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 ‘Mr. Justice Dley’

BC Supreme Court – Double Costs Does Not Mean Double Disbursements

June 28th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, confirming that an order for double costs does not also mean a party is entitled to double disbursements.

In today’s case (Lafond v. Mandair) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff made a formal settlement offer of $300,000.  At trial the Plaintiff beat this quantum being awarded just over $343,000.

The Plaintiff sought double costs and disbursements.  The Defendant agreed double costs were in order but argued that double disbursements were not recoverable.  The Court agreed and in doing so provided the following succinct reasons:

[14]         Double costs may be awarded for some or all steps taken after delivery of the offer to settle. A step in the proceeding is a formal step that moves the action forward: Canadian National Railway Company v. Chiu, 2014 BCSC 75 at para. 7.

[15]         Incurring a disbursement is not a formal step as contemplated by the Civil Rules.

[16]          I, therefore, conclude that under Rule 9-1(5)(b), double disbursements are not to be awarded as part of double costs. Thus, a successful offer to settle can be rewarded with an entitlement to double costs for tariff items, together with actual and reasonable disbursements.


“It Is Not Necessary To Call Expert Evidence On Each Issue”

June 26th, 2017

In recent years expert evidence has become more common in injury litigation and it is not unusual to see litigants sometimes err on the side of overkill.  To this end helpful comments were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, highlighting this practice and reminding litigants expert evidence can be used judiciously.

In the recent case (Truax v. Hyrb) the parties were involved in a collision and fault was at issue.  The Defendant brought an application seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit and argued that the Plaintiff failing to adduce expert engineering evidence should lead to an adverse inference.  In rejecting this suggestion Mr. Justice Dley provided the following comments about the over-use of expert evidence:

[20]         The defence argues that the failure by the plaintiff to introduce engineering evidence of the collision is “telling” and that an inference should be drawn against Mr. Truax. I agree that the absence of engineering evidence is telling – there is no need to call such expert evidence when common sense prevails.

[21]         Litigation has become a costly venture; oftentimes unnecessarily so. Litigants are far too quick to secure expert testimony when it is not required. Perhaps that is out of an abundance of caution and concern that the absence of expert evidence will be a failing of counsel.

[22]         Each case should be considered on its unique circumstances. It is trite to say that it is not necessary to call expert evidence on each issue. Expert testimony should be restricted to those matters where it would actually assist the court because the evidence is so specialized, scientific or complex. Expert evidence should not be viewed as a default or automatic step in litigation strategy.

 


Expert Criticized for Becoming “an Advocate for the Defence”

January 27th, 2016

Adding to this site’s archived case summaries addressing advocacy by expert witnesses, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry with critical comments about an expert witness.

In today’s case (Odian v. Carriere) the Plaintiff sustained a chronic neck injury as a result of a collision.  Her symptoms impacted her vocational functioning.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendant had the Plaintiff assessed by an occupational therapist who conducted a functional capacity evaluation and provided the Court with opinion evidence expressing optimism that a kinesiology program “will likely improve” the Plaintiff’s condition.  In criticizing this opinion as “not well based” and expressing concern that the opinion strayed into prohibited advocacy Mr. Justice Dley provided the following comments

[48]         Ms. Phillips’ optimism that the new kinesiology program will likely improve Ms. Odian’s condition is not well based. There is no history or details that would justify her opinion. Ms. Phillips’ initial opinion as set out above was far less certain than what she said at trial.

[49]         I am concerned about the objectivity of Ms. Phillips’ opinion.

[50]         Ms. Phillips’ testimony was challenged particularly in light of a rebuttal report she had prepared. During her cross examination, Ms. Phillips was at times evasive and non-responsive. The tenor of the rebuttal report, coupled with her testimony and demeanor in court, was indicative of a witness who had become an advocate for the defence.

[51]         Putting Ms. Phillips in the most favourable light to the defence, the best that can be said about her opinion is that Ms. Odian may receive some benefit from new programs, but they will not cure her symptoms. Ms. Odian will still have discomfort.

[52]         I prefer the opinions of the medical experts who agree that Ms. Odian’s condition is chronic. Dr. Robinson summarized it best:

The treatment of chronic headache related to head and neck trauma is usually difficult. Research is limited despite the frequency and burden of these injuries to individuals and society. As yet there is no physical therapy that has been found to be curative. At most patients will experience temporary benefit and on occasion the headaches may be more severe following such therapy. I do not believe that there is any further advice to be given other than to maintain an active lifestyle. Regular exercise directed to improving general fitness may increase the sense of well-being and ability to cope with pain.

