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 Smith’

$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Neck Injury With Headaches

April 19th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $90,000 for a long standing neck injury with associated headaches.

In today’s case (Willett v. Rose) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 collision.  At trial, some 7 years later, the Plaintiff continued to suffer from neck pain with associated headaches.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[42]         In summary, the evidence is undisputed that the plaintiff’s headaches, including migraine headaches, are more frequent since the accident. The events with which those headaches were associated before the accident–monthly menstrual periods–no longer occur. I also accept the plaintiff’s evidence that her headaches are more severe and usually associated with neck pain. All of the medical evidence acknowledges the mechanism by which neck pain can evolve into headaches, including migraines and confirms the existence of objective signs of neck injury.

[43]         All of that evidence leads to the conclusion that, on the balance of probabilities, there is a causal link between the plaintiff’s neck pain and stiffness and her migraines. I find the neck pain and stiffness to have been solely caused by the accident.

[44]          As for the migraines, the governing principle is that stated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458: causation is established if an injury was caused or contributed to by the accident. Given the plaintiff’s long history of migraines, it may well be that some other factor is also playing a role in their onset, but I find that the injuries the plaintiff suffered in the accident are at least a major contributing cause of the migraines she now has. Or, to use the language of the Supreme Court of Canada in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, “but for” accident, the plaintiff’s migraines would not be as frequent or severe as they now are.

[45]         It has now been seven years since the accident. The plaintiff still experiences neck pain and stiffness as a result of the soft tissue injuries to her neck. More importantly, the neck pain is a contributing factor to serious, sometimes temporarily disabling migraines that significantly interfere with both work and recreational activities and reduce her quality of life. No improvement is anticipated in the future…

[48]         Considering all of the evidence and the authorities cited to me, I award non‑pecuniary damages of $90,000.


Lost Trial Date Due To Lack of Trial Briefs Not Saved By Late Filing

February 3rd, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating that filing a late trial brief is no remedy once a trial date is lost due to lack of compliance with the Rules of Court.

In today’s case (Carleton v. North Island Brewing Corporation) the parties were scheduled for trial and apparently by consent agreed to file trial briefs “outside the times prescribed by the Rules.“.

The Court did not grant the request for lack of sufficient evidence supporting it and struck the trial date.  The parties hoped late briefs would salvage the trial date but the Court declined.  In doing so Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[2]            Rule 12-2(1) requires a trial management conference to be held at least 28 days before trial. The plaintiff must file a trial brief at least 28 days before the date of the trial management conference (R. 12-2(2)) and other parties must file their trial briefs at least 21 days before the trial management conference (R. 12-2(3.1)). If no trial briefs are filed as required, the matter is removed from the trial list (Rule 12-2 (3.3).

[3]            These Rules are intended in part to assist the court in determining what cases are ready for trial, which in turn assists the court in the allocation of scarce judicial resources. They are not Rules that counsel and parties may opt out of at their convenience. At the very least, any application to extend the time for filing of a trial brief must be accompanied by a reasonable explanation as to why it was not filed in time as well as a proposed new date by which it will be filed.

[4]            In this case, neither party filed a trial brief and counsel simply submitted a draft consent order that “trial briefs of the plaintiff and defendant be filed outside the times prescribed” by the Rules. There was no explanation of why no one had filed a trial brief and no suggestion of when briefs would be filed. The absence of that material was in itself sufficient grounds to deny the application, but a subsequent review of the court record indicated that the matter had already been struck from the trial list.

[5]            The trial management conference had been set for February 16, 2017 and the requisition seeking a consent order for late filing was not submitted until January 30. In other words, the parties were seeking to file trial briefs after the date on which the Rules required the case to be struck from the trial list.

[6]            Rule 12-2 (3.3) reads

(3.3) Unless the court otherwise orders, a trial must be removed from the trial list if no trial brief has been filed under subrule (3) or (3.1).

[7]            Therefore, where a matter is struck from the trial list pursuant to that Rule, it cannot be restored simply by late filing of trial briefs, even if the court permits late filing. At least one party must make a proper application to restore the trial to the list. The question of late filing of trial briefs will only become relevant if that application is successful. Whether such an application is successful will depend on the circumstances, but I expect that in most cases applicants will be required to show both a reasonable excuse for the failure to file trial briefs and some serious prejudice if the trial does not go ahead.


Court Critical of “Uninformative” Trial Briefs

December 16th, 2016

Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, with critical comments about “uninformative” trial briefs.

