$36,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Rib Injury

Reasons for judgment were released last Thursday (Grier v. Saadzoi) awarding a Plaintiff just over $46,000 in total damages as a result of injuries suffered in a 2004 British Columbia motor vehicle collision.
The crash happened in Surrey, BC.  The collision resulted in significant vehicle damage totalling the Plaintiff’s car.  The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries and rib pain.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering at $36,000 Mr. Justice Brooke summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[24]            I find that the plaintiff was a credible witness, who neither exaggerated nor diminished the injuries that she sustained or the continuing pain and discomfort she has.  She was a reliable historian.  She struck me as a person who is getting on with her life, despite having to put up with some pain and discomfort.  I am also satisfied that she has followed the advice that she has been given in terms of stretching and exercise and that she avoids, where she can, physical activity which will trigger any discomfort in the area of her rib.

[25]            The plaintiff has made a good recovery from the soft tissue injuries that she sustained in a forceful motor vehicle collision.  I find that the pain associated with the lower left rib was caused by the collision and that whether Dr. Vallentyne is correct, that the pain is a result of subcostal muscular involvement or Drs. Luoma and Coghlan are correct, that the pain is associated with the first floating rib, that the injury and its consequence is likely permanent.  Fortunately, however, the result is a modest impairment of her overall capacity and it can be controlled, to some extent, by avoiding certain physical activity, as well as involving herself in an exercise and stretching program and taking medication to assist her in sleeping and to moderate the pain.

[26]            Non-pecuniary damages are a “once and for all” award to compensate a plaintiff for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life caused by the injury to the date of assessment and for the future.  In assessing damages, the ranges of damages awarded in comparable cases can be a useful guide, but in each case, the court must fashion an award that provides compensation to the plaintiff.  This is not a case like Price v. Kostryba, [1982] 70 B.C.L.R. 397 (S.C.), or Butler v. Blaylock Estate, [1981] B.C.J. No. 31 (S.C.), where complaints of injury continue long after the normal period for recovery, but rather one where the injury is real and continues to cause pain and discomfort and will likely do so for the foreseeable future.  I assess non-pecuniary damages at $36,000.

One aspect of this judgment that interested me was the court’s summary and analysis of the surveillance evidence the defendant’s used during the trial.  Video surveillance is commonly used by ICBC in the course of defending soft tissue injury claims and this judgement shows that surveillance video is not always a damaging thing.  

In today’s case the video showed the Plaintiff doing various physical activities including riding a motorbike.  This did not appear to hurt the Plaintiff’s case any as this video did contradict her evidence about her limitations.  The surveillance evidence was summarized at paragraph 19 as follows:

[19]            As part of the case for the defendant, a series of videos was put in evidence showing the plaintiff riding a motorbike off road and shopping and going about her normal household activities.  Clearly, the videotape was made surreptitiously and without the plaintiff’s awareness.  While the tape does not display any particular discomfort evinced by the plaintiff, her activity is restrained when compared to the activity of her husband who was with her.  She says that before the accident, they operated their motorbikes off road and on rugged and uneven terrain.  What was depicted in the video was the operation of the motorbikes on a relatively level gravel road.  It was noted that the plaintiff’s husband took the motorbikes out of the truck and that the plaintiff played no role in that.  Nevertheless, the videotapes do demonstrate that the plaintiff is able to continue at least some of her former activities, although perhaps not with the same intensity nor without pain.

As I’ve previously postedVideo surveillance does not in and of itself hurt a personal injury claim, overstating the effects of injuries does. It does not matter if you’re painting your house, lifting weights, or doing any number of physical activities that are caught on film. If you can be active and not aggravate your injuries that is a good thing. If, on the other hand, a personal injury claimaint tells others that they are limited and video surveillance shows otherwise, that could be very damaging. This goes to a person’s credibility. If a person is caught in a lie with respect to the effect of their injuries that will have a very negative effect on the value of an ICBC claim.

Personal Injury Claims and Privacy – Can ICBC access your Facebook Account?

