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 Johnston’

BC Supreme Court – Property Owners Under No Legal Duty To Clear Ice From Sidewalks

June 12th, 2018

Reasons for judgment were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Rossland Registry, dismissing a slip and fall lawsuit against a property owner on the basis that they have no duty to clear ice and snow from sidewalks outside their property.

In today’s case (Scheck v. Parkdale Place Housing Society) the Plaintiff slipped and fell on a public sidewalk which separated Angus Street in Summerland, BC from a senior’s housing facility operated by the defendant Parkdale Place Housing Society.

The Plaintiff sued both the City of Summerland and the Housing Society who owned the business adjacent to the sidewalk.  In dismissing the claim against the Society the Court concluded there is not common law duty for property owners to clear municipal sidewalks running adjacent to their property.  In reaching this decision Mr. Justice Johnson provided the following reasons:

[45]         As to whether Parkdale owed a duty at common law, I accept the reasoning of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Bongiardina at para. 19:

The question then becomes: is there a common law duty on the owner of the property to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to the property? In my view, the answer to this question must be “No”. Although the “neighbour” principle from Donoghue v. Stevenson, [1932] A.C. 562 (H.L.), has been expanded in recent years to cover a myriad of new relationships, it would stretch it too far if it was applied in the circumstances of this case. A homeowner has a duty to ensure that his or her own property is maintained in a reasonable condition so that persons entering the property are not injured. If the homeowner complies with this duty, he or she should be free from liability for injuries arising from failure to maintain municipally owned streets and sidewalks. The snow and ice accumulating on public sidewalks and the potholes on the street in front of the house are the legal responsibility of the municipality, not the adjacent property owner.

[46]         I do so with some reluctance as this seems contrary to the prior decision of this court in Reidy v. Kamloops Hotel Ltd. (1997), 41 B.C.L.R. (3d) 338 (S.C.). There, a plaintiff fell on an icy municipal sidewalk outside the defendant hotel. The court found that the hotel was not an occupier of the sidewalk at para. 6, then went on to consider whether the hotel was liable at common law. In concluding that the hotel was liable to the pedestrian, the court applied the “unusual danger” test from Indermaur v. Dames (1866), L.R. 1 C.P. 274 (Eng. C.P.), and referred to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Campbell v. Royal Bank (1963), [1964] S.C.R. 85, 43 D.L.R. (2d) 341, which considered a test to determine if an unusual danger existed.

[47]         What the court in Reidy did not refer to, as it was apparently not cited, were the decisions in Weiss and Tutinka. With respect, it seems to me that the decision in Reidy was per incuriamas a result of not having the advantage of those two decisions, and should not be followed.

[48]         I am able to determine the question put by Parkdale’s application, as it does not depend on the condition of the sidewalk. I conclude that Parkdale owed no duty to Ms. Scheck with respect to Summerland’s sidewalk and dismiss her claims against Parkdale.


Out of Province Insurers Have No Subrogation Rights Over Part 7 Benefits Paid

July 20th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, shutting down an attempt by the Progressive Max Insurance Company from exercising subrogation rights with respect to Part 7 benefits paid.

In today’s case (Middleton v. Heerlin) the Plaintiffs were US residents involved in a motorcycle collision in BC.  They were insured with Progressive and received over $100,000 in medical/rehab and other benefits from Progressive by virtue of Progressive filing a Power of Attorney Undertaking promising to provide their insured with minimum coverage required under BC law for BC crashes.

In the Plaintiffs lawsuit against the alleged at fault motorist Progressive sought to get their money back arguing they had rights of subrogation.  The Court shut this argument down noting similar arguments were dismissed by the BC Court of Appeal in 2000 and that recent statutory changes do not change this result.  In dismissing Progressive’s argument Mr. Justice Johnston noted as follows –

[11]         When Matilda was decided, the relevant portions of s. 25 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act provided as follows:

25.       (1)        In this section and in section 26, “benefits” means a payment that is or may be made in respect of bodily injury or death under a plan established under this Act, other than a payment pursuant to a contract of third party liability insurance or an obligation under a plan of third party liability insurance, and includes accident insurance benefits similar to those described in Part 6 of the Insurance Act that are provided under a contract or plan of automobile insurance wherever issued or in effect.

