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Court Entitled To Rely on Civil Jury Instructions For Present Value Calculations

When awarding damages for future losses BC Courts have an obligation to use appropriate present value multipliers in arriving at the lump sum awarded.  Normally this is achieved by relying on expert evidence in personal injury cases.  Given the BC Government’s recent restrictions on expert evidence Justices will likely have increasingly fewer such reports to assist them.
To this end an interesting footnote appeared at the end of a recent personal injury judgment.  In the recent case (MacGregor v. Bergen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2013 collision.  The crash left the plaintiff with residual partial disability.  Damages were awarded for past and future losses.  The Court noted that no expert evidence was led by either party addressing preset value calculations but this was not a problem as the Court could simply rely on the multipliers provided in BC’s Civil Jury Instructions.  In explaining why this was appropriate Mr. Justice Branch provided the following thoughts in a footnote to his reasons for judgement:
Neither party provided expert testimony as to the appropriate present value multipliers. However, I find that I have an obligation to account for the present value of the future losses pursuant to s. 56 of the Law and Equity Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 253. Multipliers are calculated using the designated 1.5% for the present value of future income loss and 2% for any other future losses. The amounts presented for female police officers and female university graduates were determined by inflating the 2015 data provided by Mr. Turnbull to 2018 dollars (resulting in figures of $99,300 versus $67,700), calculating the difference of $31,600, and then applying a present value multiplier of 26.23, assuming a retirement age of 65 (37 years hence). I find that I am entitled to make use of the multipliers provided at Appendix E of the Civil Jury Instructions for this purpose. I note that the court has relied on the Civil Jury Instructions for this purpose in other cases where expert evidence was not made available: Smith v. Fremlin, 2013 BCSC 800 at para. 38; Erickson v. Bowie, 2007 BCSC 1465 at para. 51, footnote 3; Hrnic v. Bero Investments Ltd., 2018 BCSC 1880 at para. 57; Barnes v. Richardson, 2008 BCSC 1349, aff’d 2010 BCCA 116; Duifhuis v. Bloom, 2013 BCSC 1180 at para. 62; Harris v. Ladner Centre Holdings Ltd., 2008 BCSC 1735 at para. 70.

Police Told They No Longer Need to Investigate Most Collisions in BC

When a collision occurs involving injury, death or a prescribed amount of property damage, attending police officers are required to complete a written report of the crash.   This can be a valuable resource for collision victims as it documents the parties involved, labels the probable offender for the crash, highlights contributing factors along with road conditions and also notes the names of known witnesses.  The ‘prescribed amount’ historically was $1,000 for motor vehicles, $600 for motorcycles $600 and $100 for bicycles.  This captured most collisions.
In a bit of a perplexing development the BC Government has changed this threshold to $10,000.  A press briefing released last week noted as follows:
“Having traffic back up because of a minor collision where nobody was hurt doesn’t help anyone – and worse, it can lead frustrated drivers to take steps that are unsafe,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Today’s increase in the damage threshold for these kinds of crashes is long overdue and will allow people and police officers to move damaged vehicles out of the way without delay.”
Currently, officers who attend a PDO must complete a written report before any vehicles can be removed from the road if damage exceeds $1,000 (for motorcycles, $600; for bicycles, $100). By increasing the reporting threshold to $10,000 per PDO, regardless of vehicle type, government expects that provincial highways will be able to be unblocked more efficiently.
The BC Government has recently labelled almost every injury sustained in a collision as “minor”.  They have now labelled all collisions causing under $10,000 in vehicle damage as “minor”.  Few people would consider a crash causing $9,000 in damages as anything but severe.  It makes little sense to crack down on speeding and distracted driving (activities which very well could cause collisions) but to ignore investigations when actual collisions occur.
This development takes an important tool away from collision victims who later need to advocate on their own behalf.  If you are a collision victim in BC it is now more important than ever to document matters that the police used to record following a crash.