If you pursue a personal injury claim in the BC Supreme Court you will be bound by the Rules of Court with respect to production of relevant documents.
With our ever-expanding use of technology, more and more documents may become relevant in Injury Litigation.  So, can computer records ever be relevant in personal injury claims?  
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court (Bishop v. Minichiello) dealing with this issue.  In today’s case the Plaintiff allegedly suffered a brain injury as a result of the negligence of the defendants.  The Defendants wished to analyze the Plaintiff’s computer hard drive to ‘determine the period of time the plaintiff spends on Facebook between eleven at night and five in the morning‘.  The Plaintiff refused to produce his computer hard-drive and this resulted in a Court motion seeking an order compelling the Plaintiff to do so.
Mr. Justice Melnick granted the motion and ordered that ‘the parties agree on an independent expert to review the hard drive …to isolate and produce to counsel…the information sought or a report saying that the information sought is not retrievable.’.
In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Melnick engaged in the following analysis and application of the law:

IV. ANALYSIS

[46]            Electronic data stored on a computer’s hard drive or other magnetic storage device falls within the definition of “document” under R. 1(8) of the Rules of CourtIreland at para. 6. 

[47]            Rule 26(1) requires disclosure of documents relating to any matter in question in the action.  The decision of whether to grant an order requiring production under R. 26(10) is a discretionary one: Park at para. 15.  The court has used its discretion to deny an application for the production of documents in the following two circumstances: firstly, where thousands of documents of only possible relevance are in question; and secondly, where the documents sought do not have significant probative value and the value of production is outweighed by competing interests such as confidentiality and time and expense required for the party to produce the documents: Park at para. 15.  Additionally, privacy concerns should be considered in a determination under R. 26(10), where the order sought is so broad it has the potential to unnecessarily delve into private aspects of the opposing party’s life: Park at para. 21.

[48]            Disclosure in the civil litigation context is largely informed by an inquiry into relevance and probative value.  Relevance should be granted a broad scope: Peruvian Guano at 62.  Relevancy is to be determined upon a description of the nature of the documents sought and a reasonable interpretation of the pleadings: Boxer at 359. 

[49]            Relevant to this particular application are the values enshrined in s. 8 of the Charter – the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.  Rule 26(10) confers no power to make an order that is really authorization for a search: Privest Properties Ltd. at para. 38.

[50]            Metadata is information recorded or stored by means of a device and is thus a document under R. 1(8): Desgagne at para. 29.  Metadata is a report of recorded data that is generated by computer software.  It is not something created by the user; rather, it is based on what the user does with their computer.  In both Park and Desgagne, it was held the threshold of relevance had not been met to order production of records of the frequency and duration of computer use.  However, Mr. Justice Myers in Park stated at para. 42 that he did not mean to say that hard drives and other electronic documents need never be produced under R. 26.  Thus, in the appropriate case if the threshold of relevance is met, a hard drive may require production.

[51]            This threshold was found to be met in Chadwick.  Despite agreeing with the plaintiffs that this was a case in which the hard drive was to be regarded as a file repository and not a document itself, Mr. Justice Myers held that such a distinction was not to be determinative of the application. 

[52]            Mr. Justice Bauman, for the Court of Appeal, held that leave to appeal the order should not be granted and the application was dismissed.  The Court of Appeal stated that while an appropriate case may give rise to important issues such as privacy, solicitor-client privilege, expense, and time, this was not that case as Mr. Justice Myers’ order was of narrow scope.

[53]            Similarly, the application at hand is of narrow scope.  The defence wishes to have the plaintiff’s hard drive of his family computer produced and analyzed to determine the periods of time the plaintiff spent on Facebook between eleven at night and five in the morning, each day.

[54]            Examination for discovery evidence of the plaintiff’s mother confirms that the plaintiff is the only person in the family using the family computer between those hours.  The plaintiff suggests that, at times, friends may use the computer once he logs onto Facebook.  But that is an evidentiary issue for trial.  The issues of privacy and solicitor-client privilege are basically resolved as only the plaintiff has the password to his Facebook account and he has not used this account to converse with his counsel.

[55]            It is true the Bishop family computer is more akin to a filing cabinet than a document; however, it is a filing cabinet from which the plaintiff is obligated to produce relevant documents.  This sentiment was approved in Chadwick.  Simply because the hard drive contains irrelevant information to the lawsuit does not alter a plaintiff’s duty to disclose that which is relevant.  If there are relevant documents in existence they should be listed and produced (or simply listed if they are privileged). 

