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 McEwan’

ICBC Applications to Transfer Lawsuits to Provincial Court Discouraged

November 17th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing an ICBC application to transfer a Plaintiff’s lawsuit to Small Claims Court.

In this recent case (Kooner v. Singh) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  He sued for damages in the BC Supreme Court.  Following examinations for discovery the Defendant applied to transfer the claim to Small Claims Court.  Mr. Justice McEwan dismissed the application.  He reiterated some concerns he voiced earlier this year and provided the following reasons generally discouraging these types of applications:

[3] I have commented on other occasions about these applications.  They amount to the Supreme Court being asked to summarily determine that damages could not possibly exceed $25,000 and also to accept that a trial in Provincial Court is the most expeditious way to deal with the action.  On the basis of the material before me, it is not possible to say that the case could not exceed $25,000.  The plaintiff wishes to have the matter heard in Supreme Court, and it would only be on the clearest basis that the court would act to deprive a person who wished to be heard in the Supreme Court of the right to do so.

[4] I am not prepared, on the basis of the material, to summarily find that there is no possibility of the trial establishing damages in excess of $25,000, nor am I in a position to assess whether or not the liability aspect of the claim would foreclose the possibility of such damages.  It seems to me that the defence must be seeking the limitation of $25,000 because there is very little else that would suggest a motivation for such claims.  It is not, as it may once have been, obvious that the Provincial Court is equipped to hear these matters more expeditiously or more cheaply, particularly given the point at which this application is brought, post-discoveries, after most of the expenses that go into a Supreme Court trial have been incurred.  My understanding of the current state of hearing day fees, as such, is that there are none for the first three days of trial.  So that is not a factor.  There was a suggestion before me that the informality of the Provincial Court is an advantage, but unless that informality is tied to reduced time in court, which is not at all clear, I fail to see how that, in itself, results in any particular economy.

[5] I think it should be clear that parties have a right to elect the court in which they bring their actions and that, in doing so, if they persist, they run certain risks.  Those risks, in the case of a plaintiff’s action brought in Supreme Court that should have been brought in Small Claims Court, include the penalty of not receiving costs in the case of success, and also include the hazard, if an offer to settle is made, of double costs in accordance with the Rules setting out those penalties.  It appears from the vantage of the bench that it is much more in the defence interest that the matter remain in Supreme Court than that this application succeed, unless, as I have said, what is really sought is a summary assessment of the case on the basis of very limited information, to bring the matter in under $25,000.  Given the hazards (which the plaintiff is aware of), I am of the view that the plaintiff is entitled to bring the matter in this Court if that is what the plaintiff wishes to do.

[6] I have said as much on the previous occasion of Chang v. Wren in oral reasons given June 10, 2011.  I see no reason to stray from the outcome in that case which was to the effect that unless the court were persuaded that damages could not possibly exceed $25,000 the plaintiff should not be deprived of the opportunity to convince a court that their damages exceed that amount.  I considered it most unsafe to summarily decide a case on the basis of descriptions that do not include the actual evidence of the parties.  Courts certainly have the experience of being persuaded that cases that did not appear to be worth a great deal turn out to be worth much more once they have been heard.  I will also say, as I said in Chang v. Wren, that I am absolutely not persuaded by any efficiency or cost-saving argument, particularly where, as here, the application is brought at a point post-discovery.  There is very little process to avoid at this point and, for the reasons I have already indicated, it is not at all clear that there are cost savings to be realized.

[7] Accordingly, I dismiss this application.


Waiting For Police Report Held Insufficient to Postpone Limitation Period in ICBC Claim

July 26th, 2011

Section 6(4) of the BC Limitation Act states in part that a limitation period “does not begin to run against a plaintiff…..until the identity of the defendant…is known to the plaintiff“.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, considering this provision in the context of an ICBC Claim.

In this week’s case (Telus Corporation v. Araneda) equipment owned by Telus was struck by a motor vehicle causing $43,000 in damage.  They sued the party they alleged was responsible but did so nine days after the limitation period expired.

Telus argued that the running of the period should be postponed by several days under s. 6(4) of the Limitation Act because it took 18 days for them to receive the police report identifying the defendant.  Mr. Justice McEwan rejected this argument and dismissed the lawsuit.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[20]. On the day of the accident, Telus, through its employee Dale Summers, knew it had a claim for property damage and knew the name of the tortfeasor was immediately ascertainable from a reliable source, the RCMP.

