Reasons were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, striking a jury notice so a trial could proceed without the need for a lengthy adjournment.
In today’s case (Vacchiano v. Chen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2015 collision. Both liability and damages were contested. ICBC elected trial by jury which was scheduled in July, 2020. Due to Covid-19 all civil jury selections were suspended and jury trials cancelled up to and including September 7, 2020 everywhere in the province. As a result the trial would face a lengthy adjournment, about 2 years, if the matter was to proceed with a jury.
The Plaintiff brought an application for the jury notice to be struck. The Court agreed that doing so would be fair as a 2 year adjournment would be more prejudicial to the parties than the Defendant losing their prefered mode of trial. In reaching this decision Master Muir provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today dismissing an adjournment application for a trial that was unilaterally set down during a time that opposing counsel kept free for a possible vacation. In part the Court noted that the vacation plans may very well be off due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In today’s case (Henderson v. Fisher) the Plaintiff claimed damages for injuries sustained in a collision. The matter was set for trial on January, 2020 but this was adjourned because no judge was available. The parties could not agree on a date to reset the trial for. The Plaintiff unilaterally set the matter down for September, 2020, a month that the Defence lawyer booked off “for a personal vacation out of the country“. An application to adjourn was dismissed with the Court noting the vacation plans may very well be thwarted due to Covid19.
In dismissing the application Mr. Justice Branch provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, granting a trial adjournment after a plaintiff failed to obtain needed medico-legal evidence.
In today’s case (Raniga v. Poirier) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2015 collision. The Defendant admitted fault. As the trial neared plaintiff’s counsel realizes they failed to obtain medico-legal evidence and could not in time for trial. The Defendant would not consent to adjournment but the court granted the requested despite the ‘comedy of errors‘ creating the situation. Despite the court being critical of the evidence and circumstances presented in favour of the request one of the key reasons in granting it was the failure of the Defendant to point to any real prejudice who simply relied on an affidavit of an administrative assistant at the defence firm who had “no personal knowledge of the matters set out in her affidavit“.
In declining to award the Defendant any costs the Court went so far as to say that despite the shortcomings of the circumstances leading to the request “It should have been obvious from the outset that an adjournment would be granted.”
In granting the adjournment Mr. Justice Kent provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, considering whether a claim involving psychological injury was too complex for a jury trial.
In today’s case (Lee v. Averbach) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions and sued for damages. The Defendants elected trial by jury. The Plaintiff argued given the medical evidence the claim was too complex for a jury trial. The court disagreed and dismissed the Plaintiff’s application to strike the jury notice. In doing so Master Elwood provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing an ICBC application to lengthen the applicable time frame to file a jury notice.
In today’s case (Chapman-Fluker v. Gustavson) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages. The Defendants, insured by ICBC and initially represented by in house counsel, failed to file a jury notice in the applicable time frame.
Months before trial the Defendants applied to allow them to file their jury notice beyond the specified time limits.
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, striking a jury notice for a personal injury claim with a complex business loss component.
In today’s case (Forstved v. Kokabi) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages. The Defendant elected to proceed to trial with a jury. THe Plaintiff argued that the claim, particularly with its business loss component, was too complex for a jury. The court agreed and struck the Defendant’s jury notice. In doing so Master Dick provided the following reasons:
 In this case, I agree with the plaintiff. The evidence in this case is sufficient to establish that this case will require a prolonged examination of documents or accounts and that the issues require a scientific or local investigation.
 I must now look to whether the examination or investigation may conveniently be made with a jury. In considering this question, I acknowledge that a party’s right to trial by jury is entitled to great weight and ought not to be disturbed except in the clearest of cases.
 In this case, I must consider if the jury can not only understand the evidence as it is presented and rebutted, but also retain it over 19 days and engage in a reasoned analysis at the end of the trial.
 The plaintiff will be calling at least 23 witnesses, of whom 11 are experts. There will be lay witnesses, including the plaintiff’s accountant Mr. Moody. The accountant will be introducing many of the business and tax documents to support the plaintiff’s business arrangements. There will be at least 22 expert reports to be considered.
