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 Halfyard’

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries Perpetuated by Stress

July 16th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today addressing damages for lingering soft tissue injuries compounded by pre-existing emotional distress.

In today’s case (Adkin v. Grant) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 rear end collision.  She was 66 at the time of the crash and 69 at the time of trial.  She suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries and some of her symptoms continued to the time of trial.  A perpetuating factor for this was pre-existing emotional distress which exacerbated her symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

209]     As mentioned, I find that the motor vehicle accident of September 3, 2010 caused injury to the soft tissues of the plaintiff’s neck and upper back and that the injury was of moderate degree. As a result of this injury, the plaintiff suffered pain in these areas and, for a limited period of time, suffered headaches. I find that the injury did not aggravate or worsen the plaintiff’s pre-existing physical conditions, but was super-imposed over them. There may have been minimal injury to the soft tissues of the plaintiff’s lower back, but if so, that injury had healed within six weeks of the accident…

[212]     Both Dr. Salvian and Dr. Kemble agree that the plaintiff is still suffering some neck, upper back and shoulder pain as a result of the soft tissue injury she received in the car accident. It is implicit in Dr. Salvian’s opinion that he says the accident is still causing all of the pain that the plaintiff continues to experience in the soft tissues of her neck, upper back and shoulders. I have rejected that all-encompassing opinion. Dr. Kemble seems to say that most of the soft tissue pain that the plaintiff continues to experience in her neck, upper back and shoulders is being caused (intensified and perpetuated) by her emotional distress (and he says that the emotional distress was a pre-existing condition and was not caused by the accident). I have not accepted those opinions of Dr. Kemble where they conflict with the opinions of Dr. Allison.

[213]     Both Dr. Salvian and Dr. Kemble agree that the plaintiff will continue to suffer physical symptoms as a result of her injury, for an indefinite period of time into the future (although they differ as to the frequency and intensity of such symptoms).

[214]     I accept Dr. Kemble’s opinions to the extent previously identified. I find that some of the plaintiff’s ongoing symptoms of pain in her neck, upper back and shoulders are being caused by the injury from the accident. And I find that she will continue to experience episodes of increased pain in the future, as a result of her injury on September 3, 2010.

[215]     I find that the plaintiff had a pre-existing condition of emotional distress which was affecting her to some extent at the time of the accident. I find also that the plaintiff’s experience of being involved in the motor vehicle accident, her physical injury, and her emotional reaction to that injury caused additional emotional distress to her. That emotional distress adversely affected the plaintiff’s powers of concentration and memory for at least a year, and perhaps longer. However, the effects of the plaintiff’s distress on her memory and concentration was minimal (almost non-existent) by the end of May 2011 when she was examined by Dr. Allison. The plaintiff was continuing to feel emotional distress at the time of trial, and I find that some of that ongoing stress is being caused by the accident of September 3, 2010…

[233]     In all of the circumstances, it is my opinion that a fair and reasonable amount of damages for non-pecuniary loss would be $70,000, and I order that the plaintiff be awarded that amount.

 

 


How Do You Restore A Trial Date if You Failed to File a Trial Certificate?

March 8th, 2013

The BC Supreme Court Rules require a trial certificate to be filed at least 14 days before a scheduled trial date.  Failure to do so requires the matter to be removed from the trial list ‘unless the court otherwise orders‘.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, addressing the framework which permits the Court to restore a trial date after if it has been removed from the trial list.  In short the Court relied on its power under Rule 12-1(9)(b) to “fix the date of a trial proceeding” to remedy the problem.

In this weeks case (Knowles v. Lan) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision.  Prior to trial ICBC sought to have the matter adjourned but the application was dismissed.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer then forgot to file a trial certificate and the matter was removed from the trial list.  Mr. Justice Halfyard restored the trial date and in doing so provided the following reasons addressing the proper framework for such a remedy:

[24]         The first question is whether Rule 12-4 (5) gives the court power to restore a proceeding to the trial list, after it has been removed for non-compliance with Rule 12-4 (2). I would say firstly that, because of the mandatory wording in Rule 12-4, the filing of at least one trial certificate is a necessary condition for a trial to proceed. As a consequence, I do not think the court could dispense with the filing of any trial certificate, but could only grant leave to file it less than 14 days before trial.