[21] In saying so, I reject Telus’ argument that a large enterprise should be judged on its “ individual circumstances” and that its step-wise approach to the management of its legal claims is akin to the situation in Strata Plan LMS 2940 v. Quick as a Wink Courier, 2010 BCCA 74. There the Court of Appeal upheld a judge of this Court who had found that an action brought by a strata corporation against an individual one day outside the limitation period was not statute-barred because the strata corporation was obliged to pass a resolution before it could initiate the action, and doing so took some time.

[22] Telus was not impeded by a statutory prerequisite, and there is no reason in principle why a large organization should be judged by a more accommodating standard than would apply to any competent individual. As in Meeker, Telus knew on the first day of the accident that it had suffered actionable harm and that the name of the person involved was ascertainable.

[23] It is regrettable that the limitation period went by in this case. As some of the case law demonstrates Courts frequently go some distance to ensure that cases are tried on their merits. The policy inherent in limitation periods, however, must also be respected. Applying the relevant legal principles to the present case, Telus has not established that it is entitled to postponement, and the action must be dismissed.


ICBC Application to Move Lawsuit to Small Claims Denied, Court Finds it "Most Unsafe" to do so

July 8th, 2011

As previously discussed, Section 15 of the Supreme Court Act allows the Court to transfer a lawsuit to the Provincial Court (Small Claims) in certain circumstances.  Reasons for judgement were released today making it clear that such applications will rarely succeed in personal injury lawsuits.

In today’s case (Chang v. Wren) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages in Supreme Court.  ICBC brought an application to move the case to Small Claims Court.  Mr. Justice McEwan expressed “difficulty appreciating the motivation for the application” and dismissed it.  In doing so the Court noted the well-known delay in getting trial dates for personal injury lawsuits in Provincial Court and further the difficulty in predicting that any given case would be worth less than $25,000 in a summary hearing.  The following useful reasons were provided:

[3] I must say I find it unusual that a defendant brings such an application and had some difficulty appreciating the motivation for the application, given that the sanction in costs and in depriving the plaintiff of costs following a Supreme Court hearing would appear, in my view, to be more advantageous than the inevitable result of putting the matter down to Provincial Court, which would be a trial some eight months from when the trial is presently set in August of 2011 in Provincial Court, and a further proceeding by way of mandatory mediation in the Provincial Court.

[4] Whatever the merits of the respective parties’ positions as to the ultimate quantum of damages in this matter, it seems to me that the appropriate disposition is to see that it gets to trial before a competent tribunal as quickly as possible, and with as little procedural clutter as possible.  That militates strongly in favour of the Supreme Court retaining this matter within its precincts, where there is a far greater likelihood, in the present circumstances, of a trial being held when it is scheduled, than there is in the Provincial Court.

[5] Circumstances might be different if it could be reliably assumed that Provincial Court would get the matter on quickly and be done with it faster than a Supreme Court, but while I am not prepared to go so far as to say I take judicial notice of anything in particular, I certainly will observe that I do not think I can behave on the basis of that particular fiction.

[6] What this application amounts to is a request to the court to summarily assess the evidence without hearing from any witnesses or without hearing from the plaintiff herself and determine that the matter would come in under $25,000.  That would depend on the court reading the medical reports, essentially as the defence suggests I should, and I do not think it is something that a responsible court could really do.

[7] The plaintiff has chosen the Supreme Court of British Columbia.  She will have been advised of the hazards of bringing a Small Claim jurisdiction matter in this court, but if she is determined to proceed and to have a determination in Supreme Court, I think it would have to be established very, very firmly that the damages she claims could not exceed $25,000, before the court would entertain such an application.

[8] Counsel have provided some case law reflecting what the test is for bringing the matter down to Provincial Court.  My own view is that in a case where the liquidated damages could not possibly exceed $25,000, it might be clear, but in a case of this kind where the nuances of personal experience may have a significant bearing on the court’s assessment, perhaps even notwithstanding the medical evidence, it would be most unsafe to summarily decide that the case could not exceed the limits of the Small Claims jurisdiction.

[9] So on the basis that, first of all, it appears to be more efficient to continue in Supreme Court, and secondly, on the basis that it is, in any event, the plaintiff’s right to choose the forum, where there is any doubt about the appropriate jurisdiction, I think it better at this stage of this proceeding, post-discovery and a few months to trial, for the matter to remain in Supreme Court.