In today’s case (Kirk v. Nanaimo Literacy Association) the parties wishes to dispense with an otherwise mandatory trial management conference and asked the court to waive the hearing.  In refusing to do so the Court was critical of the trial briefs filed and provided the following comments:

[6]             Both parties state in their trial briefs that they expect the trial to be completed within the scheduled time. Yet I don’t know on what basis that assertion could be made because the total time estimates for witnesses and submissions in the two trial briefs exceeds the time set for trial by almost two days. Again, perhaps the trial was rescheduled for more days, but I have not been given any trial briefs reflecting that.

[7]             Further, the trial briefs do not indicate that counsel have fully considered all matters that might usefully be explored at a TMC. For example, the plaintiff’s trial brief, after listing the witnesses to be called, states:

The filing party may call further witnesses to address any outstanding documentary hearsay concerns which the parties are unable to resolve prior to trial.

[8]             If there are unresolved issues about admissibility of documents, particularly if it is going to affect the number of witnesses to be called, that is an issue to be explored at the TMC and the parties are not ready for trial within the meaning of R. 12-2(3.6).

[9]             Under the category of “Admissions”, the plaintiff’s brief says the plaintiff will admit that:

A document which conforms to the requirements set out in the Evidence Act, RSBC 1996, C. 124, s.42 is admissible as prima facie proof of any fact otherwise provable through direct oral evidence.

[11]         Thus, the purported “admission” by the plaintiff amounts to no more than a statement that the law of British Columbia applies to this case. That does not assist the Court in determining what facts will or will not be at issue in trial. I assume there are documents that qualify as business records under the Act, that certain facts stated in them are relevant to the issues in this case and the plaintiff is admitting or not disputing those facts. If that is the case, a party who wishes to be excused from attending a TMC must set out what those admitted facts are.

[12]         The defendant’s trial brief is equally uninformative on this issue. It simply says that the facts the defendant will admit will be “determined prior to trial date”.

[13]         Clearly, as of the date they wrote their trial briefs, counsel had not clearly turned their minds to or discussed the question of what facts could be admitted. Counsel who do not make that effort cannot expect to be excused from attending a TMC.

[14]         Under the heading of “Authorities”, both parties simply state they do not expect a joint brief of authorities at trial. That is not sufficient. The trial brief asks counsel to refer to authorities in order to identify the legal issues that will be argued at trial and in order to satisfy the Court that the parties and counsel have considered the law as it may affect their position at trial. That does not mean counsel need to cite every case they may wish to refer to at trial, but by the time they start preparing trial briefs, counsel should have identified the most important ones.

[15]         This is a wrongful dismissal case, so counsel should by now be familiar with the leading cases in that area as well as any others that are particularly relevant, such as by virtue of comparable facts. Those should have been referred to in the trial brief.

[16]         In short, the trial briefs submitted are largely pro-forma documents that do not give the Court confidence that all issues have been addressed or that all potentially useful discussions between counsel have taken place. The application to dispense with the TMC is therefore dismissed.


Defendant Ordered to Pay $7,500 After “Body-Checking” Plaintiff During Debt Collection

June 23rd, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, ordering a Defendant to pay a Plaintiff $5,000 in non-pecuniary damages and a further $2,500 in punitive damages following an assault during a debt collection.

In today’s case (Ross v. Dhillon) the Plaintiff attended the Defendant’s business to collect an outstanding business account with respect to some industrial equipment purchased by the Defendant.  The Defendant made partial payment and the Plaintiff,  unsatisfied with this, removed a part from the equipment.  As he attempted to leave the Defendant “body‑checked him into the door frame and held him against it for several seconds.”.

The Court found this incident caused a minor aggravation of pre-existing injuries the Plaintiff suffered in a collision.  In assessing damages at $7,500 Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[20]         I therefore find that the plaintiff experienced a minor and short‑lived aggravation of his neck and back symptoms, accompanied by an equally minor and short‑lived condition that produced some numbness in his hand…

[23]         Considering the minor nature of the plaintiff’s injuries, including the brief aggravation of his previous symptoms and including a component for aggravated damages, I award the plaintiff non‑pecuniary damages of $5,000.

[24]         I also find this to be an appropriate case for punitive damages. The defendant’s conduct was willful, reckless and dangerous. While his conduct was at the low end of any scale that would measure violent conduct, no amount of violence was an acceptable response to this dispute about a relatively small debt.

[25]         In Van Hartevelt v. Grewal, 2012 BCSC 658, the court awarded $10,000 in punitive damages to a plaintiff who was beaten about the head and kicked in the ribs. The violence in this case was much less severe, and I award punitive damages of $2,500.


