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 Kent’

212,000 Reasons not to Drive Drunk

May 23rd, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, illustrating the potentially steep financial consequences of impaired driving.

In today’s case (Hamman v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end crash.  He was the offending motorist.  He was insured by ICBC but was denied coverage for the crash due to allegations of impaired driving.  An occupant in the faultless vehicle was injured and ICBC ultimately settled the claim for $212,000.

ICBC then sought repayment from the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff sued ICBC arguing they should not have denied coverage.  Mr. Justice Kent disagreed and ordered the plaintiff pay back ICBC the full amount, plus interest and court costs.  In upholding the breach of insurance the Court provided the following reasons:

[64]         I have no hesitation in concluding that Mr. Hamman was severely impaired by alcohol at the time of the accident.  His explanation of his activities that day and the amount of alcohol he had consumed is confused and unconvincing.  At the scene of the accident he appeared “out of it”.  He smelled of alcohol and he displayed significant comprehension difficulties.  He failed the roadside alcohol screening test.

[65]         It was a relatively clear night and the road surface was dry.  The highway was relatively straight.  The construction zone was illuminated by lights and a flashing arrow merger sign.  There was nothing to diminish the visibility of either the construction zone or the numerous vehicles that had come to a stop before it without incident.

[66]         At the police station he was noted to have slurred speech, flushed complexion, and blood-shot eyes.  He was falling asleep both in the police car and eventually at the police station itself.

[67]         And then, of course, there are the blood-alcohol readings obtained through the Data Master breath testing.  Those readings, .17% and .18% reflect substantial intoxication by alcohol.  They also put the lie to Mr. Hamman’s claim that he had only consumed a couple drinks on the evening in question.  That level of intoxication also explains Mr. Hamman’s difficulties with visual perception (depth and distance) and inability to first notice and then react to the otherwise clearly visible vehicles stopped on the highway ahead of him at the construction zone.

[68]         The evidence is overwhelming, and I have no hesitation in finding as a fact, that at the time of the accident Mr. Hamman was driving his vehicle under the influence of alcohol to such an extent that he was incapable of its proper control.  In doing so he breached the terms and conditions of his insurance policies and his liability coverage for the accident was rightly denied by ICBC.

[69]         Mr. Hamman’s action is dismissed.  ICBC’s counterclaim is allowed and damages are awarded to ICBC against Mr. Hamman in the amount of $212,000 together with interest pursuant to the Court Order Interest Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 79.


Pub Found Partly At Fault for Crash Caused by “Visibly Intoxicated” Patron

March 9th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding a Pub jointly and severally liable for a collision by a patron who was served alcohol to the point of visible intoxication.

In today’s case (Widdows v. Rockwell) the Defendant drove a vehicle and collided with the Plaintiff pedestrian.  The crash caused severe injuries, including brain damage.

At the time the Defendant was “quite literally, falling-down drunk.“.

Prior to the crash the Defendant was drinking at a local pub. In finding the pub jointly and severally liable for over serving a patron and failing to take reasonable steps to ensure he was not driving Mr. Justice Kent provided the following reasons:

[58]         Insofar as Rockwell’s consumption is concerned, I do not accept his evidence that he only consumed 2 1/2 beers at the pub.  Rather, I find as a fact that each of the co-workers bought at least one round of drinks for the other members of the group (and possibly more) and that Rockwell himself bought at least two rounds that included beer (for himself and Sauve), vodka (for Sahanovitch) and Fireball whiskey shooters (for all).  I find as a fact that by the time he left the pub to retrieve his truck, Rockwell had consumed at least five to six drinks, a combination of beer and liquor, and that he was significantly intoxicated by alcohol.  I also have no doubt, and I find as a fact, that the influence of alcohol on Rockwell was exacerbated by both a lack of food in the preceding 12 to 15 hours (and probably longer), and a high level of fatigue caused by extremely long work hours and inadequate sleep over an extended period of time.  His ability to drive safely was significantly impaired when he left the pub.