[10] I dismiss the application.


A Tale of Two Accidents: More on the Importance of Independent Witnesses

June 29th, 2011

As previously discussed, where motorists have different versions of events following a collision the evidence of independent witnesses can be crucial in addressing the issue of fault.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.

In this week’s case (Chang v. Alcuaz) the Plaintiff was involved in a two vehicle collision in 2008.  As she was travelling Eastbound on 33rd Avenue her vehicle was struck as she crossed Main Street.  The Defendant was travelling Southbound on Main Street at the time the vehicles collided.

The impact was severe with the plaintiff testifying that as she approached the intersection “she recalled that the colour of the traffic light was green” and that “she has no other recollection of the accident.  Her next memory is of waking up two days later in the hospital.

The Defendant disputed this version and gave evidence that he had the green light.  Mr. Justice McEwan ultimately preferred the Defendant’s evidence and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim.  In reaching this conclusion the Court placed significant weight on the evidence of two independent witnesses who saw the collision.  Mr. Justice McEwan provided the following reasons for judgement:

[28] The evidence in this case is contradictory and unreliable in many of its details.  It is often difficult, in cases of this kind, to put much reliance on estimates of time and distance given by witnesses in connection with a surprising and traumatic event…

[29] Liability comes down to two questions:

(1)  who had the benefit of the light, and

(2)  was the operator of the vehicle with the benefit of the light, nonetheless responsible to some degree, in the circumstances.

[30] Respecting the first question, there is reason to doubt the plaintiff’s assertion that she had the benefit of a green light as she now asserts.  She was unconscious following the accident and her original statement is at odds with what she presently says.  It would be difficult to accept her version of the event without corroboration.

[31] The assistance offered by the witness, Ms. Currimbhoy, is highly debatable.  She, alone, among the witnesses, suggests that the event happened in daylight.  On a common sense basis, as I have indicated, she could not be right about her proximity to the plaintiff at the time of the collision.  There is also the difficulty that none of the other witnesses saw any other vehicle proximate to the collision.  There is a further difficulty posed by Mr. Humphrey’s flatly stated observation that he saw the woman who identified herself as a co-worker pull up after the collision.  It is not conclusively established that that was the same person, but it is telling that neither Mr. Jantzen, nor Mr. Humphrey, who observed the entire incident, noted any other vehicle near the scene.

[32] The defendant, Mr. Jantzen and Mr. Humphrey all say firmly that the defendant had the benefit of the green light when he entered the intersection.  Mr. Jantzen’s impression that the defendant may have been “timing” the light is borne out in the defendant’s description of what occurred, in that he says he slowed and then accelerated when he saw the light turn green.

[33] The evidence from the City of Vancouver respecting the timing of the lights that day at that intersection is also useful.  If the light was turning, an eastbound driver had 3.5 seconds of an amber light before the change.  For 1.5 seconds traffic in all directions is governed by a red light.  This means that by the time the light turns to green, eastbound traffic, at any reasonable speed, has had a warning and ample time to stop.

[34] The scenario posted by the plaintiff that the light was green or green turning amber as she hit the intersection would imply a red light north and southbound that continued for five seconds after the defendant entered the intersection.  This would preclude any impression of the defendant “timing” the light because he would have entered fully on red.  That is not in accordance with the observation of Mr. Jantzen or of his passenger, Mr. Humphrey.  Both were credible and balanced witnesses who were not caught up in the event themselves except to witness it.  Mr. Jantzen, in particular, was paying specific attention to the light because he had been waiting for it to change.  His view was unobstructed.

[35] I am satisfied, on the basis of a consideration of all the evidence, that at the time the collision occurred the defendant had the benefit of the green light and that the plaintiff should not have been in the intersection when the collision occurred.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of fault for motorists who “time a green light“.  The Plaintiff argued that if she did run a red light the Defendant was partially to blame because he timed his green light.  Mr. Justice McEwan dismissed this argument but in doing so provided a useful overview of the law at paragraphs 36-46 of the reasons for judgement.


Credibility Cases Not Suitable for Severance of Issues and Summary Trial

June 22nd, 2011

Earlier this year Mr. Justice McEwan provided reasons for judgement finding that an order to sever issues under Rule 12-5(67) is a prerequisite to having only part of a case tried by way of summary trial.   Today, reasons for judgement were released confirming this point and finding that where credibility is an issue a case will likely not be suitable for severance or summary trial.