[25]         In my opinion, a party who seeks to have a trial restored to the trial list must first obtain leave to file a trial certificate “late,” under Rule 22-4 (2). If such leave is granted, and a trial certificate is filed in accordance with the order, that filing would not have the effect of restoring the trial to the trial list from which it had been removed. Could the court make such a restoration order, under Rule 12-4 (5)?

[26]         In my opinion, Rule 12-4 (5) should be read so as to include the additional underlined words, as follows:

(5)  Unless the court otherwise orders, if no party of record files a trial certificate in accordance with sub-rule (2), the trial must be removed from the trial list.

[27]         In my view, Rule 12-4 (5) is designed to prevent an action being removed from the trial list for failure to file a trial certificate as required by subrule (2). It does not state that, if a trial has been removed from the trial list, the court may restore that trial to the trial list. Nor do I think that such a power is implicit in that subrule. In order to preserve a trial date by invoking this Rule, I think the application and the order would have to be made before the 14 day deadline. That was not done here, and so this rule cannot be relied upon…

[29]         It may be that Rule 1-3 provides inherent jurisdiction to make an order restoring this action to the trial list for March 4, 2013. But it seems to me that Rule 12-1 (9) provides specific authority to do this. Subrule (9)(b) states:

(9)  The court may

. . .

(b) fix the date of trial of a proceeding,

. . .

[30]         When this action was struck off the trial list, there was no longer any date scheduled for the trial. The subrule I have just referred to does, in my opinion, empower the court to fix a date for the trial of this proceeding which coincides with the previously – scheduled trial date of March 4, 2013. I would rely on that subrule in making the order to reinstate this action for trial on March 4, 2013.

[31]         Authority might also be found in Rule 22-7(2)(e), which states in relevant part as follows:

(2)  . . .  if there has been a failure to comply with these . . . Rules, the court may

. . .

(e) make any other order it considers will further the object of these . . .  Rules.

[32]         In my opinion, the reasons I have outlined support the orders that I made on February 27, 2013.


$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic "Moderate" Soft Tissue Injuries

February 25th, 2013

Adding to this site’s archives of soft tissue injury non-pecuniary awards, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, dealing with a chronic ‘moderate’ low back injury.

In last week’s case (Schafer v. Whitely) the plaintiff was involved in a 2010 collision.  Although liability was disputed the defendant was found fully at fault at trial.  The plaintiff suffered various injuries which improved by the time of trial with the exception of a low back injury of moderate severity which continued to pose problems.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[179]     There is no dispute about the nature of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the accident. She suffered minor injuries to her left knee and to her face, and experienced some headaches. These injuries, and the headaches, had resolved within a month or so after the accident.

[180]     I find that the plaintiff sustained injury to the soft tissues of the musculoskeletal structures of her neck and lower back. The injury to these structures has caused pain in the plaintiff’s neck and low back. By the time of trial, the plaintiff’s neck pain symptoms had resolved, but she continues to experience pain in her low back on an intermittent basis.

[181]     I find that the impact of the collision was violent and that the forces exerted on the plaintiff’s body were capable of causing, and did cause significant injury. Although the medical experts did not offer an opinion as to the severity of the injury, I find that the injury was at least moderate in severity…

[197]     In my opinion, having regard to the facts I have found, a fair and reasonable amount of damages for non-pecuniary loss would be $70,000, and I order that the plaintiff be awarded that amount under this head of loss.


Plaintiff's "Apprehension of Bias" Turfs Defendant's Chosen Psychiatric Examiner

September 27th, 2012

An Excerpt From Proceedings from the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, was recently shared with me addressing the choice of a Defence Psychiatric Exam where a Plaintiff raised an apprehension of bias.  In the face of such concerns the Court did not allow a Defence Medical Appointment to proceed with the Defendant’s psychiatrist of choice and instead ordered that the Defendant choose a different psychiatrist.

In the recent decision (Henry v. Reeves) the Plaintiff alleged he suffered a chronic pain syndrome as a result of a collision.   The Defendant requested a Defence Psychiatric Exam.   Mr. Justice Halfyard ordered that the Defendant was entitled to such an exam.  The Plaintiff raised concerns about the Defendant’s chosen physician highlighting the proposed doctor’s ICBC billings and further pointed out two cases where the chosen physician was judicially criticized.

Mr. Justice Halfyard considered these submissions and noted that the Plaintiff has “got a point here” and ultimately concluded that “I am not going to order (the Proposed physician)..to conduct the medical examination” making the parties settle on a different physician.