[59]         I recognize another possible theory of Rockwell’s intoxication is that he drank only two to three beers at the pub and in the two-hour period thereafter, he consumed substantial quantities of beer and/or liquor, whether at home or elsewhere, before the accident occurred.  While it certainly appears that Sahanovitch was an aggressive and irresponsible drinker of a sort who might engage in such behaviour, there is no evidence to support such a characterization of Rockwell.  When one subtracts the amount of time that it would have taken for Rockwell to drive home, this theory would require him to have consumed an enormous amount of alcohol in less than an hour, a proposition which is not consistent with his previous conduct and which, assessed from the perspective of robust logic and common sense, amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking and unfounded speculation on the part of Cambie Malone’s.

[60]         I am also satisfied however, and find as a fact, that Rockwell did indeed consume further alcohol after he departed the pub.  On the balance of probabilities, I find that this occurred at his residence and included consumption of vodka or other liquor in quantities more than Rockwell claims in his evidence.

[61]         It is not necessary to ascribe a precise figure to the amount of alcohol that Rockwell consumed after he left the pub.  It is sufficient to find that he was significantly intoxicated when he left the pub and that he became even more severely intoxicated through the consumption of additional alcohol before the accident happened…

[73]         In this particular case the affidavits from the pub employees all referred to the employees having successfully completed the “Serving It Right”, which is British Columbia’s mandatory “Responsible Beverage Service Program”.  This is a program sponsored by the provincial government and the hospitality industry which offers information about intoxication, as well as guidelines and suggestions for, as the tagline suggests, “responsible beverage service”.  Rather cleverly, none of the employee affidavits expressly disclosed the information and conduct guidelines suggested in the “Serving It Right” program.  Instead, all that was proffered was what was said to be Cambie Malone’s written “Policies and Procedures” which included the following paragraph:

It is your responsibility to ensure patrons do not become intoxicated while in the establishment.  You must refuse entrance and/or service to any person who is apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Moreover, persons visibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be permitted to remain in the establishment.  You must refuse the person service, have the person removed and see that they depart safely.  Intoxicated persons must NOT be permitted to drive.  It is your duty to ensure that a safe ride home is used.  This is a crucial responsibility of everyone in the alcohol service industry.

[74]         While the standard of care expected of a commercial host will, in large part, be governed by the particular circumstances of any given case, there are several general standards of conduct that could well apply simply as a matter of common sense, including:

·       ensure there are adequate supervision, monitoring and training systems in place so employees know and abide by responsible serving practices;

·       ensure there is a sufficient number of serving staff on duty so that effective monitoring of alcohol consumption by patrons is possible;

·       ensure employees know the signs of intoxication and the various factors that influence intoxication (gender, weight, rate of consumption, food, et cetera);

·       inquire if the patron is driving and identify any “designated driver” for groups of patrons;

·       know how to estimate blood-alcohol concentrations and ensure any driver does not consume more than the appropriate number of drinks to stay on the “right side” of the legal limit;

·       display “tent cards” on tables, posters on walls and washrooms, and menu inserts with easy-to-read charts and information about blood-alcohol concentration;

·       ask apparently-intoxicated patrons if you contact anyone to assist them or if you can get them a taxi and, if necessary, offer to pay for it;

·       display posters advertising free ride-home services available in the neighbourhood; and

·       if the patron rejects alternative options and insists on driving, despite being urged otherwise, contact the police to seek assistance and/or provide whatever information might encourage their intervention.

[75]         None of these things occurred in the present case.  Rather, the pub’s employees utterly failed in abiding by their own employer’s directive that “intoxicated persons (e.g., Rockwell) must not be permitted to drive”.  I have no hesitation in concluding that the employees, and therefore Cambie Malone’s, did not meet the requisite standard of care in the circumstances of this particular case and that their conduct was accordingly negligent.


