Nightclub and Bouncers Ordered To Pay $3,084,200 Following Assault on Patron

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, highlighting a $3 million jury verdict following a nightclub assault.
In today’s case (Maras v. Seemore Entertainment Ltd.) the Plaintiff was assaulted outside of a nightclub in Vancouver, BC and sustained a traumatic brain injury.  Both the owner of the club and 3 bouncers were found liable and ordered to pay the damages.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff offered to settle for $1.425 million an offer which was countered with $20,000 by the Defendants.   The Court ordered that the Defendant pay increased costs for failing to accept the Plaintiff’s reasonable pre-trial offer.  In highlighting the jury’s decision the Court provided the following reasons:
[1]             This action arose from an assault upon the plaintiff that occurred on April 4, 2009 outside the Au Bar nightclub, located on Seymour Street in Vancouver.
[2]             The plaintiff sustained serious injuries including a complicated mild traumatic brain injury combined with orthopedic and psychiatric injuries.
[3]             The plaintiff was 20 years old at the time of the assault and 25 years old when the action proceeded to trial before a jury for nine weeks commencing April 7, 2014.
[4]             Both liability and the quantum of damages were in issue at trial and vigorously contested by the parties.
[5]             On June 9, 2014, the jury delivered its verdict. Liability was found against the corporate defendant owner of the nightclub and three of the security personnel or “bouncers”. The action against one of the security staff defendants, Mr. Yip, and the nightclub’s manager, Mr. Childs, was dismissed. The plaintiff was found not to be contributorily negligent.
[6]             The jury assessed damages as follows:

General damages $   250,000
Loss of income and loss of earning capacity to trial $   175,000
Future loss of earning capacity $1,832,000
Cost of future care $   800,000
Special damages $     27,200
Total $3,084,200

 

Paraplegia Claim Not Too Complex For Jury Trial

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing a jury strike application in a paraplegia injury claim.
In the recent case (Laktin v. Vancouver (City)) the Defendants “were responding to a call that the Plaintiff might be suicidal” when one of the Defendant police officers “shot the plaintiff, rendering him paraplegic“.
The Plaintiff sued for damages and elected trial by Jury.  The Defendants brought an application to strike the jury notice arguing the trial was too complex for a jury to hear.  Mr. Justice Pearlman disagreed finding that despite the severe nature of the injury the matter was appropriate for jury trial.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[35]         This is not a trial that involves multiple accidents or actions, or that raises complex issues of causation of the plaintiff’s physical injuries. The jury may have to determine the extent to which the  psychological injuries claimed by the plaintiff result from a pre-existing condition rather than the incident of January 21, 2006. That will involve the jury making findings of fact that are well within the capabilities of a modern jury.
[36]         The defendants have identified numerous issues of fact and law relating to issues of liability, the statutory and common law defences to the plaintiff’s claim of battery available to the defendants, the apportionment of fault, and damages.  It is the responsibility of the trial judge to instruct the jury concerning the legal principles that will apply to the facts as found by the jury.  The court will instruct the jury on the application and interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Police Act and the Criminal Code. 
[37]         The duties of care owed by the defendants to the plaintiff are a matter of law for determination by the trial judge rather than the jury. It will be the responsibility of the trial judge to determine whether the City of Vancouver owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, and whether, as a matter of law, there is any basis for the plaintiff’s claim against the City, other than its liability under s. 20 of the Police Act for the torts of municipal police officers.
[38]         Whether, as a matter of law, the application of the doctrine of ex turpi causa would be justified in the circumstances of this case is also a matter for the trial judge.
[39]          The defence correctly submits that the provisions of ss. 34 and 37 of the Criminal Code in force at the time of the incident that gave rise to this action add a level of complexity to this trial.   However, juries in criminal cases have been frequently called upon to apply those provisions, and with the assistance of instructions from the trial judge, have done so. I see no reason why a civil jury, properly instructed, cannot perform a similar task.
[40]         In my view, finding the facts regarding what occurred in the sequence of events that culminated in Constable Coulthard shooting the plaintiff, and determining whether the force used by the police was justified in all of the circumstances are tasks well suited to a jury composed of eight members of the community.