[56]            The defence argues that this case is distinguishable from Baldwin and that the information sought is relevant.  The plaintiff advised Dr. Zoffman that his sleep varies with the time one of his friends goes to bed.  This is because he spends a substantial amount of time on Facebook chatting with this friend.  The plaintiff alleges that ongoing fatigue is preventing him from maintaining employment and thus his late-night computer usage is relevant to matters at issue in this lawsuit.

V. CONCLUSION

[57]            The information sought by the defence in this case may have significant probative value in relation to the plaintiff’s past and future wage loss, and the value of production is not outweighed by competing interests such as confidentiality and the time and expense required for the party to produce the documents.  Additionally, privacy concerns are not at issue because the order sought is so narrow that it does not have the potential to unnecessarily delve into private aspects of the plaintiff’s life.  In saying that, I recognize the concern of the plaintiff that to isolate the information the defence does seek, its expert may well have consequent access to irrelevant information or that over which other family members may claim privilege.  For that reason, I direct that the parties agree on an independent expert to review the hard drive of the plaintiff’s family computer and isolate and produce to counsel for the defendant and counsel for the plaintiff the information sought or a report saying that the information sought is not retrievable, in whole or in part, if that is the case.  I grant liberty to apply if counsel cannot agree on such an independent expert or if other terms of this order cannot be agreed. 

[58]            At the conclusion of the hearing on March 5, having been made aware that the passage of time was critical because of the potential for the memory of the plaintiff’s family computer to be “overwritten” with ongoing use, I directed that within two weeks of that date, an expert engaged by the plaintiff’s counsel, at the expense of the defence, produce two copies of the hard drive to be deposited with the court pending this ruling.  One of those copies should be used for the analysis I have now ordered.  The other copy should remain with the court as a backup to be accessed only with further order of the court. 

This case should serve as a reminder that technology is rapidly changing the potential scope of document production in Injury Litigation.  Lawyers and Plaintiff’s advancing BC Injury Claims need to be aware of the scope of documents that may be relevant and when doing so should not be so quick to overlook the potential relevance of electronically stored documents not only on a computer hard drive but also those that can be found on social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.

 

ICBC Claims, Surveillance Video and Disclosure

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Court of Appeal dealing with the timing of disclosure of non-privileged video surveillance of a Plaintiff involved in a tort claim.
In this case the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of 2 motor vehicle collisions.  The Defendants insurer retained a private investigator to conduct surveillance of the Plaintiff.
In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff triggered Rule 26 (which, when complied with, requires the opposing party to provide a list of documents relevant to the action).  The Defendants listed the video surveillance as non-privileged but refused to produce the tape of the Plaintiff until after her examination for discovery claiming that Rule 26(1.2) permits them to delay production of this document because the credibility of the Plaintiff was a central issue of this claim and if the supposedly damaging tape was disclosed prior to discovery that would somehow compromise the defendants ability to examine her for discovery. 
The Plaintiff applied to court for production of the tape and succeeded.  The Defendants took the case up to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and gave the following insightful reasons discussing the intent of Rule 26(2.1)

[22]            Generally speaking, the burden of proof is on the party making an application.  That burden is to the standard of a balance of probabilities.  I see no principled reason why an application under R. 26(1.2) should be treated any differently.   In this case, the appellants are the applicants seeking a postponement of production of the Investigative Report.  In my view, they have the burden of establishing the grounds for such an order on a balance of probabilities.

[23]            Both sides contend that Blank, the seminal decision on the scope of the exemption for litigation privilege, supports their respective positions that the trend in disclosure of documents favours broadening (the appellants) or restricting (the respondent) of the exemption.  With respect, I do not find these submissions offer assistance in this appeal.  The circumstances of this case do not involve a request for disclosure of a privileged document but, rather, a request to postpone production of a relevant, non-privileged document.  In my view, the issue raised in this appeal requires an inquiry into what factors might negate the mandatory production of relevant, non-privileged documents in an action…..

[37]            I am not persuaded these authorities support the appellants’ position that the common law permits the postponement of non-privileged documents in order to permit a party to challenge the credibility of the opposing party.  On the other hand, neither am I persuaded that the policy considerations relied upon by the chambers judge, namely that prior disclosure may save the cost of discoveries as well as court time, preclude trial by ambush, or advance settlement, are relevant considerations.  In my view, the scope of R. 26(1.2) must be decided by reference to the legislative intent of its drafters and a principled application of the competing rights provided by the Rules of Court to parties in an action.   

