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 ‘Master Caldwell’

Bare Assertion of Contemplated Litigation Does Not “Cloak Investigation” In Privilege

August 7th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing the merits of a claim for litigation privilege.

In today’s case (Buettner v. Gatto) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and advanced a claim for damages.  The Plaintiff retained counsel.  Liability was initially admitted and then denied by ICBC.  The Plaintiff brought an application for production of various relevant documents and ICBC refused disclosure on the grounds that litigation was reasonably contemplated once Plaintiff counsel was assigned.

The Court rejected this finding this position was based on little more than a bare assertion.  In ordering production of the requested documents Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:

[31]         If this argument is correct, all that any or all adjusters must do in any or all motor vehicle cases is determine, at the instant that the incident is reported, that he or she is going to deny liability and/or the presence of damages without the need to show any basis or accountability for such decision. Having done so, that will virtually ensure that litigation will be required to resolve any claim for loss. Thereafter, having created the virtual certainty of litigation, the defence will be able to reasonably argue that any and all investigations done from the instant that the incident is reported is for the dominant purpose of the conduct of the litigation which they ensured by the arbitrary denial of fault or damage.

[32]         In my respectful view this circular argument runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Hamalainen case, the numerous cases which were cited in and followed by Hamalainen and the numerous cases which have cited and have followed Hamalainen. It runs counter to the stated object of our Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009, the securing of the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits. It runs counter to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Blank v. Canada (Minister of Justice), 2006 SCC 39 and its findings at paras. 60 and 61 where it comments in affirming the dominant purpose test and the role of litigation privilege, that:

The dominant purpose test is more compatible with the contemporary trend favouring increased disclosure.

And,

The modern trend is in the direction of complete discovery and there is no apparent reason to inhibit that trend so long as counsel is left with sufficient flexibility to adequately serve the litigation client

And finally,

While the solicitor-client privilege has been strengthened, reaffirmed and elevated in recent years, the litigation privilege has had, on the contrary, to weather the trend toward mutual and reciprocal disclosure which is the hallmark of the judicial process.

[33]         Inherent in the reasonable prospect/dominant purpose test must be the expectation or requirement that there be at least some evidence of bona fides, due diligence or accountability on the part of the party seeking to rely on the prospect of litigation, which was created by their own actions, to support their claim of litigation privilege. Absent such requirement the test itself becomes meaningless. This is particularly of concern where, as here, the same insurer provides coverage for both parties and, presumably, owes each a duty of some form of meaningful investigation and determination of facts before reaching a decision on an issue as important as fault or liability for a motor vehicle accident.

[34]         I find that there is no evidentiary basis provided to support the decision of Ms. Hilliam to deny liability. Her unsupported decision cannot be used as justification for her to conduct a proper investigation into the facts of this motor vehicle accident while cloaking that investigation in a claim of litigation privilege. The time line and analysis of the court in Hamalainen is applicable to this case and to the evidence here, save as to the assertions of Ms. Hilliam which I reject. As in Hamalainen, the claim of litigation privilege regarding documents 4.7 to 4.12 inclusive, which documents were created prior to the June 17, 2013 form letter communicating the denial of liability, fails and all such documents are ordered produced forthwith and unredacted.


Private MRI Obtained for Diagnositic Puroses Producable in Injury Litigation

May 13th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, ordering a plaintiff to disclose the results of a private MRI to defendants.

In today’s case (Prothero v. Togeretz) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff’s physician wished for the Plaintiff to have an MRI and asked that this be obtained privately to expedite matters.  ICBC refused to pay for this service so the Plaintiff arranged to do so privately.  The Plaintiff did produce the MRI images arguing these were privileged.  The Court disagreed and ordered them to be produced.  In reaching this decision Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:

[10]         On the material before me I am unable to agree with plaintiff counsel’s assertion of litigation privilege or solicitor’s brief privilege. It appears clear on the material that the MRI was requested by Dr. Fernandes as part of his course of investigation and treatment of the plaintiff for injuries resulting from the motor vehicle accident; he then obtained the results and referred the plaintiff to a specialist for further assistance in diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Mutat was a treating doctor at the time this took place and only took on the role of expert at a later date when approached by plaintiff’s counsel.

[11]         In the result, the MRI disk is producible and is ordered produced; it came into existence for diagnostic and treatment purposes at the request of Dr. Fernandes, not for litigation purposes at the instance of plaintiff’s counsel. In this regard it would seem that the cost of the MRI will be addressable as a special damage matter relating to medically necessary investigation and treatment rather than as a disbursement in the litigation however that will remain to be determined in the fullness of time.