To my knowledge this Excerpt of Proceedings is not publicly available but as always I am happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.


Soft Tissue Injury Damages Round Up – The Kelowna Road Edition

August 1st, 2012

As regular readers of this blog know, I try to avoid ‘round up‘ posts and do my best to provide individual case summaries for BC Supreme Court injury judgements.  Sometimes, however, the volume of decisions coupled with time constraints makes this difficult.  After wrapping up holidays in the lovely City of Kelowna this is one of those times so here is a soft tissue injury round up of recent BC injury caselaw.

In the first case (Olynyk v. Turner) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision.  Fault was admitted.    He was 43 at the time and suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.  His symptoms lingered to the time of trial although the Court found that the Plaintiff unreasonably refused to follow his physicians advise with respect to treatment.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 (then reduced by 30% to reflect the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate’) Mr. Justice Barrow provided the following reasons:

[83]I find that Mr. Olynyk suffered a soft tissue injury to his neck and low back. I would describe the former as mild and the later as moderate. There is no necessary correlation between the amount of medication consumed, the frequency of visits to the doctor, or the nature of the attempts to mitigate the effects of one’s injuries and the severity of those injuries and their consequences. There may be many explanations for such a lack of congruity: a person may be particularly stoic or may have an aversion to taking medication for example. On the one hand, in the absence of such an explanation, when there is a significant disconnect between these two things, that can be a reason for treating self reports of pain and limitation with caution…

[87]Given that it is now three years post accident, I am satisfied that Mr. Olynyk’s pain is likely permanent, although as Mr. Olynyk told Dr. Laidlow in the fall of 2011, his symptoms improved in the years since the accident, inasmuch as his level of pain declined as did the frequency of more significant episodes. Leaving aside the issue of his pre-existing back problems, and in view of the authorities referred to above, I consider that an award of non-pecuniary damages of $40,000 is appropriate. In reaching this conclusion, I have taken account of the dislocation that the plaintiff’s loss of employment has caused him. That loss is greater than the mere loss of income that it occasioned and for which separate compensation is in order. The plaintiff had to move to a different community to take a job that he was physically able to do. That is a matter of some consequence.

[88]The next issue is the effect of the plaintiff’s pre-existing back problems. According to Dr. Laidlow because of the plaintiff’s spondylolisthesis, and given the heavy nature of his work, he likely would have experienced back problems similar to those he now experiences in 10 years even if he had not been involved in an accident.

[89]As noted above, such future risks or contingencies are taken into account through a combination of their likely effect and the relative likelihood of them coming to pass (Athey at para. 27). I find that there was a 60 percent likelihood that Mr. Olynyk would experience the same symptoms he now experiences in 10 years in any event. It is not appropriate to reduce the award for general damages by 60 percent to account for that likelihood because the pre-existing condition would not have given rise to symptoms and limitations for 10 years. Mr. Olynyk is now 47 years old. I think it reasonable to reduce the award for general damages to account for his pre-existing condition by 30 percent.

[90]The plaintiff is entitled to $28,000 in general damages ($40,000 less 30 percent). That amount must be further reduced to account for Mr. Olynyk’s failure to mitigate. The net award of non-pecuniary damages is therefore $22,400.

____________________________________________________________________

In the second case released this week (Scoffield v. Jentsch) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision on Vancouver Island.  Although the Defendant admitted fault there was “a serious dispute between the plaintiff and the defendant as to the severity of the force of impact“.

Mr. Justice Halfyard noted several ‘concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility‘ and went on to find that the impact was quite minor finding as follows:

[201]I find that, after initially coming to a full stop, the defendant’s vehicle was moving very slowly when it made contact with the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff’s car was not pushed forward. The damage caused by the collision was minor. The force of the impact was low. The defendant backed his car up after the collision, and the bits of plastic picked up by the plaintiff some distance behind her car, fell away from his car as he was backing up. I do not accept the plaintiff’s estimate that the closest pieces of plastic on the roadway were eight feet behind the bumper of her car.