[38]            The express wording of R. 26(1.2) allows for exclusion from compliance with R. 26(1), not the postponement of its compliance.  To read in language importing a temporal factor is not, in my view, in keeping with the approach to statutory interpretation adopted in Bell ExpressVu Limited Partnership v. Rex, 2002 SCC 42, [2002] S.C.R. 559 at 26, where the Court endorsed the modern approach to statutory interpretation: “the words of an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of Parliament”.  In determining the scope of the exemption provision in R. 26(1.2), I am of the view the Court must consider only those circumstances in which valid policy concerns might support the decision to exclude (not postpone) production of a relevant, non-privileged document.  …

[45]            There has been much debate over the broad scope of the Peruvian Guano rule, which stated in Murao at para. 12 requires disclosure of “every document … which not only would be evidence upon any issue, but also which, it is reasonable to suppose, contains information which may – not which must – either directly or indirectly enable the party requiring the affidavit [making the demand] either to advance his own case or to damage the case of his adversary, if it is a document which may fairly lead him to a chain of inquiry which may have either of these consequences”.  In my view, it is the extensive scope of this common law disclosure rule that created the need for reasonable limitations.  Stated in another way, it is the “slavish” application of R. 26(1) which informs the scope of R. 26 (1.2). 

[46]            The appellants seek to distinguish these decisions under R. 26(1.2) on the basis that they do not involve a key issue of credibility. They submit that, in this case, an order postponing the production of the surveillance videotapes would give them the opportunity to test the willingness of the respondent to lie about her claim.  They argue that, in the absence of such an order, the respondent might tailor her evidence to fit the scenario depicted in the videotape. 

[47]            With respect, I do not accept this argument as representing a valid purpose for an application of R. 26(1.2).  In this case, there has been no factual determination regarding the respondent’s truthfulness, or lack thereof.  This is the appellants’ theory of liability, and it is for them to establish in the course of the trial.  Nor am I persuaded that the Rules of Court were intended to be used in a manner that would displace a right of a party granted under them, in favour of creating an opportunity for an adverse party to advance their theory of a fact in issue.

[48]            The court in Bronson v. Hewitt, 2007 BCSC 1477,  52 C.P.C.(6th) 116 reached a similar conclusion in dismissing an application for the exclusion of the defendants from one another’s examination for discovery over concerns they might tailor their evidence to fit the evidence of the other.  Credibility was a key issue in that case.  Citing Sissons v. Olson (1951), 1 W.W.R. (N.S.) 507 (B.C.C.A.), Goepel J. stated at para. 17 that “exclusion was only appropriate if necessary to ensure the fair and proper judicial conduct of the action.”

[49]            Another similar conclusion was reached in McGarva v. British Columbia, 2003 BCSC 909.  That case involved a damages claim for breach of fiduciary duty against the Crown by a plaintiff who had been abused while in foster care.  The plaintiff sought disclosure of similar fact evidence from the Crown.  The Crown, in turn, applied for a postponement of disclosure of that evidence in order to avoid the potential of the plaintiff tailoring her evidence to fit the similar fact evidence.  Credibility was a key issue in the action.  Madam Justice Gray declined to impose such a term on the disclosure of the relevant documents, stating that there was no basis for her to restrict the plaintiff’s receipt of this information.  In her view, the Crown’s position was not prejudiced because it would remain open to the Crown to argue, at trial, that the plaintiff had tailored her evidence to conform to any similar fact evidence disclosed to her before her examination for discovery (para. 17).

[50]            The final submission by the appellants is that, in our adversarial system, the right to cross-examination is sacrosanct and should not be trumped by disclosure.  However, this argument mischaracterizes the issue.  Rule 26(1.2) does not limit the appellants’ right to cross-examine the respondent.  The respondent’s credibility may be challenged in any number of ways, including the use of a prior inconsistent statement on cross-examination, the lack of adequate explanation for any apparent discrepancies between the respondent’s actions in the surveillance videotape and her reported disability, and by other evidence tendered at trial that might dispel the legitimacy of her claims.