 


Witness Name and Statement Ordered Disclosed

December 24th, 2013

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, ordering that the name and statement of a witness be disclosed in the course of litigation.

In this week’s case (Derksen v. Canada Safeway Limited) the Plaintiff alleged injury following an incident on the Defendant’s premises.  She sued for damages.  In the course of the claim a liability claims examiner retained by the Defendant obtained a statement from a witness who “claimed to have information regarding the plaintiff and her claim“.  The Defendant did not share this document claiming litigation privilege.  Master Caldwell disagreed finding the statement, along with the name of the witness, needs to be disclosed.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following brief reasons:

[14]         The remaining issue involves a statement provided to Ms. Freestone by an unnamed individual on April 11, 2012. According to Ms. Freestone, she was contacted by this person who claimed to have information regarding the plaintiff and her claim. An interview was arranged and a transcript created. The defence now claims that the interview was done and the statement created solely for the purpose of litigation.

[15]         There is no property in a witness, particularly a lay witness. Based upon the material before me, the individual has potentially relevant, potentially controversial information, about the plaintiff and her claim. The statement provided by this lay witness may well form an important part of cross examination. Failure to disclose such a statement denies plaintiff the opportunity to investigate the allegations contained therein and to challenge the veracity and motives of the informant.

[16]         No authority was cited to me to support the defence position of privilege as regards the statement and the identity of the witness.

[17]         The defendants are ordered to produce to counsel for the plaintiff an unredacted copy of the statement dated April 11, 2012 which has been listed as privileged item 4.3 of the defendants’ List of Documents.


“Investigative Stage” Trumps Claim to Litigation Privilege Regarding Quantum of Damages Investigation

August 7th, 2013

I’ve previously discussed the difficulty ICBC has trying to withhold documents in a personal injury lawsuit based on their ‘investigative’ responsibilities.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this topic.

In this week’s case (Spenst v. Reemeyer) the Plaintiff alleged injury s a result of a motor vehicle/pedestrian incident which occurred in 2010.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC denied liability on behalf of the motorist.  ICBC refused to produce two ‘investigative reports’ they commissioned arguing these were protected by litigation privilege.  Master Caldwell found the evidence ICBC produced in support of their claim fell short of the mark to obtain the protection of privilege and ordered production of the documents.  After summarizing the legal principles involved Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:

[12]         In short, the determination as to whether litigation is contemplated as a reasonable prospect is not merely subjective and arbitrary but rather must be objective and based upon reasonable information obtained by appropriate investigation.

[13]         What does the evidence before me reveal when viewed in the light of the above tests?

[14]         First, I have absolutely no evidence from that adjuster who apparently had conduct of the file for the first 18 months.  I am not told whether or not any investigations were undertaken during that time as to either the issue of liability or the extent of damages.  Plaintiff’s counsel submitted, and defence counsel did not dispute, that no denial of liability was ever communicated to the plaintiff prior to the delivery of the Response to Civil Claim.

[15]         Second, Ms. Roach notes that the plaintiff retained counsel.  Plaintiffs have a right to obtain legal advice, including legal advice regarding their rights and responsibilities arising out of motor vehicle or personal injury matters. Consultation with counsel is not a direct or even reasonable guarantee that one is on the road to active litigation; the involvement of counsel may well enhance the possibility of resolution short of trial.

[16]         Third, Ms. Roach says that she only handles claims that are being litigated or are likely to be litigated and thus she determined that since the file was transferred to her it would be litigated.  Strangely however, Ms. Roach, in her own correspondence of May 8, 2012 (the day she commissioned the investigations/reports) wrote to plaintiff’s counsel:

To minimize costs, I will work with you to conclude this matter as quickly as possible.  If it is determined that your client is entitled to compensation, I will be prepared to release settlement funds only when the entire claim, including taxable costs and disbursements, has been resolved and the necessary release documentation completed.  I look forward to working with you on this matter.

[17]         At the time Ms. Roach wrote this conciliatory letter referencing concluding the matter, entitlement to compensation and settlement funds in response to a similarly conciliatory letter of introduction from plaintiff’s counsel, action had not yet been commenced, no position on liability had been taken and there is no evidence that any substantive investigation or even basic inquiry had been undertaken regarding any aspect of the plaintiff’s claim.  The mere arbitrary assertion that this file is likely to go to litigation because this adjuster handles only litigation files and she had decided it would go to litigation is not objectively defensible on the evidence before me.