            (2)        A person who has a claim for damages and who receives or is entitled to receive benefits respecting the claim, is deemed to have released the claim to the extent of the benefits.

[12]         The court noted at para. 7:

As the chambers judge noted, in the absence of any express statutory right of subrogation the insurer’s right of subrogation is a derivative right only, which must be advanced in the name of the insured. The insurer is placed in no better position than that of the insured. The revised form of question 1 could be answered “no” simply on the ground that Progressive has no status as a subrogated insurer to advance any claim against the defendants in its own name.

The revised question, to which the above answer was given, was stated in this way at para. 2:

Does Progressive (the third party) have an enforceable right under the contract or the common-law to recover from the defendants all or part of the funds, being $17,800.00 U.S. paid by Progressive to the plaintiff?

[13]         It would seem, therefore, that unless the plaintiffs can point to an express statutory right of subrogation, the answer in these cases must be governed by the result in Matilda set out above.

[14]         In spite of the finding in para. 7, the court in Matilda went on to deal with what it said was a broader issue argued by the parties – provincial legislative competence over extra-provincial insurance contracts, which it framed in this way at para. 8:

The issue is whether the provisions of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act purport to modify the terms of extra-provincial policies and thereby exceed the reach of provincial jurisdiction. In my view, they do not. The focus of s. 25(1) and (2) is on the tort action by Progressive’s insureds against ICBC’s insureds. The torts are the motor vehicle accidents that occurred within British Columbia and clearly are within provincial jurisdiction. The subsections simply provide that accident benefits cannot be claimed in the B.C. tort actions irrespective of where the policy paying the benefits was made. That does not purport to modify the terms of the extra-provincial policies. It merely limits the damages recoverable in tort whether by the insured beneficially or Progressive as subrogated claiming in the name of its insureds. In my opinion, the subsections address an incident of provincial jurisdiction over torts within the province and do not attempt to legislate terms of extra-provincial contracts. [Underlining added.]

[15]         Although there is no argument in these applications that the current version of the statute purports to modify extra-provincial contracts, the underlined portions above would appear to offer no comfort to Progressive, as there is no material difference in wording between the section before the court in Matilda and s. 83(1) and (2) invoked by the defendants in these cases…

[21]         I conclude that Matilda governs the interpretation of s. 83, is not affected by the change in wording from s. 26 to s. 84, and is a full answer to these applications.

[22]         Both applications are dismissed with costs to the defendants.


Examination For Discovery Objections Canvassed

June 22nd, 2015

Adding to this site’s archived procedural cases dealing with examinations for discovery, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Duncan Registry, canvassing the appropriateness of several questions relating to liability.

In today’s case (Higginson v. Kish) the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for damages following a collision for which fault was disputed.  At discovery the Defendant objected to the following three questions:

Do you have any possible explanation why you wouldn’t have seen Mr. Higginson’s vehicle approaching in the left lane?

Will you agree with me that it would have been more reasonable to have approached highway speed before changing lanes?

And you were aware that prior to changing lanes, that you could expect vehicles approaching at highway speed, 80 kilometres an hour? 

In finding the first and third questions fair but the second improper Mr. Justice Johnson provided the following reasons:

[5]             It seems to me that while one of the questions, the first one, “Do you have any possible explanation why you wouldn’t have seen Mr. Higginson’s vehicle approaching in the left lane” may have been inelegantly phrased. What it was getting at or should have been getting at is, “Was there anything obscuring your ability to see to the rear, as Mr. Higginson approached?”

[6]             That does not call upon the witness to speculate, it seems to me, if the question is properly phrased, nor does it call upon the defendant to speculate. It is relevant to the issues, that is was there anything preventing the witness from seeing to his rear. That question, together with any subsidiary questions, ought to be answered.