In today’s case (Erwin v. Helmer) the Plaintiff alleged injuries in a trip and fall incident.  She sued for damages under the Occupiers Liability Act.  The Defendants applied to dismiss the case via summary trial.  Mr. Justice McEwan dismissed the application finding that a a summary trial was not appropriate.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons regarding credibility, severance and summary trials:

[9] This case inherently turns on credibility. While counsel for the plaintiff has not objected to severance, the court must still be concerned with the proper application of summary process and with the sufficiency of the evidence on which it is expected to rule that a party will be deprived of a full hearing.

[10] It appears from what is before the court that the precise nature of the “hole” into which the plaintiff alleges she stepped will not be established with any precision. There nevertheless appears to be a question to be tried on the balance between the risk assumed by the plaintiff and the duty imposed on the defendants to ensure that the premises were reasonably safe. There is simply not enough material presently before the court to reliably make that call. The defendant relies on the fact that the plaintiff had been drinking as if that essentially speaks for itself, but the presence of drinking invitees on the defendant’s premises was, on the material, foreseeable. There is little, if any evidence as to what efforts, if any, were made to render the premises reasonably safe for those who attended the wedding in those circumstances, including, for example, whether paths were designated or lighting was supplied.

[11] The application is accordingly dismissed and, the whole matter will be put on the trial list. The question of severance, if it arises again, should be the subject of an application. Where credibility is a significant issue it should generally be decided on the whole case, not on the fraction of it, unless the test for severance has specifically been met. Otherwise the trier of fact may be deprived of useful information relevant to the over-all assessment of credibility.


Summary Trials and the Severance of Issues

April 7th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with an interesting question: is a Court order for severance of issues required prior to a Court adjudicating an issue (as opposed to the entirety of a claim) in a summary trial?

The reason why this is an issue is due to two competing Rules of Court.  Rule 9-7(2) permits a party to “apply to the court for judgement…either on an issue or generally“.  On the face of it this rule seems to permit a party to apply for only part of a case to be dealt with summarily.  However, Rule 12-5(67) requires a Court Order to sever issues in a lawsuit stating that “the court may order that one or more questions of fact or law arising in an action be tried and determined before the others“:.

In this week’s case (Chun v. Smit) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  He brought a motion for the issue of liability to be addressed on a summary trial.  The Defendant opposed arguing that a summary trial was not appropriate.  Mr. Justice McEwan agreed and dismissed the application.  In doing so the Court provided the following useful reasons finding that an order to sever issues under Rule 12-5(67) is a prerequisite to having only part of a case tried by way of summary trial:

[7] The question is really whether Rule 9-7 merely describes a mode of trial, while the claim or cause of action remains otherwise subject to the rules that govern trial, or whether the trial of an “issue” under Rule 9-7, where that issue is the severance of liability from quantum, somehow bypasses Rule 12-5 (67) and falls to be decided on a lower standard.

[8] In the brief passage excerpted from Bramwell (above), three different approaches are apparent. It seems to me, however, that whether the test for severance, or of a trial of an “issue” is rationalized as within or outside Rule 9-7, it must meet the standard set out in Bramwell. Rule 9-7 is, in itself, a departure from the ordinary mode of hearing a trial, and proceedings within it are contingent upon the court accepting that the compromises inherent in that process will not impair the courts’ ability to do justice. That being so, it would be illogical that collateral to the compromises inherent in proceeding by summary trial, other aspect of the process were similarly downgraded. If a trial of an issue is found to be an appropriate way to proceed, it may be tried under Rule 9-7, if Rule 9-7 itself is properly applicable.  Where a party seeks to proceed on only part of a case under Rule 9-7, the first question is whether there should be severance at all, and the second is whether Rule 9-7 is appropriate. The correct approach is set out in Bramwell, which would bind me in any case (see Hansard Spruce Mills Ltd. (Re), [1954] 4 D.L.R. 590 (B.C.S.C.)).


Can a Verbal Deal Create a Binding ICBC Claim Settlement?

March 9th, 2011

When ICBC Tort and Part7 Claims are settled ICBC usually requires a ‘full and final release‘ to be signed as part of the deal.  There is a common misconception that individuals can simply refuse to sign the release if they get cold feet after negotiating a settlement.