$170,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Hip Injury, PTSD, TOS and Chronic Pain

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a plaintiff who suffered a host of injuries in a vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Firman v. Asadi) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 collision.  The Defendant denied fault but was found liable at trial.  The collision resulted in multiple injuries including a torn labrum, thoracic outlet syndrome, PTSD and chronic pain.  Prognosis for full recovery was poor.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $170,000 Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

[145]     Based upon the abundant medical evidence as well as the evidence of the plaintiff and other evidence of the lay witnesses, I find that the plaintiff’s injuries that she attributes to the MVA and as reported to the treatment providers and medical experts were caused by the MVA.

[146]     As noted, there is much overlap in the specific diagnoses found in the medical evidence.  In more general terms, the plaintiff’s injuries sustained in the MVA are: (1) left hip injury, including torn labrum, requiring surgery;  (2) TOS or thoracic outlet syndrome, requiring surgery, and with further surgery recommended; (3) whiplash injuries (myofascial pain syndrome, mechanical spine pain) and resultant chronic pain, particularly in her upper back, left shoulder, and arm; (4) left shoulder tendinopathy; (5) chronic headaches; (6) mood or psychological/psychiatric disorders, including depression, somatic symptom disorder, and anxiety.

[147]     The defendants dispute the diagnosis of PTSD, made by Dr. Schweighofer. Dr. Iso noted PTSD “symptoms”.  In the circumstances of this case, the question of whether the plaintiff fully meets the criteria for this diagnosis is of little practical consequence. Dr. Waraich noted that her symptoms meet the DSM-5 criteria for PTSD, with one exception. He states that, while a diagnosis of delayed onset PTSD could be made, in his view her PTSD symptoms are “better accounted for” by the diagnoses that he makes: depressive disorder, and somatic symptom disorder. However, he added:

…in my opinion, her future course and potential treatment of PTSD symptoms are relevant despite her not meeting full criteria for PTSD in my assessment.

[148]     The prognosis for substantial improvement is poor…

[218]     The evidence discloses that the plaintiff has suffered a very substantial non-pecuniary loss.  She is now only marginally able to continue with her former occupations, and passions in life, fitness training and barbering. Her physical and psychological injuries as outlined previously are substantial, and likely permanent to a large extent at least.  She has endured a great deal of pain and suffering, which will continue indefinitely. She has undergone two surgeries and a third surgery is likely, since it is recommended and the plaintiff says she plans to undergo it.

[219]     Her injuries and their consequences have quite dramatically affected her former lifestyle and her personality. She was previously very physically active. She participated in marathon runs and triathlons, operated a fitness business, and engaged in a number of sporting activities. She was independent and took pride in being able to support herself and her younger daughter, who continues to be a dependant. I referred earlier to the change in her personality noted by the witnesses. She is no longer outgoing, social, energetic and happy, as she was before.

[220]     Her homemaking capacity has been impacted. She testified that pre-accident she kept a tidy household. This is corroborated by Mr. MacDonald and her daughter. She no longer has the ability to maintain a tidy household. Now her house is messy.

[221]     On the other hand, she is far from completely debilitated, and there is a chance her condition will improve, with appropriate treatment.  Her pre-accident condition was not perfect, (in particular, she had symptomatic spinal degeneration, and headaches) and there was some risk that her conditions could have affected her detrimentally in future, as they had pre-accident.  They might have worsened.  …

[231]     Having regard to the case authorities I have referred to, I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $170,000.

BC Attorney General – ICBC Does Not Have A "Meat Chart"

Last month ICBC withdrew many settlement offers on open claims and replaced them with lower unrealistic offers which were not tied to judicially established legal principles but rather internally designated criteria.  The media dubbed this strategy the “meat chart” which appears to be resulting in fewer settlements and more claims now clogging the courts.  BC’s Attorney General, the man in charge of ICBC, has now come out and taken offence to the meat chart label and has outright denied its existence.
In a lengthy exchange with MLA Michael Lee BC’s Attorney General asked the opposition member to not call ICBC’s strategy a ‘meat chart‘ and said ‘they do not have a meat chart‘.  Here is the full exchange as recorded in Hansard:

M. Lee: Well, I appreciate that we’ve had a great opportunity to have those discussions, in this House, between the Attorney General and myself. That’s partly because, I think, of the complexity of the roles. I will just conclude by saying that, specifically, the concern is over the multiple roles that the Attorney General carries. One is the responsibility to be the chief legal officer for this province, advising the Premier and the cabinet. The role that he played during the referendum, for example, comes to mind.