Dr. Robinson: February 13, 2015 at page 8.

[53]         Dr. Robinson’s opinion is consistent with the views of Drs. Laidlow and Hirsch.

[54]         I also accept the evidence of Ms. Odian. She was truthful and reliable with respect to her injuries and the ongoing symptoms.


"It Is No Impediment That The Offer Was Withdrawn" In Triggering Costs Consequences

August 10th, 2012

Last month I discussed the fact that withdrawn formal settlement offers are capable of triggering costs consequences.  Reasons for judgement were released recently confirming this fact and awarding a Plaintiff double costs after besting a formal settlement offer which was withdrawn in the course of trial.

In the recent case (Pitts v. Martin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  The injuries included chronic soft tissue injuries and post traumatic stress which limited the Plaintiff in physical tasks.

Prior to trial she provided a formal settlement offer of $100,000.  During the course of the trial the Plaintiff withdrew her formal offer.  The trial judgement exceeded her offer by $7,500.  The Plaintiff asked for double costs.  The defendant objected arguing a withdrawn offer could not trigger costs consequences.  Mr. Justice Dley disagreed and awarded double costs.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[68]  …I am satisfied that in a case like this, an offer made on May 15th would have given the defendant sufficient time to make a reasoned analysis and respond in a timely fashion.  It is not an offer that was made on the eve of the trial commencing, without an opportunity to have it fully considered.  It is no impediment that the offer was withdrawn at the close the the Plaintiff’s case.  I am satisfied that this is an appropriate case for double costs following the offer…

To my knowledge this judgement is not publicly available.  As always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.


Defence Expert Criticized; $60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Lingering STI's and PTSD

August 3rd, 2012

Unreported reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, addressing damages for “chronic, but not disabling” soft tissue injuries and post-traumatic stress arising from a motor vehicle collision.

In the recent case (Pitts v. Martin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The extent of the Plaintiff’s damages were at issue.  As is common in personal injury litigation, the Defendant produced an expert witness who provided evidence disagreeing with the Plaintiff’s physician as to the extent of the ongoing injuries and their connection to the collision.  Mr. Justice Dley was not receptive to this evidence preferring the Plaintiff’s treating physicians.  In rejecting the Defendant’s expert Mr. Justice Dley provided the following criticism:

[31]  Dr. Dommisse provided an opinion that confirms the soft tissue injury.  However, he opines that stress aggravates the physical injuries and that with proper counselling the stress would ease off; that would improve the physical injuries.  Dr. Dommisse agreed that the stress affectibng Ms. Pitts resulted from the collision.

[32]  His opinion ignores the fact that Ms. Pitts has had counselling and that she has been provided with coping techniques.  Dr. Dommisse was not critical of the counselling that had been provided and deferred that aspect of the injuries to the counsellors who had previously treated Ms. Pitts.

[33]   His opinion failed to consider that Ms. Pitts required some assistance at work.  He conceded that to be a significant factor.

[34]  Dr. Dommisse noted muscle spasm in the trapezius muscle.  However, in his opinion as to whether the collision caused Ms. Pitts’ disabilities, he did not include any reference to the spasms.  Instead, he referred to Ms. Pitts’ complaints as being subjective.  He did not provide a satisfactory answer as to why such an objective symptom would have been left out of his analysis.

[35]  Dr. Dommisse failed to consider the fact that Ms. Pitts suffers pain and discomfort from some of her work-related activities, particularly heavy lifting.  Those symptoms are brought on without any stress.  That significant omission from his report destroys any reliability that might be attached to his opinion that “it is unlikely that Ms. Pitts’ current disabilities were caused by the accident”.

[36]  Dr. Dommise commented that counselling from Ms. Pitts’ stress and anxiety will likely improve her symptoms.  His evidence did not provide any basis for that opinion to be reliable.  It ignores the reality that counselling has already been provided and there is no suggestion that the treatment was in any way lacking.  I am not satisfied that any further counselling is likely to resolve or further improve Ms. Pitts’ present condition.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Mr. Justice Dley provided the following reasons:

[47]  It is now four years post-accident.  Ms. Pitts has been diligent in pursuing rehabilitation measures.  Ms. Pitts still has some lingering injuries – they are chronic, but not disabling.  Ms. Pitts can carry on with her everyday life and work, but she has limitations because she must be careful so as not to aggravate her injuries.  She continues to suffer from the post-traumatic stress of the collision.  She has learned coping techniques, but that has not eliminated the disorder.

