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

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Posts Tagged ‘section 10 worker’s compensation act’

ICBC Allowed To Raise Late “WCB Defense” On Undertaking to Pay Equivalent Benefits

April 4th, 2018

Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, allowing a Defendant to make a late amendment to their pleadings to raise a WCB defense but in doing so the Court made the Defendant’s insurer promise to pay equivalent benefits to the Plaintiff should the defense succeed.

In today’s case (Roberts v. Pearson) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages.  More than three years after the crash the Defendant wished to raise, for the first time, the “WCB Defense”, namely an allegation that both parties were in the course of employment at the time of the crash thus stripping the Plaintiff’s right to sue and forcing him to rely on WCB for compensation.

The court granted the amendment.  However the court noted that since the limitation to seek WCB benefits expired the Plaintiff may have their right to sue stripped and be left with no recourse from WCB.  The court made the amendment conditional on the Defendant’s insurer “providing an undertaking that if the Workers Compensation Board determines that it has jurisdiction but refuses to extend the limitation period to allow the plaintiff benefits from the date of the accident, the insurance company will pay the equivalent of any benefits the plaintiff would have received save for the delay in making the application to the Board“.

In finding this result just Master Wilson provided the following reasons:

[32]         In this case, the first the plaintiff was aware that the defendant Pearson was working at the time of the accident was February 6, the same date Pearson advised that he took the position the plaintiff was also working. The s. 10 Defence is only applicable if both the plaintiff and the defendant were working. Even if the plaintiff were working at the time of the accident, he would not have known there was a possible bar to his claim until he became aware the defendant was also working.

[33]         The defendants also say that the undertaking should not be imposed because its imposition in Brzozowski and Eugenio was due to the delay between when the defendant was aware of a possible s. 10 Defence and when the application was actually brought. I do not read those cases that way. If the court’s concern had been the delay in bringing the application to amend the pleadings, the undertaking would presumably have only needed to address the prejudice resulting from when the defendant became aware of the s. 10 Defence and the filing of the application to amend.

[34]         The undertakings in Brzozowski and Eugenio are not so limited. Those undertakings required the defendant insurer to undertake to pay the equivalent of any benefits the plaintiff would have received but for the delay in making the application to the Workers Compensation Board without reference to the application to amend. I conclude that the undertaking was to address the prejudice to the plaintiff caused by the fact that the s. 10 Defence was raised after the expiration of the presumptive limitation period in s. 55(1) of the Workers Compensation Act.

[35]         Finally, the defendants say that if I am inclined to permit the amendment conditional upon the undertaking, that I should instead adjourn the application in order that the defendants have an opportunity to review the plaintiff’s entire employment file, which they say I should order produced at this time. I am not prepared to do this for two reasons:

a)    Production of the employment file would not be determinative of whether the plaintiff was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident; and

b)    The determination of whether or not a person such as the plaintiff was within the scope of their employment is a matter within the sole jurisdiction of the Workers Compensation Board and is thus not something this court has the authority to decide.

[36]         In the circumstances, I am prepared to permit the defendants to amend their response to civil claim, conditional on their insurer providing an undertaking that if the Workers Compensation Board determines that it has jurisdiction but refuses to extend the limitation period to allow the plaintiff benefits from the date of the accident, the insurance company will pay the equivalent of any benefits the plaintiff would have received save for the delay in making the application to the Board, less any benefits paid to the plaintiff pursuant to Part 7.

[37]         The reference to benefits commencing at the date of the accident is to address the plaintiff’s concern that since more than three years has elapsed, there is a risk pursuant to s. 55(3.1) of the Workers Compensation Act that benefits would only be paid from the date of the application. This may or may not be a concern given that the plaintiff did not cease work entirely until 2016. The reference to Part 7 benefits already paid addresses the concern of the defendants as to the potential for double recovery.

[38]         In keeping with the court’s decisions in Brzozowski and Eugenio, costs of this application will be in the cause.

Indivisible Injuries Cannot Get Around the Worker/Worker Defence to Recovery

October 19th, 2015

Update May 16, 2016 – the below decision was apparently appealed and a settlement was reached prior to judicial disposition.  For a case calling the below reasoning “highly debatable” you can click here.


Adding to this site’s archives addressing the law of indivisible injuries, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether the principle of indivisible injury allows a claimant to collect damages for a claim that is otherwise barred by the Workers Compensation Act.  In short the Court ruled that this cannot be done.

In today’s case (Pinch v. Hofstee) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 collision and sued for damages.  In 2013 the Plaintiff was involved in a second collision which proceeded through WorkSafeBC as both motorists were in the course of their employment at the time.