There is, in fact, no legal requirement that an ICBC settlement be reduced to writing and a verbal discussion can create a bidning contract where a claimant gives up their right to sue.  This was discussed in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Regirstry,

In today’s case (Varesi v. Cadelina) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff and Defendant were both insured with ICBC.   The Plaintiff dealt with ICBC directly and after some initial negotiations the Plaintiff advised as follows “I feel that my original request of $10,000 is still fair. Although my research on the CanLII website leads me to believe I may be entitled to a higher settlement, at this time I am still willing to settle the claim for this amount. I have consulted with a lawyer in regards to filing a writ but again would like to be able to reach a fair conclusion outside of the court system.

ICBC apparently responded that they accepted this offer and required the Plaintiff to submit receipts documenting her out of pocket expenses.  The Plaintiff had a different recollection stating that ICBC agreed to pay for her out of pocket expenses on top of the $10,000.  ICBC refused to do so arguing that they had a binding settlement.

The Plaintiff brought a lawsuit and in it’s early stages ICBC brought an application to have the lawsuit dismissed based on the alleged settlement.  Ultimately Mr. Justice McEwan dismissed ICBC’s application finding that the issue came down to credibility and it would need to be pursued at trial.  Mr. Justice McEwan provided the following reasons:

[25]         Where an oral contract is asserted and denied the case will generally come down to a contest of credibility. An example in the contest of an automobile insurance claim is Barclay v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, 2002 BCPC 15.

[26]         This is not a case of duress or unconscionability or undue influence. Depending on the evidence there may be an element of mistake. As the motion for summary judgment has been defended, the issue is whether there was a “meeting of the minds.”  The material is not at all decisive on that point, specifically as to the inclusion of the Part 7 benefits in the settlement. Mr. Boswell and the plaintiff differ on what was discussed, and such, if it remains an issue in the action when it is tried will have to be resolved on an assessment of credibility. Such an issue cannot be safely undertaken on the affidavit and documentary material before the court.

[27]         The defendants’ application for summary judgment on the alleged settlement contact is, therefore, dismissed, with leave to bring the issue on at trial, on a better evidentiary foundation, if the defendants consider it in their interests to do so.

While this case did not result in a dismissal based on the settlement discussions it demonstrates that a claimant can enter into a binding settlement even without signing a full and final release.  Settlements are based on ‘offers and acceptance’ and it is vital that a claim be valued properly prior to selling your right to sue.  You can access my archived posts discussing other legal issues involved in ICBC Settlements by clicking here.


Can A Litigation Guardian Be Ordered to Attend an Independent Medical Exam?

October 26th, 2010

(UPDATE:  Please note Leave to Appeal the Below Decision was granted by the BCCA on January 25, 2011)

When a mentally incompetent person brings a lawsuit in BC they must do so through a litigation guardian or a committee.  Generally, when personal injuries are the subject of a lawsuit, the Defendant is entitled to have the Plaintiff attend an ‘independent’ medical exam.  What about the litigation guardian?  Can they be ordered to attend an independent medical exam?  The BC Supreme Court Civil Rules are silent on this point however, reasons for judgement were released today considering this question using the Court’s ‘inherent jurisdiction’.

In today’s case (Bishop v. Minichiello) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  He was an infant at the time and brought the lawsuit by way of litigation guardian.  The Plaintiff became an adult prior to the lawsuit resolving.  Normally, when this occurs, the Plaintiff files an affidavit and overtakes the lawsuit without the litigation guardian.  In today’s case the Plaintiff did not do this apparently because his injuries may have rendered him “unable to appreciate the extent of his own injuries and unable to effectively conduct the litigation on his own behalf.”.

The Defendant brought a motion that both the Plaintiff and his litigation guardian attend a series of medical exams.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that the Rule authorizing the Court to compel a Plaintiff to attend an Independent Medical Exam does not empower a Court to extend the order to a litigation guardian.  Mr. Justice McEwan noted that while this was true it could be remedied by resorting to the Court’s inherent jurisdiction.  In granting the application the Court noted as follows:

[12] The defendant submits that although Rule 7-6 (1)-(3) makes no specific provision for a person other than the party to be examined to attend and answer questions, Wong (guardian ad litem) v. Wong [2006] B.C.J. No. 3123 (C.A.) established that the court may, in the interests of justice make ancillary orders to give effect to the purpose of the Rules, found in Rule 1(5) [now Rule 1-3]. In Wong, the question was whether the court could order a plaintiff to video tape an examination…

[13]         Rule 20-2 reads:

(3)        Unless a rule otherwise provides, anything that is required or authorized by these Supreme Court Civil Rules to be done by or invoked against a party under disability must:

(b)        be invoked against the party by invoking the same against the party’s litigation guardian.