[48]  Taking into account the injuries sustained and the impact they have had and will continue to have, I assess general damages at $60,000.

As noted this judgement is not reported therefore not publicly available.  As always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.


Personal Injury Claims Are Not "Measured by the Number of Doctors Seen"

November 1st, 2011

The value of a personal injury case has little to do with the number of doctor visits a Plaintiff has.  I’ve discussed this topic previously.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, further addressing this matter.

In today’s case, (Tarzwell v. Ewashina) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.  She suffered from chronic soft tissue injuries affecting her trapezius muscles and low back.   The injuries were on-going at the time of trial and the Court accepted that the symptoms would linger into the future.  Non-Pecuniary damages of $60,000 were awarded.  Prior to arriving at this assessment Mr. Justice Dley provided the following comments making it clear that the number of doctor visits does not measure the quantum of a personal injury claim:

[67] If a plaintiff’s claim was to be measured by the number of doctors seen or by the number of medical consultations attended, then that would unjustly marginalize victims such as Ms. Tarzwell. She has chosen not to burden the medical system with unnecessary visits to physicians who would give her no further advice than what she had already been provided and followed. She should not be penalized for that.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s comments to the lawyers involved in the litigation for their efficient use of Court time.  Illustrating that meaningful claims can be litigated with little Court time Mr. Justice Dley provided the following compliments:

[5] This case was presented with uncompromising efficiency. Counsel were meticulous in focusing on those matters that were actually in dispute.

[6] The evidence was concluded in a day along with an additional half day for argument.

[7] The medical evidence consisted of two reports. There was no wasted expense by tendering marginal evidence that would have done little to assist the Court.

[8] A case that takes little time to present does not mean that damages are nominal. It is the quality and substance of the evidence that matters. Style should never trump substance.

[9] If an example of proportionality needed a model case, counsel have succeeded here in illustrating how litigation can be conducted.


British Columbia Ordered to Pay $605,000 in Damages to Victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse

April 6th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, ordering the Government of BC to pay a Plaintiff $605,000 in damages as a result of childhood sexual abuse.

In today’s case (D.K.B. v. British Columbia) the Plaintiff was sexually abused by his hockey coach when he was 13 years old.    The abuse occurred in 1988.    The hockey coach was a convicted sex offender and his probation officer failed to warn the minor hockey association of this fact.  In 2005 the Province of BC was found vicariously liable for the sexual abuse.  Today’s case focused on damages.

The details of the abuse are set out in paragraphs 5-10 of today’s judgement.  The Plaintiff suffered harm as a result of this abuse.    Dr. O’Shaughnessy testified about the extent of the harm and his opinion was accepted by the Court.  Specifically Dr. O’Shaughnessy provided the following opinion:

Ultimately, however, I am impressed that given the nature of the sexual assaults and in particular at the critical developmental point that more likely than not the sexual assaults were a material factor in the development of his Mood Disorder and his substance abuse as well as his Personality Disorder. While indeed he may have gone on to develop problems with substance abuse in any event, I think the sexual abuse was a critical factor and more likely than not he would not have gone on to develop these difficulties had the sexual assaults not occurred

The Plaintiff went on to have a career in professional hockey and subsequently as a realtor.  He testified that this was impacted by the consequneces of the abuse.  Mr. Justice Dley agreed and awarded just over $450,000 for the impact the abuse had on the Plaintiff’s earning capacity.

The balance of the claim was made up largely of non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).  The parties settled this head of damage at $125,000.  Since this aspect of the case was privately settled today’s judgement is not, strictly speaking, a binding precedent on the issue, however, given the relative lack of reported cases dealing with non-pecuniary damages for sexual abuse in British Columbia I thought it would be useful to add today’s case to this site’s civil sex abuse claims database.


More on ICBC Injury Claims, Trials and Adjournments

November 19th, 2010

As I’ve previously discussed, if you’re not prepared to proceed to trial and ICBC opposes an adjournment it’s necessary to apply for a Court order under Rule 12-1(9) of the BC Supreme Court Civil Rules.  Reasons for judgment were released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, dealing with such an application.