"Only The First Notice of Trial Matters" When Excercising Right to a Jury Trial

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether parties to an action joining a matter already set for trial can elect the mode of trial.
In this week’s case (Catalano v. Ogloff) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions.  The Plaintiff started an action for the first collision, set the matter for trial and filed a jury notice.  The Defendant did not.  A separate action was started for the second collision and all parties filed a consent order providing that the cases be head together on the date already scheduled.  The Defendants in the second action then filed a jury notice.  The Court found this was a nullity.  In striking the Defendant’s jury notice Master MacNaughton provided the following reasons:
[11]         For the following reasons, I have concluded that the defendant’s jury notice is a nullity.
[12]         First, under Rule 12-6(3) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules it is clear that the election of a jury trial is a two-step process. The right is preserved by serving a jury notice but the matter will not be heard by a jury unless and until the jury fees are paid.  A jury trial occurs only if both steps are completed. Thus, the defendant to the second action could not presume that the first action was proceeding to a jury trial.  It is for that reason that all parties to an action independently preserve their election of a jury trial by serving their own jury notice.
[13]         Second, the early cases which established the principal that it is only the first notice of trial which matters, with respect to the election of a jury, arose in the context of trial adjournments. However, that principal has been expanded. I agree with the conclusion of Master Groves (as he then was) in Bumen v. BC Transit, 2001 BCSC 443:
… when a notice of trial has previously been given in one action, without a jury notice being filed, a subsequent consent by the parties to having other actions tried at the same time ought to be treated as an election to have a trial by judge alone in all the actions. In other words, when parties consent to the consolidation of multiple actions they are bound by the mode of trial specified in the notice of trial filed with respect to the first action. …(para. 20)
Master Groves’ reasoning mirrors that of Master Barber in Wright v. Rose (1995), 32 C.P.C. (3d) 319 where he said:
…there is no valid jury notice issued in the first action…it could be argued that the jury notice is valid for the second and third action.  Of course, when actions are tried at the same time they should either be all heard with a jury, or herd by a judge alone.  In my opinion, when the defendants consented…to all three actions being tried at the same time, that was an election to have trial by judge alone. … (para 17)
[14]         In my view, the fact that the plaintiff had delivered a jury notice in the first action does not change the result.  The defendant in the second action could not rely on the plaintiff’s jury notice as that was merely the first stage of the election process and did not guarantee a jury trial (I note that it has since been withdrawn). The defendants to the first action had not delivered such a notice. To ensure his right to a jury trial, the defendant in the second action should have made it a term of his consent to having the matters tried together or, if no consent was forthcoming, he could have delivered a jury notice and then applied in chambers to have the matters heard together with a jury.
[15]         By proceeding the way he did, the defendant to the second action was not at liberty to deliver the jury notice. It is a nullity.

Coughing Rib Injury Case Not "Too Complex" For Jury Trial

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, addressing whether a unique causation issue in a personal injury claim was too complex for a jury.
In today’s case (Jackson v. Yusishen) the Plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant’s truck in 2009.  The Plaintiff sustained some injuries and sued for damages.   Some 6 months following the crash the plaintiff “coughed and the pain in his chest and back suddenly increased in intensity“.  He was ultimately diagnosed with “one or two fractured ribs…hernias of the intercostal area and of the diaphragm“.  He had multiple surgeries to correct these complications that had not been successful.  The biggest issue for trial was for the jury to decide whether the ribs were compromised in the collision and whether the collision caused or contributed to the ultimate complications the Plaintiff was diagnosed with.
The Defendant elected trial by Jury.  The Plaintiff argued the matter was too complex for a jury to decide.  Mr. Justice Rogers disagreed and held that a jury could address this issue.  In upholding the jury election the Court provided the following reasons:
[23]         It is possible that the jury may find that the accident weakened the plaintiff’s ribs such that the later coughing episode caused them to fracture. In that event, the standard language of an Athey instruction will suffice to guide the jury’s deliberations. Again, juries are regularly instructed on similar Athey issues – this case would not present any greater complication on that issue than any other.
[24]         Once the jury has determined whether the accident caused rib fractures or a weakening of the ribs that later turned into fractures, the rest of the jury’s duties will be relatively straight forward. If their answer to that question is yes, then they will have to assess the degree to which the injuries have impaired the plaintiff’s function and award damages accordingly. For that task, they will have the assistance of expert reports of the type that are conventionally adduced in personal injury cases. Those reports include a functional capacity evaluation, a vocational assessment, a cost of future care report, and an economist’s assessment of the present value of various loss scenarios. Again, in serious personal injury cases, juries are routinely asked to consider such reports. There is nothing about the content of the reports in this case that suggest that a jury would not be able to conveniently consider their content and render a verdict accordingly.
[25]         If the jury’s answer to the causation question is no, then their task will become very nearly trivial.
[26]         Although there are a number of expert reports that will go into evidence in this case, the reality is that the jury will likely not be required to scour each and every word in each and every report. For example, the plaintiff’s economist’s reports may be useful to the jury should it wish to award future losses to the plaintiff, but it is unlikely that the jury will need to go beyond picking what appears to it to be the appropriate multiplier for a given loss and a given set of positive and negative contingencies.
[27]         In my opinion, the jury’s task of hearing, examining, and considering the evidence in this case will not exceed the bounds of convenience. The jury will be asked to conduct a scientific inquiry into what the radiographs could and did show of the plaintiff’s rib structure, but that will be a relatively narrow and focused inquiry. The jury will be guided by the opinions of qualified medical practitioners and by counsel’s submissions. It is not every contest of medical opinion that will disqualify a jury from trying a personal injury claim, and in my view, the scientific inquiry that the jury will make on this issue will be within its capacity.
[28]         Once the jury gets past the issue of causation, this case will become a relatively straightforward assessment of personal injury damages. The evidence on quantum issues is entirely conventional and is of the sort that juries are often asked to consider and assess. The jury may have to make some difficult decisions, but the path to those decisions will not, in my view, be so intricate or complex as to overwhelm the jury’s capacity to arrive at a just and proper judgment.
[29]         For these reasons, I have concluded that the plaintiff’s application to strike the jury notice must be dismissed.
 