Court Questions Whether “WCB Defence” Applies to Indivisible Injuries

May 16th, 2016

Last year Mr. Justice Burnyeat reasoned, in Pinch v. Hofstee, that a Plaintiff’s damages for indivisible injuries must be reduced to the extent that one of the events causing/contributing to the injury arose from a matter where tort litigation is barred by the Workers Compensation Act.

Last week ICBC asked a Court to uphold this reasoning in a separate lawsuit but Mr. Justice Kent declined noting the Pinch ruling was “highly debatable“.

In last week’s case (Kallstrom v. Yip) the Plaintiff was involved in a total of 6 collisions which gave rise to indivisible injuries of chronic pain and depression.  While dealing with the consequences of her injuries the Plaintiff also made a claim with WorksafeBC and received some compensation.  The Defendants argued that damages must be reduced to the extent of the workplace incident’s contribution to the Plaintiff’s condition.  Mr. Justice Kent disagreed and noted as follows:

[371]     I do not agree that any reduction in damages is required.  There are several reasons for this.

[372]     First, this is not a defence that has been formally pleaded in any of the actions.  The facts relating to, and the legal basis for, such a technical and unique defence are required to be pleaded and this has not been done.

[373]     In any event, Pinch neither applies to nor governs the present claim.  It was the subject matter of an appeal and cross-appeal, but the case was settled and thus no definitive ruling on this interesting (and highly debatable) point of law has yet been made by the Court of Appeal.  It must be noted that other decisions of this Court have treated a subsequent workplace accident aggravating a pre-existing injury as a situation of indivisible injury for which the defendant in the first accident remains 100% liable:  see e.g., Kaleta v. MacDougall, 2011 BCSC 1259.

[374]     Further, I do not agree that the employer’s conduct is properly labelled as tortious in this case.  It is not necessarily a tort for an employer to be difficult and demanding.  Similarly, the distraught actions of a mother witnessing a near-death incident involving her child may also not amount to an actionable tort, particularly where the result is mental distress without accompanying physical injury. Pinch involved negligence on the part of the Workers Compensation Act-immunized worker.  Further, Kaleta involved an on-the-job injury while lifting heavy product, i.e. no third-party negligence.

[375]     In the result, I hold that the “WCB defence” does not apply and no reduction in damages is required on that account.


Court Reduces Injury Victim’s Compensation for Standing up to Criminal

June 29th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, with a troubling finding of contributory negligence.  The Court assessed a Plaintiff partly liable for injuries sustained while being criminally assaulted by a Defendant for simply standing up to his assailant.

In today’s case (MacKay v. Jhulley) the Plaintiff was assaulted by the Defendant who struck him in the head with a one metre long metal pole.  The Plaintiff suffered permanent injuries which “severely  impaired” him .  The Defendant was criminally convicted of uttering threats and committing an assault with a weapon.

The Plaintiff sued for damages which were assessed at just under $350,ooo but these were then reduced by 15% for contributory negligence.  The negligence in question? Stepping outside of his home to confront his attacker.

Mr. Justice Kent provided the following  reasons in reaching this conclusion –

[23]         In my view, as occurred in McCaffery v. Arguello, 2014 BCSC 70, this is a case where the law requires the findings of the Provincial Court in respect of the criminal charges to have been conclusively established against Mr. Jhulley in the present civil proceeding. Those findings include that:

·                 Mr. Jhulley uttered threats of death or bodily harm to Mr. MacKay over the phone before driving over to the latter’s house;

·                 Mr. Jhulley was the aggressor throughout;

·                 Mr. Jhulley presented himself at the house with a metal pole in his hands and swung at Mr. MacKay several times through the front window before proceeding to the back of the home;

·                 Mr. Jhulley approached Mr. MacKay and struck him once on the head with a metal pole causing a wound;

·                 Mr. MacKay defended himself by striking the accused in the right eye area with his fist;

·                 Mr. Jhulley was not acting in self-defence;

·                 Mr. MacKay was never the aggressor, and did not have an object in his hands when he approached Mr. Jhulley, rather he was simply defending himself throughout; and

·                 Mr. MacKay did not carry out any sort of unprovoked assault.