 If I was just considering the number of experts, the expert’s use of terminology, the volume of medical evidence, and divergent opinions alone, that would not necessarily cause me to strike the jury in this case. What makes this case more difficult is the fact the plaintiff’s income and business losses are not straightforward. The jury will have to review and understand the plaintiff and his spouse’s income tax information as well as the financial statements from all of the corporations he owned. The jury will then have to analyze, understand, and interpret the documents to assess his income and business loss.
 In this case, I accept that the issues of causation and quantification of damages will require prolonged examination of documents and scientific matters going to many issues over a protracted period. The difficulties for the trier of fact in dealing with this task was set out in Wallman v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2012 BCSC 1849 at para. 57:
. . . It may be necessary to retain fine detail from the examination in chief and cross-examination of many witnesses on multiple issues for weeks before those issues are traversed by defence witnesses. Considered on their own, most, but not all, of the expert reports in this case may be understood by a jury in light of the full examination in chief and cross-examination of the experts, but retention of that understanding over several weeks is likely to be so difficult, in my view, that fruitful analysis at the end of the day may be impossible.
 I have considered all of the submissions made by counsel and the factors set out in paragraph 25 of these reasons. In this matter there is a significant dispute about the injuries sustained by the plaintiff and the impact on his life. After consideration of all of the above, I find that the jury will be significantly challenged over the 19 days of trial to retain, understand, and analyze the complex and conflicting evidence and reach factual and legal conclusions on the issues of causation and damages. As a result, I am satisfied that this matter cannot conveniently be heard by a jury.
 I therefore will exercise my discretion to strike the jury notice and there will be an order that the trial of this case will be heard by judge alone.
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a defence request to have a jury struck from hearing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
In today’s case (Howe v. Hwang) the Plaintiff commenced a lawsuit alleging negligence following a series of complications relating to the surgical treatment of diverticulitis.
The parties settled on damages but the issues of liability (fault) remained open for the court to decide. The Plaintiff elected trial by jury. The Defendants objected arguing a medical malpractice case was too complex for a jury to understand. Master Keighley disagreed and provided the following reasons in upholding the Plaintiff’s right to trial by jury :
 My authority to grant the order sought is discretionary. In exercising this discretion, I must consider the issues holistically, in determining whether, at the conclusion of my analysis, the considerations raised by Rule 12-6(5) support the defence assertion that this case is not appropriate for a decision by a jury.
 It may go without saying that the jury in this case will be required to engage in a prolonged examination of documents, that the resolution of the issues before this jury will require a scientific or local investigation and that the issues are of an intricate and complex nature. Thus my discretion is engaged.
 Amongst the factors which I have considered in determining that it is appropriate to have this case tried by a judge and jury, I have considered the following:
1. The anticipated length of the trial.
 The trial will not be a long one. It is presently anticipated by counsel that it will take perhaps ten or 11 days of the three weeks set aside. This reduction in time is primarily the result of the resolution of the claims against Dr. Crowley, and the agreement which has been reached with respect to damages. The jury will not be obliged to retain the technical knowledge they acquire for many weeks before delivering its verdict
2. The number of experts to be called.
 As I have indicated, the plaintiff will be relying on two experts and the defendant on three.
3. The volume of expert evidence.
 As is the case with most expert reports, the text is dense and replete with scientific terminology. But in objective terms the reports, as I have indicated, total 32 pages, far from a vast volume of expert reports.
4. The nature and character of the expert evidence.
 The jury will be obliged to consider conflicting opinion with respect to the conduct of the defendant. I have reviewed the medical reports. While I am untrained in medical matters I have no difficulty in following the rationale expressed by the experts or understanding the terminology used. I cannot see that a jury, properly instructed, will have difficulty in coming to a conclusion on the basis of technical issues alone. The opinions of all five experts are clearly stated and, apparently, objective. Juries are, of course, often called upon to deal with conflicting expert evidence with respect to medical issues in the context of personal injury litigation. I do not regard the terminology which appears in the pleadings or the expert reports as being mysterious or opaque. I am confident that with supplementary assistance from the experts, counsel and the presiding judge, the reports may be appropriately dealt with by a jury.
