More on ICBC Injury Claims and the "Worker v. Worker" Defence
When a person is injured through the fault of another in British Columbia the injured party generally has the right to make a claim for compensation against the at fault party through our Civil Litigation system (ie. a tort claim through the Courts).
There are some exceptions to this and one such exception is found in section 10 of the Workers Compensation Act. Generally speaking, Section 10 prohibits a worker who is injured in the course of employment from suing a responsible party who was also in the course of employment at the time of the injury. (I should point out that there are some exceptions to this general rule). This statutory bar can be a complete defence to a tort claim arising from a motor vehicle accident and reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Dhanoa v. Trenholme) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC Car Crash. She was “walking through a parking lot owned by her employer when she was struck by the Defendant who was driving a motor vehicle at that time and who also works for the same employer“.
The Plaintiff sued the Defendant for her injuries and damages. The Defence lawyer, in responding to the claim, raised s. 10 of the Workers Compensation Act. When this defence is raised in a BC Lawsuit the issue of whether both parties were workers must be decided by the Workers Compensaiton Appeal Tribunal (WCAT). WCAT decided that both Plaintiff and Defendant were in the course of their employment when the crash happened. With this decision in hand the Defendant’s lawyer applied to dismiss the lawsuit and succeeded. In dismissing the claim Mr. Justice Cole awarded the Defendant full costs of defending the lawsuit.
In doing so Mr. Justice Cole made the following useful points with respect to the practical procedural consequences that are created when a s. 10 defence is raised in an ICBC Injury Claim”
 The case law is clear that merely pleading a s. 10 defence does not itself bar the litigation. The WCAT has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine the “worker vs. worker” issue and the action remains ongoing unless and until the WCAT renders a decision that would bar the action. I am of the view that if the plaintiff does not want the defendant to run up costs in the meantime, the plaintiff is at liberty to make an application for a stay of the proceedings until the Workers’ Compensation Board issue is decided…
 Based on the foregoing review of the relevant authorities, it is clear that the WCAT proceeding is a step within the action which is mandated by legislation. A stay of proceedings pending this step, however, is not automatic when the s. 10 defence is pled: Hommel, at paras. 38 and 46. Therefore, to presume there is a stay and say counsel should not be taking steps for the upcoming action is wrong in law. Unfortunately, the decision in Khare does not appear to consider the authorities that were provided to the Master in the present case and because the decision in Khare was delivered orally without the opportunity to fully consult authority, I am not bound by it: Re Hansard Spruce Mills Ltd.,  4 D.L.R. 590, 13 W.W.R. (N.S.) 285 (B.C.S.C.).
 I am of the view that because each case is unique, it would be wrong to set a blanket rule that a party claiming costs cannot recover on any proceedings initiated by them after a s. 10 Workers’ Compensation Board defence is raised, as it would be too draconian. There may be legitimate reasons to take steps in a proceeding and if those steps are unfair, either party can apply for a stay.
This case goes to show that, where the s. 10 WCB defence is raised in an ICBC Injury Claim it may be in the parties best interests to have the issue resolved early in the process to minimize costs consequences for unsuccessful party.