[51]             In summary, I am not persuaded that R. 26(1.2) was intended for the purpose of restricting the right of a party, at an examination for discovery, to prior knowledge of all relevant and non-privileged documentation in the examining party’s possession and control, in order to permit the latter to advance its theory of the case where credibility of the former is a key issue in the litigation.  

[52]            I would dismiss the appeal and award costs of the appeal to the respondent in any event of the cause.

I should point out that this case does not address the more typical fight about the release of surveillance video in a tort claim that is supposedly privileged.  In this case it was agreed that the tape was not privileged.  This case is useful, however, because the Court of Appeal references many precedents addressing the issue of litigation privilege and the disclosure of video surveillance.

The Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality and ICBC Claims

Interesting reasons for judgement were released today dealing with the issue of whether a plaintiff in an ICBC tort claim has to produce materials from previous legal proceedings.
In this case the Plaintiff alleged injury as a result of a 2005 BC motor vehicle accident.  The Plaintiff was involved in previous legal proceedings.  The defence lawyer asked the court for production of 3 documents which were contested, specifically

(a)        a copy of the medical report of Dr. Bloch requested by Ms. (the Plaintiff;s) counsel in a pervious proceeding unrelated to this motor vehicle accident (the “Great West proceeding”);

(b)        a copy of submissions prepared by the plaintiff, dated July 11, 2005 and September 23, 2005, regarding a claim which she brought against Mr. Murray in the Surrey Registry of the Provincial Court of British Columbia;

(c)        a copy of the transcript of the plaintiff’s examination for discovery in the Great West proceeding.

The court first dealt with the issue of whether the current defendant was entitled to the plaintiff’s examination for discovery transcript from a previous legal claim.  The court reproduced paragraphs 51 and 53 of the leading Supreme Court of Canada Decision dealing with the ‘implied undertaking’ of confidentiality of examination for discovery transcripts, specifically:

 

51.       As mentioned earlier, the lawsuit against the appellant and others was settled in 2006. As a result the appellant was not required to give evidence at a civil trial; nor were her examination for discovery transcripts ever read into evidence. The transcripts remain in the hands of the parties and their lawyer. Nevertheless, the implied undertaking continues. The fact that the settlement has rendered the discovery moot does not mean the appellant’s privacy interest is also moot. The undertaking continues to bind. When an adverse party incorporates the answers or documents obtained on discovery as part of the court record at trial the undertaking is spent, but not otherwise, except by consent or court order. See Lac d’Amiante, at paras. 70 and 76; Shaw Estate v. Oldroyd, at paras. 20-22. It follows that decisions to the contrary, such as the decision of the House of Lords in Home Office v. Harman (where a narrow majority held that the implied undertaking not to disclose documents obtained on discovery continued even after the documents in question had been read aloud in open court), should not be followed in this country. The effect of the Harman decision has been reversed by a rule change in its country of origin.

53.       I would not preclude an application to vary an undertaking by a non-party on the basis of standing, although I agree with Livent Inc. v. Drabinsky that success on such an application would be unusual. What has already been said provides some illustrations of potential third party applicants. In this case the Attorney General of British Columbia, supported by the Vancouver Police, demonstrated a sufficient interest in the appellant’s transcripts to be given standing to apply. Their objective was to obtain evidence that would help explain the events under investigation, and possibly to incriminate the appellant. I think it would be quite wrong for the police to be able to take advantage of statutorily compelled testimony in civil litigation to undermine the appellant’s right to silence and the protection against self-incrimination afforded her by the criminal law. Accordingly, in my view, the present application was rightly dismissed by the chambers judge. On the other hand, a non-party engaged in other litigation with an examinee, who learns of potentially contradicting testimony by the examinee in a discovery to which that other person is not a party, would have standing to seek to obtain a modification of the implied undertaking and for the reasons given above may well succeed. Of course if the undertaking is respected by the parties to it, then non-parties will be unlikely to possess enough information to make an application for a variance in the first place that is other than a fishing expedition. But the possibility of third party applications exists, and where duly made the competing interests will have to be weighed, keeping in mind that an undertaking too readily set aside sends the [page187] message that such undertakings are unsafe to be relied upon, and will therefore not achieve their broader purpose.