Despite this finding and the noted credibility concerns, the Court found that the Plaintiff did suffer soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back and awarded non-pecuniary damages of $30,000.  In doing so Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[202]The defendant admits that the plaintiff sustained injury to the soft tissues of her neck, upper back and shoulders as a result of the collision of April 9, 2009. I made that finding of fact. But the plaintiff alleges that the degree of severity of the injury was moderate, whereas the defence argues that it was only mild, or mild to moderate in degree…

[221]I find that, from April 16, 2009 until August 9, 2009, the pain from the injury prevented the plaintiff from working. After that, she was able to commence a gradual return to working full-time, which took a further two months until October 10, 2009. For the first four months after the accident, the pain from the injury prevented the plaintiff from engaging in her former recreational and athletic activities. She gradually resumed her former activities after that time. I find that, by the spring of 2010, the plaintiff had substantially returned to the level of recreational and athletic activities that she had done before the accident. After that time, any impairment of the plaintiff’s physical capacity to work or to do other activities was not caused by the injury she sustained in the accident on April 9, 2009…

[226]The plaintiff must be fairly compensated for the amount of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that she has incurred by reason of the injury caused by the defendant’s negligence. In light of the findings of fact that I have outlined above, I have decided that the plaintiff should be awarded $30,000.00 as damages for non-pecuniary loss.

______________________________________________________________________

(UPDATE March 19, 2014 – the BC Court of Appeal overturned the liability split below to 75/25 in the Plaintiff’s favour)

In this week’s third case, (Russell v. Parks) the pedestrian Plaintiff was injured in a parking lot collision with a vehicle.  The Court found that both parties were to blame for the impact but the Plaintiff shouldered more of the blame being found 66.3% at fault.

The Plaintiff suffered a fracture to the fifth metacarpal of his right foot and a chronic soft tissue injury to his knee.  The latter injury merged with pre-existing difficulties to result in on-going symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 (before the reduction to account for liability) Mr. Justice Abrioux provided the following reasons:

[63]I make the following findings of fact based on my consideration of the evidence both lay and expert as a whole:

(a)      the plaintiff’s “original position” immediately prior to the Accident included the following:

·being significantly overweight and deconditioned;

·having a hypertension condition which had existed for many years;

·asymptomatic degenerative osteoarthritis to both knees, more significant to the right than the left; and

·symptomatic left foot and ankle difficulties.

(b)      prior to the Accident, the plaintiff’s weight and deconditioning, together with the left foot and ankle difficulties caused him to live a rather sedentary lifestyle. Although he was able to work from time to time and participate in certain leisure activities, these were lessening as he grew older.

(c)      the Accident did not cause the degenerative osteoarthritis in the right knee to become symptomatic. It did, however, cause a soft-tissue injury which continued to affect the plaintiff to some extent at the time of trial.

(d)      the plaintiff’s ongoing difficulties are multifactoral. They include:

·his ongoing weight and conditioning problems. Although Mr. Russell’s pre-Accident weight and lack of conditioning would likely have affected his work and enjoyment of the amenities of life even if the Accident had not occurred, the injuries which he did sustain exacerbated that pre-existing condition;

·the plaintiff’s pre-existing but quiescent cardiac condition would have materialized the way it did even if the Accident had not occurred. This condition would have affected his long term day-to-day functioning including his ability to earn an income;

·notwithstanding this, the injuries sustained in the Accident, particularly the right knee, continue to affect his ongoing reduced functioning. This will continue indefinitely, to some degree, although some weight loss and an exercise rehabilitation program will likely assist him;

·an exercise and weight loss program would have been of benefit to the plaintiff even if the Accident had not occurred.,,

[73]From the mid range amount of approximately $60,000 I must take into account the plaintiff’s original position and the measurable risk the pre-Accident condition would have affected the plaintiff’s life had the Accident not occurred. Accordingly, I award non pecuniary damages in the amount of $45,000.

______________________________________________________________________________________

In the final case (Hill v. Swayne) the 35 year old Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.   The Court noted some reliability issues with the Plaintiff’s evidence and found his collision related injuries were largely resolved by the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $20,000 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:

[68]Mr. Hill suffered a neck strain and lumbar strain and received 13 physiotherapy treatments ending February 2, 2010. He was absent from work from December 14, 2009 to January 4, 2010..

[74]I accept that an injury of the type suffered by Mr. Hill was particularly troublesome in light of the heavy work in his role as a journeyman/foreman roofer. A back injury to a person in his circumstances, even if not disabling in itself, would require extra care and watchfulness on the job to ensure that the injury is not exacerbated. In considering the criteria in Stapely, it is significant that Mr. Hill, who was a heavy lifting labourer, injured his back and that the injury has lingering effects. The injuries have minimally impacted his lifestyle, and he has dealt stoically with his employment.