[7]             Question 295, which was “Will you agree with me that it would have been more reasonable to have approached highway speed before changing lanes,” does not require an answer, in my view. It is not an appropriate question to ask a witness. What that really asks the witness to do is to make the judge’s decision for the judge, and that is answer questions that involve matters of law, that is whether the activities or actions of the defendant were reasonable. I will not order the witness to answer that question or anything relating to that question.

[8]             Question 310:  “And you were aware that prior to changing lanes, that you could expect vehicles approaching at highway speed, 80 kilometres an hour?”  That expectation is a perfectly legitimate and reasonable thing to explore on examinations for discovery. The knowledge of the defendant as to the speed at which traffic was or might reasonably be expected to be travelling at the time of the accident, is permissible as a topic for exploration on discovery.

[9]             I will note that, of course, at examinations for discovery, questions of relevance still are important. But those questions of relevance are finally determined at the trial, not at the discovery, and ordering the defendant to answer question 234 and 310 says nothing about whether or not those answers or any of the evidence developed is admissible at the trial.

[10]         So the defendant will attend, for no more than an hour, to answer questions 234 and 310, and any supplementary questions legitimately and properly flowing from those two questions.


A Costs Argument That “Ought Not To Have Been Made”

June 5th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, criticizing a costs argument advanced by defense counsel after failing to best the Plaintiff’s formal settlement offer at trial.

In today’s case (Tenhunen v. Tenhunen) the plaintiff was injured when she tripped and fell on a deficient ramp constructed by the Defendant.  At trial both were found equally to blame for the incident.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff made a formal settlement offer of $80,000.  The Defendant did not accept this and the trial damages awarded amounted close to $125,000.

The Plaintiff sought post offer double costs but the Defendant opposed arguing, in part, that the Defendant was of modest means.  The court, suspicious of this argument asked about whether the claim was insured to which Defence counsel refused to answer citing the Code of Professional Conduct.  Plaintiff’s counsel then “provided a copy of the policy of insurance that the defendant was obliged to produce” which led to the following judicial criticism of the defence argument and an award of partial post offer double costs –

[27]        The defendant’s principal argument is based on Rule 9-1(6)(c), as she points to her own unfortunate circumstances, subsisting barely on a disability pension, and contrasts this to the far better financial position enjoyed by the plaintiff, who had been employed on an income between $77,000 and $101,511 in the five years between 2009 and 2013. The defendant argues that this financial disparity militates against an order for double costs. This submission, bearing in mind the evidence at trial, raises a logical question of insurance coverage.

[28]        The plaintiff and defendant are mother and daughter, respectively. They were and are close. The defendant ordinarily lives in the rented house where the plaintiff fell and suffered her injury, and from the photographs submitted into evidence, that residence would not suggest an ability to pay substantial damages. It is unlikely in the extreme that the plaintiff would sue her daughter, and proceed to trial, if the only prospects of recovery were limited to the defendant’s disability pension.

[29]        While the defendant’s straightened finances would argue against her being able to afford insurance premiums, those same financial constraints would argue more strongly against the defendant being able to afford to retain senior counsel for the entire action, or to offer to settle her mother’s claims for $80,000 all-inclusive on October 30, 2014. I recognize that an offer to settle is not a guarantee of payment, as it would simply have entitled the plaintiff to enter judgment for the amount of the offer, had she accepted it. In these circumstances, however, the plaintiff would have every reason to know that her daughter had no ability to pay the amount offered from her own funds.

[30]        The defendant’s argument under Rule 9-1(6)(c) made the question of insurance relevant to the costs issue, and by memorandum to counsel I invoked Rule 7-1(4) and asked if there were a policy of insurance to which the defendant could turn for indemnity. The Rule provides:

Despite subrule (3), information concerning the insurance policy must not be disclosed to the court at trial unless it is relevant to an issue in the action.

[31]        Counsel for the defendant replied to this question in this way:

Finally, and more on the basis of a footnote, the Court has inquired as to whether there is a policy of insurance that the Defendant may look to for indemnification of damages and Costs. It would be entirely inappropriate for defence counsel to make any submission as to whether Ms. Kim Tenhunen may or may not look to a policy of insurance for indemnification. Defence counsel has a dual retainer in the circumstances and owes an obligation to both the Defendant and to an insurer not to compromise their respective interests: Professional Conduct Handbook, Chapter 6.4(a-d).