At the trial for the first collision the Court found that both crashes resulted in indivisible injury.  The general rule with indivisible injuries from two non at-fault events is that the Plaintiff can seek full compensation for these from a single tortfeasor.  In finding this general rule does not apply in the case of indivisible injuries contributed to by an event caught by the worker/worker bar Mr. Justice Burnyeat provided the following reasons:

[53]         Having concluded that the injuries suffered were indivisible, the question that arises is whether Mr. Pinch is in a position to claim against Mr. Hofstee for the injuries suffered by him in MVA #2.  Despite my conclusion that the injuries suffered by Mr. Pinch in MVA #1 and MVA #2 were indivisible, I nevertheless conclude that Mr. Pinch is not in a position to claim damages against Mr. Hofstee arising out of the injuries that were incurred as a result of MVA #2.  I am satisfied that the effect of s. 10 of the Act precludes seeking damages arising from what are said to be indivisible damages.

[54]         Section 10(1) of the Act makes it clear that the provisions of that Part of the Act are “…in lieu of any right and rights of action, statutory or otherwise, founded on a breach of duty of care or any cause of action…”  [emphasis added].  Therefore, s.10(1) refers not only to “rights of action” but “any right…founded on a breach of duty of care or any other cause of action…”  I am satisfied that the “right” to claim for recovery for indivisible damages is a right that is precluded by s. 10(1) of the Act, being a right which is separate and distinct from a right to commence an action.  In this regard, s. 10(1) provides not only that the provision of the Part of the Act is in lieu of “any right and rights of action…” founded on the breach of duty of care that Mr. Pinch may have against an employee or an employer but also that “no action in respect of it lies” and that “any right…founded in a breach of duty of care” is precluded.  I am satisfied that this precludes any right that Mr. Pinch may have which is founded on a breach of duty of care by Mr. Hofstee.

[55]         The purpose of this section of the Act is to remove from the jurisdiction of the court the ability to deal with the rights of employees such as Mr. Pinch and the liability of employers when personal injuries are suffered in the course of employment. In this regard see DiCarlo v. DiSimone (1982), 39 O.R. (2d) 445 (H.C.) and Mitrunen v. Anthes Equipment Ltd. (1984) 57 B.C.L.R. 287.  In Mitrunen, Gould J. dealt with an action against Dominion Construction Company Limited which was an employer and Anthes Equipment Ltd. that was not.  After citing with approval the decision in DiCarlo, supra, in deciding that he was not bound by the unreported decision in Middleton v. Chen (C810663‑October 25, 1982), Gould J. determined that the Act governed and that it relieved the non‑employer defendant for liability for damages caused by the fault of the employer defendant.  On appeal, (1985) 17 D.L.R. (4th) 567, Seaton J.A., on behalf of the Court made this statement:

Section 10 first, in s-s (1), takes away the plaintiffs right of action against his employer and against co-employees. Subsections (2) to (5) deal with compensation and the bringing of an action against others. Subsection (6) talks about the worker, his dependant or the board bringing an action against some person other than an employer or worker. Subsection (6) thus leads logically to s-s (7) which, in its beginning words, clearly encompasses actions against those not employers or fellow workers. What it then says is that in that action if it is found that the death was due partly to a breach of duty of the employer or worker, then no damages are recoverable for the portion of the loss or damage caused by the negligence of the employer or worker. It does not say no damages are recoverable against the employer or worker; it is simply no damages are recoverable. On the face of it that must mean against anyone. The subsection, as I have mentioned, deals with an action brought against some person other than an employer or worker and it deals with actions brought by workers, dependants or by the board. It does not appear to deal with actions against employers or workers; they are covered by s-s (1).

(at para. 14)

[56]         The statement of Seaton J.A. is clear – “No damages are recoverable”.  I am satisfied that the decisions in Mitrunen, supra, relieve a non‑employer defendant such as Mr. Hofstee from liability for damages caused by his or her fault.

[57]         Section 10(2) reinforces this interpretation as it describes the ability of Mr. Pinch to “claim compensation” or “bring an action”.  I cannot conclude that the ability to “claim compensation” expands the right of Mr. Pinch to claim against Mr. Hofstee that which he could not claim directly against the driver of the vehicle involved in MVA #2.

[58]         Section 10(7) of the Act also re-enforces this interpretation of s. 10(1) of the Act as it is clear that “no damages, contributions or indemnity are recoverable for the portion of the loss or damage caused by the negligence of that employer or worker…”  If no “damages, contributions or indemnity” are recoverable by Mr. Pinch against the other driver involved in MVA #2, I cannot conclude that the indivisible damages caused by the negligence of the individual who caused MVA #2 would be recoverable against Mr. Hofstee.