The second, of course, in no particular order, is the minister responsible for ICBC. As these changes are coming forward, does the Attorney General look at these changes through the lens of cost containment, as the minister responsible for ICBC, or through the lens of being the chief legal officer to this province, ensuring that individuals’ rights are protected?

There is, of course, great concern in terms of the need for expert reports, the manner in which this meat chart policy that ICBC now has…. There was a report that the Attorney General brought out in early January or December. That was the litigation review, which showed no systemic concern. At least, that was the headline. But clearly there was a change by ICBC coming forward, in terms of how they managed their litigation process.

These are the topics that, I think, are quite concerning, in terms of the pattern right now, of the way this has been approached, in the face of the concerns from members of the legal community. I look forward to discussing that further with the Attorney General in estimates and at other opportunities. I do thank the Attorney General today and the members of the ministry staff for that opportunity to have this discussion.

Hon. D. Eby: I can’t let go unchallenged the member’s suggestion that ICBC has a “meat chart.” They do not have a meat chart. That is incorrect; the member knows it’s incorrect. He shouldn’t repeat it.

That’s the end of my closing statement. I thank the member for his questions on the supplementary estimates, and I thank my staff for assistance.

ICBC has not been faring well in Court since their new strategy kicked in.  I can appreciate politicians looking to distance themselves from it but to outright deny that a new policy has kicked in when assessing the claims of injured British Columbians is a turn for the bizarre. I will continue to report on judicial outcomes of recent cases as they come before the courts.

BC Attorney General Admits Court Rule Changes Brought Without Judicial Approval

Earlier this month BC’s Attorney General surprised the legal community with changes to the BC Supreme Court Rules limiting the number of expert reports in motor vehicle injury prosecutions.  The rule changes were brought without notice to the profession, were retroactive and ultimately will lead to ICBC paying for countless expert reports already in existence that the new rule deems useless.
Today BC’s Attorney General candidly admitted that this rule change was brought unconventionally and without judicial approval.  Legal challenges are being readied against this rule which appears to have been brought for an improper purpose, namely not to fix a procedural problem but rather to save a single institutional litigant money.  In any event here are Attorney General Eby’s words confirming the judiciary did not approve this surprise rule change
 The rules committee did not recommend these changes and was not asked to approve these changes. These changes were a decision made by government.”
Changes to the BC Supreme Court Rules require statutory consultation with the Chief Justice of the Court.  It is unclear just how meaningful a consultation occurred but today’s press release makes it appear that the consultation may have been little more than window dressing.

$95,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Labral Tear with Articular Cartilage Disruption

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for a chronic hip injury sustained in a collision.
In today’s case (McCann v. Anderson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 vehicle collision that the Defendant accepted fault for.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries which made full recovery.  More notably he also sustained a chronic hip injury which had a poor prognosis for full recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $95,000 Madam Justice Shergill provided the following reasons:

[78]         At the time of the MVC, Mr. McCann was a physically active 54-year-old man who worked at a physically demanding job without restrictions. Though he had some problems in his low back prior to the MVC, there is no evidence that the low back pain would have continued or caused him to experience problems in the future. The impact of the October 2014 MVC was substantial, and caused him significant injuries which have continued to affect his employment and recreational activities.

[79]         Mr. McCann recovered from his soft tissue injuries to his neck, back, left shoulder and left hip within ten months of the MVC. In addition, he suffered from anxiety and depression which are partially attributable to the MVC but from which he fully recovered after approximately one year of symptoms.

[80]         The most significant injury is to Mr. McCann’s left hip. He has been diagnosed with an inter-articular labral tear with articular cartilage disruption. His left hip injury prevented him for returning to any form of work for approximately one-and-a-half years. During that time, Mr. McCann underwent a number of investigations and tried many different treatments to try to alleviate his pain. It was not until he underwent a PRP injection in July 2016 that Mr. McCann finally began to experience long-lasting relief from his symptoms.

[81]         Despite having returned to work at his full-time regular duties, he continues to remain symptomatic and experiences intermittent days off work (once every four to six weeks) due to his ongoing pain from the MVC.