No Negligence Found in Case of Failed Emergency Brake

November 23rd, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, finding a motorist was not negligent for having a faulty emergency brake which led to a pedestrian collision.

In the recent case (Little v. Einarsen) the Plaintiff pedestrian was struck by an unoccupied vehicle which “rolled downhill from where it had been parked“.

He sued the vehicle owner alleging negligence.  The Court dismissed the lawsuit finding that the vehicle likely rolled because its emergency brake failed and the owner did not know, nor ought to have known, that the defect existed.  In dismissing the claim Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[18]        The uncontradicted evidence is that Ms. Einarsen’s car rolled downhill from where it was parked while its emergency brake was engaged. The fact that the emergency brake failed to perform its principle function leads to the obvious inference that it was in some way defective. The inference is further supported by admissible business records from the repair shop that indicate the emergency brake was repaired or adjusted within days or, at most, a few weeks after the accident.

[19]        In the absence of any direct or circumstantial evidence pointing to any other cause, it must be concluded that the accident would not likely have occurred if the emergency brake had been functioning properly. Putting it in slightly different terms, the accident, on the balance of probabilities, would not have occurred but for the failure of the emergency brake to perform its intended function.

[20]        Whether Ms. Einarsen can be held at fault for that failure depends on whether it was foreseeable—whether she knew or ought to have known about a defect or inadequacy that might cause the emergency brake to fail.

[21]        An owner of a vehicle owes a duty not to use it or permit it to be used if he or she knows or ought to have known that it is defective in any way that might cause an accident. The court will find that an owner ought to have known about a defect that would have been detected by the exercise of ordinary care, caution, and skill: Dyk v. Protec Automotive Repairs Ltd., 1998 CarswellBC 3834 (S.C.) at para. 81.

[22]        In Newell v. Towns, 2008 NSSC 174, the court said at para. 175:

[175]    ….However, an owner is not liable for all consequences that may flow from an accident that happens as a result of a mechanical defect in a vehicle. Liability only occurs for those defects that went uncorrected, when either the owner knew, or should have known by the exercise of reasonable care, of their existence.

[23]        There is no evidence that the emergency brake had failed in the past or of any defect of which Ms. Einarsen knew or should have known. Arguably, the age of the car heightened Ms. Einarsen’s duty to be satisfied that all components were in good working order. I find that, by having the vehicle inspected only two months before the accident, she had done what was reasonable to comply with that duty.

[24]        There is no evidence that the mechanics who performed that inspection failed to notice or repair a problem with the emergency brake or that Ms. Einarsen had any reason to believe they had. There is no evidence of any problem with the emergency brake that became apparent between the dates of the inspection and the accident.

[25]        In short, while Mr. Little clearly suffered injuries, he has failed to meet the burden of proving that they were caused by anything Ms. Einarsen did or failed to do or by any mechanical defect she could have detected with ordinary care, caution, or skill. In view of that failure to prove liability and a resulting entitlement to damages, it is not necessary to comment upon or attempt to resolve the many issues about the nature and extent of Mr. Little’s injuries.

[26]        The action must be dismissed with costs.


Responsive Report Rule “Is Not a Licence” For Failing to Prepare Expert Evidence

March 9th, 2015

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, criticizing and restricting the practice of allowing late defense medical examinations in the guise of obtaining ‘responsive’ reports.

In last week’s case (Timar v. Barson) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 collision and sued for damages.  The alleged injuries included a concussion.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff served a psychologists report which found the plaintiff suffered from a variety of cognitive issues.  As the 84 day deadline approached the Plaintiff served the balance of his reports which included a psychiatric opinion that the Plaintiff suffered from an ongoing concussive injury from the collision.  The Defendant applied for an independent medical examination beyond the 84 day deadline arguing they needed a responsive opinion in the face of these new reports.  Mr. Justice Smith disagreed and in doing so provided the following reasons criticizing the ‘wait and see’ approach in defendant’s exercising their rights for independent medical exams:

[19]         Rule 11-6(4) establishes a notice requirement for responsive evidence, but it does not exempt any party from the basic notice requirement in R. 11-6(3). In other words, it is not a licence for any party to wait until they have seen the other’s expert reports before deciding what expert evidence they need to obtain or rely on. Where each party has properly prepared its case and used the rights given by the Rules to discover the other party’s, responsive reports under R. 11-6(4) should rarely be necessary and IME’s for the purpose of preparing such reports should be rarer still.

[20]         A party seeking an IME after expiry of the deadline in R. 11-6(3) must, as stated in Luedecke,  satisfy the court that the examination is necessary to properly respond to an expert report served by the other party and not simply to respond to the subject matter of the plaintiff’s case.