[59]         Section 10(7) of the Act is broad enough to exclude the ability of the Mr. Hofstee to claim contribution or indemnity against the driver involved in MVA #2: Storey v. Canada Post Corp. (2006) 55 B.C.L.R. (4th) 131 (C.A.) at paras. 42‑45.  It could not have been intended by the Legislature that there be an exception to the general rule that no damages were recoverable and that a claim for contribution was not available, but that the full amount of the damages from MVA #1 and MVA #2 would be available against Mr. Hofstee despite the fact that he would not be in a position to look to the driver involved in MVA #2 for contribution.  I conclude that the effect of s. 10(7) of the Act was intended by the Legislature to protect not only those who were immune from suit under the scheme created by the Act from exposure to joint liability but also those who were not in a position to call upon another tortfeasor for contribution.

[60]         I conclude that the Legislature has made it clear that the principles set out in Bradley, supra, do not apply where there is a statutory bar to recovery of what may be found to be indivisible damages.  Section 10(1) of the Act is but one example of the inability to recover indivisible damages arising out of a separate breach of duty of care.  A further example might be illustrated by a situation whereby proceedings relating to a first tortious act were not commenced within the limitation period and a second tortious act occurred.  In those circumstances, I cannot conclude that damages would be available where an action was not commenced relating to the first act, a subsequent act caused injuries which were found to be indivisible from the first act, and a claim was advanced against the second tortfeasor for damages for the injuries caused both by the first and the second tortious acts.  Just as a claim for damages for a second tortious act could not “give life to” recovery of damages for a first act where a limitation period had expired so also s. 10(1) of the Act has taken away “any right and rights of action” available to Mr. Pinch and any recoverable “damages, contributions or indemnity” that might have been available to Mr. Pinch as a result of MVA #2.

[61]         I propose to deal with the damages suffered by Mr. Pinch as a result of MVA #1 as if MVA #2 had not occurred.  However, despite finding that the damages suffered in the two accidents were indivisible, I will then assess separately those damages which I can attribute only to MVA #2.  I do so in order to comply with s.10(7) of the Act which requires that I determine “…the portion of the loss or damages caused by…[the negligence of the driver in MVA #2]…although the…worker is not a party to the action”.  While it may seem inappropriate to determine the loss or damage caused by the driver involved in MVA #2 where a determination has been made that the damages arising out of MVA #1 and MVA #2 are indivisible, where the driver involved in MVA #2 is not a party to these proceedings, and where there has been no finding of liability for MVA #2, I will nevertheless do so because that is what is required under s. 10(7) of the Act.

The High Cost of a Successful WCB Defence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

April 5th, 2012

As previously discussedSection 10 of BC’s Workers Compensation Act operates to generally strip you of your right to sue if you are injured in the course of your employment by someone else in the course of their employment.  If this defence is raised and succeeds in a personal injury lawsuit the claim will be dismissed exposing a Plaintiff to ‘loser pays’ costs consequences.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, demonstrating this reality.

In this week’s case (McKay v. Marx) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision.   His vehicle was rear-ended by a Fed Ex vehicle.  The Plaintiff sued for damages.  There was no dispute that the Defendant was in the course of employment when the crash happened.  The defendant argued that the plaintiff was also a ‘worker’ and therefore his right to sue was stripped away.  The issue was sent to WCAT for determination who ruled that the Plaintiff was indeed a worker.

Given WCAT’s findings the Plaintiff’s lawsuit was dismissed.  The Defendant applied for costs and ultimately was successful.  In doing so Madam Justice Dorgan provided the following reasons:

[32] The circumstances in which the plaintiff found himself are unfortunate and they garner some sympathy. However, the authorities explicitly prohibit this court from denying costs by exercising discretion out of a sense of fairness or sympathy or a comparison of the relative economic strength of the parties.

[33] In summary, the defendants successfully pled a s. 10 Workers Compensation Act defence and are thus the substantially successful party ?? the winner of the event. The evidence as presented falls short of demonstrating such reprehensible conduct on the part of the defendants that would allow the court, in the exercise of its discretion, to depart from the general rule. Accordingly, the defendants are entitled to costs.

Section 10 WCB Bar Fails to Protect Ministry of Solicitor General

February 27th, 2012

(Update June 19, 2013 – the below decision was overturned in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Court of Appeal)

As previously discussed, Section 10 of the BC Workers Compensation Act can strip people of their right to sue if they are injured in the course of their employment by someone else in the course of their employment.

When a police officer in the course of their duties injuries someone through negligence they may be subject to this bar.  However, when an RCMP officer is negligent they usually enjoy personal immunity from lawsuits and instead the injured party needs to look to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General for compensation who are exposed by statute for liability when RCMP members are negligent in the course of their duties.  (Note: this Ministry has recently been overhauled and renamed the Ministry of Justice)

Interesting reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, discussing the interplay of the WCB Bar to lawsuits and actions against the Minister of Solicitor General for negligence of RCMP officers.