"Cumulative Effect of Misstatements and Transgressions" Results in Jury Discharge

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Powell River Registry, discharging a jury prior to the conclusion of a personal injury trial.
In this week’s case (Vander Maeden v. Condon) the Defendant objected to a series of “misstatements and transgressions” following the Plaintiff’s final submissions to the Jury.  The Plaintiff argued that there was no need to discharge the jury and proper instructions “could cure any defects in the trial“.  Mr. Justice Gaul held that while some of the misstatements could have been dealt with by proper instructions, their “cumulative effect” was beyond remedy.  In discharging the jury the Court provided the following reasons:
[13]         In my view, the defendants’ application is well founded. Some of Mr. Vander Maeden’s counsel’s statements were of such a nature that they could have been addressed, if necessary, by directions from the court. Informing the jury that it was Mr. Vander Maeden who had asked for a jury trial; suggesting to the jury they should not consider “technical legal arguments”, advising the jury that the defendants had not sought to have their medical expert personally examine Mr. Vander Maeden; and referring to injuries unrelated to the accidents, would, in my view, fall into this category. However, in my respectful opinion, the cumulative effect of all of counsel for Mr. Vander Maeden’s transgressions made it pointless to attempt any corrective instructions or measures, for I do not believe there was anything that could have said that would have, with any degree of confidence, disabused the minds of the jury of the misstatements and misconduct…
[35]         Counsel for Mr. Vander Maeden expressed his “hope” that proper instructions to the jury could cure any defects in the trial or prejudice to the defendants that were caused by his submissions. That hope was understandable, but in the circumstances it was in vain. Although I accept without hesitation that there was no malice or improper design on the part of Mr. Vander Maeden’s counsel, the cumulative effect of his misstatements and transgressions amounts, in my view, to misconduct.
[36]         With great respect for each member of the jury, in my opinion their ability to fairly and impartially perform their role as the triers of fact was irreparably compromised by Mr. Vander Maeden’s counsel’s final submissions.
[37]         In my view counsel for the defendants is correct when he submits the only means of salvaging the trial is to discharge the jury and have the proceeding continue as a judge alone trial. In my view a just, effective and efficient resolution to the situation is for the jury to be discharged, for Mr. Vander Maeden’s counsel to make additional submissions on the issues at trial if he believes they are necessary and then for counsel for the defendants to make his final submissions.

BC Court of Appeal Upholds Canadian National Boxing Champions $1,000,000 ICBC Hand Injury Case