[24]         These findings are completely dispositive of the liability issues in this case, including Mr. Jhulley’s counterclaim for damages for personal injury. I find Mr. Jhulley liable to Mr. MacKay for the tort of assault and battery, and Mr. Jhulley’s counterclaim for personal injuries sustained in the altercation is dismissed.

[25]         I would add that even if I were not bound by the findings in the criminal proceeding, I would nonetheless have made essentially the same findings on the evidence in this case. Mr. Jhulley is an unreliable and incredible witness who gave false testimony on numerous points. At his criminal trial, he admitted striking Mr. MacKay with a metal pole, albeit in claimed self-defence, but in the present trial he testified that he never laid hands on the pole at any time but rather struck Mr. MacKay with a wooden two-by-four. The evidence of the assault at the window, damaging both the curtain and the sill, is overwhelming and Mr. Jhulley’s denial that any such incident occurred is completely false. Similarly, his testimony that Mr. MacKay took a break from assaulting him to recharge himself with a snort of heroin is a complete fabrication and one so ludicrous that it beggars belief.

[26]         There is simply no doubt that Mr. Jhulley, fuelled by a drunken rage, drove over to Mr. MacKay’s house armed with a metal pole and intent on inflicting grievous bodily harm. It is outrageous conduct for which he must be held fully responsible not only in criminal court but in these civil proceedings as well.

[27]         Having said that, the issue of contributory fault on Mr. MacKay’s part was irrelevant in the criminal trial and it is therefore open to this Court to hear evidence and make findings on that particular issue.

….

[30]         There is, however, one basis upon which contributory fault can be attributed to Mr. MacKay. The evidence establishes that Mr. MacKay was inside the house with his family when Mr. Jhulley first presented himself and swung the metal bar at the windowsill. There was no reason for Mr. MacKay to go outside and confront Mr. Jhulley in such circumstances. Indeed, common sense dictated that the safest thing to do would be to stay in the house and call the police rather than proceeding outside to confront an enraged and intoxicated Mr. Jhulley who was armed with a metal pole and seemingly intent on doing serious harm to Mr. MacKay.

[31]         By leaving the safety of his house and presenting himself unarmed in front of Mr. Jhulley, Mr. MacKay recklessly endangered himself. Had he stayed inside, the risk of serious injury would not likely have materialized and this case would likely have gone no further than the criminal proceedings. Mr. MacKay’s disregard for his own physical safety was clearly a contributing cause of the injuries he ultimately sustained.

[32]         In my view, however, the vast majority of fault for this incident and for the injuries sustained by Mr. MacKay lies with Mr. Jhulley. He formed the intent to inflict injury and carried out that intent in a vicious manner. Mr. MacKay, on the other hand, while perhaps acting foolishly in the circumstances, thought he was in some fashion protecting his family by confronting Mr. Jhulley. His conduct is far less blameworthy.

[33]         In the result, I allocate fault for Mr. MacKay’s injuries 85% to Mr. Jhulley and 15% to Mr. MacKay himself.


65/35 Fault Split Following Vehicle / Bicycle Collision

April 15th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry addressing fault for an intersection collision between a motorist and a cyclist.

Blanca and Drummond

In today’s case (Matkin v. Hogg) the Plaintiff was travelling on a bicycle Northbound on Blanca Street in Vancouver.  At the same time the Defendant was operating a vehicle travelling in the same direction.  While the Defendant was turning at a stop sign controlled intersection the Plaintiff drove past the vehicle and both collided.  The Defendant did not signal his intended turn and the Plaintiff failed to appreciate there was a stop sign at the intersection.  In finding the cyclist 65% at fault with the motorist shouldering 35% of the blame Mr. Justice Kent provided the following reasons:

[63]         Adopting a robust and pragmatic approach to the evidence and to the circumstances of the collision, I find as a fact that the following sequence of events occurred:

•           Mr. Hogg’s vehicle was parked on the eastside of the road approximately halfway down the block between 2nd Street and Drummond Drive;

•           While it was not completely dark, it was dusk and the street lights were on;

•           Mr. Hogg started his vehicle, thereby illuminating his running lights, and also turned on his headlights and checked his mirrors before pulling out onto the road;

•           When he checked his mirrors he did not see any of the cyclists further up Blanca Street;

•           He travelled north, slowed at the stop sign, likely performed a rolling stop in the absence of any visible traffic from any other direction and once in the intersection started to make a turn to the left in order to complete his intended turn-around maneuver;

•           In the meantime the plaintiff was proceeding northbound down the hill on the Blanca Street towards the intersection and towards Mr. Hogg’s car at approximately 20 km/hr;

•           She was unaware of the existence of a stop sign at the intersection and had not noticed the “stop sign ahead” sign posted further up Blanca Street;

•           Thinking there was no traffic around him, Mr. Hogg did not activate his left turn signal before starting his u-turn maneuver;

•           As she approached the intersection on her bike, the plaintiff formed the impression that the Hogg vehicle ahead of her was going to continue through the intersection in a northbound direction on Blanca Street;

•           At the time she was travelling faster than the Hogg vehicle and the distance between them was closing rapidly;

•           She did not see the stop signal, did not in fact stop or brake, but simply continued to ride over the putative stop line and into the intersection intending to travel north beside or close behind the Hogg vehicle;

•           When the Hogg vehicle started its left turn maneuver in the intersection, the plaintiff simply had no time to take any effective evasive maneuvers and her bike collided with the front left fender of the Hogg vehicle in the vicinity of the wheel well, launching her from her bike and onto the road; and

•           Mr. Hogg either did not check his mirrors at the stop sign and before commencing his turn, or did so and simply failed to see the plaintiff on her bike travelling behind him, but either way there was sufficient illumination from the diminishing daylight and the illuminated street lamps for her to have been visible to Mr. Hogg.

[64]         It follows from these findings of facts that the collision was caused by the actions of both the plaintiff and the defendant. What remains is the manner in which fault should be ascribed and allocated between the two…

[74]         In terms of assessing the relative degrees of fault of the parties, I conclude that the plaintiff’s conduct attracts more blame than that of the defendant’s. Both had similar duties of care vis-à-vis each other but the plaintiff was particularly careless of her own safety. Riding a bike at night on city streets without a light and without a helmet creates a grave risk indeed. It was also deliberate rather than accidental conduct on her part. Further, since she was behind the Hogg vehicle for some period of time before the actual collision, she had a greater opportunity to prevent the accident.

[75]         Pursuant to s. 6 of the Negligence Act the determination of degrees of fault is a question of fact. Based on the totality of the evidence and the considerations referred to above, I find as a fact that the fault for causing this accident rests 35% with the defendant and 65% with the plaintiff herself. Whether that allocation of fault to the plaintiff should be further increased (and the defendant’s liability to make good plaintiff’s loss should be further reduced) by further conduct on her part which increased the extent of loss or injury arising from the accident, e.g. the failure to wear a helmet, is a matter the parties have agreed will be determined at the trial of the damages portion of the case.


$140,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for ACL Injury With Chronic Depression

September 24th, 2014

Adding to this site’s archived cases addressing damages for knee injuries, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing damages for a chronic knee injury with associated depression.

In today’s case (Cook v. Symons) the Plaintiff was involved in a pedestrian/vehicle accident in 2010.  The Defendants were found fully liable.  The Plaintiff suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament which underwent three surgeries without successful resolution.  He also suffered from chronic depression following his injury and this combination of symptoms permanently disabled him from his trade as an electrician.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $140,000 Mr. Justice Kent provided the following reasons:

[188]     There is no doubt and, indeed, the defendants concede, that the plaintiff’s knee injury and the chronic pain and physical disability caused by the same was a result of the accident.  With respect to the plaintiff’s mental health, it is uncontroverted and I find as a fact that, as set out in the June 5, 2014 report of Dr. Semrau,