[32]        The Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia (BC Code) replaced the Professional Conduct Handbook on January 1, 2013. I have examined the previous rule cited by counsel, and see nothing there to prevent the disclosure requested. I have examined the BC Code, with the same results.

[33]        The most charitable interpretation of counsel’s argument is that it is hypothetical. Even on that assumption, it still does not respond to the question posed under Rule 7-1(4), and that is whether the existence of a policy of insurance is relevant to the costs issue, and, if it is, whether there is a policy of insurance available to the defendant in this case.

[34]        How a lawyer’s duties are supervised by the Law Society – to both an insurer who retains the lawyer and the insured on whose behalf the lawyer acts under the retainer – have little to do with the question raised in this application. Nothing in the question put to counsel could raise a risk of dividing counsel’s loyalties to an insurer and insured, assuming that is the relationship that has existed.

[35]        Counsel for the plaintiff has provided a copy of the policy of insurance that the defendant was obliged to produce as part of pre-trial document discovery. The argument against double costs based on the parties’ relative financial circumstances ought not to have been made.


Deficient Wheelchair Ramp Leads to 50% Liability for Slip and Fall

January 12th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, finding a defendant 50% at fault for a slip and fall for building a wheelchair ramp which failed to comply with the BC Building Code.

In today’s case (Tenhunen v Tenhunen) the Defendant was a partial paraplegic.  She built a wheelchair ramp on her property for her own use but did not build it to code.  The Plaintiff slipped and fell on this ramp while visiting and suffered various injuries.

In finding the Defendant 50% liable for the incident due to the deficient ramp Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:

[55]         I find that the defendant failed to take reasonable care for the safety of those, including the plaintiff, who she knew or ought to have known would use the lower ramp. That failure consisted of building too much slope into the ramp, not providing a guard or handrail on the outside, and not making some effort to enhance traction between 2005 and 2011.

[56]         I do not view this as a case where the defendant is relieved from a duty of care because the plaintiff willingly assumed the risk, a defence available under s. 3(3) of the Act. The defendant has not directly argued that the plaintiff willingly assumed the risks of walking down the ramp, but may have indirectly raised the question by arguing that the plaintiff’s contributory negligence is overwhelming and by choosing to proceed down the ramp, the plaintiff was the author of her own misfortune.

[57]         In Milina v. Bartsch (1985), 49 B.C.L.R. (2d) 33 at 60 (S.C.), McLachlin J., then a judge of this court, said of the statutory defence the following :

A further defence available under the Occupiers Liability Acts of both Ontario and British Columbia, arises from the provisions of those Acts that an occupier owes no duty of care to a person in respect of risks willingly accepted by that person as his own risks: Occupiers Liability Act (B.C.), s. 3(3); Occupiers’ Liability Act (Ont.), s. 4(1). To establish such assumption of the risk, Show Producers need not prove the traditional volenti defence. The standard is considerably lower. For example, in Epp v. Ridgetop Bldr. Ltd. (1978), 8 Alta. L.R. (2d) 195 (T.D.), it was held that a person who was familiar with the circumstances so that he could recognize and avoid danger, assumed the risk of that danger, with the result that the occupier was not liable. Similarly, in Schulz v. Leeside Dev. Ltd., [1978] 5 W.W.R. 620, 6 C.C.L.T. 248, 90 D.L.R. (3d) 987 (B.C.C.A.), it was held that an occupier is not liable for dangers that are known to the user or are obvious to him or are so commonly known that it can be reasonably assumed that the user will be familiar with them. In Holman v. Ellsmar Apt. Ltd. (1963), 40 D.L.R. (2d) 657 (B.C.S.C.), the plaintiff was held to have been fully aware of the condition of an unlighted sidewalk and to have fully accepted the risk of danger. The occupier was absolved of responsibility.

[58]         While the plaintiff could see she was about to walk down a damp wooden ramp, and elected to proceed on the side without a guard or handrail, she could not see that the ramp was steeper than it should have been. Notwithstanding that the standard under s. 3(3) is lower than a common law volenti defence, I conclude that the plaintiff did not willingly assume the risk of walking down a ramp that was too steep.

