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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

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Posts Tagged ‘Rule 12-2’

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.


TMC Judge Has Power To Address Admissibility of Expert Reports

November 12th, 2013

Rule 12-2(9) provides the Court with broad jurisdiction to make orders at a Trial Management Conference.  Reasons for judgment were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, confirming this power includes the ability to determine the admissibility of expert reports ahead of trial.

In the recent case (Tran v. Cordero ) the Defendant raised an admissibility concern regarding the Plaintiff’s expert report alleging bias.  The Defendant argued that ultimately the trial judge will need to decide the admissibility issue.  Mr. Justice Savage disagreed and found the Rules allow this to be dealt with by the presiding judge or master at a Trial Management Conference.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[2]             The second matter concerns an objection to admissibility of the plaintiff’s treating physician’s expert report.  The defendants say that one of their objections to admissibility of this report is the relation, which is described as a familial one, between counsel and the plaintiff’s treating physician.  That relation it is said may give rise to the issue of bias which would prevent the admission of the report.  Counsel for the plaintiff says this has been known and not until today, at the Trial Management Conference, raised as a factor regarding admissibility of the report.  The defendants say this is not a matter I can deal with, but must be left to the trial judge.

[3]             I am advised that this is a ten day jury trial.  In my view this objection is of such a fundamental nature to the ability of the trial proceeding fairly that it must be raised and determined prior to trial. In my view, the Court is clothed with the requisite jurisdiction under Rule 12-2(9).  In the circumstances it would further the object of these rules, particularly the ability to justly, fairly, and efficiently determine the issues on the merits at trial, that if the defendants intend to rely on this objection, that the application must be made and set down for hearing prior to trial and within two weeks of today’s date.  I so order.   


Advance Payment Order Used to Remedy "Harsh" Reality of Trial Adjournment

April 11th, 2013

A common occurrence at Trial Management Conferences is adjournment in circumstances where it is clear the time available for trial is insufficient.   Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, recognizing that this is a “serious penalty” and that in cases where the trial estimate when set was “not unreasonable” an advance payment order may be an appropriate remedy.

In this week’s case (Van Gils v. Grandmaison) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision. Liability was admitted.  The Plaintiff alleged he suffered from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  The Defendant disputed the severity of the claimed injuries.  The matter was set for an eight day trial but by the time of the Trial Management Conference it became clear this was insufficient.  Mr. Justice Schultes adjourned the trial and ordered an advance of damages. In finding this was an appropriate use of the Court’s discretion Mr. Justice Schultes provided the following comments:

[5]             It is common ground that the governing the authority is the decision of Mr. Justice Macfarlane in Serban v. Casselman (1995), 2 B.C.L.R. (3d) 316 (C.A.) leave to appeal ref’d [1995] S.C.C.A. No. 120.

[6]             The often-cited passage is at para. 11:

While such orders are often made when the adjournment was brought about through the fault of one party or where the conduct of the litigation demands such an order, the rule is not restricted to matters of that kind. It is obvious that an order for advance payments should only be made in special circumstances. Obviously such an order should not be made unless the judge who makes it is completely satisfied that there is no possibility that the assessment will be less than the amount of the advance payments.

[7]              I think that the current situation meets the requirement of “special circumstances”. This trial was adjourned at the direction of the Court, pursuant to the Supreme Court Civil Rules, because it would exceed the original estimate and the trial schedule could not absorb that excess.

[8]             Based on the material that I had at the trial management conference, I would not have been able to attribute any lack of care or diligence to either counsel for the increase in trial length since it was originally set. Mr. Van Gils’ counsel advised that he had set it for eight days in the specific anticipation that, if his estimate were to be exceeded slightly, the schedule can usually still accommodate a trial of up to ten days.

[9]             When the estimate grew to potentially exceed that upper limit, he was still engaged in pruning his witness list when the defendants concluded that it was appropriate to add further witnesses. Neither approach is unusual in the course of trial preparation and neither is deserving of criticism.

[10]         The penalty for an incorrect estimate is an extremely serious one: a court-compelled adjournment at the trial management conference if the schedule cannot accommodate the new time estimate.

[11]         While this might be an appropriate deterrent for counsel who give their original estimates carelessly or who grossly underestimate the time required, it falls harshly on litigants and counsel whose original estimate was not unreasonable and whose requirement for additional time is based on changing circumstances as the trial grows closer.


BC Court of Appeal Discusses Two Routes of Challenging Jury Notices

March 22nd, 2013

Last year I discussed the fact that the BC Supreme Court can deal with Jury Strike applications both under Rule 12-6(5) and also as part of the trial management process.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Court of Appeal (Wallman v. Gill) addressing this reality but also providing comments on the limits of when the trial management process is an appropriate forum for such an application.   The Court provided the following feedback:

23]         By analogy, although the application to strike the jury in this case was heard by the judge who had been appointed to manage the action, he did not hear it in the course of a trial management conference under R. 12-2(9), but in regular chambers under R. 12-6(5). Indeed, he could not have heard it at a case management conference since it is evident the parties filed affidavits on the application, and this would not have been permitted under R. 12-2(11)(a). Thus, the order striking the jury is not a limited appeal order.