[18]         Fourth, Ms. Roach says that the end of the limitation period was approaching and, by implication, litigation would have to be commenced.  What this assertion fails to recognize is that there is a significant difference between the commencement of an action in order to protect against the expiry of a limitation period and the active conduct of litigation.  In her May 8 correspondence, Ms. Roach expressly confirmed that her letter was not “a waiver or extension of any applicable limitation”.  In order for any legitimate, even-handed settlement discussions to take place, as invited by her letter, it was necessary for plaintiff’s counsel to preserve the plaintiff’s right to claim at law for her alleged injuries in the event that negotiations failed.

[19]         Counsel for the defendant advised in submissions that the investigative reports were obtained not on the issue of liability but rather on the issue of quantum of damages.  There was no evidence in the material to support that submission and counsel failed to indicate why that distinction would make a material difference in regard to the investigation/dominant purpose assessment.

[20]         The evidence before me fails to objectively establish to any certainty that the reports which were commissioned and which are sought by the plaintiff were commissioned for any purpose other than for basic investigation of the plaintiff’s claim.  There is no evidence to indicate that the adjusters had undertaken any type of earlier investigation to determine whether there was a reasonable, objective basis upon which liability should be denied or quantum questioned.  The reports are ordered produced forthwith.


Privileged Report Detrimental To Plaintiff’s Claim Declared Reasonable Disbursement

July 15th, 2013

Just because a medico-legal report proves harmful to a Plaintiff’s claim does not make the costs of obtaining the report, in and of itself, an unreasonable disbursement.  Reasons for judgment were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, demonstrating this.

In last week’s case (White v. Reich) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  He sustained a chronic knee injury which impacted his ability to work.  The Plaintiff had a history series of heart problems which also impacted his choice of working in remote locations.   His treating cardiologist did not wish to be involved in litigation and the Plaintiff retained an independent physician to address this issue.  Ultimately the independent physician provided an opinion which was detrimental to the Plaintiff’s litigation interests indicating “that the heart condition was in no way related to the motor vehicle accident and that in any event, if the plaintiff were to follow a regime of rehabilitation and medication he could seriously reduce the risk of further heart problems.  In short, the evidence established that with proper actions, there was no physical reason for the plaintiff not to return to his Northern Alberta position.”

The Plaintiff claimed privilege over this report and it was not exchanged with defence counsel.  The matter settled prior to trial.   The Defendant argued the disbursement associated with this report was unreasonable.  Master Caldwell disagreed finding simply because the report was ultimately unhelpful to the Plaintiff’s claim the decision to explore the issue was reasonable.  In allowing the disbursement the Court provided the following reasons:

[19]         The applicable legal principles were canvassed and summarized recently by Master MacNaughton in Turner v. Whittaker, 2013 BCSC 712 at para. 5.  In particular it is noted that the test is not one of hindsight and that a proper disbursement may be one which is ultimately not necessary but which was reasonably incurred for the purposes of the proceeding.

[20]         In this regard, counsel for the defendant acknowledged that if the report had determined that the most recent heart problems had been caused by or contributed to by the accident and that that was the cause of the plaintiff’s being unable to return to work, there would be no question that the report was not only reasonable and proper but in fact necessary to the proper conduct of the litigation.

[21]         In all of the circumstances, I am of the view that the course of investigation with Dr. Isserow, which culminated in and included his report, was reasonable and proper at the time that it was undertaken and accordingly the disbursements which relate to Dr. Isserow are allowed as presented.


Consolidation of Trials Not Appropriate With Multiple Quantum of Damage Assessments

March 26th, 2013

Although the BC Supreme Court has discretion to consolidate different claims for trial in cases where competing claims are “so interwoven as to make separate trials at different times before different judges undesirable” this is a discretion rarely exercised when there are separate plaintiffs with distinct injury claims that require individual quantification.  This reality was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.

In this week’s case (MacMillan v. Shannon) 4 occupants of a vehicle were involved in a collision with another vehicle   All sued for damages in separate claims.  Liability and damages were disputed in all claims.  ICBC brought an application seeking to have all trials heard together.  This application was dismissed with the key factor in derailing the application being the individual quantum claims being advanced.  In addressing this point Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:

[8]             Finally, other than on the issue of liability, no one is arguing that there will be a significant or any saving on the presentation of expert evidence. Each of the plaintiffs has a different family doctor. Two of the plaintiffs now live in Quebec so if there is any further expert evidence it is unlikely to overlap and may have to be provided by way of teleconferencing to minimize expense. Again, it is clear that there are ways of reducing complexity, duplication and inconvenience; it will be up to counsel to determine whether that happens or not.