[59]         I do find that the plaintiff failed to take reasonable care for her own safety in one respect, however. She knew there was no outside guard or handrail when she stepped onto the lower ramp, and she knew there was a handrail at least on the inside of the ramp. Even allowing for increased slipperiness because there was more debris on the inside of the lower ramp, the plaintiff was negligent to forego the increased safety of the handrail.

[60]         I accept that the plaintiff was keeping a reasonable lookout, and otherwise taking reasonable care for her own safety.

[61]         In all of the circumstances, I apportion liability 50% to the defendant, and 50% to the plaintiff.


Adverse Inference Drawn Following Defendant’s Failure To Testify in Liability Trial

August 21st, 2014

Where fault for a collision is disputed it is very unusual for one of the parties to fail to testify.  Absent a good explanation the Court is free to draw an ‘adverse inference’ meaning an assumption that the party would not help their cause if they did indeed testify.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, discussing this principle.

In this week’s case (Solberg v. Carriere) the Plaintiff pedestrian was struck by the Defenant’s vehicle in a 2012 collision in Campbell River, BC.   The Plaintiff, was “acting in an animated and boisterous fashion” near the Defendant’s vehicle.   The Defendant put his vehicle in motion knowing the Plaintiff was in the vicinity who then “slipped and fell” and was run over by the vehicle’s trailer.  The Defendant argued the Plaintiff was fully at fault for the incident.  The Defendant, who was present during the trial, decided not to testify.  The Court drew an adverse inference from the Defendant’s failure and concluded that the Defendant “breached his duty of care by moving his vehicle forward without looking for himself to see that it was safe to do so, knowing that (the Plaintiff) was in the immediate area and acting foolishly”.

In drawing an adverse inference from the Defendant’s failure to testify Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:

[43]  Weighing the evidence in light of those criteria set out in McIlvenna, I conclude that in this case I will draw an inference that, if he had been called, Mr. Carriere’s evidence would not have tended to establish that he looked toward Ms. Solberg before he put his vehicle in motion.  I conclude that Mr. Carriere relied on his passengers to tell him if it were safe to move, whether it was good to go or clear.  This is consistent with his discovery evidence that no one was looking at Ms. Solberg as he was driving away, and consistent wit the evidence of his passengers who did testify.

 


Previous Similar But Recovered Injuries Are Not Indivisible

March 21st, 2014

Interesting reasons for judgment were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Campbell River Registry, addressing whether previous similar but recovered injuries are indivisible for the purpose of damage assessment.  In short the Court held that they are not.

In this week’s case (Lawson v. Kirk) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 collision.  The Defendant “ has admitted liability for the accident and -quite refreshingly – has admitted the plaintiff was injured in the accident.”.  The Plaintiff has similar injuries fro a previous collisins although these were recovered prior to the 2010 collision.  In finding such injuries divisible Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:

[45]         Ms. Lawson has agreed that the injuries she suffered in her 2007 accident were very similar to those suffered in this accident, and that her complaints in late 2009, arising out of the 2007 motor vehicle accident, were very similar to complaints she had in 2012 and 2013, following this accident. That raises the question of divisible or indivisible injuries.

[46]         I conclude that, for the purposes of causation, the injuries from the two accidents are divisible. Although Ms. Lawson had very similar complaints of discomfort arising from the same areas of the neck and back, I accept her evidence that her symptoms from the first accident had resolved by the time of the second accident. From the point of view of damage assessment, I find there was no measurable risk that the injuries caused in the first accident which would have resulted in ongoing losses in any event, so that pre-existing risk need not be taken into account in assessing the damages flowing from this defendant’s negligence. See Moore v. Kyba, 2012 BCCA 361 at para. 43.