[24]         I would be sympathetic to the plaintiff’s argument that the Legislature did not intend to create a “two-tier” system for appealing orders directing the mode of trial if I were satisfied that was the practical effect of this ruling. However, I am not convinced that this is the case. This argument fails to recognize the unique role of the case management conference. It is held late in the proceeding, when the trial is sufficiently imminent that the parties have been able to prepare a comprehensive trial brief, and meet in person with the judge to make informed decisions about how the trial will proceed. In this limited context, R. 12-2(9)(b) permits a trial management judge to decide whether the trial should be heard with or without a jury, either on application by one of the parties or on his or her own initiative, and without affidavit evidence. I venture the view that this power will be exercised rarely. If the parties have been unable to agree on the mode of trial, it seems most unlikely they would leave this to be determined late in the day at a case management conference, without the benefit of affidavit evidence. It is reasonable to assume that, instead, there will have been an earlier application under R. 12-6(5) to determine this issue. Further, it seems unlikely a trial management judge would then consider revisiting an earlier order dealing with mode of trial or, if no earlier application had been brought, alter the mode of trial in a summary manner late in the day.

 


TMC Update – Practice Direction 36 Repealed and Replaced

August 31st, 2012

Earlier this week I wrote about Practice Direction 36 allowing parties to opt out of Trial Management Conferences in certain circumstances.  This has now been repealed and replaced with Practice Direction 37 which allows for the same result but has created timelines into when such applications can be brought.


Practice Direction 36 – Trial Management Conferences Allowed to Be Waived by Consent

August 28th, 2012

(UPDATE – August 31, 2012PD 36 has been repealed and replaced with PD 37)

Addressing concerns that mandatory Trial Management Conferences add unnecessary time and expense to litigation, Practice Direction 36 comes into force on September 4 which will allow parties to BC Supreme Court Civil and Family matters to apply to waive TMC’s.

The waiver of TMC’s is limited to Vancouver Registry trials 9 days or less in duration with no self-represented litigants involved.  Hopefully this directive will be expanded Province wide.


Fixed Trial Date a Prerequisite for Trial Management Conference

May 24th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Penticton Registry, confirming that a Trial Date needs to be fixed before the Court has the authority to conduct a Trial Management Conference.

In today’s case (Landis v. Witmar Holdings Ltd.) the Claimant unilaterally set down a Trial Management Conference before a trial date was secured.  The Respondent argued that the conference was a nullity in these circumstances.  Mr. Justice Punnett agreed and in doing so provided the following reasons:

[5] Trial management conferences are a creation of the new Rules and are governed by Rule 12-2.  The objective of a trial management conference is to provide increased judicial supervision of pre-trial steps of litigation and the conduct of trials.  The rationale for increased judicial supervision is to provide assistance to parties in moving the case forward consistent with the overall objective of the Rules, particularly the proportionality principles.

[6] The requirement under Rule 12-2(1) to hold a trial management conference at least 28 days before the scheduled trial date indicates that a trial must be set before a trial management conference is scheduled.

[7] Rule 12-2(1) reads:

Unless the court otherwise orders, a trial management conference must take place at least 28 days before the scheduled trial date, at a time and place to be fixed by a registrar.  [Emphasis added]

[8] Without a trial date a judge is unable to address the issues referred to in Rule 12-2(9), nor would counsel be in a position to comply with the requirements of Rule 12-2(3) respecting the filing of trial briefs.

[9] Consequently, the trial management conference should not have been set down.  A notice of trial fixing a trial date must be issued before a trial management conference can be scheduled.

[10] The trial management conference set for June 11, 2012 is struck.


Witness Excluded For Failing to Be Listed in Trial Management Conference Brief

May 11th, 2012

One of the changes in the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules is the requirement for parties to produce a list of witnesses in their trial brief to be exchanged 7 days prior to a Trial Management Conference.

In addition to this Rule 12-5(28) prohibits a party from calling a witness who was not listed “unless the court orders otherwise“.  The first reasons for judgement that I’m aware of addressing this subrule were recently shared with me.

In the unreported case (Topkins v. Bruce) the Defendant attempted to call an unlisted witness at trial.  Mr. Justice Curtis refused to allow the witness to testify providing the following reasons:

[4] …The new Rules say that you must give a list of your witnesses no later than 28 days before the trial, or the Trial Management Conference.  There is a Trial Management Brief, which happebd to be late filed; that is not a big deal, a late filing, but it just adds to the approach, I guess.  Although the defendant knew that Mr. Simm existed, the Trial Management Brief says “lay witness number one” and “lay witness number two”.  This not only does not conform with the Rules, but if permitted would deliberately frustrate them.

[5]  The purpose of knowing who the witnesses are is so that the other side can prepare their case, and the Judge, if they want, can order a statement concerning the witnesses, as well as estimate the proper lenght of trial.

[6]  At the Trial Management Conference, September 30th, a direction was given that the witness list will be provided at a subsequent date.  The name of the witness was not provided until after that date.  The explanation is taht the address for the witness was not discovered until later.

[7]  In the circumstances of this case, I am not prepared to allow Mr. Simm to testify, because one, I do not think his evidence is going to be particularly relevant in the circumstances of the case; two, his name was not disclosed, although it was known at the Trial Management Conference, and three, he name was not disclosed, although  known, on the date that the Trial Management Conference Judge had directed that his name be given.

To my knowledge this decision is not publicly available but, as always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.


New Practice Direction Issued Clarifying Masters Jurisdiction

April 26th, 2012

The BC Supreme Court released Practice Direction 34, effective April 25, 2012, clarifying the matters in which a Master does and does not have jurisdiction.

The most notable change relates to granting Masters authority to preside over Trial Management Conferences which is consistent with a recent amendment, also in force on April 25, 2012, to Rule 12-2(2).