[9]             In short, I am of the view that none of the second arm of tests arising in the Merritt case (supra) or the subsequent case of Bhinder v. 470248 B.C. Ltd., 2007 BCSC 805 is met in the present cases. The application for consolidation and related relief is dismissed as is the application for removal of any or all of the actions from Rule 15-1 fast track.


Advance Payment Orders and Adjournment Applications

October 17th, 2012

In 2009 the BC Court of Appeal made it clear that the BC Supreme Court has no authority to make a stand-alone order for an advance payment of damages and any advance payment order must piggy-back another order relying on Rule 13-1(19).

When faced with an order adjourning an injury trial where liability is admitted that is a good time to seek an advance payment order.  If, for whatever reason such an order cannot be spoken to at the time of adjournment, it is a good practice to seek leave that as part of the adjournment a plaintiff has permission to bring an advance payment application at a later time.  Such a practice was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.

In this week’s case (Estey v. Bateson) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  The matter was set down for trial but was ultimately adjourned.  At the time the Plaintiff had the foresight to seek an order granting leave to apply for an advance as a term of the adjournment     Ultimately a $15,000 advance was ordered and the Court provided the following summary of the legal principles to be considered:

1]             The plaintiff applies for an advance of $35,000 on his claim for damages relating to a motor vehicle accident which occurred on August 16, 2008 and for costs thrown away as a result of the adjournment.

[2]             Liability has been admitted and the trial, which was set to commence on February 13, 2012 for 10 days, was adjourned on that date by Fitzpatrick J.; at the time of the adjournment leave was granted to the plaintiff to apply for an advance and for costs thrown away…

[5]             Master Keighley considered the issue of the jurisdiction to order an advance other than as a term of an adjournment in the case of Cikojevic v. Timm, 2007 BCSC 1689 and found that such jurisdiction does exist. In addition, I rely upon the order of Fitzpatrick J. which expressly granted the plaintiff liberty to make such application in this particular case.

[6]             The court has a discretionary authority to order that an advance be paid but such order should only be made in special circumstances and only if the judge or master is satisfied that there is no possibility that the ultimate award of damages will be less than the amount of the advance: see Serban v. Casselman, [1995] B.C.J. No. 254 (B.C.C.A.) and Cikojevic v. Timm, 2008 BCSC 74. Two of the considerations which the court must address are the length of time which will pass until trial and whether the delay will cause the plaintiff financial hardship: see O’Ruairc v. Pelletier, 2002 BCSC 1107 and Cikojevic.


Commercial Copy Rates Not Helpful When Addressing Reasonable Photocopy Disbursements

August 24th, 2012

A decision was recently publshed by the BC Supreme Court website addressing reasonable photocopy disbursements in an ICBC Claim.  Although it is a 2006 decision decided under the old rules, the Court’s comments remain relevant finding that commercial photocopy charges are not helpful when deciding a reasonable rate to charge for photocopy disbursements due to litigant privacy concerns.

In the recently published case (Kind v. Leung) Master Caldwell provided the following observation:

5] There is also information in here about photocopying through commercial endeavours.  There are privacy concerns related there and I take counsel’s point, but again the physical cost of copying in those facilities seems to run between five cents and 10 or 11 cents per page.

[6] Making allowance for in-house copying at a reasonable rate to meet the obligations of privacy and confidentiality, given the costs as I seem to have limited information here in the material relating to equipment, I am not able to indicate or to determine on the material provided by the plaintiff that their costs exceed 30 cents a page.  The rate set will be 30 cents per page.

You can click here to access more recent caselaw addressing photocopy disbursements.


Examination for Discovery Caselaw Update: Scope of Proper Questions

June 15th, 2012

Two useful, albeit unreported, cases were recently provided to me dealing with objections to two fairly common examination for discovery questions and dealing with their propriety.

In the first case (Blackley v. Newland) the Plaintiff was injured in two motor vehicle collisions.  In the course of examining the Defendant for discovery, the Plaintiff’s lawyer asked a series of “do you have any facts known or knowable to you” questions addressing the specific allegations set out in the Pleadings such as:

  • do you have any facts known or knowable to you that relate in any way to whatever injuries Mr. Blackley received in this collision?
  • do you have any facts known or knowable to you that relate in any way to what pain or suffering Mr. Blackley has had because of this collision?