 In summary, although the jury in this case will be obliged to deal with technically demanding scientific medical issues and unfamiliar terminology, as well as the conflicting evidence of experts, I am not satisfied that those considerations put this case beyond the range of functions credited to juries in our system.
 As previously indicated to counsel, the application is dismissed. The issue of costs was dealt with at the conclusion of the hearing.
Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a plaintiff request to strike a jury notice in an ICBC injury claim.
In the recent case (Froese v. Wilson) the 17 year old Plaintiff who “became severely intoxicated at a house party” left riding in the cargo box of a pickup truck which then moved and “caused him to fall out of the truck.”.
The Plaintiff sued for damages and the matter was set down for a 20 day trial with the Defendant electing trial by jury. The Plaintiff objected noting that a total of 19 expert witnesses would likely testify, the matter was too complex for a jury and the jury “may take a harsher view of the plaintiff’s conduct than would a judge in assessing liability“. The court noted that while this may be true it is no reason to strip a party’s right to trial by jury. In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:
 This trial is set for 20 days—a length no longer unusual for a jury trial. Although there is a multiplicity of expert evidence, it comes from experts in fields that are commonly at issue in personal injury cases and there appears to be a great deal of common ground as to the nature of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff in the motor vehicle accident. As said above, the main areas of disagreement relate to the long-term impact of those injuries and the cause of the plaintiff’s ongoing symptoms. I am not persuaded that those areas of disagreement are so complex that they cannot be considered by a properly instructed jury on the basis of properly presented and explained expert evidence.
 Counsel for the plaintiff also alluded to a concern that a jury may take a harsher view of the plaintiff’s conduct than would a judge in assessing liability. That is entirely speculative and I presume jurors will be attentive to whatever instructions the trial judge gives them on how they are to go about assessing the relative blameworthiness of both parties. However, the possibility that a jury verdict may reflect community attitudes that differ from those of judges is one of the frequent justifications for retaining the jury system.
 Counsel also argues that the outcome of this trial may determine the course of the rest of the plaintiff’s life and subjecting him to the uncertainties inherent in a jury trial is inconsistent with the object of a just determination on the merits set out in R. 1-3.
 Although I have a certain sympathy with the plaintiff’s concern about the risks and uncertainties in a jury trial, the fact remains that R. 12-6 continues to give either party the right to unilaterally select trial by jury. Unless the party who does not want a jury trial can meet the onus of showing that it is not appropriate in a particular case and the presumptive right to a jury trial should be denied, a jury trial and verdict must be considered to come within the “just determination” envisioned by R. 1-3.
 The plaintiff has failed to meet the onus in this case and the application to strike the jury notice must be dismissed.
Reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating that filing a late trial brief is no remedy once a trial date is lost due to lack of compliance with the Rules of Court.
In today’s case (Carleton v. North Island Brewing Corporation) the parties were scheduled for trial and apparently by consent agreed to file trial briefs “outside the times prescribed by the Rules.“.
The Court did not grant the request for lack of sufficient evidence supporting it and struck the trial date. The parties hoped late briefs would salvage the trial date but the Court declined. In doing so Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:
 Rule 12-2(1) requires a trial management conference to be held at least 28 days before trial. The plaintiff must file a trial brief at least 28 days before the date of the trial management conference (R. 12-2(2)) and other parties must file their trial briefs at least 21 days before the trial management conference (R. 12-2(3.1)). If no trial briefs are filed as required, the matter is removed from the trial list (Rule 12-2 (3.3).
 These Rules are intended in part to assist the court in determining what cases are ready for trial, which in turn assists the court in the allocation of scarce judicial resources. They are not Rules that counsel and parties may opt out of at their convenience. At the very least, any application to extend the time for filing of a trial brief must be accompanied by a reasonable explanation as to why it was not filed in time as well as a proposed new date by which it will be filed.