(Cross-Published at the Canadian MMA Law Blog)
Last year a Vancouver Jury awarded professional boxer  Jegbefumere ‘Bone’ Albert  just over $1,000,000 following a traumatic hand injury caused in a motor vehicle collision which negatively impacted his boxing career.  He was a professional cruiser weight at the time with a 4-0 professional record and a 251-3 amateur record.  The collision caused a chronic hand injury which flared with training/fighting.  The Jury accepted this impacted him in his chosen profession and awarded substantial damages for diminished earning capacity.
ICBC appealed arguing numerous errors at the trial level.  In unanimous reasons for judgement (Albert v. Politano) the BC Court of Appeal dismissed ICBC’s appeal and in doing so the Court provided the following comments addressing the lost opportunity of the plaintiff –
[50]        This brings us to the assessment of damages itself. The appellants say that each of the heads of damages assessed is wholly out of proportion to the evidence before the Court.
[51]        Damages are a question of fact and we may interfere with the quantum, absent an error of law or principle, only if there is a palpable and overriding error.
[52]        I deal with the loss of earning capacity first. I conclude, from the fact the jury awarded a significant sum, that the jury rejected the appellants’ submission that Mr. Albert would have withdrawn from a boxing career, soon after the accident, in any event. Clearly Mr. Albert had boxing ability. The jury must have considered that his boxing ability was diminished as the result of the injuries from the accident. It is true that Mr. Albert did not earn very much money from boxing prior to the accident. It is also true that there was not a great deal of evidence about the size of the purses available in professional boxing. Nonetheless there was some evidence. Witnesses from the world of boxing did testify to some extent as to the purses won in certain matches, particularly in Canada. There was evidence, therefore, before the jury from which they could conclude that Mr. Albert had the skills to fight for, and win, purses in the time between the accident and the trial, amounting to $60,000. The period of past loss is close to four years. The sum awarded is well within the range of the purses that were discussed in the evidence as available, in Canada, over that period of time. Given the positive evidence as to Mr. Albert’s abilities, one cannot say the award of $60,000 for past income loss is unsupported by the evidence, disproportionate, or wholly erroneous.
[53]        I have come to the same conclusion in respect to the award for future loss. That sum may be a small portion of what Mr. Albert otherwise would have earned, or it may be more than he would have earned. We do not know. There was, however, evidence of his considerable abilities and evidence of the purses available in the boxing world, even in Canada, that would support an award of $838,000. I would not interfere with the award for future loss of earnings.
I‘d like to thank Vancouver lawyer John Cameron for sharing this development with me for publication.
 

BC Court of Appeal Discusses Two Routes of Challenging Jury Notices

Last year I discussed the fact that the BC Supreme Court can deal with Jury Strike applications both under Rule 12-6(5) and also as part of the trial management process.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Court of Appeal (Wallman v. Gill) addressing this reality but also providing comments on the limits of when the trial management process is an appropriate forum for such an application.   The Court provided the following feedback:
23]         By analogy, although the application to strike the jury in this case was heard by the judge who had been appointed to manage the action, he did not hear it in the course of a trial management conference under R. 12-2(9), but in regular chambers under R. 12-6(5). Indeed, he could not have heard it at a case management conference since it is evident the parties filed affidavits on the application, and this would not have been permitted under R. 12-2(11)(a). Thus, the order striking the jury is not a limited appeal order.
[24]         I would be sympathetic to the plaintiff’s argument that the Legislature did not intend to create a “two-tier” system for appealing orders directing the mode of trial if I were satisfied that was the practical effect of this ruling. However, I am not convinced that this is the case. This argument fails to recognize the unique role of the case management conference. It is held late in the proceeding, when the trial is sufficiently imminent that the parties have been able to prepare a comprehensive trial brief, and meet in person with the judge to make informed decisions about how the trial will proceed. In this limited context, R. 12-2(9)(b) permits a trial management judge to decide whether the trial should be heard with or without a jury, either on application by one of the parties or on his or her own initiative, and without affidavit evidence. I venture the view that this power will be exercised rarely. If the parties have been unable to agree on the mode of trial, it seems most unlikely they would leave this to be determined late in the day at a case management conference, without the benefit of affidavit evidence. It is reasonable to assume that, instead, there will have been an earlier application under R. 12-6(5) to determine this issue. Further, it seems unlikely a trial management judge would then consider revisiting an earlier order dealing with mode of trial or, if no earlier application had been brought, alter the mode of trial in a summary manner late in the day.
 

