Tag: Currie v. McKinnon

Punishing Costs Orders Should Not "Unduly Deter" Meritorious but Uncertain Actions

Further to my previous posts detailing the potential costs consequences following trials with formal settlement offers in place, reasons for judgement were released last week addressing this topic finding that costs consequences should be applied in an “even-handed” way and further should not unduly deter Plaintiff’s from bringing meritorious, but uncertain claims “because of the fear of a punishing costs order“.
In last week’s case (Currie v. McKinnon) the Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries in a collision which substantially recovered within one year.  Prior to trial ICBC made a formal settlement offer of $40,000.  The Plaintiff rejected this offer and proceeded to trial where he was awarded $22,000 in damages.
ICBC applied for double costs from the time of the offer onward.  Madam Justice Adair found that such a result was unwarranted and instead stripped the Plaintiff of post offer costs and disbursements.   In doing so the Court provided the following sensible comments:

[18] I think it certainly can be argued that if a defendant who has made an offer to settle in an amount higher than the amount awarded to the plaintiff at trial (and that is what has been done in this case) was then awarded double costs, this would skew the procedure in favour of defendants and unfairly penalize and pressure plaintiffs.  This is because a plaintiff who rejected an offer to settle would potentially risk a triple cost penalty if he or she were to win at trial an amount less than the offer.  The plaintiff would suffer loss of the costs that he or she would normally receive on obtaining judgment at trial, and face double costs payable to the defendant.

[19] In my view, there is a good reason to apply Rule 9-1 in a way that is even-handed, or more even-handed, as between plaintiffs and defendants.  I would say for this reason one would expect to see double costs awarded to a defendant, using the offer to settle procedure, in exceptional circumstances only, such as a situation where the plaintiff’s claim was dismissed all together after a plaintiff rejected an offer to settle.

[20] That is not the case here.  In my view, Mr. McKechnie, despite his able arguments, simply did not identify for me how the circumstances here were so exceptional as to justify an award of double costs against Mr. Currie.  While the purpose of the Rule is to encourage reasonable settlements, parties should not be unduly deterred from bringing meritorious, but uncertain, claims because of the fear of a punishing costs order…

[36] Having considered all of the factors in this case, I am not satisfied that it would be appropriate to award the defendants double costs as sought by Mr. McKechnie.  I have discussed earlier in these reasons my concerns about how that can have the effect of skewing the procedure in favour of defendants and unfairly pressurize and penalize plaintiffs, and I think that would be the result in this case.  Liability was admitted by the defendants.  Mr. Currie’s case was not dismissed.  Rather, he recovered judgment for non-pecuniary damages in an amount that was greater than what the defendants argued at trial he should recover.

[37] However, in my view, the defendants’ offer to settle cannot be ignored.  That would undermine the purpose behind the rule…

[39] In my view, therefore, the double costs sought by the defendants are neither a fair nor just result.  However, in my view, it is not a fair or just result for Mr. Currie to recover costs after he had had a reasonable opportunity with his counsel to review and consider the defendants’ offer to settle.  I would say that by November 30, 2011, Mr. Currie and his counsel had had a reasonable opportunity to review and consider the defendants’ offer and ask any questions they deemed necessary if they thought clarification was necessary.

[40] In my view, the defendants should not have to pay Mr. Currie’s costs after November 30, 2011.  However, I do not think it a fair result that Mr. Currie should have to pay the defendants’ costs after November 30, 20011, given his success ultimately at trial.

[41] My order then, with respect to costs, is that Mr. Currie will recover his costs and disbursements up to and including November 30, 2011, and that each side bear their own costs thereafter.

Treating Experts, Formal Requirements and a Sensible Use of Discretion

I’ve previously shared my views about the technical requirements of the BC Supreme Court Rules as they relate to expert opinion reports and the fact that Courts should be flexible with these requirements as they relate to treating physicians.  Useful reasons for judgement were released last week dealing with a non-compliant report but ultimately allowing the report to be entered into evidence noting the shortcomings were better addressed by weight, not admissibility.
In last week’s case (Currie v. McKinnon) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 rear-end collision.  In the course of trial the Plaintiff introduced a report that failed to comply with the Rules of Court.  In exercising discretion under Rule 11-7(6) to allow the report in despite its non-compliance Madam Justice Adair provided the following short but useful comments:

[39] Dr. Rawson’s report is dated August 1, 2008.  No real attempt had been made to comply with Rule 11-6(1) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules (or even Rule 40A of the former Rules) in relation to the form and content of her report.  The report failed to set out the factual assumptions on which Dr. Rawson’s opinion was based, failed to set out the documents on which she relied in forming her opinion and, generally, failed to set out the reasons for her opinion.

[40] Accordingly, Mr. McKechnie (on behalf of the defendants) objected to the admissibility of Dr. Rawson’s report.  In the result, I ruled that the report would be admitted, and the defects in the report would go to weight.

The Other Side of the "Low Velocity Impact" Coin


I’ve written many times about the so-called “low velocity impact” defence where Defendants argue that a crash with little vehicle damage can create only minimal (or perhaps no) injuries and compensation should be accordingly modest.  These arguments have been soundly defeated many times in Court.
The other side of the equation, however, holds equally true.  Just because a collision results in severe vehicle damage does not mean that a severe injury occurred.  It is the severity of injury, not the severity of impact, that really matters.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court addressing this.
In this week’s case (Currie v. McKinnon) the Plaintiff was involved in a fairly significant collision.  He was injured in the crash.  In support of his submissions for damages the Plaintiff stressed that this was “a very serious accident” involving “high speed”.  The Court noted that these facts are of little consequence.  In addressing the ‘serious accident’ submissions Madam Justice Adair provided the following comments:

[67] There is no dispute that Mr. Currie suffered some injuries in the accident.  Mr. Currie’s position is that he continues as of trial to suffer the effects of those injuries.  The defendants’ position is that the injuries suffered in the accident were relatively minor and had resolved within a short period.  The defendants say that, to the extent Mr. Currie continues to experience symptoms – particularly neck and back pain – as of trial, those symptoms are unrelated to the accident and are not caused by injuries suffered in the accident.

[68] Mr. Dahlgren, on behalf of Mr. Currie, argues that I should conclude Mr. Currie was seriously injured because he was involved in a “very serious accident,” involving a “high speed” collision and that resulted in substantial property damage.  However, these facts are not necessarily connected in any logical way to the nature and extent of Mr. Currie’s injuries, as Thackray J. (as he then was) pointed out (in a slightly different context) in Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236, at para. 5:

Significant injuries can be caused by the most casual of slips and falls.  Conversely, accidents causing extensive property damage may leave those involved unscathed.  The presence and extent of injuries are to be determined on the basis of evidence given in court.  Objectivity is thus preserved and the public does not have to concern itself with extraneous philosophies that some would impose on the judicial process.

The Court went on to conclude that the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries which “substantially recovered” in one year and awarded non-pecuniary damages of $22,000.

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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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