[75]The severity of his pain was modest and the extent to which the duration of his discomfort was related to the accident is uncertain. However, I accept that there is some connection between the collision and his ongoing complaints.

[76]I have considered various cases cited by counsel and additionally referred to the Reichennek case. Although comparisons are of some assistance, I am to focus on the factors set out by the Court of Appeal and the specific circumstances of the plaintiff in this particular case. In the final analysis, I would award the plaintiff non-pecuniary damages of $20,000.


$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic, Partially Disabling Whiplash Injury

April 26th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, assessing damages for a chronic soft tissue injury sustained in a motor vehicle collision.

In the recent case (Noon v. Lawlor) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 rear-end collision.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist focusing the trial on the value of the case.  The Plaintiff sustained a chronic soft tissue injury to his neck and upper back.  The injury caused difficulties with the heavier aspects of the Plaintiff’s job as a journeyman plumber and his symptoms were expected to continue into the future.

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

[205] I find that the plaintiff sustained injury to the soft tissues of his neck and upper back, as a result of the collision of January 22, 2009. The plaintiff also sustained minor injuries to his forehead and to his low back. The head injury resolved in about three weeks and the plaintiff had recovered from his low back injury, within six months. The plaintiff continued to experience headaches associated with his neck injury, but the headaches had diminished in about a year to the point where they occurred only occasionally, and were not disabling.

[206] The medical experts did not offer an opinion as to the severity of the whiplash injury to the plaintiff. I find that the impact of the collision was violent and that the forces exerted on the plaintiff’s body were capable of causing significant injury. On all of the evidence, I find that the injury was at least moderate in severity.

[207] There is some medical evidence which I accept and which, tends to confirm the plaintiff’s assertion that he has been experiencing ongoing symptoms of pain. The findings of tenderness on palpation and restricted range of motion in the plaintiff’s neck are partly objective and partly subjective. But they do provide some support for the plaintiff’s trial testimony on this issue. But, in my view, the medical evidence does not confirm the plaintiff’s trial testimony as to the degree of the pain that he has been experiencing, and only partly confirms his evidence as to the extent to which his pain has impaired his physical capacities. In a case of this kind, I doubt whether any medical expert could express any conclusive opinion on these issues. To a considerable extent, medical experts must accept and rely on the plaintiff’s complaints as being true…

[225] I find that there is a substantial possibility that the plaintiff will continue to experience his present symptoms and their associated effects, indefinitely. There is no suggestion that the plaintiff’s condition will deteriorate in the future. The plaintiff is still a young man, and in my opinion, the evidence establishes a substantial possibility that he will achieve significant improvement over time. But there is also a substantial possibility that the plaintiff will never again be able to do the heavy overhead work required of a sprinkler fitter, on a regular basis…

[228] The plaintiff must be compensated for the amount of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that he has incurred to date, as well as the amount that he will experience in the future, as the result of the injury caused by the defendant’s negligence. Having regard to the findings of fact that I have made, it is my opinion that the plaintiff should be awarded $60,000 as damages for non-pecuniary loss, and I so order.


A Sensible Take on Gaps in Clinical Records

April 24th, 2012

In the ICBC Claim process the number of medical visits following a collision are often scrutinized.  If there is a substantial gap in treatment an argument can be made that the symptoms are recovered and compensation should be limited accordingly.  Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, dealing with such an argument.

In the recent case (Noon v. Lawlor) the Plaintiff suffered from a chronic whiplash injury following a 2009 collision.  ICBC argued that a “large time gap in which the Plaintiff did not seek any medical treatment” was consistent with injury recovery.  Mr. Justice Halfyard rejected this absolute position and provided the following sensible analysis:

[194] A plaintiff’s failure to seek medical attention for relatively long periods of time cannot, by itself, justify the inference that the plaintiff was not experiencing the symptoms which he or she describes at trial. This is particularly so where exercise is the only “treatment” being advised by the plaintiff’s doctor. However, the circumstances in a particular case may warrant the inference that any pain symptoms that were experienced by the plaintiff during these time gaps were not continuous or frequent or alternatively, if they were, then such symptoms of pain were at a low level of intensity, perhaps not much more than discomfort. If one or other of these inferences is drawn, and if that inference is inconsistent with the plaintiff’s description of his or her symptoms at trial, then such inconsistency may adversely affect the plaintiff’s credibility.

