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 Holmes’

$16,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Year Long Soft Tissue Injury

November 29th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for soft tissue injuries which occurred as a result of a so-called ‘low velocity‘ impact.

In this week’s case (Ram v. Rai) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision.  The crash resulted in little vehicle damage.  The Defendant testified that the impact involved  ‘very little force‘ although the Court rejected this finding that the Defendant’s version of events was “ internally inconsistent and generally unconvincing.“.  The court went on to find that the Plaintiff suffered a year long soft tissue injury.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $16,000 Mr. Justice Holmes provided the following reasons:

[47]         As I find, at the time of the accident Ms. Ram was an active and healthy young woman of 21 years of age, who was busily engaged not only in full-time post-secondary studies but also in two part-time jobs.  She had an active social life with friends that involved playing several different sports as opportunities presented.  She enjoyed gym workouts and doing workout exercise tapes at home.

[48]         As I find, the accident left Ms. Ram with throbbing pain in her back, neck, and head that became intermittent over time, with occasional numbness in her legs.  The pain in the various areas gradually resolved within a year, the back pain last of all.

[49]         The effects of the injuries caused Ms. Ram to miss work and some school during the few days or a week after the accident.  They made her withdraw from social activities over a longer term, so that she seemed to her family to be withdrawn and reclusive, no longer her bubbly self.  These effects resolved as her injuries resolved, within about a year…

[55]         On all the evidence, I conclude that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $16,000. 


Late Plaintiff Testimony Does Not Result In Adverse Inference in Injury Claim

November 21st, 2012

In my ongoing efforts to track judicial commentary of late plaintiff testimony in injury litigation, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this practice.

In this week’s case (Ram v. Rai) the Plaintiff was injured in a rear-end collision.  At trial her mother and sister testified before she did.  The Defendant argued that the Court should draw an adverse inference in these circumstances.  Mr. Justice Holmes refused to do so but provided the following comments addressing the practice of late plaintiff testimony:

[36]         A plaintiff is free to call her witnesses in the order she and her counsel choose.  However, I agree with the defendants that for a plaintiff to testify after hearing other witnesses testify may affect the weight that can be given to the plaintiff’s own evidence about matters the earlier witnesses addressed.  It may be difficult for the trier of fact to be confident that the plaintiff’s account of events is her own, and is not coloured by or adapted to the preceding evidence. 

[37]         I note also that it may be difficult for the trier of fact to appreciate and assess the full import of the evidence of supplementary witnesses without having first seen and heard the plaintiff herself in the witness stand.  However, that observation relates to a matter of practice or effective advocacy, and not to one of law, evidence, or civil procedure. 

[38]         Madam Justice Humphries discussed these problems at greater length in Gustafson v. Davis, 2012 BCSC 1576 at paras. 112-116.

[39]         Mindful of the potential dangers in the sequence of witnesses in this trial, I find the situation to be a relatively unusual one in which I can be fully confident that Ms. Ram’s evidence was not contaminated in any way by her having heard her mother and her sister give evidence before her.

[40]         The three witnesses gave accounts of the collision and its effects on Ms. Ram, apparent or felt as the case may be, that were consistent with each other in their broad outline but which each spoke clearly and convincingly from the witness’s own perspective.  The mother and the sister testified about what they saw, while Ms. Ram testified about what she felt. 

[41]         For example, Ms. Ram’s mother testified in general terms that after the accident Ms. Ram spent much more time alone in her room.  Ms. Ram in her testimony did not describe her conduct in quite the same way.  She testified that after the accident she felt generally unwell and could not keep up with her usual activities, friends, school, and work.  Sometimes her headaches were bad and she would need to stay alone in a dark room.  These were not identical accounts, but they described the same response from different perspectives.

[42]         In another example, Ms. Ram’s sister testified that Ms. Ram’s posture was affected by the accident.  She testified that Ms. Ram would tend to stoop, and as she began to recover the sister would often touch Ms. Ram on the nose to remind her to straighten up.  Ms. Ram made no mention of stooping or her sister touching her nose, and referred only in passing to her posture as an aspect of the consequences of her back pain.  Ms. Ram’s evidence was in no way inconsistent with her sister’s, but spoke of the pain she herself felt, rather than the stooping the sister saw.

[43]         To my observation, when Ms. Ram had no personal knowledge about a matter, she said so; she did not borrow from the testimony she had heard her mother or her sister give shortly before.  For example, Ms. Ram testified that she did not know whether the impact of the collision had moved the Ram car forward.  She had been in the courtroom when her mother testified earlier during the same day that the impact moved the car forward by between 3 and 6 feet, shifting it into the intersection.

[44]         In short, I found each of Ms. Ram and her mother and her sister to be impressive and entirely credible witnesses.  While I have carefully considered the implications of the order in which they gave their testimony, I find no indication at all that Ms. Ram’s evidence was affected by her mother and sister having testified before she did.