In today’s case (Allan v. Houston) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.  His injuries apparently included a fracture at the L4 level of his spine and a traumatic brain injury.  His case was set for trial in December 2010.  His treating specialists were apparently unable to “complete assessments of the plaintiff such that a court would be provided with an opinion with respect to the injuries sustained and the prognosis that the plaintiff faces“.  In addition to this, the Plaintiff switched lawyers shortly before the scheduled trial.  The new lawyer was unavailable for the previously scheduled trial.  He sought an adjournment but ICBC refused.  On application the BC Supreme Court ordered that the trial be adjourned.  Mr. Justice Dley provided the following reasons:

[7]  The defendant resists the application for an adjournment on the basis that this matter has been set for trial for some time, that the incident occurred almost three years ago, and, as a result of the heavily contested liability issues, that memories may fade as time continues on.

[8]  Counsel for the plaintiff emphasizes two factors:

that there has been a change of counsel, and that the plaintiff’s new counsel would be unavailable for trial; and

that there is the practical aspect of securing further medical information to ensure that the court is in a position to properly assess the damages, if in fact liability has been proven.

[9]  There is also a third aspect that needs to be considered, and that is the issue of the second motor vehicle accident.  The injuries sustained, it is alleged, in the second accident aggravated those in the first.  In order to ensure that justice can be done for all parties it would be beneficial to have the same trier of fact dealing with both accidents at the same time, as it is anticipated and suggested by counsel for the plaintiff.

[10]  In order for there to be a fair trial, the only rational outcome of this application is to grant the adjournment:  first, to ensure that plaintiff’s counsel is available; second, to ensure that the court has the benefit of the necessary medical information; and thirdly, to ensure that all efficiencies are taken into account to have both accidents dealt with at the same time.

The Court went on to award the Plaintiff costs.  In doing so Mr. Justice Dley reminded defence counsel that “this was an application that should have been given far more serious consideration than what it was by the defence.  There are certain courtesies that should be given during the course of any litigation: one is the availability of counsel and two is the practical aspect of proceeding to trial with all of the necessary information“.


Defendant Punished With Costs Award for Relying on "Advocate" Expert Witness

October 25th, 2010

Dr. Hymie Davis is a psychiatrist who has been frequently retained by ICBC to provide expert opinions as to the extent of Plaintiff’s accident related injuries.  (You can click here to access my previous posts setting out the billings of Dr. Davis and other experts often retained by ICBC).  In a judgement released last week, the BC Supreme Court harshly criticized Dr. Davis and took the unusual step of punishing the Defendant, (who was insured with ICBC), for relying on him at trial.

In last week’s case (Jayetileke v. Blake) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC motor vehicle collision.  She sued for damages.  Prior to trial ICBC made a formal settlement offer of $122,500.  The Plaintiff rejected this offer and went to trial.  She was ultimately awarded about $9,000 less than the settlement offer by the trial judge.

Normally, in these circumstances, ICBC would be entitled to their costs and possibly double costs from the time of their offer onward.  Mr. Justice Dley, however, refused to follow this usual course finding that not only should the Defendant not be awarded costs, but they should pay the Plaintiff costs.  The reason for this departure was a finding that Dr. Davis was “nothing more than an advocate thinly disguised in the cloak of an expert” and he should not have been relied on by the defence at trial.

Mr. Justice Dley provided the following damaging criticism of Dr. Davis as an expert witness and warning to lawyers who  intend to rely on experts who have a history of crossing the line into advocacy:

[35] Dr. Davis had a history before the courts where his evidence was rejected and his objectivity called into question: Grewal v. Brar et al, 2004 BCSC 1157, [2004] B.C.J. No. 1819; Gosal v. Singh, 2009 BCSC 1471, [2009] B.C.J. No. 2131; Kelly v. Sanmugathas, 2009 BCSC 958, [2009] B.C.J. No. 1413; and Smusz v. Wolfe Chevrolet, 2010 BCSC 82, [2010] B.C.J. No. 114.

[36] A witness may have a poor day in court – that does not mean the witness was dishonest or forever unreliable. However, Dr. Davis had displayed an alarming inability to appreciate his role as an expert and the accompanying privilege to provide opinion evidence.