·                 the plaintiff suffers from depression and the depression was caused by the accident and its aftermath;

·                 despite treatment, the depression has continued such that the plaintiff has been and will continue to be disabled from time to time;

·                 as a result of the accident, the plaintiff has suffered a loss of sense of purpose, self-esteem, and time structuring, due to a lack of work or other substantially productive activity, as well as a vicious circle reinforcement between lowered activity demands and perceived decreased energy;

·                 the fatigue experienced by the plaintiff, including the increase in fatigue since January 2014, has been caused not only by sleep apnea (which is yet to be confirmed) but also by the plaintiff’s chronic pain and depression;

·                 there is a circular interaction between the plaintiff’s functional and physical disabilities on the one hand and his depression on the other, each reinforcing the other in a manner that is likely to continue in the future;

·                 the plaintiffs depression has impaired, delayed, and interrupted his rehabilitation efforts, including recommended diet and exercise regimens; and

·                 the plaintiff will encounter significant future functional difficulties and related educational and employment disability.  

[189]     I also accept the evidence of Dr. Gouws and Mr. Trainor with respect to the plaintiff’s barriers to rehabilitation and employment, and their assessments respecting the plaintiff’s ability to successfully retrain and find/keep employment in the future.  I find as a fact that the plaintiff has chronic knee pain and restricted functional capacity that will permanently preclude him from returning to his previous occupation as an electrician or, indeed, any work that requires prolonged standing or walking.  These physical disabilities have combined with the plaintiff’s depression and emotional/mood problems to trigger significant coping difficulties.  All of this is attributable to the accident.

[190]     I also accept Dr. Gouws’ assessment that the plaintiff continues to be at risk of worsening depression, and that any meaningful rehabilitation will require a team effort on the part of the plaintiff, his family physician (medication management), vocational consultant (job search coaching/assistance), psychologist (counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy), and kinesiologist (viable exercise programming).  While some of the plaintiff’s current medical conditions (diabetes, sleep apnea, low testosterone) may not have been directly caused by the accident, the required team rehabilitation is for the most part necessitated by the combination of chronic pain, restricted functional capacity, and depression, all of which was directly caused by the accident…

[198]     I have read each of these cases and have noted both the similarities and dissimilarities with the present case.  Given the severity of the plaintiff’s suffering, loss of amenities, and loss of enjoyment of life in this case, I award the plaintiff non-pecuniary general damages in the amount of $140,000.  


Defendant Fails “To Recognize The ‘Capital Asset” Approach”; Ordered To Pay Double Costs

May 15th, 2014

Update August 5, 2015 – The below damages for Diminished Earning Capacity were overturned by the Court of Appeal and a new trial was ordered on the issue.

_____________________________________

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Penticton Registry, ordering a Defendant to pay double costs for refusing to accept a bested pre-trial formal settlement offer.  In reaching this result the Court was critical in the Defendant’s failure to appreciate the ‘capital asset’ approach in assessing diminished earning capacity awards.

In this week’s case (Ostrikoff v. Oliveira) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  Prior to trial the parties exchanged a variety of formal settlement offers with the Plaintiff’s last offer coming in at $325,000 and the Defendant’s last offer being $100,000.  The matter proceeded to trial where damages of over $550,000 were assessed.  The Plaintiff was awarded post offer double costs and in finding the Defendant should have accepted the Plaintiff’s offer the Court provided the following comments:

[11]         The plaintiff, on the other hand, marshalled a combination of both expert and lay evidence.  The essence of the plaintiff’s case was that the plaintiff was involved in unique and highly skilled work which had a significant physical component and that the plaintiff’s chronic pain and physical impairments threatened both his business and his sole means of livelihood.  The uncontradicted expert evidence was that the plaintiff was not a suitable candidate for retraining. 