Rule 68 Denied for Historic Personal Injury Case

December 7th, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, deciding whether a case that was filed before Rule 68 applied could later be brought into the scope of the Rule.

In today’s case (Sahota v. Sandulo) the Plaintiff sued as a result of personal injuries from a BC Car Crash.  The case was filed in New Westminster in 2005, a time when Rule 68 did not apply to that Court Registry.  The matter was set for Jury Trial.  As trial neared the Plaintiff brought an application to move the case into Rule 68 which would have a number of implications including getting rid of the defendants right to have the matter heard by a Jury.

Mr. Justice Holmes dismissed the application holding that “where an action is commenced before the introduction of Rule 68, the Court has no jurisdiction to make an order bringing the action within the Rule over the objection of one of the parties” In reaching this conclusion he agreed with the reasoning of Mr. Justice Macaulay in a case called Servos v. ICBC where the Court held as follows:

9          The plaintiff argues that any existing proceeding, regardless of the stage it is at, can be transferred into the pilot project if the parties consent.  In written argument, he says that the rule is silent on whether the court may order the transfer in the absence of consent and that, accordingly, the court has “the discretion to make any order, which it considers the circumstances require, particularly where it tends to prevent the misuse of the process”.  He does not suggest that the defendant is misusing the process in withholding consent in this case.  The plaintiff relies on Bell v. Wood, [1927] 1 W.W.R. 580 (B.C.S.C.), considered in MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. v. Galiano Conservancy Assn., [1994] B.C.J. No. 2477 (C.A.), for the proposition set out above.

10        With respect, I do not agree that the principle set out applies here.  In Bell, the court addressed its discretion to make orders regarding procedure as the circumstances may require “when the Rules are silent on the subject and especially when it tends to prevent misuse of the process” at (para. 6).  The particular question was whether an affidavit could be filed on an application for trial by jury when the rules were silent on the question.  MacMillan Bloedel addressed the court’s jurisdiction to permit the continuation of an examination for discovery on the issue of whether special costs should be ordered against a plaintiff that applied to discontinue the action five weeks before trial.

11        I read those decisions as affirming the court’s inherent jurisdiction to craft procedural rules when necessary because the rules do not anticipate the particular problem, but not as anything more.  Once a statute covers a matter, it is well understood that inherent jurisdiction cannot be relied on except to fill a functional gap or vacuum:  Unity Insurance Brokers (Windsor) Ltd. v. Unity Realty & Insurance Inc., [2005] O.J. No. 1069, 251 D.L.R. (4th) 368 (Ont. Div. Ct.).  It represents the reserve or fund of powers which the court may draw on as necessary when it is just or equitable to do so, but it is not unlimited and cannot be exercised contrary to any statutory provision. See Glover v. Minister of National Revenue (1980), 29 O.R. (2d) 392, 113 D.L.R. (3d) 161 (Ont. C.A.), aff’d [1981] 2 S.C.R. 561.

12        There is no gap in the present circumstances.  Rule 68 expressly requires the consent of the defendant.  It follows that my inherent jurisdiction does not extend to overriding the defendant’s lack of consent and directing the transfer of the proceeding into the pilot project.

This case will be a relatively short lived precedent, however, as Rule 68 is coming to an end as of July 1, 2010.  (Click here to read my previous post discussing Rule 68’s replacement with the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rule 15).


$80,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Pain and PTSD

October 13th, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding damages for injuries and loss as a result of a 2007 BC Car Crash to a previously disabled Plaintiff.

In today’s case (Viner-Smith v. Kiing) the Plaintiff was previously disabled with depression and other medical issues.  In 2007 he was involved in a rear-end car crash.  The Crash caused various physical injuries and exacerbated his pre-existing depression.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $80,000 Mr. Justice Holmes summarized the accident related injuries as follows:

[51] The plaintiff now suffers from the complex interaction of a combination of chronic pain, major depressive disorder, and PTSD.  The chronic pain syndrome and PTSD are a result of the motor vehicle accident.  A depressive disorder was present before the accident but in my view was increased or exacerbated from the effect of the accident.   The combination of conditions can have the effect that a worsening of the symptoms of any one may cause another to worsen.

[52] The combination of these disorders is notoriously difficult to treat pharmacologically.  Dr. Passey’s prognosis for the plaintiff “…remains poor for a full recovery and I am pessimistic about any future significant improvements” and “even with further treatment it is most likely that he will have a restricted lifestyle, diminished ability to enjoy life and a restricted capacity for any type of competitive employability for the foreseeable future.”

[53] The plaintiff therefore sustained soft tissue injury in the accident and he suffered significantly in the immediate post accident period with diminishing pain over three or four months.  He also suffered an increase or exacerbation of the psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression and agoraphobia which he had experienced pre-accident but to a lesser degree.