For more judicial commentary on injury claims and frequency of medical appointments you can click here to access my archived posts.


Section 10 WCB Bar Fails to Protect Ministry of Solicitor General

February 27th, 2012

(Update June 19, 2013 – the below decision was overturned in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Court of Appeal)

As previously discussed, Section 10 of the BC Workers Compensation Act can strip people of their right to sue if they are injured in the course of their employment by someone else in the course of their employment.

When a police officer in the course of their duties injuries someone through negligence they may be subject to this bar.  However, when an RCMP officer is negligent they usually enjoy personal immunity from lawsuits and instead the injured party needs to look to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General for compensation who are exposed by statute for liability when RCMP members are negligent in the course of their duties.  (Note: this Ministry has recently been overhauled and renamed the Ministry of Justice)

Interesting reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, discussing the interplay of the WCB Bar to lawsuits and actions against the Minister of Solicitor General for negligence of RCMP officers.

In last week’s case (Aitken v. Bethell) the Plaintiff was seriously injured while sitting in a parked vehicle.  The RCMP were in pursuit of the Defendant Bethell who lost control of his vehicle, colliding with another, and eventually causing a collision with the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  The Plaintiff sued various parties including the police officer.

Both the Plaintiff and the Police officer were found to be in the course of their employment at the time of the crash.   The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General brought an application to have the lawsuit against them dismissed relying on the WCB section 10 bar.  Mr. Justice Halfyard refused to do so finding that while the bar could prevent the lawsuit against the individual officer, the Minister did not enjoy the same immunity as they were not an ‘employer‘ and their liability was created by virtue of statue.  In permitting the claim to proceed Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[66]I have attached s. 10(1) of the Act as an appendix to these reasons. It seems to me that, in a negligence action for damages for personal injury, in order for a defendant to succeed in this defence, it must be established:

a)that the plaintiff, at the time of the alleged injury, was a “worker;”

b)that the alleged injury “[arose] out of and in the course of [the plaintiff’s] employment;”

c)that the defendant was the plaintiff’s employer, or the plaintiff’s co-worker, or “any employer within the scope of this Part” (i.e., Part 1 of the Act), or “any worker;” and

d)that the conduct of the defendant which is alleged to have caused the injury “arose out of and in the course of employment within the scope of this Part” (i.e. Part 1 of the Act).

[67]Where the statutory bar applies in favour of a defendant, the plaintiff cannot maintain his or her action as against that defendant. The plaintiff is restricted to making a claim for workers compensation in respect of the injury caused by that defendant.

[68]It appeared to be common ground that, if the Minister was an employer within the meaning of the Workers Compensation Act, then s. 10(1) would be an absolute bar to any action being brought against him by the plaintiff, i.e., a “worker,” (for any tort allegedly committed by him or by a police officer), even though neither the government nor the Minister was the employer of the police officers involved. The potential scope of the statutory bar appears to be broad…

[80]It seems to me that the Court of Appeal is saying, by necessary implication, that the province cannot be vicariously liable under s. 11 of the Police Act, and that only the Minister can be. If that is so, then on hindsight, it would appear that Mr. Justice Macaulay should not have granted judgment against both the government and the Minister, but should only have found the Minister to be vicariously liable. To my mind, that result cancels out the argument of the applicants based on Hill v. Hurst.

[81]If the plaintiff had sued the Government of British Columbia (which would have to be named as “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia”: s. 7 of the Crown Proceedings Act), the finding of WCAT that the government was an employer within the meaning of the Workers Compensation Act could have the legal effect of entitling the government to the statutory bar in s. 10 of the Act (but only if the conduct of the government, or its servant or agent, was a cause of the injury, and that conduct “arose out of and in the course of employment”). But the plaintiff has not sued the government, nor could he have sued the government, in my opinion. I am not persuaded that the Minister should be accorded the status of an employer for the purpose of s. 10(1) of the Act, simply because the government is an employer and because the Minister is the designate, or is the agent of, the government for the purposes of the Police Act.


Court Finds Plaintiffs Can Face Costs Risks If Defendant Succeeds in Contributory Negligence Claim

May 18th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court finding that Rule 14-1(15) provides the court with discretion to award costs to a Defendant following a finding of contributory negligence as against a Plaintiff.