[14]         Rule 13-1 reads:

(19)      When making an order under these Supreme Court Civil Rules, the court may impose terms and conditions and give directions it considers will further the object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules.

[15]         On the question of inherent jurisdiction I think the characterization found in R & J Siever Holdings Ltd. v. Moldenhauer 2008 BCCA 59, is most apt:

In addition to the powers conferred by the Rules of Court, the Supreme Court of British Columbia, as a superior court of record, has inherent jurisdiction to regulate its practice and procedures so as to prevent abuses of process and miscarriages of justice: see I.H. Jacob, “The Inherent Jurisdiction of the Court” (1970) 23 Current Leg. Prob. 23 at 23-25. As the author said, at 25,

The inherent jurisdiction of the court may be exercised in any given case, notwithstanding that there are Rules of Court governing the circumstances of such case. The powers conferred by the Rules of Court are, generally speaking, additional to, and not in substitution of, powers arising out of the inherent jurisdiction of the court. The two heads of powers are generally cumulative, and not mutually exclusive, so that in any given case, the court is able to proceed under either or both heads of jurisdiction.

[16]         The Rules do not, properly speaking, confer jurisdiction. To the extent that they reflect a consensus of the Judiciary (and the Bar) as to the presumptions, or expectations, or shifts in onus that will contribute to the just and expedient conduct of litigation, they are useful in bringing predictability and stability to civil procedure. To the extent that they do not reflect such a consensus, they cannot be regarded as mandatory impediments to doing the right thing in any particular case.

[17]         The silence of Rule 7-6 on the question of ordering the litigation guardian to attend an independent medical examination, does not, in and of itself, preclude the making of such an order, if it otherwise makes sense to do so in order to advance the speedy, just and inexpensive determination of the proceeding on its merits.

[18]         Whether such an order is appropriate requires the court to weigh the plaintiff’s objection against the defendant’s rationale for the request…

[20]         The plaintiff’s objection to the attendance of the litigation guardian is primarily that a conversation between the litigation guardian and the examining physician creates a form of statement that is not controlled within the process and that might well lead to conflict or confusion later, if the guardian and the Doctor do not agree as to what was said.

[21]         The defendant’s point is, primarily, that in a case where the defence is guessing as to the mental status of the plaintiff, it would be prudent to have the person who knows him best, and who is also the litigation guardian, available to answer questions about his condition, especially where it is suggested that, among the effects of the injuries suffered in the accident, is a lack of insight or appreciation on Brandon Bishop’s part of the harm that has occurred.

[22]         In Tsantilas (Litigation Guardian) v. Johnson, Cranbrook Registry #18128 (20100211) Melnick, J. made a similar order in a case involving both counsel who appear in this proceeding. In what I gather to be a case of an under-age person, the court ordered the attendance of the litigation guardian at an assessment…

[23]         I think that as long as the case continues to be conducted by Charlotte Bishop as litigation guardian, the implication that, for reasons related to his injuries Brandon Bishop is unable to conduct the litigation will remain, along with the implication that talking to him will not yield the whole story. The plaintiff’s concerns about possible confusion do not outweigh the defendant’s interest in the appointed examiners getting accurate and complete information. Accordingly, Charlotte Bishop, as litigation guardian, must attend and answer the questions posed by the examiners as they require.


More on ICBC Claims, Fault and Credibility

August 23rd, 2010

After a collision occurs it is not uncommon for the parties involved to disagree as to how the crash happened and who is at fault.  If there are no independent witnesses to a crash it can be difficult to decide which version is more believable.  When these cases go to trial it is vital to give evidence in a consistent, reliable and credible way otherwise the Court may discount what you have to say.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Cranbrook Registry, dealing with the topic of credibility.

