Court Orders Several Injury Claims Tried Together Due to Fraud Allegations

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering several lawsuits to be heard together due to allegations of fraud.
In today’s case (ICBC v. Singh) the court reviewed an application requesting that seven personal injury actions involving motor vehicle accident claims related to three separate collisions be tried together.
In addition to the injury claims ICBC sued the individuals alleging that they “knew each other and conspired to stage the accidents to make false personal injury claims.
ICBC applied to have all the lawsuits tried together. In granting the application Madam Justice Duncan provided the following reasons:

[34]        The authorities provide a non-exhaustive list of facts to consider when making a determination on consolidation or, as in this case, ordering that actions be heard together. The factors are derived from Merritt, as well as Shah v. Bakken, [1996] BCLR No. 2836, and Insurance Corp. of British Columbia v. Sam, [1998] BCJ No. 947:

1.       Will consolidation create a saving in pre-trial procedures?

2.      Will there be a real reduction in the number of trial days taken up by the actions heard together?

3.      What is the potential for a party to be seriously inconvenienced by being required to attend a trial in which they only have a marginal interest?

4.      Will there be a real saving in experts’ time and witness fees?

5.      Is there a common issue of fact or law that makes it desirable to dispose of both (all) actions at the same time?

6.      Will consolidation avoid a multiplicity of proceedings?

7.      What are the relative stages of the actions?

8.      Would consolidation delay the trial and prejudice one or some of the parties?

9.      Would there be a risk of inconsistent results?

[35]        In this case, an order that the actions be heard together should result in a saving in pre-trial procedures. There would be one discovery of ICBC representatives concerning the fraud allegations rather than separately scheduled days of discovery, one per defendant. There would likely be a real reduction in the number of days required for trial if the actions were heard together, rather than as seven tort actions and one fraud action, as a repetition of evidence could be avoided. Parties could be excused for the portions of the trial which do not relate to them, saving their time and expense in that regard.

[36]        Conversely, the actions could be heard in stages with the ICBC fraud action scheduled first as it might determine, in whole or in part, the viability of the individual tort actions. This, of course, would be dependent on the views of a judge at a case planning conference or a judicial management conference.

[37]        The common issues of fact or law as between these actions is manifest in the pleadings and in the documents placed before the court by ICBC. The question is whether these accidents were staged by the parties. The parties knew one another, or at least knew one person with connection to more than one of the collisions. Mr. Haghmohammadi has some involvement in Collision #1 as he gave Ms. Prakash the vehicle she was driving at the time. Mr. Inderjit Singh, who drove the vehicle which allegedly injured Ms. Prakash and Ms. Mehran in Collision #1, had business dealings with Mr. Haghmohammadi in the sale of rebuilt motor vehicles and was in fact involved in Collision #3 with him.

[38]        If individual trials were held, inconsistent results could ensue. It is no answer to say that Ms. Prakash’s trial would create res judicata in relation to issues of alleged fraud arising from Collision #1, as Ms. Mehran has a separate proceeding arising from the same accident and Mr. Inderjit Singh is also a litigant in relation to Collision #3. Determining what issues were adjudicated in the first trial would not be straightforward and might visit unfairness on others who were not parties at Ms. Prakash’s trial.

[39]        I acknowledge that Ms. Prakash’s action is set for hearing in February and an order that the matters be heard together will necessitate an adjournment of that trial; however, I am satisfied of a high degree of interconnectedness between the parties and that it is in the interests of justice that the matters be heard together, or as directed following the case planning process or by judicial management, if a judge is appointed to hear the matter.

ICBC v. Singh, Madam Justice Duncan, Rule 22, Rule 22-5, Rule 22-5(8)

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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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