[47]         I say that for these reasons:

·       Ms. Lawson was able to do all of the housework while she and Mr. Furnseth lived in Fort St. John from December 2009 to May 2010;

·       In that same period, Ms. Lawson drove the considerable distance between Fort St. John and Campbell River and back again two or three times with no difficulty;

·       When she returned to Campbell River in late May 2010, Ms. Lawson resumed her duties at the bakery, with no difficulty;

·       Ms. Lawson took up the second job at a fitness center in June 2010, again without difficulty;

·       Ms. Lawson participated in a soccer tournament on the Canada Day weekend in 2010 without difficulty.

[48]         I have accepted Ms. Lawson’s evidence that she was able to do the above activities without difficulty. I have discounted Mr. Furnseth’s evidence that, while the two were in Fort St. John, he and Ms. Lawson engaged in activities such as riding off-road vehicles because Ms. Lawson did not testify to those activities.

[49]         The view of the evidence most favourable to the defendant would be that Ms. Lawson’s injuries arising out of this accident acted upon a plaintiff who was perhaps more susceptible to injury as a result of the earlier accident, that is to say, in which Ms. Lawson’s damages should be assessed on the basis that the “thin skull” reasoning as opposed to a “crumbling skull” reasoning.


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Asssessment For Onset of Symptoms in Pre-Existing Degenerative Changes

November 19th, 2013

Adding to this site’s archives addressing damages for collisions triggering symptoms in pre-existing degenerative changes, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with such an injury.

In last week’s case (Savoie v. Williams) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision when the Defendant ran a stop sign.  Although fault was not admitted the Defendant was found fully at fault.  The 53 year old plaintiff, who was fit and active, suffered soft tissue injuries.  She also had degenerative changes in her neck which pre-existed the collision.  Following the crash these became symptomatic and the symptoms were expected to linger into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at$75,000 Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:

[34]         Dr. Maloon agreed that there was no indication that the plaintiff had any complaints arising from these areas of her body prior to the accident, and described as a “million dollar question” the reason some people with similar wear and tear will have pain or other symptoms from the wear and tear, whereas others will not.

[35]         Dr. Maloon also said that once there are wear and tear changes to the neck, nothing can be done to change the natural course of that condition; it is a mechanical problem and treatment is largely symptomatic.

[36]         At page 6 of his written opinion Dr. Maloon says:

It is possible that the soft tissue strain that she sustained initiated the symptoms of degenerative changes that have persisted to date.

[37]         I conclude that Ms. Savoie’s initial soft tissue injuries, which I consider moderate to severe, have plagued her from the time of the accident until the date of trial. I also find that these injuries precipitated symptoms from the pre-existing (but asymptomatic) degenerative state of her neck and upper back, that the combination of the injury and the degeneration has created more discomfort than either would alone, and that to the extent that the continuing symptoms come from the degenerative neck condition, it is unlikely they will ever completely go away.

[38]         I have reviewed the authorities tendered by each counsel and consider that the facts of this case more nearly approximate the facts in Ortega v. Pena, 2012 BCSC 1884, and Thomas v. Wormsley, 2009 BCSC 919.

[39]         In personal injury litigation there never are identical plaintiffs, circumstances or injuries and consequently authorities are, at the best, guidance on the question of damages.

[40]         On the evidence before me, I assess Ms. Savoie’s non-pecuniary damages at $75,000.


Diminished Homemaking Capacity Award Made Despite “No Evidence By Which Services Can Be Valued”

November 15th, 2013

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, taking a practical approach to damages for diminished homemaking capacity.

In this week’s case (Savoie v. Williams) the Plaintiff was injured when the Defendant ran a stop sign causing a collision.   The crash caused soft tissue injuries and further caused pre-existing degenerative changes in the Plaintiff’s neck and upper back to be symptomatic. Although the Plaintiff missed little time from work she struggled in her daily household activities and modified/limited how these were conducted.  ICBC argued that no award should be made because there was no evidence that she was completely disabled from household tasks.  In dismissing ICBC;s argument and assessing the loss at $20,000 Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following practical reasons:

[51]         It seems to me that this argument misses the point: as unusual as it may seem to many, before the accident Ms. Savoie was someone who could properly be described as “house-proud”, in the sense that term was employed in Prednichuk v. Spencer, 2009 BCSC 1396 at para. 113 (perhaps without the elements of construction encompassed in that case). In this case, Ms. Savoie expended considerable energy, and took great pride, in maintaining her home and yard, in cooking, and in keeping vehicles clean (with the exception of her husband’s dump truck).