In today’s case (Tierney v. GMAC Leaseco Corporation) the Plaintiff was injured in a motorcycle collision in 2005 in Kimberley, BC.  The Plaintiff lost control of his motorcycle and struck a building located on the opposite side of the road from his proper lane of travel.  He claimed that the Defendant was at fault for the crash because the Defendant (who was driving a vehicle in the opposite direction of travel) “cut into the corner on his side of the road forcing him to take evasive action by turning sharply.”

The Defendant disagreed arguing that she never came into the Plaintiff’s lane of travel, rather the Plaintiff simply lost control and was responsible for his own injuries.  There were no independent witnesses who could satisfactorily comment on how the crash happened leaving the Court to pick between the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s evidence.  Ultimately Mr. Justice McEwan preferred the Defendant’s evidence and dismissed the lawsuit.   The Plaintiff’s evidence was at times “uncertain“, “conflicting” and “contradictory“.  These were some of the reasons which caused the Court to prefer the Defendant’s version of events.  In dismissing the lawsuit the Court held as follows:

[48]        The absence of physical evidence, and the unreliability of the various witnesses, including irreconcilable contradictions in the evidence, leaves the court to weigh what it has. This is not a case where both parties are implicated and it is not possible to discern the degree to which each is responsible, leading to an equal split in liability. For the plaintiff to succeed, the court must accept his evidence that, first, he intended to turn right at the curve and second, that the defendant was in his lane at that point. His own evidence and the surrounding evidence and circumstances suggest it is unlikely that his intention at the time was to go up to the highway.

[49]        The defendant on the other hand, gives a straightforward story of proceeding from the highway to the curve on Jennings Avenue, having made a recent right turn. She had had little opportunity to accelerate as she approached the curve. She was not preoccupied or distracted. Her evidence is unreliable in the aftermath of the realization that her vehicle was in danger of colliding with the plaintiff’s motorcycle, but not in respect to the details leading up to the event..

[50]        I do not think it is possible to say what happened with complete confidence, although I think the defendant’s version of events more likely. What that means for the plaintiff is that he has failed to carry the burden of proof that, on a balance of probabilities, the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the accident. This means, accordingly, that the plaintiff’s action is dismissed.

While there are no novel legal principles arising out of this decision, this case is worth reviewing in full for anyone involved in an ICBC case where credibility will play a crucial role to see the types of facts a Court can take into account when weighing two different versions to a motor vehicle collision.  For more on this topic you can click here to read my archived posts discussing credibility in ICBC claims.


More on ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Claims and Plaintiff Credibility

June 16th, 2010

As I’ve previously posted, when Plaintiff’s sue for damages from soft tissue injuries sustained in so-called “Low Velocity Impacts” their credibility often plays a crucial role at trial.  The simple reason for this is that without objectively verified injuries a Court must make a favourable finding to accept the Plaintiff’s evidence that they experienced pain following the collision.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the relationship between soft tissue injuries and plaintiff credibility.

In today’s case (Chandra v. Chen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 BC motor vehicle collision.   The claim was defended with the argument that “the Plaintiff did not suffer an injury in the accident which was so slight that the other driver involved  in the accident could not even recall an impact to the front of his vehicle“.

This defence was rejected with the Court finding that the Plaintiff did indeed sustain “some minor injuries…which have merged into a continuum with stresses that have arisen at work“.  Mr. Justice McEwan went on to award the Plaintiff $20,000 for her non-pecuniary damages.  Prior to doing so the Court made the following useful comments about the significance of Plaintiff credibility in soft tissue injury cases and the relationship of the collision to her injuries:

[21]         It is often difficult to assess injuries where the mechanism of injury is not obvious – as is often the case in low damage accidents – and there is little other than the plaintiff’s own evidence to support a claim of ongoing pain. Because “credibility” is crucial, much is often made of inconsistencies in medical records that ostensibly record the impressions of physicians of the plaintiff’s remarks under circumstances that are themselves difficult to assess. The court is often left with making what it can of the impression given by the plaintiff in the witness box.

[22]         The plaintiff did not appear to be exaggerating. She gave her evidence in a straightforward manner. I accept that she suffered some pain associated with the accident and I accept that she is sincere in her effort to recall the pain she has suffered since that time. To the extent that she has been unspecific, and at times somewhat inconsistent, I do not think she has been motivated to mislead. I think her attempt to recall all of the pain she attributes to the accident somewhat at odds with her actual experience, which appears to have been of some aches and pains that would come and go over time. I also think that the stresses of a physical occupation have at times been assigned to the accident when they have actually arisen independently.