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Tag: BC Wrongful Death Laws

Why Global Settlement Offers Are OK in BC Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Interesting reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, addressing the propriety of a global settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit involving children as beneficiaries.
In the recent case (Gaida v. McLeod) the Plaintiff Brenda Leah died “as a result of methotrexate toxicity and that the medication was mistakenly given to her daily, rather than weekly“.  The Defendants admitted liability in causing the wrongful death.   In the course of the lawsuit the Defendants and the estate of the Plaintiff reached a global settlement.   A disagreement arose and leading to a Defendant application to declare that a binding settlement took place.
The Plaintiff opposed this arguing that “ the failure to allocate specific amounts of the settlement money to the two minor children renders the proposed settlement too uncertain and vague to be enforceable.”  Mr. Justice Pearlman rejected this argument and provided the following reasons explaining why a global settlement can survive scrutiny:
[60]         In British Columbia, the court must approve the amount to be paid in settlement of an infant’s claim before the settlement of a claim under the FCA may be implemented.  The court may approve payment to an infant in an amount different from that proposed by the parties or recommended by the Public Trustee and Guardian.  The court may increase the amount to be paid in settlement of an infant’s claim beyond that proposed by the parties, and may do so at the expense of an adult claimant…
[67]         Any amounts which the parties propose to allocate to the heads of damages applicable to minor claimants, including loss of care, guidance and companionship, and loss of inheritance, are proposals only, subject to the court’s approval.  Ultimately, the court must determine the amount to be allocated to each minor claimant, which may require the reapportionment of allocations proposed by the parties within the global settlement amount.  While the global amount of settlement will not change, there can be no certainty respecting the parties’ allocation of specific amounts to each of the claimants, because the court has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine the allocation of settlement monies to the minor claimants.
[68]         Under s. 3(6) of the FCA, a defendant may make a single payment into court, in satisfaction of all claims, without specifying how that amount is to be allocated among the claimants.  There is no requirement under the FCA that a defendant making a payment into court must specify the amounts to be paid out to minor claimants.  In cases where the payment into court is accepted by the plaintiff, if the claim involves infant claimants the court must still approve the distribution of settlement monies to the minor claimants.
[69]         I conclude that the allocation of specific amounts to minor claimants, which is always subject to the court’s approval, and may vary from the amount proposed by the parties, is not an essential term for the formation of an enforceable settlement agreement.

Mike de Jong Addresses Wrongful Death Law Reform in BC

As I’ve previously discussed, if a person dies through the carelessness of others in British Columbia claims for damages by surviving family members must be brought under the BC Family Compensation Act. This outdated law has been the subject of much criticism due to its restrictions for survivors claims. You can find an in-depth analysis on this topic here.
Recently BC Liberal leadership candidate Mike de Jong gave the following invitation:

I took this opportunity to ask Mike the following two questions:

Mike was kind enough to answer my first question on this recent video he uploaded to YouTube:

My question is addressed 1:13 into the clip.  For the sake of convenience here is Mike’s answer transcribed:
That’s a good question because I think our laws in BC have fallen a little out of step with what’s happened in other jurisdictions and my belief is that if an accident occurs and someone loses a loved one they should be entitled to the same type of compensation as is available to the families elsewhere in Canada and that is not presently the case in British Columbia and I think it’s time we updated our laws in that respect.  It’s really about fairness for BC families.  Thanks for the question
Maybe Mike will tackle my second question on his next episode of Open Mike Mailbag.  Given Mike’s views on wrongful death laws I’m optimistic he is not a tort ‘reformer‘  (for those unfamiliar with the phrase, tort reform generally refers to limiting the rights of those injured through the carelessness of others to the beneift of insurance company profits)  but a clear stance is always appreciated.  Thanks Mike.

More on the Shortcomings of BC Wrongful Death Laws and the Tragedy of Georgia Luge Competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili

The Olympics are now over. British Columbians (and all Canadians for that matter) have much to be proud of. The Olympic Games have been a great success and created a sense of national unity and pride that have been unparellelled. As a Canadian I am proud of these games and the historic success of our athletes. Canadians will not soon forget where they were when Sidney Crosby scored his spectacular overtime goal to claim Olympic Gold.

With the dust settling, however, one story that has not gone away was the cloud that the Olympics started under with the unfortunate and tragic death of Georgia Luge Competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili.

When this news broke I shared my immediate thoughts on the tragedy.

Since authoring my article I’ve been approached by a handful of people to further share my views. I’ve been asked to comment on some of the specific shortcomings of British Columbia law that I alluded to in my initial article. After having this discussion several times I thought I would share some of my thoughts by way of this follow up post.

If a person dies through the carelessness of others in British Columbia the BC Family Compensation Act governs claims for compensation brought by survivors. This outdated law has been the subject of much criticism due to its restrictions for survivors rights. I could not have commented on the shortcomings of BC Wrongful Death law better than the TLABC (Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia) who have just released their comprehensive views of the need for overhaul of BC Wrongful Death laws.  You can find these here and I strongly urge anyone interested in reform in this area to review TLABC’s submissions in full

Another shortcoming under BC Law is the quick notice limitation period contained in the BC Local Government Act.

Local Governments, are defined under the act as:

(a) the council of a municipality, and

(b) the board of a regional district;

If you are injured and can bring a claim against a Local Government you will lose your right to make your claim unless you comply with s. 286 of the local government act which provides as follows:
Immunity Unless Notice Given To Municipality After Damage
(1) A municipality is in no case liable for damages unless notice in writing, setting out the time, place, and manner in which the damage has been sustaibed, is delivered to the municipality within 2 months from the date on which the damage was sustained.

(2)        In case of the death of a person injured, the failure to give notice required by this section is not a bar to the maintenance of the action.

(3)        Failure to give the notice or its insufficiency is not a bar to the maintenance of an action if the court before whom it is tried, or, in case of appeal, the Court of Appeal, believes

(a)        there was reasonable excuse, and

(b)        the defendant has not been prejudiced in its defence by the failure or insufficiency.

Assuming that Local Governments had some responsibility for the design/set up / access to the now world famous Whistler Sliding Centre this limitation period would be triggered for anyone advancing an injury claim against the Local Governments. While this legislation does have an exclusion for claims involving “death” this limitation period has operated to strip the rights of many seriously injured people following alleged negligence of Local Governments.

When people are forced to deal with the consequences of a tragedy it is very harsh to take away their right to seek lawful compensation if they fail to turn their mind to litigation within two months.

The above examples are some of the first which came to mind when asked to comment on the shortcomings of British Columbia Personal Injury Law. While I am generally very proud of the tort system we have in this Province it is important to point out areas where there is room and need for improvement.