[52]         I agree with the Third Party that Ms. Savoie can do some, perhaps a great deal, of what she could do before the accident. The fact remains that she is impaired in her ability to do those things she did previously without restriction. I find that as a result of the injuries she suffered in the accident that she is no longer the person described by her son as “super mom”…

[55]         The plaintiff here led no evidence by which any of the household services can be valued, on either the replacement cost or opportunity cost approach. I note that the court in McTavish expressed a preference for the replacement cost approach over opportunity cost, at paras. 48-49. The plaintiff has not hired anyone to perform household tasks that she would have performed if not injured.

[56]         I note that in Rezaei v. Piedade, 2012 BCSC 1782, the court accepted $15 per hour as a value of lost housekeeping capacity, partly because it had been used as a measure in earlier decisions, but also because it accorded with evidence in that case of what a witness paid for similar services. In Smusz v. Wolfe Chevrolet Ltd., 2010 BCSC 82, the court had some evidence based on the plaintiff’s previous work as a housekeeper on which to value housekeeping or cleaning services. I do not have such evidence in this case.

[57]         I find that Ms. Savoie was initially unable to perform some household tasks. I find that she has recovered some of her ability to do household tasks but with some difficulty and some adjustments to accommodate her changed physical abilities.

[58]         I do not read either Kroeker or McTavish as preventing me from assessing damages for this aspect of Ms. Savoie’s loss as though it were a loss of amenity. Indeed, I interpret para. 69 of McTavish, quoted above, as inviting that approach.

[59]         I do not accept the Third Party’s invitation to incorporate an award for loss under this head into non-pecuniary damages. Such an approach would leave the parties with no understanding of the reasoning or result of my findings.

[60]         Largely because Ms. Savoie’s pre-accident approach to housekeeping was such that it was more a pleasure than a task to her, and her loss in this regard is more acute than many others might have experienced, I award $20,000 for loss of housekeeping capacity.


Lack of Business Records Negativley Impacts Diminished Earning Capacity Claim

September 19th, 2013

When a self employed individual fails t properly account their business income and expenses this can create difficulties in advancing a claim for diminished earning capacity.  Reasons for judgemetne were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, demonstrating this.

In this week’s case (Musgrove v. Elliot) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions.   The Defendants admitted liability.  THe Plaintiff sustained vaiours injuries which were still symptomatic at the time of trial.  He was self employed as a builder of residential decks and fences.  The Plaintiff’s injuries negatively affected him at work such that he had to rely more heavily on subcontractors and labourers to do work he otherwise would have done himself.  The Court accepted this, however, awarded only a fraction of the damages the plaintiff was seeking for these losses based on the Plaintiff’s lack of corroborating records.  In doing so Mr. Justice  Johnston provided the following reasons:

[56]         In late 2007 Mr. Musgrove moved to the Victoria area and began to establish himself in his own business as a fence and deck builder. He had perhaps 10 months to build that business before the first of his two accidents, and in that time he kept lamentably few records of his earnings or expenses.

[57]         There is thus little reliable evidence of what Mr. Musgrove actually earned before the first accident, and evidence of actual earnings is usually the most reliable basis on which to assess damages for income losses claimed as a result of an accident.

[58]         Mr. Musgrove’s poor record keeping habits continued after the accidents, leaving little upon which to base a confident assessment of what he has earned since the first accident, or what he has paid out to others to do work he says he could and should have been able to do himself but for his injuries…

[72]         I am satisfied that as a result of the injuries he suffered in the accidents, Mr. Musgrove had to hire others to do work that he would have done himself had he not been injured. This represents a loss to Mr. Musgrove for which he should be compensated.

[73]         Mr. Musgrove must accept responsibility for the consequences of his poor or non-existent records. One such consequence may be an award lower than it might have been had he kept proper records. In all of the circumstances, I assess Mr. Musgrove’s loss of earning capacity at $20,000 from the time of the accident to trial.