[82]         Prior to the MVC, Mr. McCann participated in a number of sports and outdoor activities, and was generally in good health. Mr. McCann is no longer able to participate fully in all of his pre-MVC recreational and leisure pursuits. 

[83]         Mr. McCann’s condition plateaued by March 2018. Now, over four years later, he continues to experience ongoing pain. His prognosis for significant further clinical improvement in his left hip condition is poor….

88]         After considering all of the case authorities, and having regard to the evidence and the unique circumstances in this case, I assess Mr. McCann’s non-pecuniary damages at $95,000.  

Martial Arts Student Waiver Held Not To Extend to Injuries Sustained in a Tournament

Post originally published here on my other legal blog 
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, allowing a lawsuit against a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor to proceed for injuries a student sustained in a tournament.
In the recent case (Peters v. Soares) the Plaintiff was a student of the defendant’s BJJ academy.  The Plaintiff participated in a tournament where he sustained injury.  He sued for damages alleging his instructor was negligent in allowing him “to compete against a participant in a higher weight class and in a competition where stand up skills were required….(when the plaintiff) had no experience or training in stand up skills“.
As part of the plaintiff’s BJJ membership agreement he signed a waiver agreeing not to sue for injuries “in connection with my participating in the Classes“.  The Defendant argued that this waiver should be upheld and the lawsuit dismissed.  The Court disagreed noting that a waiver must be interpreted as only covering “matters specifically in the contemplation of the parties at the time the release was given“.  Using this test the court found the waiver for injuries in classes could not extent to a tournament.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Matthews provided the following reasons:

[24]         Mr. Soares argues that because Mr. Peters’ claim of negligence is that the defendants knew he had no standing skills training, his claim arises from or is connected with his participation in the classes.

[25]         I do not accept that argument. Mr. Peters’ claim asserts a duty of care owed in relation to the competition, not the classes. While Mr. Peters alleges that Mr. Soares and Carlson Gracie knew his ability and training did not extend to standing skills and standing skills were required for the competition, it is not the training or lack of it that he asserts was negligent; it is inviting him to participate in the competition given what they knew about his training or lack of it. It is likely that at a trial of the negligence issue, Mr. Peters will seek to prove that the defendants’ had knowledge of his lack of standing skills training at least in part because of their interaction during the classes, but that is not the same thing as alleging negligence in relation to or arising from the classes.

[26]         In addition, there is no evidence that the competition was in Mr. Peters’ contemplation at the time he signed the membership agreement, and so there is no factual basis on which to find that Mr. Peters contemplated that the waiver provisions of the membership agreement would apply to the competition. The membership agreement was signed on September 23, 2015. Mr. Peters signed up for the competition on May 13 or 14, 2016, two weeks before he participated in it. There is no evidence that Mr. Peters was aware of or contemplated participating in the competition at the time he signed the membership agreement.

[27]         Mr. Soares has not led evidence that he had the competition in contemplation when Mr. Peters signed the membership agreement. In his affidavit, Mr. Soares described the waiver terms of the membership agreement. All of Mr. Soares’ evidence about the membership agreement and its waiver terms specifically reference the classes. He does not reference the competition at all when deposing about the waiver terms of the membership agreement.

[28]         I find that neither Mr. Peters nor Mr. Soares had the competition in contemplation when Mr. Peters signed the membership agreement.

[29]         The first Tercon inquiry is answered in the negative. The membership agreement waiver does not relate to Mr. Peters’ claim regarding the injuries he allegedly sustained in the competition and so cannot exclude Mr. Peters’ claim.

$160,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Brain Injury and Chronic Pain

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a mild traumatic brain injury and chronic pain sustained in a BC vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Ranahan v. Oceguera) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 rear end collision.  Although faut was not formally admitted the Court found the Defendant fully liable for the crash.  The Plaintiff suffered chronic injuries from the collision and in assessing non-pecuniary damages at $160,000 Mr. Justice Mayer provided the following reasons:

[144]     I find that as a result of the accident, Ms. Ranahan has sustained mild traumatic brain injury and soft tissue injuries to her spine, which has developed into chronic neck pain, upper back pain, post-concussion syndrome, cognitive problems with memory and focus, imbalance, tiredness, fatigue, tinnitus, eye strain, sleep disturbance and chronic headaches. I also accept that the imbalance caused by her accident resulted in a further injury, the left ankle dislocation with a chip fracture, while coaching a soccer game.