[54] The plaintiff’s pre-accident depression involved passive thoughts of suicide but post accident they escalated to active ideation, with the plaintiff researching methods to commit suicide although not following through because of the effect he believed it would have on his family.  The symptoms of agoraphobia in not leaving his home, answering the phone, getting the mail, and becoming isolated and reclusive, appear to have increased from sporadic and partial pre-accident to the plaintiff tending toward being totally reclusive and isolated after the accident.  The plaintiff even stopped filling out the monthly forms required to receive the funding for his son’s autism program and the government cut off payment.

[55] There is a good deal of evidence in the Odyssey documentation,  the records of Dr. Applegarth, and the testimony of his wife and friends,  that the plaintiffs depression and anxiety conditions existed prior to the accident.  The accident injuries ended the ability of the plaintiff to continue with the Odyssey program, however it may well not have succeeded in any event and the plaintiff was very unhappy with Odyssey before the accident and on the verge of withdrawing.

[56] The surgery for the CSDC has not occurred although available since 2004.  There was no firm commitment made to undergo the surgery and until it was successfully completed the plaintiff would not be returning to work.

[57] The plaintiff had not worked for 6 years at the time of the accident, including an unsuccessful attempt in 2003 doing only non-driving dispatch work.  Statistically persons who have not worked for two years are unlikely to return to employment.

[58] The health of the plaintiff prior to the motor vehicle accident was certainly impaired and he had significant disability.  The plaintiff was particularly vulnerable to both psychological and physical injury and both were caused by the defendant.  The plaintiff at the time of the accident was engaged in a tangible program directed toward an ultimate return to employment, however the result was problematical and uncertain.  There is no doubt however the effect of injuries the plaintiff sustained in the accident did interfere with his ability to rehabilitate himself and did constitute a set back to him.

[59] I agree with the assessment of Dr. Pullyblank that the prospects for the plaintiff’s return to work as a bus driver were low before the accident but lower still after.  The major effect of PTSD is that the plaintiff is eliminated from employment driving a bus or related occupations as that might trigger his fear of driving, accidents, injury and death.

[60] The plaintiff, because of the increased level of his depression and anxiety post accident, and his chronic pain and PTSD, has suffered a further impact on his already impaired quality of life.  The loss of hope of returning to employment as a bus driver, which he loved, and the lessening of his chances generally for remunerative employment, will impact his enjoyment of life…

[65] I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary general damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities at $80,000.

In addition to assessment for pain and suffering for chronic pain and PTSD imposed on pre-existing depression this case is also worth reviewing for the court’s award of damages for wage loss for a previously disabled plaintiff.  In today’s case it was accepted that the accident caused no past wage loss and that given the Plaintiff’s pre-accident absence from the workforce it was ‘statistically unlikely’ that he would return to the work force even if the accident did not happen.  Despite this, Mr. Justice Holmes awarded the Plaintiff $50,000 for diminished earning capacity.  The court’s key discussion in coming to this figure is reproduced below:

[67]         The plaintiff does not seek past income loss and that is because there has been none.  He remains on disability insurance from his original employment.  Regardless of the motor vehicle accident it was problematic whether the plaintiff would have completed his rehabilitation program with Odyssey, pursued conditioning, lost weight, underwent successful surgery for his ear problem and hernia, and been successful in dealing with his depression, agoraphobia, gout and other health problems.

[68]         I am of the view that on the whole of the evidence there was only a minimal chance, absent the motor vehicle accident, that the plaintiff would have successfully achieved rehabilitation through the Odyssey program, successfully resolved his ear problem with surgery, and overcome his other medical and psychological conditions that would perhaps then have allowed him to attempt a return to his job as a bus driver after a six year absence.

[69]         On the evidence, I accept the injuries resulting from the motor vehicle accident give rise to only a minimal change from the plaintiff’s pre-accident earning capacity.  That change is that as a result of the effects of PTSD he will no longer be capable of employment as a bus driver or in any related work which will trigger his PTSD symptoms.

[70]         The reality however is that both prior to, and after, the motor vehicle accident the plaintiff presented to any prospective employer as a person:

·       who had not worked for six years

·       that was physically deconditioned

·       who could not sustain physical activity for prolonged periods

·       who suffered SCDS which triggered dizziness, balance problems, and headaches at random and on physical activity

·       suffered episodic bouts of depression and suicidal ideation

·       suffered diverse anxiety and agoraphobia feelings

·       and personally doubted his own ability to return to work.

[71]         The plaintiff pre-accident did not pursue any job opportunity although with training or further education had many options open to him, most of which still remain after the motor vehicle accident.

[72]         The PTSD has however further reduced the plaintiff’s pre accident ability to earn income and I assess the further diminution in the plaintiffs earning capacity attributable to the effect of the injury from the motor vehicle accident at $50,000.