[21]         However, other factors beyond the meeting of that evidentiary threshold must be considered. The principle one that emerges from virtually all the cases is the extent to which the party seeking the examination can claim to be truly surprised by the expert evidence served by the other party: Jackson at para. 27; Compton v. Vale (4 June 2014), Kelowna M95787  at para. 11 (B.C.S.C.). Defendants who delay obtaining or serving expert evidence until after the plaintiff’s evidence is received, then attempt to introduce all of their expert evidence as response, do so at their peril: Crane v. Lee, 2011 BCSC 898 at para. 22; Gregorich v. Gregorich (16 December 2011), Victoria 09-4160 at para. 11 (B.C.S.C.)…

[31]         A defendant in a personal injury action must therefore know that the plaintiff will have to rely on medical evidence if the matter proceeds to trial. Knowing that, the defendant must consider whether an IME is required in order to obtain a report that can be served at least 84 days before trial pursuant to R. 11-6(3). In order to determine that and to identify the type of medical expert to involve, the defendant must determine what the plaintiff is saying about his or her condition. An examination for discovery is the obvious, most effective and most important way to do that.

[32]         The defendant in this case chose not to exercise its rights under the Rules. It did not conduct an examination for discovery and made no effort to obtain a timely IME. In the absence of such efforts, I must hold that the Master erred in permitting the defendant to use R. 11-6(4) as a means of obtaining its first medical evidence. In the limited time she had to deal with the application, the Master failed to fully and properly consider the limited purpose of R. 11-6(4) and its interaction with other rules as they affect actions of this kind.

 


Clinical Record Disclosure Thwarts Adverse Inference Request

November 13th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, placing great weight on clinical record disclosure in denying a request for an adverse inference.

In the recent case (Beggs v. Stone) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries with accompanying psychological difficulties which rendered her disabled.  In the course of the trial the Plaintiff did not call a variety of treating physicians including one who treated her before and shortly after the collision and treating psychologists.  In declining to draw an adverse inference Mr. Justice Smith placed ‘particular emphasis‘ on the fact that fulsome disclosure of these treating physicians records was made.  In finding no inference should be made the Court provided the following reasons:

[22]         Counsel for the defence seeks an adverse inference from the plaintiff’s failure to call the family physician who treated her before and in the year following the accident and more particularly the psychologists who treated her both here and in Winnipeg after the accident. The factors for drawing an adverse inference are set out in Buksh v. Miles, 2008 BCCA 318, at para. 35. These include the evidence before the court, the explanations for not calling the witness, the nature of the evidence that could be provided, the extent of disclosure of the witness’s clinical notes and the circumstances of the trial.

[23]         In declining to draw an adverse inference, I place particular emphasis on the fact that the clinical records of all of these professionals were disclosed to defence counsel and were reviewed by all the experts who gave their opinions in part based upon those records. The plaintiff’s pre-accident condition and post-accident progress are well documented, and there is nothing to suggest that there is anything in those records that contradicts anything that the doctors who have testified have stated.


ICBC Wrong In Denying Part 7 Benefits Absent Timely Evidence Justifying Their Position

August 8th, 2014

Update – an appeal of this decision was dismissed however the BC Court of Appeal noted that the trial judge erred in his interpretation of s. 101 of the Regulation in concluding that if ICBC is to rely on s. 96(f) to reject a claim for benefits, it must do so on the basis of evidence obtained before the expiry of the 60-day deadline.

 

 

____________________________________

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, holding that ICBC cannot deny Part 7 benefits based on speculation that a pre-existing condition is causing the injury in question absent evidence justifying this position obtained within 60 days.

In today’s case (Kozhikhov v. ICBC) the Plaintiff submitted over $10,000 in medical treatment expenses which ICBC refused to pay.  ICBC relied on s. 96(f) of the Regulations which excludes treatments for conditions caused by “sickness and disease” unrelated to the collision.  ICBC did not have evidence justifying this position, at least not in the 60 days following the submitted claim.  In holding that ICBC is obliged to pay the Part 7 benefits in these circumstances Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[19]         The benefits claimed in this case are subject to s. 101(b). The 60 day period for payment allows ICBC the opportunity to review and investigate the claim. Obviously, it does not give sufficient time for the extensive investigation the corporation may undertake when defending its other insured–the allegedly at fault motorist–in the tort claim, but that is consistent with summary nature of the claim and the relaxed standard of proof required of the plaintiff.