[12]         All of this was known to the defendant well before the trial began.  Expert reports had been delivered from orthopaedic surgeons, treating physicians, a functional capacity evaluator, a vocational consultant, a cost of care consultant, and an economist (regarding future loss multipliers).  No rebuttal reports were prepared by the defendants and much of the evidence was uncontradicted at trial.

[13]         Plaintiff’s counsel provided the defendant with a detailed rationale for the quantum of the first settlement offer in the amount of $325,000 made on March 8, 2013.  The nature and structure of the claim became obvious at that point, if it had not already been obvious beforehand.  Service of the plaintiff’s expert reports would have alerted the defendant to the possibility of a very significant claim being presented and possibly succeeding at trial. 

[14]         The only submission made by the defendant in defence of its refusal to accept the plaintiff’s settlement offer is that there was an absence of any “documented pecuniary loss” and of any expert or other reliable evidence supporting any pecuniary loss, whether past or future.  The submission, and indeed the defence’s entire approach to both the case and the settlement offer, fails to recognize the “capital asset” approach to assessment of damages for both past and future earning capacity in circumstances where the financial loss is not easily measurable. 

[15]         In my opinion, the February 17, 2014 settlement offer made by the plaintiff was reasonable and one that ought reasonably to have been accepted by the defendant before the commencement of trial.  A careful assessment of the strength of the plaintiff’s case on the eve of trial, having regard to the expert reports and the proposed lay testimony, as well as the principles of damages assessment in chronic pain cases involving potentially significant loss of capacity would have, and should have, resulted in a conclusion that a recovery at trial of sums in excess of the offer was a realistic prospect.  Instead, relying almost exclusively on tactics limited to cross-examination and putting the plaintiff to strict proof of his case, the defendant chose to proceed to trial to see what might happen.  Defendants are free to litigate the case in such fashion as they consider appropriate.  But as stated in Hartshorne, above, “[l]itigants are to be reminded that costs rules are in place to encourage the early settlement of disputes by rewarding the party who makes a reasonable settlement offer and penalizing the party who declines to accept such an offer”.

[16]         For these reasons, I exercise my discretion to award party and party costs to the plaintiff under Scale B up to February 17, 2014, and double that scale for all steps taken in the proceeding thereafter.

 


$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for “Crossover Toe” Injury

February 26th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing non-pecuniary damages for ‘crossover toe’ sustained in a collision.

In today’s case (Chow v. Schuler) the Plaintiff was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle while crossing a crosswalk.  Although the Defendant disputed fault he was found fully liable for the collision.  The Plaintiff suffered a knee strain and eventually developed cross-over toe which required surgical correction.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Kent provided the following reasons:

[58]         There is no doubt that the plaintiff did suffer pain and disability both in the immediate aftermath of the accident and the later development of “crossover toe” and the surgical treatment of same. Her mobility was significantly affected and she has been unable to fully return to all of her pre-accident recreational activities including, of course, ballroom dancing. However, while the plaintiff’s pain and discomfort has not completely disappeared, she testified she presently only experiences pain if she walks too long or too fast or if she otherwise puts pressure on her leg in attempting to move objects or the like.

[59]         The plaintiff did seek counseling assistance from a professional psychologist at the suggestion of her family doctor. She was experiencing nightmares about being struck by vehicles and she was having difficulty sleeping. She developed a fear of crossing the road. She testified that the counseling did assist and that today she has no such fears and nightmares are rare.

[60]         An award of general damages for non-pecuniary loss must be fair to all parties and fairness is measured against awards made in comparable cases. This, of course, is only a rough guide as each case depends on its own unique facts. The factors usually considered in making these types of awards, as outlined by the Court of Appeal in numerous cases including Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA146 and Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, include:

a.     Age of the plaintiff;

b.     Nature of the injury;

c.     Severity and duration of pain;

d.     Nature and extent of resulting physical and mental disability;

e.     Emotional suffering;

f.      Impairment of life including family, marital and social relationships; and

g.     Loss of lifestyle.

Here, having regard to all of these factors as well as the cases cited by counsel, I award the plaintiff general damages in the amount of $50,000.