportionment (contribution and indemnity) from each other, but absent contributory negligence, the plaintiff can claim the entire amount from any of them.

[33]        The approach to apportionment in Long v. Thiessen is therefore no longer applicable to indivisible injuries.  The reason is that Long v. Thiessen pre-supposes divisibility: Longrequires courts to take a single injury and divide it up into constituent causes or points in time, and assess damages twice; once on the day before the second tort, and once at trial.  Each defendant is responsible only for their share of the injury and the plaintiff can recover only the appropriate portion from each tortfeasor.

[34]        That approach is logically incompatible with the concept of an indivisible injury.  If an injury cannot be divided into distinct parts, then joint liability to the plaintiff cannot be apportioned either.  It is clear that tortfeasors causing or contributing to a single, indivisible injury are jointly liable to the plaintiff.  This in no way restricts the tortfeasors’ right to apportionment as between themselves under the Negligence Act, but it is a matter of indifference to the plaintiff, who may claim the entire amount from any defendant.

[35]        This is not a case of this Court overturning itself, because aspects of Long v. Thiessen were necessarily overruled by the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in Athey,E.D.G., and Blackwater.  Other courts have also come to this same conclusion: see Misko v. Doe, 2007 ONCA 660, 286 D.L.R. (4th) 304 at para. 17.

[36]        It may be that this represents an extension of pecuniary liability for consecutive or concurrent tortfeasors who contribute to an indivisible injury.  We do not think it can be said that the Supreme Court of Canada was unmindful of that consequence.  Moreover, apportionment legislation can potentially remedy injustice to defendants by letting them claim contribution and indemnity as against one another.

[37]        We are also unable to accept the appellant’s submission that “aggravation” and “indivisibility” are qualitatively different, and require different legal approaches.  If a trial judge finds on the facts of a particular case that subsequent tortious action has merged with prior tortious action to create an injury that is not attributable to one particular tortfeasor, then a finding of indivisibility is inevitable.  That one tort made worse what another tort created does not automatically implicate a thin or crumbling skull approach (as in Blackwater), if the injuries cannot be distinguished from one another on the facts.  Those doctrines deal with finding the plaintiff’s original position, not with apportioning liability.  The first accident remains a cause of the entire indivisible injury suffered by the plaintiff under the “but for” approach to causation endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 333.  As noted by McLachlin C.J.C. in that case, showing that there are multiple causes for an injury will not excuse any particular tortfeasor found to have caused an injury on a “but-for” test, as “there is more than one potential cause in virtually all litigated cases of negligence” (at para. 19).  It may be that in some cases, earlier injury and later injury to the same region of the body are divisible.  While it will lie for the trial judge to decide in the circumstances of each case, it is difficult to see how the worsening of a single injury could be divided up.


Plaintiff Unsuccessfully Sues for Being Run Over By Car While Cleaning It

April 21st, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, dismissing a personal injury lawsuit with a fairly unusual fact pattern.

In this week’s case (Biggan v. Fall) the plaintiff by counterclaim was employed as a housekeeper.  She was asked to clean her employers car so it could be prepared for sale.  The circumstances of the incident were as follows:

[8] She parked the car on the driveway and said she felt the rear wheels come in contact with the rock or piece of firewood.  She put the manual transmission in first gear, applied the hand brake and got out.  The car has an alarm system which sounds if the keys are left in the ignition, and as a result of hearing the chimes, she reached in, took the keys from the ignition, and placed them on the seat of the car.  She then started to walk back to the house to get some cleaning equipment.  She walked behind the car and as she did so, she noticed it was starting to roll backwards.  She moved out of the way and the car continued rolling backwards down the driveway towards the road.  Ms. Fall does not recall anything that happened after that point.

[9] When the car reached the Shawnigan-Mill Bay Road, it collided with the vehicles driven by Biggan and Leask.  The Biggan and Leask vehicles then collided with each other.  Although Ms. Fall does not recall doing so, it is apparent she ran beside the Scott vehicle as it rolled down the driveway.  A witness to the accident, Mr. Brian Mellings, observed her running beside the car and saw her become involved in the collision.  She somehow ended up under the Biggan vehicle and she suffered serious injuries.

She claimed the vehicle owner was liable for the crash pursuant to the Occupiers Liability Act.  Mr. Justice Bracken disagreed and dismissed the claim.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[29] Ms. Fall says the Scotts, as occupiers of the premises, owed her a duty to take reasonable care to ensure she was reasonably safe in using the premises.  She argues the risk of the car rolling down the driveway and her action in running beside it in an attempt to gain control of the car was a foreseeable risk of moving the vehicle out onto the driveway in the first place.  Ms. Fall says the risk of the accident occurring as it did was a reasonably foreseeable risk that should have been anticipated by the Scotts and they are therefore liable for failing to warn her not to use or move the vehicle:  Rendell v. Ewert (1989), 38 B.C.L.R. (2d) 1 and Chretien v. Jensen, [1998] B.C.J. No. 2938…

[46] There is nothing to suggest either Lloyd Scott or Stewart Scott were aware of any defect in the motor vehicle, nor is there any evidence to establish that there was any defect in the vehicle that could have caused it to roll backwards down the driveway.  Finally, in reacting as she did by attempting to follow the vehicle down the driveway, she assumed all risk of the injury that in fact resulted.

[47] I am not able to find any breach of their duties under the Occupiers Liability Act by the Scotts and the action on Ms. Fall’s counterclaim is dismissed.  The Scotts are entitled to their costs.