Miscarriage Reference Results in Jury Discharge

Adding to this site’s archives of judicial commentary on the boundaries of opening statements, reasons for judgement were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding that comments addressing the Plaintiff by his first name and further discussing his wife’s miscarriage crossed the line.
In the recent case (Demello v. Chaput) the  Plaintiff was involved in a series of collisions.  During his opening statement he was referred to by his first name and further a miscarriage his wife had was referenced with the following statement being made:
His wife is pregnant during this period of time. She’d like a little bit more support. He’s not able to give that to her. In July, Michael was supposed to do a number of things in anticipation of having some friends over, July of 2012, and at that point his wife was pregnant with her third child. He didn’t get around to doing it. Out of frustration, she did it herself. She did all the work he was supposed to do that day in addition to getting the house ready for a party that they were having. They were having some friends over. She started bleeding and two weeks later she has a miscarriage. Now, whether or not or what caused the miscarriage is not the point here. The point is that she blamed Michael for that, so you can see that’s an obvious point of tension.
Madam Justice Maisonville found these comments crossed the line and discharged the jury.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[30] I find that in the circumstances of the comments as they were made yesterday, it would be impossible to dispel the chain of reasoning that the accident ultimately led to the miscarriage. To make a further comment would underscore that, and, as noted in the above cases, it would be impossible to effect a correction without drawing attention to the problem and refer to what is not going to be led in evidence.
[31] I do not find that this is the same as the circumstances in the cases Zhong v. Ao and Holman v. Martin, which were not jury trials. I do not find that the remarks are appropriate for an opening, and rather that they are inappropriate and inflammatory and appear designed to have evoked sympathy, and that it would be impossible to craft an instruction to the jury that would be able to dispel that possible sympathy to the jury. As noted, as well, that there were similar objections to references to the position of the defendant respecting liability which cause concern.
[32] The remarks in relation to the miscarriage were sufficient to cause this court grave concerns such that I am going to direct that the jury be discharged. While I find that those remarks are questionable, I am not going to comment on them in these reasons as it is not necessary for me to do so. I do note that the reference to the plaintiff by his first name is considered inappropriate and has been considered so by both the Ontario courts and by the Court of Appeal.
[33] In all of the circumstances, I order that the jury in this matter be discharged.
[34] I note that, pursuant to the provisions of Rule 12, that counsel for the defendant submits that the matter can proceed judge alone. In the circumstances, I am going to order that the matter carry on as a judge alone trial.

Jury Strike Application Succeeds in Complex Personal Injury Case

Earlier this month I highlighted two decisions addressing whether injury trials with numerous expert witnesses were too complex for a jury to hear.  The first case dismissed the jury notice and the second case upheld the notice.
This week a futher judgement was released addressing this topic finding a case with 475 pages of expert evidence was too complex for a jury.
In this week’s case (Moll v. Parmar) both the Plaintiff and Defendant filed a jury notice.   At the trial management conference the Defendant indicated that a jury trial was still anticipated.   As trial neared, however, the Defendant changed their view and brought an application to strike the Plaintiff’s jury notice.  Mr. Justice Abrioux found that the case was too complex for a jury and in so doing provided the following reasons:
[43]         What militates against the action proceeding before a jury is the sheer volume of medical reports, and in many instances, the scientific aspect of the evidence. I have reviewed many of the medical and other experts’ reports which were provided to me in October 2012. As I noted above, they comprise approximately 475 pages. The reports refer to other reports and assessments. The neuropsychological reports deal with many different tests, as do the vocational and functional capacity evaluations.
[44]         I  emphasize that what is in the record before me are experts’ reports, that is, evidence which, depending on admissibility issues, will be before the trier of fact. In that regard they are to be distinguished from, as I have noted, hospital and other records which may well have much less significance or importance to the trier of fact.
[45]         In my view, there can be little doubt that the issues in this case will require a prolonged examination of documents or accounts or a scientific or local investigation. The plaintiff presents two alternative theories, the first being whether the accident caused an organic brain injury, which is scientifically complex. The reports of the neuroradiologist attest to this…
[51]         I am satisfied that both tests set out in Rule 12-6(5)(a)(i) and (ii) have been met. First this case does involve a scientific investigation which will include a prolonged examination of documents, in particular experts’ reports, that cannot conveniently be heard by a jury. Secondly, the issues are sufficiently intricate and complex that the trial should not proceed with a jury. Justice would not be done if that were to take place. Accordingly, I direct that the trial be heard by the trial judge without a jury.

The Answer is Discretion…Jury Strike Application Fails in Case with 32 Expert Reports

Last month I highlighted reasons for judgement where a jury strike application succeeded in a personal injury trial with 30 expert reports was deemed “too complex” for that mode of trial.  In a good illustration that there is no certain outcome when it comes to discretionary orders, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a jury strike application in a case with fairly similar facts.
In this week’s case (Henshall v. Plona) the Plaintiff alleged brain injury from a 2005 collision.  Liability was disputed and further the defendant argued that “credibility of the plaintiff is a key issue at trial. The defendants say that the evidence reveals significant conflicts in the evidence, including the plaintiff’s failure to disclose his significant pre-accident history of head injuries and drug and alcohol use.
The matter was set for a 25 day trial which was combined with two other injury claims the Plaintiff was advancing from subsequent collisions.   In the course of the lawsuit a total of 32 expert reports were obtained by the litigants.  The Plaintiff argued the sheer volume of evidence would “overwhelm a jury“.  Master Taylor disagreed and dismissed the Plaintiff’s application concluding as follows:
[27]         Given the particular facts of this case, I have concluded that the applicant has failed to satisfy me that the jury notice should be struck based on the grounds articulated in R. 12-6(5)(a), either alone or collectively. Accordingly, the application is dismissed with costs to the defendants.
 

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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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