In last week’s case (Brooks-Martin v. Martin) the Plaintiff was involved in a motorcycle collision.  At trial she was found 30% at fault with the Defendant bearing 70% of the blame.  The Court awarded the Plaintiff 70% of her costs in accordance with the BC Negligence Act.  Although not specifically asked to address this issue, the Court went further and found that the Rules of Court permit a costs award to be made against a Plaintiff if they are found contributorily negligent.  Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[41] Section 3 of the Negligence Act directs that the plaintiff shall receive 70% of her costs of this proceeding, from the defendant Martin. But that statute does not entitle the defendant Martin to receive 30% of his costs of the proceeding, from the plaintiff, because he sustained no damage or loss. See Bedwell v. McGill 2008 BCCA 526 at paras. 29-30 and 32.

[42] However, the defendant Martin was successful on the issue of contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. In my opinion, the costs entitlement of the plaintiff is defined solely by theNegligence Act. That statute directs that the plaintiff shall recover 70% of her costs of the proceeding from the defendant Martin. It seems to me that the Rules of Court relating to costs should govern the issue of whether the defendant Martin should recover any of his costs from the plaintiff. Rule 14-1(15) reads in part:

(15)      The court may award costs

. . .

(b)        that relate to some particular application, step or matter in or related to the proceeding . . .

[44] I think that the issue of whether the plaintiff was contributorily negligent is a “matter in or related to the proceeding” under the new rule… I conclude that the court has the discretion to award costs of the contributory negligence issue, to the defendant Martin. I am not suggesting that such costs should be awarded, only that the court has jurisdiction to entertain such an application under the Rules of Court.


Sanderson and Bullock Orders: Rule 14-1(18)

April 26th, 2011

(Please note that the BC Court of Appeal granted leave to Appeal the below discussed decision.)

When a Plaintiff sues 2 parties and succeeds only against one the Court had a discretion under former Rule 57(18) to order that the unsuccessful defendant pay the successful defendants costs.  Depending on the way a court goes about doing this will label the result a “Sanderson Order” or a “Bullock Order“.  This rule has been reproduced in the New Rules of Court at Rule 14-1(18) and the first judgement I’m aware of considering this discretion under the New Rules was released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry.

In last week’s case (Brooks-Martin v. Martin the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision in Saanich, BC.  The Plaintiff was travelling in the “C” position behind a motorcycle operated by her husband who was travelling in the “A” position.   Her husband unexpectedly cut in front of her.  In trying to avoid a collision with her husband she lost control, fell down onto the road and was injured.

(Accident Reconstruction Software courtesy of SmartDraw)

At trial Mr. Justice Halfyard found the Defendant 70% at fault and the Plaintiff 30% at fault.  The Plaintiff also sued another Defendant although they were found faultless.  The Plaintiff asked for a Sanderson order to minimize her costs consequences following trial although this application was dismissed.  Prior to doing so Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following test required to get a Sanderson or Bullock order:

[6] The court’s power to make the order sought by the plaintiff is set out in Rule 14-1(18), which states:

(18)  If the costs of one defendant against a plaintiff ought to be paid by another defendant, the court may order payment to be made by one defendant to the other directly, or may order the plaintiff to pay the costs of the successful defendant and allow the plaintiff to include those costs as a disbursement in the costs payable to the plaintiff by the unsuccessful defendant.

[7] In order to justify the exercise of discretion in his or her favour, a plaintiff must establish two elements, namely:

a) that it was reasonable for the plaintiff to have sued the successful defendant together with the unsuccessful defendant; and

b) that there was some conduct on the part of the unsuccessful defendant (such as asserting that the successful defendant was the culprit in the case or committing some act or acts which caused the plaintiff to bring the successful defendant into the litigation) which makes it just to require the unsuccessful defendant to pay the costs of the successful defendant.

See Grassi v. WIC Radio Ltd. 2001 BCCA 376 at paras 32-34; Davidson v. Tahtsa Timber Ltd. 2010 BCCA 528 at paras 53-54.

[8] The first element is a threshold requirement for the exercise of the court’s discretion. This question is looked at mainly from the perspective of the plaintiff. But if the plaintiff has alleged independent causes of action against the two defendants and if these two causes of action are not connected, the plaintiff will not be able to meet the threshold test. See Robertson v. North Island College Technical and Vocational Institute (1980), 26 B.C.L.R. 225 (C.A.) at paras 23-24; Davidson v. Tahtsa Timber Ltd. at para. 52.