A Little Bit on ICBC Injury Claims and the Jurisdiction of BC Courts

Does the BC Supreme Court have standing to preside over an Auto Injury Claim for Damages that occurred outside of British Columbia?  The answer, as in many areas of the law, is sometimes.
There is a long history in the common law setting out the circumstances when a BC Court has jurisdiction to preside over an Injury Claim that arises in a foreign jurisdiction.  More recently the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act came into force codifying some of the common law principles governing circumstances in which BC Courts have jurisdiction to preside over a case.  This legislation is fairly new and has received little interpretation by the BC Courts.  
Today, Mr. Justice Brown of the BC Supreme Court released reasons for judgement (Scott v. Hale) interpreting this legislation and giving clarity to the circumstances when the BC Supreme Court can hear an accident claim that occurred out of Province.
In today’s case the Plaintiff was involved in 2 motor vehicle collisions, the first in Alberta and the second in British Columbia.  The Plaintiff applied to have both cases heard at the same time.  The Defendants in the BC Car Crash opposed the motion.  In opposing the motion the ICBC Defence Lawyer argued that the Court had no jurisdiction to preside over the Alberta accident therefore the claims should not be heard together.
Mr. Justice Brown rejected this argument and released what are probably the most comprehensive reasons to date interpreting the BC Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act.
The heart of the judgement focused on whether the BC Supreme Court has ‘subject matter competence’ to preside over an Alberta car crash case.  After finding that there were sufficient reasons for both the BC and Alberta auto accident claims to be heard at the same time Mr. Justice Brown concluded that the BC Court indeed is competent to preside over the Alberta car crash claim.  After a lengthyt analysis the Court came up with the following definition of “Subject Matter Competence”

[33]            To clarify: isolating for a moment the word ‘connections’, the only ‘connections’ relevant to territorial competence would be those between a province and the facts upon which a proceeding is based (and as discussed above, broadly and unfortunately referred to as ‘subject matter’ in Morguard).  For example: where did the accident take place?  Where was the contract made?  Where was the product sold?  Where was it manufactured?

[34]            But those questions stand well apart from other specific jurisdictional questions such as, How much money is being claimed?  Does the court in question have jurisdiction to hear torts, product liability or tax cases?  These are factors that relate to restrictions placed upon a courts’ jurisdiction by its own legislature.

[35]            I note that in the Draft all instances of “superior court” were intended to be substituted with the names of each provinces’ court of “unlimited trial jurisdiction”.  As such, the CJPTA, as adopted in British Columbia, refers to the Supreme Court.   The Supreme Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996 c. 443 explains:

9(1)      The court continues to be a court of original jurisdiction and has jurisdiction in all cases, civil and criminal, arising in British Columbia.

[36]            If the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in all cases, what subject matter restrictions might there be?  Of course the apparently all encompassing jurisdiction of the Supreme Court has been limited in many instances in the grant of exclusive jurisdiction over certain subject matters to various boards and tribunals.  In my view, it is just such restrictions as these that are relevant factors when considering whether the court owns subject matter competence. 

Applying this definition to the case at bar Mr. Justice Brown summarized his reasons at paragraph 45 of the judgement as follows:
I find this case is a tort committed in Alberta, the Plaintiff claims compensation for non-pecuniary and pecuniary losses resulting from Defendant Hale’s alleged negligence; and there is no legislative or other restriction placed upon this Court that would in any way inhibit it from hearing such a claim, nor from granting such relief.  Therefore, the subject matter of this case is well within the subject matter competence of this Court
This case is perhaps the leading authority in BC dealing with a BC Court’s Subject Matter Competence.  Anyone interested in the current state of Canadian Conflicts Law and the topic of Canadian Superior Courts jurisdiciton should thorougly review this case.  

BC Supreme Court Jurisdiction, Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, Scott v. Hale, Subject Matter Competence

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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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