[37] The defence was alive to his propensity to abuse the role of an expert. His reputation would have been known from the cited decisions. Plaintiff’s counsel succinctly set out the concerns about Dr. Davis in a letter dated January 29, 2010, which stated:

1.         Although he may have once been a qualified expert in psychiatry and able to give opinion evidence in court, we suggest he no longer is properly qualified to give opinion evidence. We will suggest that he is no longer aware of his duty to assist the court and in reality he is an advocate for ICBC. Additionally, we will submit that he has been so consistently discredited by the courts of this Province that he is incapable of being qualified as an expert;

2.         His report is replete with advocacy. The report is an attempt [to] neutralize any material/opinions which support the plaintiff’s claim rather than providing an objective medical opinion;

3.         His report contains many opinions and arguments that are beyond his expertise; and

4.         The information apparently gleaned from the plaintiff is inaccurate and incomplete and coloured to advance his position.

[38] In spite of the concerns that the Courts have expressed, the defence nonetheless proffered Dr. Davis as an expert in opposition to the plaintiff’s complaints of depression and anxiety. My assessment of Dr. Davis was as follows (oral reasons May 13, 2010):

[43]      Dr. Hymie Davis, a psychiatrist, examined Ms. Jayetileke on January 12, 2010 at the request of the defence. I find his evidence to be unreliable. I give it no weight for the following reasons.

[44]      Dr. Davis was an advocate. He was argumentative, defensive, non-responsive, and prone to rambling discourses that were not relevant to the questions posed in cross-examination.

[45]      Dr. Davis was asked to leave the courtroom so that counsel could argue about questions to be put to him. Dr. Davis was seen peeking into the courtroom and listening to the discussion. He was again asked to leave. In spite of these instructions given to him, Dr. Davis hovered within hearing distance and, on four occasions, stuck his head into the courtroom to hear what was occurring.

[46]      Dr. Davis conceded that without his notes, he would not be able to recall the discussion with Ms. Jayetileke. He relied on his notes to prepare his report.

[47] Dr. Davis had noted that Ms. Jayetileke awakened once or twice a week and that this was in some measure related to the accident-related symptoms. He was adamant Ms. Jayetileke had not said that she awakened once or twice a night. He said that his notes would reflect what Ms. Jayetileke had told him.

[48]      His notes referred to Ms. Jayetileke awakening once or twice but did not specify whether that was nightly or weekly. Nonetheless, Dr. Davis tried to point out other references in his notes that meant a weekly occurrence. Those references did not strengthen his evidence. They simply confirmed the unreliability of his testimony.

[49]      Dr. Smith had commented about how important it was for the history-taking to be done in a setting where the patient was comfortable and at ease with the interviewer. Dr. Davis’s demeanour would not lend itself to Ms. Jayetileke being at ease in his presence so that an effective and accurate history could have been taken. Ms. Jayetileke was under the impression that Dr. Davis did not take things seriously. I accept her view of the interview and prefer her evidence to that of Dr. Davis.

[39] For a trial to be fair, the Court must allow each party to put its best case forward. Where a party seeks to advance its position with reckless abandon seeking only the ultimate goal of victory and using questionable evidence along the way, that party risks sanctions in the form of costs penalties. Where the conduct is reprehensible and deserving of reproof and rebuke, the penalty is special costs. “Costs considerations are meant to guide counsel and litigants in the choices and strategies they pursue in litigation”: Karpodinis v. Kantas, 2006 BCCA 400, [2006] B.C.J. No. 2074 at para. 4.

[40] In this case and against the backdrop of previous judicial comment, the defence tendered Dr. Davis. He was nothing more than an advocate thinly disguised in the cloak of an expert. That is conduct deserving of rebuke and from which the Court disassociates itself.

[41] Dr. Davis attempted to inject levity to the proceedings when he was introduced to the Court – his reference to scotch can only be taken as an attempt to be humorous. However, these are serious and solemn proceedings and should be treated as such. His opening comments were unnecessary and unhelpful.

[42] Dr. Davis’ refusal to remove himself from earshot of the Court proceedings despite repeated requests was reprehensible. His conduct simply confirmed a lack of respect for Court proceedings.

[43] Under these circumstances, special costs are to be awarded against the defendant.

[44] The special costs will be the equivalent of the costs of the entire trial. The defendant will be deprived of any costs that it might otherwise have been entitled to as result of the offer to settle.

[45] The plaintiff is awarded costs as if there had been no offer to settle made. The defendant shall receive no costs.

[46] The plaintiff shall receive costs of this application.