More on the Jurisdiction of BC Courts and Out Of Province Car Crash Cases


Further to my post yesterday discussing this topic another case was released today by the BC Supreme Court discussing the jurisdiction of the British Columbia Courts in relation to out of province motor vehicle collision tort claims.
In today’s case (Sooparayachetty v. Fox) 8 separate plaintiffs were apparently involved in an Alberta motor vehicel accident.  The Defendants were Alberta residents.  Some of the Plaintiffs were BC Residents and others were resident in the UK.  All of the Plaintiff’s brought lawsuits in both Alberta and BC with respect to their injuries.
The Defendant’s brought a motion to dismiss the claim arguing that the BC Court had no jurisdiction to preside over the lawsuit.  Master Scarth, sitting in the Vancouver Registry, agreed with the Defendants and dismissed the BC lawsuits.  In coming to this conclusion the Court reasoned as follows:

[13] The Court of Appeal has recently confirmed that the question of jurisdiction is to be determined exclusively by the substantive rules set out in the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 28 (“CJPTA”):  Stanway v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., 2009 BCCA 592, at para. 12.

[14] Section 3 of the CJPTA sets out the circumstances in which a court has territorial jurisdiction as follows:

A court has territorial competence in a proceeding that is brought against a person only if:

(a)        that person is the plaintiff in another proceeding in the court to which the proceeding in question is a counterclaim,

(b)        during the course of the proceeding that person submits to the court’s jurisdiction,

(c)        there is an agreement between the plaintiff and that person to the effect that the court has jurisdiction in the proceeding,

(d)        that person is ordinarily resident in British Columbia at the time of the commencement of the proceeding, or

(e)        there is a real and substantial connection between British Columbia and the facts on which the proceeding against that person is based.

[15] Section 10 of the CJPTA sets out a list of circumstances that presumptively constitute a real and substantial connection between British Columbia and the facts on which a proceeding is based for the purposes of s. 3(e).  A plaintiff who is unable to bring herself within the statutory presumptions may nevertheless prove other circumstances which constitute a real and substantial connection.

[16] The plaintiffs rely on s. 3(e) of the CJPTA – real and substantial connection between British Columbia and the facts on which the proceeding against the defendants is based.  In this case, the presumptive circumstances in section 10 of the CJPTA do not apply.  It is therefore for the plaintiffs to establish that there is the real and substantial connection necessary to found jurisdiction…

[20] While “real and substantial connection” has not been defined, the cases provide some guidance as to what connections are insufficient to found jurisdiction.

[21] It is clear that the fact that a plaintiff is resident in British Columbia is insufficient:  Roed v. Scheffler et al, 2009 BCSC 731, at para. 35, citing Jordan v. Schatz, 2000 BCCA 409, and Williams v. TST Porter (c.o.b. 6422217 Canada Inc.) 2008 BCSC 1315.

[22] The fact that a plaintiff continues to suffer damages in British Columbia is insufficient to establish a real and substantial connection on its own: Roed, supra, at para. 43…

[26] Since the hearing of this application, our Court of Appeal has rejected the approach set out in Muscutt: see Stanway, supra, paras. 71 to 73.  Smith J.A., writing for the court, held that:

In my view, any reliance on the Muscutt factors as a guide to determining the question of jurisdiction came to an end in British Columbia with the coming into force of the CJPTA.

[27] Accordingly, the test remains real and substantial connection which appears to require a straightforward determination of whether, on the facts, a real and substantial connection has been established.

[28] Applying Roed, the first connection upon which the plaintiff relies to found jurisdiction – damages suffered within British Columbia – is too tenuous.  The question therefore becomes whether the fact that, since the Alberta accident, the plaintiff has been injured in a second accident which occurred in British Columbia can provide the basis for a finding of jurisdiction.  These circumstances were not addressed in Roed.

[29] The parties appear to agree that a global assessment of Ms. Sooparayachetty’s injuries will be required.  I take this to mean that they accept that, in order to assess damages for which the Alberta defendants may be liable, the court will be required to assess “global damages” as of the date of trial in respect of both accidents.  Circumstances relating to the second accident will therefore be considered in the assessment of damages for the first.

[30] Section 3(e) of the CJPTA provides that the court has territorial competence if there is a real and substantial connection between British Columbia and the facts on which the proceeding against the defendants is based.  While facts relating to the second accident may have to be canvassed in order to assess Ms. Sooparyachetty’s damages arising from the first accident, the two claims remain separate.  In my view, the circumstances relating to the second accident are not facts upon which the proceedings against these defendants are based, and therefore cannot provide the real and substantial connection required by s. 3(e).  The need to call evidence relating to the second accident in the trial of the first, while an appropriate consideration on the question of forum conveniens (see, for example, Stewart v. Stewart, [1995] 6 W.W.R. 402; 5 B.C.L.R. (3d) 350 (S.C.)), does not confer jurisdiction on this court in relation to the first accident, and Ms. Sooparaychetty’s action arising from it.

[31] The other plaintiffs did not press their argument in relation to territorial competence over their actions.

[32] I find that, the plaintiffs having failed to establish that there is a real and substantial connection between British Columbia and the facts on which these proceedings are based, the court does not have territorial competence in these proceedings.

[33] Where the court determines that it lacks territorial competence, s. 6 of the CJPTA gives the court a residual discretion to hear the proceeding if it considers that:

(b) the commencement of the proceeding in a court outside British Columbia cannot reasonably be required.

[34] In Lailey et al v. International Student Volunteers, Inc., 2008 BCSC 1344, at para. 47, Grauer J. interpreted s. 6 with reference to the Uniform Law Conference comment on the identical section in the uniform act:

Residual discretion permits the court to act as a “forum of last resort” where there is no other forum in which the Plaintiff could reasonably seek relief.

[35] It is clear that here, as in Lailey, British Columbia does not stand out as a forum of last resort.  There are no limitation concerns as the plaintiffs have commenced actions in Alberta as well.

[36] I do not propose to address the issue of forum conveniens given my finding regarding territorial competence, and the fact that the notice of motion did not seek relief of that nature.

[37] The plaintiffs having failed to plead, or adduce in affidavit form, facts sufficient to establish jurisdiction, the application by the defendants is allowed and the plaintiffs’ actions are stayed pursuant to Rule 14(6).

One of the reasons why Plaintiffs try to bring their lawsuits in BC versus Alberta is the fact that British Columbia has greater rights in place for those injured at the hands of others.  However, cases such as this one demonstrate that it is no easy task to establish jurisdiciton of BC Courts to hear cases inovlving foreign motor vehicle collisions.

bc injury law, CJPTA, Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, Jurisdiction of BC Courts, Master Scarth, Sooparayachetty v. Fox

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ERIK
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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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