ICBC Effort To Remove Case From Supreme Court Fails

While the BC Supreme Court Act allows parties to apply to transfer claims to small claims court such applications are rarely brought in personal injury claims where the quantum of claims can vary widely based on how evidence unfolds.

Today reasons for judgment were published by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, hearing and rejecting such an application brought by ICBC.

In today’s case (Herrera v. Miller) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages.  After examinations for discovery the Defendant brought an application to move the case to small claims court arguing the damages could not exceed the limit of that court because the collision was “relatively minor, that the plaintiff suffered insignificant injuries for which he received very little treatment, and that the injuries did not seriously affect the plaintiff’s enjoyment of recreational and sporting activities, or his employment“.

The Plaintiff opposed pointing to recent case law for injuries similar to his with quantum assessments in excess of the small claims court jurisdiction.  In dismissing the application, ordering costs payable to the plaintiff and finding the claim could stay in Supreme Court Mr. Justice Giaschi provided the following reasons:

[12]         The plaintiff filed an affidavit sworn December 13, 2019. In that affidavit, he deposes that, as a result of the accident, he continues to experience symptoms in his back, shoulders and right hip, and has difficulty sleeping. He complains of pain in his lower back and shoulders when not active, and of pain lasting two to three days if he engages in activities. He further deposed to having difficulty falling asleep and of waking in the night because of lower back pain. He further deposed to attending massage therapy on a more or less weekly basis and that he intends to seek chiropractic treatments.

[13]         In approaching this mater, I am particularly mindful of the caution expressed by Justice McEwan in Kooner v. Singh, 2011 BCSC 1384, at paras. 3 and 6. There, he stated it is only in the clearest of cases that a matter should be transferred to the Provincial Court. It is only where there is no possibility of a damage award exceeding the Small Claims’ limit that a matter should be transferred to the Provincial Court:

[3]        I have commented on other occasions about these applications.  They amount to the Supreme Court being asked to summarily determine that damages could not possibly exceed $25,000 and also to accept that a trial in Provincial Court is the most expeditious way to deal with the action.  On the basis of the material before me, it is not possible to say that the case could not exceed $25,000.  The plaintiff wishes to have the matter heard in Supreme Court, and it would only be on the clearest basis that the court would act to deprive a person who wished to be heard in the Supreme Court of the right to do so.

[6]        I have said as much on the previous occasion of Chang v. Wren in oral reasons given June 10, 2011.  I see no reason to stray from the outcome in that case which was to the effect that unless the court were persuaded that damages could not possibly exceed $25,000 the plaintiff should not be deprived of the opportunity to convince a court that their damages exceed that amount.  I considered it most unsafe to summarily decide a case on the basis of descriptions that do not include the actual evidence of the parties.  Courts certainly have the experience of being persuaded that cases that did not appear to be worth a great deal turn out to be worth much more once they have been heard.  I will also say, as I said in Chang v. Wren, that I am absolutely not persuaded by any efficiency or cost-saving argument, particularly where, as here, the application is brought at a point post-discovery.  There is very little process to avoid at this point and, for the reasons I have already indicated, it is not at all clear that there are cost savings to be realized.

[14]         The plaintiff is relatively young. He apparently had no medical issues prior to the accident. He apparently suffered soft tissue injuries in the accident to the neck, back and shoulders, and continues to suffer from what may be chronic pain which may encumber him for the rest of his life. He also has ongoing sleep difficulties and his injuries have affected his enjoyment of recreational activities. The injuries suffered by the plaintiff and the effects of those injuries are somewhat similar to what is described in Poulin and Carson, where the plaintiffs were awarded general damages of considerably in excess of $35,000.

[15]         In my view, on the basis of the evidence before me and the authorities, there is a possibility that the plaintiff may recover damages at trial in excess of $35,000. Accordingly, this matter should not be transferred to the Provincial Court, and the application is dismissed.

 

bc injury law, Herrera v. Miller, Mr. Justice Giaschi, Rule 15 Supreme Court Act

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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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