[20]         ICBC relies on s. 96(f) of the Regulation, which reads:

The corporation is not liable to pay benefits under this Part in respect of the injury or death of a person

(f) whose injury or death is caused, directly or indirectly, by sickness or disease, unless the sickness or disease was contracted as a direct result of an accident for which benefits are provided under this Part.

[am. B.C. Regs. 379/85, ss. 36, 37; 449/88, s. 17.]

[21]         Section 96(f) must be read in conjunction with s. 101. If the plaintiff’s injury is caused by the sickness or disease referred to in s. 101, benefits are not payable. But in the absence of evidence that s. 96(f) applies, ICBC must pay benefits within 60 days after it receives proof of the claim.

[22]         In other words, if ICBC is to reject a claim for specific benefits under s. 96(f), it must do so on the basis of evidence obtained before the expiry of the 60 day deadline. In cannot use evidence obtained long after the fact to justify a failure to comply with s. 101.

 


Case Planning Conferences Cannot be Used “to force a party to identify specific medical experts”

March 11th, 2014

Reasons for judgment were released today addressing the boundaries of the BC Supreme Court’s power to make orders respecting the identity of expert witnesses at a Case Planning Conference.

In today’s case (Dhunga v. Ukardi) the Defendant set down a Case Planning Conference some 15 months before trial and “sought an order that the plaintiff immediately disclose the areas of expertise of any experts whose evidence will be tendered at trial and an order limiting the expert evidence at trial to those areas of expertise.“.  Mr. Justice Smith rejected this request finding the Court has no jurisdiction to make such an order.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:

[5] The orders that may be made at a CPC are set out in Rule 5-3(1). The relevant ones for the purpose of these reasons are Rule 5-3(1)(k) and (v):
(1) At a case planning conference, the case planning conference judge or master may make one or more of the following orders in respect of the action, whether or not on the application of a party:

(k) respecting experts, including, without limitation, orders
(i) that the expert evidence on any one or more issues be given by one jointly-instructed expert,
(ii) respecting the number of experts a party may call,
(iii) that the parties’ experts must confer before the service of their respective reports,
(iv) setting a date by which an expert’s report must be served on the other parties of record, and
(v) respecting the issues on which an expert may be called;

(v) any orders the judge or master considers will further the object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules.

..

[16] As pointed out in Amezcua, Rule 5-3(1)(k) sets out a number of specific orders that may be made in regard to experts, but those do not include an order disclosing an expert’s identity or the area of his or her expertise before the report is served, much less an order barring any additional experts or areas of expertise. If Rule 11-1(2) was intended to refer to such an order, I would have expected to see a corresponding provision in Rule 5-3(1)(k).

[17] I recognize that the list of specific orders in Rule 5-3(1)(k) is stated not to limit the orders that may be made and that Rule 5-3(1)(v) allows for any other orders the judge or master considers will further the object of the rules. However, as was said in Galvon, such general provisions are not sufficient to override basic and clearly established common law rights…

[22] Rule 11-1(2) cannot be used at a CPC to force a party to identify specific medical experts or areas of medical expertise or to limit the party’s case at trial to those experts.

To my knowledge this case is not yet publicly reported but a copy of the reasons can be found here: Dhugha v Ukardi

 


Pending Appeal No Reason For Trial Judge Not To Finalize Costs

July 12th, 2013

Short and to the point reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a plaintiff double costs after proceeding to trial and besting a pre-trial settlement offer.

In the recent case (Codling v. Sosnowsky) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  Prior to trial she made a formal settlement offer for $55,000.   ICBC rejected this and proceeded to trial where she was awarded just over $70,000.  The Court awarded the Plaintiff double costs for besting the offer.  ICBC argued that it was premature to settle costs as the case was under appeal.  Mr. Justice Smith quickly disposed of this argument providing the following reasons:

[3]             The defendant also says it is premature to deal with costs because he has filed an appeal and even partial success could reduce the award to an amount below the offer to settle. I do not accept that argument. The duty of this court is to finalize its own judgment. If the Court of Appeal finds that judgment to be in error, the costs consequences will change accordingly.

In confirming that this was an appropriate case for double costs Mr. Justice Smith reasoned as follows:

[7]             On the basis of the evidence that the parties could reasonably have anticipated being called at trial, I find that the plaintiff’s offer represented a reasonable effort to assess her possible recovery. It was one the defendant should have recognized as being within the range of possible awards and ought reasonably to have been accepted, particularly when weighed against the cost of going to trial. I recognize that liability was denied and the plaintiff’s offer made no apparent discount for risk on that issue, but this was a rear-end collision and the defendant had little prospect of success on liability or contributory negligence.