At trial, the Plaintiff proposed to read this series of questions and the answers that followed to the Jury.  Mr. Justice Williams held that while the exchange should not go to the jury as its prejudicial effect outweighed its probative value, the series of questions was entirely appropriate in the context of an examination for discovery.  Mr. Justice Williams provided the following comments:

[10]  Speaking generally, in this case, I do not find that the questions asked at the examination for discovery are improper.  They can be said to have been substantially informed by the statement of defence that was filed by the defendant.  As is usual, that statement of defence is replete with denials and positings of other alternative propositions.

[11]  The examination for discovery conducted by plaintiff’s counsel was obviously shaped in part as a response to the pleadings of the defendant and was an appropriate use of the examination process, specifically to discovery the defendant’s case.

In the second decision (Evans v. Parsons) the Defendant put a medico-legal report to the Plaintiff and asked the broad (and arguably compound) question “Okay.  Was there — the facts in Dr. Aiken’s report, was there anything that struck you as incorrect?“.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer objected to the question resulting in a chambers application.  The Defendant argued the question was fair and further that the limited two hour discovery in Rule 15 matters allowed this type of a short cut question.

Master Caldwell disagreed finding the question was too broad and vague.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

All right.  Thank you.  Applications to have a subsequent examination for discovery done specifically to address what I do find as an extremely general and vague question which was asked and objected to at the first discovery.  That comment probably leads one to surmise the application will be dismissed, at it will.  There was an opportunity to specify what facts were being referred to, and counsel refused to further qualify.  There’s a reason for short discoveries in rule 15-1 cases.  Two hours were granted.  If this was an important question, it could have been addressed earlier in the discovery.  I don’t, in the circumstances of the context of the question, believe it to have been a fair question to the plaintiff.  It was far too general, and, as I say, defence counsel refused the opportunity to further qualify or narrow it.  I’m not going to force the Plaintiff to answer such a general question.  Application is dismissed.  Costs to the Plaintiff.

To my knowledge these judgements are not yet publicly available.  As always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests copies.


Party Substitution Orders and ICBC Unidentified Motorist Claims

June 6th, 2012

As previously discussed, when injured by the fault of an unidentified motorist in BC, a Plaintiff can sue ICBC directly for damages in place of the unknown motorist provided section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act is complied with.

After a lawsuit starts, if the unknown motorist becomes known then the Plaintiff can substitute the appropriate party.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with such an application and, interestingly, denying it alleging the Plaintiff failed to identify the appropriate party in a timely fashion.

In this week’s case (Turnbull v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was allegedly injured when struck by a customer at his store.  The Plaintiff failed to properly record the licence plate information of the motorist.  The Plaintiff sued ICBC and as the litigation progressed the Plaintiff believed he was able to identify the offending motorist through employment records identifying the correct licence plate of the vehicle alleged to be involved.

The Plaintiff brought an application to substitute this person into the lawsuit.  The application was denied with Master Caldwell providing the following reasons:

[22] In the present case, the plaintiff knew of the existence of documentation which would have identified potential defendants at the time of and at all times following the alleged incident.  The plaintiff retained counsel shortly after the incident.  The plaintiff and his counsel were aware well before the expiry of the limitation period that identification of the vehicle and driver was a central and important issue in the claim.  No application was made during the limitation period, or even during the year following the expiry of the limitation period, to pursue the documents which the plaintiff knew existed and knew might well identify the vehicle and the driver.

[23] In short the plaintiff, and the plaintiff alone, bears the responsibility for the failure to identify potential defendants in a timely fashion and certainly within two years of the incident plus one year to serve.  In such circumstances, if limitation periods are to have any meaning and effect in our system, the interests of justice and the potential prejudice to the intended defendant outweigh the interests of the plaintiff.

I question the correctness of this decision given section 24(6) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act which provides as follows:

(6) If the identity of the unknown owner or driver is ascertained before judgment is granted in an action against the insurer as nominal defendant, then, despite the limitation period in the Motor Vehicle Act, that owner or driver must be added as a defendant in the action in substitution for the corporation, subject to the conditions the court may specify.

This lack of duty when seeking to substitute parties under s. 24(6) should not be confused with a Plaintiff’s duty to continue to make all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the unknown motorist to maintain a section 24 action against ICBC through to trial.

I understand that the above decision is under appeal and if further reasons are issued addressing this I will provide an appropriate update to this post.