The court in this case refused the defendants motion to produce the plaintiff’s previous discovery transcript and the plaintiff’s previously obtained medico-legal report holding that 

On balance, the plaintiff’s privacy interest outweighs the defendants “fishing expedition” as referred to by Binnie J.A.  I am also of the view that the same must be said of the medical report of Dr. Bloch.  That report was a document created for the previous proceeding.  There is no evidence before me to indicate that it was incorporated into the record of that proceeding, in fact I am advised that the action settled before trial.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I would expect that such report would have been created and received subjected to a claim of privilege; there is no evidence before me as to the waiver of such privilege.  The defendants’ application for production of the discovery transcript and the medical/psychiatric report is dismissed.

The court however, did order that the transcript of the plaintiff’s previous submissions in a cmall claims court action be produced holding that:

The defendants’ application for a copy of the plaintiff’s submissions in the provincial court proceeding is, however, a different matter.  That action went to trial; the plaintiff apparently made various oral submissions and representations to the court and, I assume, gave evidence.  In addition she is said to have provided written submissions dated July 11, 2005 and September 23, 2005.  In my view, any undertaking regarding those submissions was spent by their use in that proceeding.  

 

ICBC Claims and your Vacation Photos

I’m still in (not so sunny today) Kelowna (currently on break during an icbc claim examination for discovery), so bear with me as this blog entry is a little lighter on detail than I would like.
As most ICBC injury claims lawyers know these claims can go on for years, particularly when dealing with severe injuries.
During these years you go on living life as normally as possible. You go to work, school, play sports, socialize with friends, go on holidays etc. Like most people, you probably take photos of your activities from time to time. Did you know that ICBC can sometimes get their hands on these?
Reasons for judgement were released today forcing a Plaintiff involved in a BC injury claim to produce to the Defendant any photos of him on vacation after the accident. These applicaitons are routinely made by ICBC defence lawyers and are sometimes successful.
Here the court did a great job in referring to sevaral precedents where courts have either ordered, or refused to order, the production of holiday photos of a party to a lawsuit. These cases are worth reviewing when deciding how to respond to an ICBC request that private photos be shared with them in their efforts to defend against an injury claim.
The court concluded that:
12] Here counsel on behalf of the plaintiff points out there should be evidence of the existence of photographs and then if it is established that photographs exist, that they be shown to be relevant. He also raises the issue of others being in photographs and those other people having privacy rights.

[13] I am satisfied here that the fact of the plaintiff having been on vacation is such that one can presume there are some photographs having been taken, whether by the plaintiff or by others, and of course if the plaintiff is not in the possession or control of photographs taken then nothing need be produced by the plaintiff.

[14] It is my understanding there is a discovery scheduled for the 12th of August of this year, and although the trial is not set until the 23rd of March, ’09, I am satisfied it is not a sufficient stretch, if you will, to require there to be proof of holiday or vacation photographs prior to ordering that they be produced.

[15] So far as the privacy issues relating to others is concerned, the only interest the defendant has is in the activities of the plaintiff. The plaintiff claims damages for loss of enjoyment of life and injury to portions of the plaintiff’s anatomy as were injured in a 1998 workplace injury. There is a significant likelihood of probative value in vacation photographs, the vacation having been taken at a time when he states he was disabled from carrying on his normal work duties. Apparently the holiday in the Dominican Republic was some time between the 15th of December and the 13th of January and took place after the 6 November motor vehicle accident.

[16] So I am satisfied that there should an order go that vacation photographs taken during that time frame of the vacation to the Dominican Republic be produced, but that it be at the option of the plaintiff to delete the facial features of any persons other than himself in the photographs.

One thing all of you should know is this – If you take photos and publish them on the internet (myspace, facebook etc.) these become public and ICBC can verly likely get access to these. As an ICBC claims lawyer I have seen many instances of ICBC tracking down such photos and using these in the defence of personal injury claims.

What is more troubling is when ICBC tries to get access to clealry private photos. Cases such as this one are worth reviewing for anyone concerned about personal privacy and their ICBC claim.