[145]      I also find that Ms. Ranahan suffers from ongoing mood symptoms including irritability, moodiness a reduction in patience and positivity. She is experiencing on-going difficulties dealing with stress. Although Ms. Ranahan admits that prior to the accident she was under significant stress as a result of her husband’s health issues, family and work responsibilities she was managing these stresses and was fully functioning at work and at home and was able to participate in a number of sports and social activities.  

[146]      I find, based on the totality of the lay and expert evidence, that there are no genuine issues of causation in this case. I find that but for the accident Ms. Ranahan would not be suffering from her current physical and psychological/cognitive symptoms…

[157]     I find that, as a result of the accident, Ms. Ranahan experienced and continues to experience physical and emotional pain, suffering and limitation. Relevant facts have been set out earlier in my reasons and there is no need to repeat them.   

[158]     The impacts have interfered with her family and business life but as a result of her stoicism these impacts have been managed to a certain extent. In addition, her injuries have significantly impacted her recreational and social pursuits but she has not been completely unable to participate in some of these activities.  

[159]     I find that there has been some improvement in some of Ms. Ranahan’s symptoms. What is not clear is whether there will be any further improvement. There appears to be a belief amongst some of the medical experts, including Drs. Chow, Johnston and Boyle, that further assessment and treatment may result in improvement. The prognosis of Dr. Chow and Dr. Johnston is guarded.

[160]     Many of the cases relied upon by Ms. Ranahan occupy the higher end of the spectrum for non-pecuniary damages for similar injuries. The cases relied upon by ICBC are in my view at the lower range and the damages awarded in those cases are not sufficient to address the pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities suffered by Ms. Ranahan. 

[161]     Having reviewed the cases provided by the parties I assess Ms. Ranahan’s non-pecuniary damages at $160,000.  

Talking All Things ICBC With Kyla Lee

This week I had the pleasure of appearing on Kyla Lee’s Driving Law Podcast where we tackled all things ICBC.   A big thank you to Kyla for having me on again. You can listen to the full episode here:

For more information on some of the subjects we covered you can click on the below links:
Expert Evidence Court Rule Changes
ICBC’s Secret “Meat Chart”
Judicial Criticism of the Meat Chart
ICBC “Minor” Injury Caps
Caps and the Charter

ICBC's "Meat Chart" Crashes In the BC Supreme Court

Update February 25, 2019 – The below paragraph 71 was edited in revised reasons for judgement published today and now reads as follows:
[71]         This is the type of case that was ripe for settlement, as demonstrated by the small difference between the plaintiff’s offer and the award made. Were it in my power to award more in costs in favour of the plaintiff I would have done so. This case did not need to occupy the court’s time at the expense to the taxpayer. It should have been settled.
Earlier this year ICBC instructed its staff to ignore the law when valuing cases and instead make offers based on an internal injury ‘meat chart’.  The result is cases not settling and going to trial.
The first wave of these has now hit the courts and the judiciary seems none too impressed by ICBC and their ‘institutional’ tactics.
In reasons for judgment released today (Tsai v. Murdoch) ICBC was harshly criticized.  The Plaintiff was injured and sought to settle her case.  ICBC declined and made a low settlement offer subject to their ‘meat chart’ guidelines. The plaintiff sensibly rejected the offer and went to trial where damages were assessed under the law and resulted in an award greater than what she was prepared to settle for.
The Court went on to award the plaintiff double costs for ICBC’s tactics and criticized their new approach.  In doing so Madam Justice Sharma provided the following reasons:
[71]         This is the type of case that was ripe for settlement, as demonstrated by the small difference between the plaintiff’s offer and the award made. I was informed the defendant had made a settlement offer, but withdrew it for “institutional” reasons. Whatever “institutional” reasons are they do not protect in any way a litigant from bearing the consequences of its choices in the litigation.  Were it in my power to award more in costs in favour of the plaintiff I would have done so. This case did not need to occupy the court’s time at the expense to the taxpayer. It should have been settled.