Can a BC Resident Injured Abroad Sue for Damages in British Columbia?

The answer is contained in the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act and today reasons for Judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this issue.
In today’s case (Roed v. Scheffler) the Plaintiff was injured on June 25, 2006 in Washington State as a result of the alleged negligence of 2 Washington State Residents or in the alternative John Doe or ICBC pursuant to the Insurance (Vehicle) Act’s unidentified motorist provisions.
The Plaintiff, a BC Resident, brought her tort claim for damages in the BC Supreme Court.  The defendants challenged the courts jurisdiction to hear the case a brought a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Madam Justice Bruce of the BC Supreme Court granted the defendants motion and in staying the lawsuit the court summarized and applied the law as follows:
[38] Certainly the fact Ms. Roed continued to suffer from her injuries in British Columbia and sought treatment here are “facts upon which the proceeding against the [defendants] is based.” Clearly, the continuing harm caused by the negligence of the defendants will form a significant part of Ms. Roed’s claim for non-pecuniary damages.

[39] Are these connections to British Columbia sufficient to meet the real and substantial connection test? The only similar case cited by Ms. Roed where the court assumed jurisdiction isMuscutt. However, based on the discussion in that case, it is doubtful that the Ontario Court of Appeal would have taken jurisdiction on the facts of the case before me. In particular, Sharpe J.A. found that the nature and extent of the damages suffered by the plaintiff within the jurisdiction was a factor and that, unless it was significant, the court should decline jurisdiction: Muscutt at para. 79. In this case, apart from providing a list of medical practitioners she has seen, Ms. Roed does not describe the nature of her injuries or the treatment she has undergone. Further, Ms. Roed deposes that she has suffered a loss of income but does not quantify it.

[40] There are other factors that were found significant in Muscutt that are missing in this case:

1.         The defendants were engaged in business activities that involved an inherent risk of harm to extra-provincial parties. The plaintiff was struck by a commercial vehicle and this vehicle was subsequently struck by an ambulance. The defendants were apparently insured against suits in all Canadian provinces.

2.         The accident occurred in another Canadian province where the enforcement and recognition of an Ontario judgment would not be an issue. In addition, fairness to the defendant is not a concern because the same test of real and substantial connection applies throughout the country. For this reason, Sharpe J. A. concluded that there is generally a more lenient approach to assuming jurisdiction in interprovincial cases as opposed to international actions: Muscutt at paras. 95-99.

[41] In contrast, cases involving defendants from other countries pose more difficult jurisdictional issues. Because enforcement of the judgment in the foreign jurisdiction is a factor to consider in the real and substantial connection test, the approach to jurisdiction taken by the foreign country when the connecting factor is the location of damages is a relevant concern. Of significance to the case at hand, Sharpe J.A. refers to the law in the United States on this issue at para. 105 of Muscutt:

By contrast, in other countries, it appears that damage sustained within the jurisdiction is only accepted as a basis for assumed jurisdiction in certain limited circumstances. As discussed above, in the United States, the minimum contacts doctrine requires an act or conduct on the part of the defendant that amounts to personal subjection to the jurisdiction. Without more, damage sustained in the jurisdiction does not satisfy the doctrine.

[42] The constitutional limits on the reach of provincial legislation were expressly addressed in Muscutt by incorporating into the real and substantial connection test the concepts of fairness (toward the foreign defendant) and jurisdictional restraint in the application of the test. While the language of s. 3(e) of the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act does not appear to expressly incorporate these concepts, the court must interpret and apply this provision consistent with the constitutional limits on provincial legislation both inter-provincially and internationally. The discussion contained in Muscutt underlines the risks inherent in a decision to take jurisdiction without due consideration of the international aspects of the proceedings. Specifically, if the court takes jurisdiction based upon a broad application of the test, and one inconsistent with the laws in the foreign jurisdiction, the judgment may not be enforceable in the foreign jurisdiction where the defendant resides.

[43] Turning to the facts of the case before me, I find the plaintiff has failed to satisfy the test for territorial competence articulated in s. 3 (e) of the Act. I find the fact that the plaintiff continues to suffer damages in British Columbia insufficient to establish a real and substantial connection on its own.  These damages are suffered in British Columbia purely as a result of the plaintiff’s residence here. To find a real and substantial connection based on these facts would be to effectively base jurisdiction entirely on the plaintiff’s residence. As set out above, it is well established that a plaintiff’s residence is not sufficient grounds for a territorial competence.

[44] In my view, the reference to “damages” as a factor favouring jurisdiction simpliciter in Jordan and the test articulated in Morguard are directed at the place in which the injury actually occurs rather than the place where the plaintiff continues to experience pain and suffering or economic loss. While the latter circumstances are important, there must be something more to establish a real and substantial connection between BC and the facts upon which the action is based.

[45] This not a situation where the competing jurisdiction is another Canadian province in which case a more lenient standard may apply. Comity requires the court to consider the standards of jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement that prevail in the foreign state when applying the real and substantial connection test.

CONCLUSION

[46] For these reasons, I find the Supreme Court of British Columbia lacks territorial competence over the defendant Ms. Scheffler. The plaintiff’s action against Ms. Scheffler is stayed pursuant to Rule 14(6)(a).

[47] Ms. Scheffler is entitled to party and party costs at scale B.

bc injury claims, Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, icbc injury claims, jurisdiciton, Roed v. Scheffler

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If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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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