 In this case, neither party filed a trial brief and counsel simply submitted a draft consent order that “trial briefs of the plaintiff and defendant be filed outside the times prescribed” by the Rules. There was no explanation of why no one had filed a trial brief and no suggestion of when briefs would be filed. The absence of that material was in itself sufficient grounds to deny the application, but a subsequent review of the court record indicated that the matter had already been struck from the trial list.
 The trial management conference had been set for February 16, 2017 and the requisition seeking a consent order for late filing was not submitted until January 30. In other words, the parties were seeking to file trial briefs after the date on which the Rules required the case to be struck from the trial list.
 Rule 12-2 (3.3) reads
(3.3) Unless the court otherwise orders, a trial must be removed from the trial list if no trial brief has been filed under subrule (3) or (3.1).
 Therefore, where a matter is struck from the trial list pursuant to that Rule, it cannot be restored simply by late filing of trial briefs, even if the court permits late filing. At least one party must make a proper application to restore the trial to the list. The question of late filing of trial briefs will only become relevant if that application is successful. Whether such an application is successful will depend on the circumstances, but I expect that in most cases applicants will be required to show both a reasonable excuse for the failure to file trial briefs and some serious prejudice if the trial does not go ahead.
Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, with critical comments about “uninformative” trial briefs.
In today’s case (Kirk v. Nanaimo Literacy Association) the parties wishes to dispense with an otherwise mandatory trial management conference and asked the court to waive the hearing. In refusing to do so the Court was critical of the trial briefs filed and provided the following comments:
 Both parties state in their trial briefs that they expect the trial to be completed within the scheduled time. Yet I don’t know on what basis that assertion could be made because the total time estimates for witnesses and submissions in the two trial briefs exceeds the time set for trial by almost two days. Again, perhaps the trial was rescheduled for more days, but I have not been given any trial briefs reflecting that.
 Further, the trial briefs do not indicate that counsel have fully considered all matters that might usefully be explored at a TMC. For example, the plaintiff’s trial brief, after listing the witnesses to be called, states:
The filing party may call further witnesses to address any outstanding documentary hearsay concerns which the parties are unable to resolve prior to trial.
 If there are unresolved issues about admissibility of documents, particularly if it is going to affect the number of witnesses to be called, that is an issue to be explored at the TMC and the parties are not ready for trial within the meaning of R. 12-2(3.6).
 Under the category of “Admissions”, the plaintiff’s brief says the plaintiff will admit that:
A document which conforms to the requirements set out in the Evidence Act, RSBC 1996, C. 124, s.42 is admissible as prima facie proof of any fact otherwise provable through direct oral evidence.
 Thus, the purported “admission” by the plaintiff amounts to no more than a statement that the law of British Columbia applies to this case. That does not assist the Court in determining what facts will or will not be at issue in trial. I assume there are documents that qualify as business records under the Act, that certain facts stated in them are relevant to the issues in this case and the plaintiff is admitting or not disputing those facts. If that is the case, a party who wishes to be excused from attending a TMC must set out what those admitted facts are.
 The defendant’s trial brief is equally uninformative on this issue. It simply says that the facts the defendant will admit will be “determined prior to trial date”.
 Clearly, as of the date they wrote their trial briefs, counsel had not clearly turned their minds to or discussed the question of what facts could be admitted. Counsel who do not make that effort cannot expect to be excused from attending a TMC.
 Under the heading of “Authorities”, both parties simply state they do not expect a joint brief of authorities at trial. That is not sufficient. The trial brief asks counsel to refer to authorities in order to identify the legal issues that will be argued at trial and in order to satisfy the Court that the parties and counsel have considered the law as it may affect their position at trial. That does not mean counsel need to cite every case they may wish to refer to at trial, but by the time they start preparing trial briefs, counsel should have identified the most important ones.
 This is a wrongful dismissal case, so counsel should by now be familiar with the leading cases in that area as well as any others that are particularly relevant, such as by virtue of comparable facts. Those should have been referred to in the trial brief.
 In short, the trial briefs submitted are largely pro-forma documents that do not give the Court confidence that all issues have been addressed or that all potentially useful discussions between counsel have taken place. The application to dispense with the TMC is therefore dismissed.
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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