In last week’s case (Aitken v. Bethell) the Plaintiff was seriously injured while sitting in a parked vehicle.  The RCMP were in pursuit of the Defendant Bethell who lost control of his vehicle, colliding with another, and eventually causing a collision with the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  The Plaintiff sued various parties including the police officer.

Both the Plaintiff and the Police officer were found to be in the course of their employment at the time of the crash.   The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General brought an application to have the lawsuit against them dismissed relying on the WCB section 10 bar.  Mr. Justice Halfyard refused to do so finding that while the bar could prevent the lawsuit against the individual officer, the Minister did not enjoy the same immunity as they were not an ‘employer‘ and their liability was created by virtue of statue.  In permitting the claim to proceed Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[66]I have attached s. 10(1) of the Act as an appendix to these reasons. It seems to me that, in a negligence action for damages for personal injury, in order for a defendant to succeed in this defence, it must be established:

a)that the plaintiff, at the time of the alleged injury, was a “worker;”

b)that the alleged injury “[arose] out of and in the course of [the plaintiff’s] employment;”

c)that the defendant was the plaintiff’s employer, or the plaintiff’s co-worker, or “any employer within the scope of this Part” (i.e., Part 1 of the Act), or “any worker;” and

d)that the conduct of the defendant which is alleged to have caused the injury “arose out of and in the course of employment within the scope of this Part” (i.e. Part 1 of the Act).

[67]Where the statutory bar applies in favour of a defendant, the plaintiff cannot maintain his or her action as against that defendant. The plaintiff is restricted to making a claim for workers compensation in respect of the injury caused by that defendant.

[68]It appeared to be common ground that, if the Minister was an employer within the meaning of the Workers Compensation Act, then s. 10(1) would be an absolute bar to any action being brought against him by the plaintiff, i.e., a “worker,” (for any tort allegedly committed by him or by a police officer), even though neither the government nor the Minister was the employer of the police officers involved. The potential scope of the statutory bar appears to be broad…

[80]It seems to me that the Court of Appeal is saying, by necessary implication, that the province cannot be vicariously liable under s. 11 of the Police Act, and that only the Minister can be. If that is so, then on hindsight, it would appear that Mr. Justice Macaulay should not have granted judgment against both the government and the Minister, but should only have found the Minister to be vicariously liable. To my mind, that result cancels out the argument of the applicants based on Hill v. Hurst.

[81]If the plaintiff had sued the Government of British Columbia (which would have to be named as “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia”: s. 7 of the Crown Proceedings Act), the finding of WCAT that the government was an employer within the meaning of the Workers Compensation Act could have the legal effect of entitling the government to the statutory bar in s. 10 of the Act (but only if the conduct of the government, or its servant or agent, was a cause of the injury, and that conduct “arose out of and in the course of employment”). But the plaintiff has not sued the government, nor could he have sued the government, in my opinion. I am not persuaded that the Minister should be accorded the status of an employer for the purpose of s. 10(1) of the Act, simply because the government is an employer and because the Minister is the designate, or is the agent of, the government for the purposes of the Police Act.

Intention to Work From Home Strips Plaintiff of Right to Sue After Collision

August 26th, 2011

As previously discussed, Section 10 of the Worker’s Compensation Act operates to generally strip you of your right to sue if you are injured in the course of your employment by someone else in the course of their employment.  One of most litigated issues with respect to this bar arises when people are in collisions commuting to and from work.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing such a scenario.

In this week’s case (Franzke v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal) the Plaintiff was injured while driving home from her usual place of employment.  She was employed in the insurance industry.  Her job required her to have a Driver’s Licence and to occasionally work away from the office.

On the day of the collision the Plaintiff left her office early in the face of an expected snow storm.  She took files home with her with an intention of working from home for the balance of the day and depending on road conditions perhaps for some time beyond that.

In the course of her lawsuit the Defendants argued that these circumstances brought the commute within the “course of employment” stripping her of the right to sue.  The matter was put before the Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) who agreed.  While WCB’s Policy 18 states in part that “the general position is that accidents occurring in the course of travel from the worker’s home to the normal place of employment” is not an activity in the course of employment here the Plaintiff’s intention to work from home was crucial with WCAT finding that “the intention of the worker was given significant weight and was determinative“.

The Plaintiff asked the BC Supreme Court to review this decision arguing that it was patently unreasonable.  Madam Justice Ross disagreed and refused to disrupt WCB’s decision.  In doing so the Court reached the following conclusion:

[132] I have concluded that the Original Decision was not patently unreasonable and that the hearing was fair with no denial of natural justice. In addition, I have concluded that the decision of the Reconsideration Panel to dismiss the application for reconsideration was correct. In the result, the petition is dismissed.