"No Impact Crash" Nets $40,000 Pain and Suffering Award

In a case with a slightly unusual fact pattern where reasons for judgement were released today, a Plaintiff was awarded nearly $90,000 in damages as a result of a July, 2005 motor vehicle collision in Nanaimo, BC.
In a trial that lasted just over two days pursuant to Rule 66, Mr. Justice Wilson concluded that the Plaintiff sustained a soft tissue injury to her neck and shoulder as a result of the motor vehicle collision. Mr. Justice Wilson concluded that it took the Plainiff several months to “fully functionally recover” from her injuries (meaning she was able to functionally return to work as a painter) but that activity caused ongoing pain at the site of injury. The court accepted the evidence of an orthopaedic surgoen who assessed the Plaintiff and found “a significant amount of trapezius spasm” in late 2007 and attributed this to the motor vehicle collision. The court summarized the effects of the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:
[63] I thus conclude that Ms. Levy was disabled from her employment duties for approximately three and one-half months; has had ongoing, but decreasing, pain in her neck and left shoulder since that time, now almost three years post-accident; and is likely to have some ongoing pain or discomfort with activities.
What made this judgement interesting is that the Defendant denied that an accident occurred at all.
The Plaintiff testified that her mini-van was rear-ended by the Defendant’s vehicle. The Defendant denied this. He testified that he felt no impact. It is not unusual for ICBC defence lawyers to lead evidence that an impact was ‘low velocity’ but evidence of no crash is certainly quite unusual. The defence lawyer also called an ICBC vehicle estimator who reviewed the Defendant’s vehicle and testified that it revealed ‘no new damage’, however, he did admit on cross-examination that a vehicle with a steel checker-plate front bumper welded to the frame can cause damage to another vehicle without it showing on the steel bumper.
After hearing all the evidence the court concluded that a collision did occur and that the Defendants were liable for this rear-end motor vehicle accident.
In the end Mr. Justice Wilson awarded damages as follows:

a. non-pecuniary damages: $40,000;

b. past loss of income and employment insurance benefits: $9,187.60;

c. loss of future earning capacity: $10,000;

d. special damages: $586.43;

e. pre-judgment interest.

Pedestrian Struck in Cross-walk Awarded over $700,000

After a trial that lasted over 20 days, A Plaintiff who was struck in a cross-walk in Whistler, BC was awarded $718,331 for his losses and injuries.
The accident was significant. The circumstances are canvassed at paragraph 2 of the judgement where it was held that “The Plaintiff was struck on his left side. He flew over the hood of the Defendant’s vehicle. His face smashed into the windshield. He then was thrown off the car landing on the pavement.
The Plaintiff suffered serious injuries including facial lacerations, a fractured nose, soft tissue injuries to the left knee, neck and back, a mild traumatic brain injury (also known as a concussion), dental and TMJ injuries, permanent facial scarring, depression, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, panic attacks, chronic pain disorder and most significantly cognitive defecits due to his injuries.
As is often the case in ICBC claims involving chronic pain and head injury, the court had to deal with a mountain of medical expert witness testimony both for the Plaintiff and for the Defence.
In addition to obtaining opposing medical evidence, ICBC hired investigators to video the Plaintiff surreptitiously. As stated in my last blog, video surveillance is a common ICBC lawyer defence tactic. While ICBC lawyers defending claims don’t hire private investigators in every case, a safe general rule is that the more serious a Plaintiff’s injuries, the more likely the chance that ICBC defence lawyers have hired a private investigator.
Mr. Justice Williamson made an interesting comment regarding surveillance at paragraph 114 of his judgement where he held that “(the occupational therapist hired by ICBC) testified that there was a sense that (the Plaintiff) did not trust her and that (the Plaintiff) considered her as somehow or other a spy for ICBC. I note that the Plaintiff’ concern that ICBC was spying on him was accurate. The corporation hired investigators to video the plaintiff surreptitiously.”
After weighing all the evidence, the trial judge found that the Plaintiff “suffers from chronic pain syndrome, depression and continuing cognitive defecits.”
$135,000 was awarded for pain and suffering. The other damages awarded were as follows:
$450,000 for Loss of Earning Capacity (commonly referred to as future wage loss)
$101,436 for Past Wage Loss
$31,895 for Cost of Future Care

