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Court Discusses "Aggregate Effects" Of Joining Multiple Fast Track Cases

Update December 12, 2017 – Today the below decision was upheld on appeal with Madam Justice Russell providing the following reasons noting fast track cases can be aggregated –

[22]         Since the rule is clear that a fast track trial heard as a single action can exceed three days and remain under the Fast Track Rule, then it seems equally clear that where two fast track trials are heard together, the fact that they will consume seven days of trial would not exclude them from the Rule.

[23]         It appears to me that relatively simple cases that can be concluded within a short period of trial time and where the damages at least as calculated by plaintiff’s counsel, exclusive of costs, are $100,000 or less, must be conducted under the Fast Track Rule. I take this from the predecessor to Rule 15-1, Rules 66 and 68 of the former Supreme Court Rules, B.C. Reg. 221/90, as repealed by Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009: Singleton v. O’Neil, 2010 BCSC 298.

[24]         The intention of the Rule is to provide for the quick and inexpensive resolution of comparatively simple actions with proportionality a specified and general objective of the Rules. The Rule is mandatory unless otherwise ordered by the court: Singleton, supra.

[25]         As a result, here the actions were at all times appropriate for being conducted under Rule 15-1, and therefore, the jury notices were, in effect, not applicable as soon as it became clear that the criteria under the Rule were met. Even before the Notice of Fast Track was filed, the two actions were fast track actions and Rule 15-1(10) dictates that the trial must be heard by the court without a jury.

[26]         There may well be situations where the action is so advanced as an ordinary action that the exercise of such discretion would not be appropriate and would result in serious prejudice to one party. I do not intend these reasons to remove that discretion where circumstances so dictate. But I do not find this situation to exist in the circumstances of this case.

[27]         The difference of two days in time between the defendants’ Notice of Trial and the plaintiff’s Notice of Fast Track is immaterial to the nature of the two actions.

[28]         Although the Master did not deal with the issue, counsel for the defendants raised the right to a jury trial and argued that it pre-empted Rule 15-1. Rule 12-6 deals with jury trials. However, Rule 15-1(5) states that in the event of a conflict between it and another rule, Rule 15-1 applies. This subsection appears to dispose of that argument.

[29]         I did not understand counsel for the defendants to argue that the common law right to a jury trial displaces the operation of the Rules of Court. In my view, and in these circumstances, that would not be a viable argument.

[30]         The decision of the Master to permit the two actions to continue to proceed under the Fast Track Rule is fact-based and discretionary and deserves deference.

[31]         The issue of whether the Rule permits aggregation follows from the nature of the actions that Rule 15-1 allows.

[32]         Particularly where two actions have been ordered to be heard together and both meet the criteria for the Fast Track Rule, it seems only sensible that they could both be dealt with under the Rule with the benefits of aggregating the time for trial and discovery and costs limits set out in the Rule.

[33]         This is consistent with the Object of the Rules and Proportionality.

Helpful reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing how matters such as trial length, the quantum cap and discovery timelines are aggregated when multiple fast track cases are joined.
In the recent case (De Jesus v. Doe) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions and sued for damages.  The cases were scheduled for trial at the same time.  The Defendants brought an application to remove them from Rule 15 arguing that with a total of 7 days for trial these cases were no longer fast track appropriate.
The court disagreed and in doing so Master Baker provided the following helpful reasons about “aggregate effects” of joining fast track cases together:
De Jesus screenshot 1
De Jesus Screenshot 2

bc injury law, De Jesus v. Doe, Master Baker