BC Court Jurisdiction and Out of Province Collisions


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal demonstrating that it will be a rare circumstance where British Columbia Courts will have jurisdiction over a personal injury trial involving an out of Province collision.
In this week’s case (Dembroski v. Rhaindsthe Plaintiff was involved in a car crash in Alberta in 2007.  The Plaintiff was a British Columbia resident and was in Alberta for a short while to do some work as a farrier.    The Plaintiff was injured and unable to perform her work.  She returned to BC shortly after the car crash.  She had the majority of her treatments in BC.
The Plaintiff sued the alleged at fault motorist for compensation in British Columbia.  The Defendant brought a motion to dismiss the claim arguing that BC Courts lack jurisdiction to preside overthis case.  The Chambers judge granted the motion and dismissed the lawsuit.  The Plaintiff appealed without success.  In dismissing the case the BC Court of Appeal held that there will be very few circumstances where a BC Court will have jurisdiciton over an injury claim involving a foreign collision.  The Court provided the following reasons:
[39] A number of previous cases in this jurisdiction have held that the residence alone of a plaintiff in British Columbia does not suffice to establish jurisdiction over a defendant resident outside of the province.  These cases include Jordan v. Schatz and Williams v. TST Porter dba 6422217 Canada Inc., 2008 BCSC 1315, 87 B.C.L.R. (4th) 179.  There must be something more, but what is that “more”?  The appellant suggests that since she has suffered damages here and the appellant and several potential witnesses are here, it would be appropriate for the Supreme Court of British Columbia to take jurisdiction over the action.  The appellant points to certain language in the above cases of Moran, Jordan, Pacific International Securities Inc. and Teja supportive of the thesis that a British Columbia court should be found to possess jurisdiction simpliciter over the respondents in this case…

[42] Moran and Stanway were both product liability cases in which it was held that the tort occurred in that jurisdiction in which harm accrued to a plaintiff via contact with a defective product.  The harm in each case was caused by an item that harmed the particular plaintiff in the place where that injured party resided.  That sufficed to found jurisdiction over a defendant who did not have any physical presence in such location.

[43] As can be seen from those cases, the place where the damage occurred via contact with the item was the crucial factor that underpinned the assumption of jurisdiction.  It seems to me that it was this type of situation that Cumming J.A. had in mind when he observed in Jordan, “Clear examples of connecting factors include the residency of the defendant in the jurisdiction or the fact that the tortious act was committed or damages suffered here” (para. 23).

[44] Jordan was a personal injury case arising out of a motor vehicle accident in another province and this Court held that the residence of the plaintiff in British Columbia did not suffice to found jurisdiction.  Although the plaintiff in that case was undoubtedly considered to suffer damage from the sequelae of the accident here, the incident causative of this damage occurred in Alberta and that was the place properly clothed with jurisdiction over a tort action.  Jordan differs from Moran and Stanway because in those latter cases the harm that resulted in damage was caused by contact between the plaintiffs and harmful objects in the jurisdictions where the respective plaintiffs resided.  No such occurrence constituted the foundation of the cause of action in Jordan, hence it was held the British Columbia courts could not properly take jurisdiction…

[51] It may be that Teja, which I observe was also decided prior to the coming into force of the CJPTA, could be viewed as somewhat of an outlier, whose reasoning should not be extended, but it seems to me that its result can be supported on its rather unusual facts.  It was a case with significant connections to British Columbia, since all parties resided here at the time of the accident and the only vehicle involved was registered here.  The defendant also attorned to this jurisdiction (see s. 3(b) of the CJPTA).  In the instant case, the vehicle of the defendants was an Alberta vehicle, and neither defendant had or has any connection to British Columbia.  They are furthermore unwilling to attorn to this jurisdiction, unlike the defendant in Teja.  I consider attornment to have been crucial to the result in Teja, and therefore a significant distinguishing feature between that case and the present litigation.

[52] In my opinion, the decisions of this Court in classes of cases similar to the instant case, such as Jordan, and the recent decisions of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Roed andWilliams, are supportive of the decision of the chambers judge in the case at bar.  I am in agreement with the conclusion reached by the learned chambers judge and I would dismiss this appeal.

bc injury law, CJPTA, Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, Dembroski v. Rhainds, Jurisdiction, Out of Province Collisions

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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