Plaintiff Awarded $96,970 For a Disc Herniation

In a case that can be characterized as “the straw the broke the camel’s back”, a Plaintiff was awarded over $90,000 soft-tissue injuries and a L5-S1 disc herniation which were caused (at least in part) as a result of a 2003 car accident.
The Plaintiff was a 47 year old with a long history of back injuries. She had pre-exsting low back pain, neck pain and a bilateral facet-joint arthropathy.
She was involved in a fairly serious car accident in 2003. Her vehicle sustained damage which took close to $5,000 to repair.
At trial both a neurosurgeon and an physiatrist testified on behalf of the Plaintiff. The neurosurgeon’s opinion was that “(the Plaintiff’s) disk herniation was caused by small tears to the annular fibres surrounding the disc which eventually ruptured due to the ongoing stresses from day to day living” and that “(since the car accident) was the last major trauma before (the Plaintiff) experienced the disc herniation, it was a significant contributor to the problem.” The Plaintiff’s physiatrist largely shared this opinion.
ICBC lawyers defending claims often retain orthopaedic surgeons who disagree with treating physicians. This common insurance defence step was followed in this case as the defence lawyers retained an orthopaedic surgeon who testified there was “no objective evidence of ongoing injury to explain the Plaintiff’s ongoing pain“.
The Defence also showed video surveillance of the Plaintiff doing various activities including getting in and out of her car on many occasions with minimal difficulty. I have previously blogged about surveillance evidence and ICBC claims and don’t intend to re-visit this subject at length but will point out that this is a common tactic ICBC lawyers take when defending injury claims and Justice Fenton, at paragraph 10 and 11 of the judgement canvasses the position that many ICBC lawyers take at trial when they have surveillance evidence which shows a Plaintiff potentially overstating injuries.
After hearing all the medical evidence the court accepted the opinions of the Plaintiff’s physiatrist and neurologist and stated that “(the Plaintiff’s) earlier accidents, along with degenerative changes to her spine, made her more vulnerable to lower back injury. Accordingly, while I cannot find the defendant’s negligence was the only cause of the Plaintiff’s problems after February 13, 2003, on a balance of probabilities, I find that the defendant’s negligence materially contributed to the occurrence of those injuries
The court assessed the Plaintiff’s damages as follows:
1. Pain and Suffering: $65,000
2. Special Damages (out of pocket expenses): $3,118
3. Past Wage Loss: $88,000
4. Cost of Future Care: $5,000
Justice Fenlon then reduced the total award by 40% to account for the risk that the Plaintiff’s pre-existing condition in her spine and her psychological fragility would have detrimentally affected her in the future, regardless of the car accident.
Justice Fenlon did a great job in canvassing the applicable law in determining whether the car accident caused the Plaintiff injury. This case is worth reading to get insight into the factors courts consider when addressing pre-existing injuries that were aggravated by a car accident, and further to see the “thin-skull” legal principle in action which is well canvassed at paragraphs 42-44 of the judgement.

Who's That in the Bushes? ICBC Surveillance and You

A concern many BC personal injury clients have is the threat of surveillance when they are advancing an ICBC injury claim. Video surveillance is legal in British Columbia so this threat is real.
The thought of video surveillance is unsavory to say the least.  What concerns me, however, is not that ICBC may be conducting video surveillance, rather the misconseption that some BC personal injury claimants have regarding their behaviour and potential surveillance. I have been asked many times “Should I watch out because there may be surveillance” or “Should I limit my activities out in public because if I get filmed being active that will hurt my claim“.
My answer to this question is as follows: Video surveillance does not hurt a personal injury claim, overstating the effects of injuries does. It does not matter if you’re painting your house, lifting weights, or doing any number of physical activities that are caught on film. If you can be active and not aggravate your injuries that is a good thing. If, on the other hand, a personal injury claimaint tells others that they are limited and video surveillance shows otherwise, that could be very damaging. This goes to a person’s credibility. If a person is caught in a lie with respect to the effect of their injuries that will have a very negative effect on the value of an ICBC claim.
I like to assure people advancing ICBC claims that they need not live life any differently because of an ICBC claim or because of the threat of video surveillance. It is lies and lies alone that have the most damaging impact on a personal injury claim. If you are honest about your injuries and their impact on your life video surveillance should not be a concerning threat.  In fact, with an honest plaintiff, video surveillance should appear as nothing more than an unsavory insurance tactic.

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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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
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