Tag: Danicek v. Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang

Third Party's Can Be Exposed To "Loser Pays" Costs Consequences

(Update February 9, 2012the below decision is under appeal with the BCCA granting leave to appeal on February 9, 2012)
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming that Third Party’s are not immune from BC’s ‘loser pays’ system.
This week’s case (Danicek v. Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang) involved a highly publicized lawsuit where the Plaintiff lawyer was awarded damages after being injured in a dance floor incident.  My previous posts can be accessed here for the full background.  This week the Court finalized some of the costs consequences following the trial.  In doing so Mr. Justice Kelleher provided the following comments adopting an Alberta judgement confirming that there is no reason why Third Party’s can’t be exposed to costs consequences following trial:

[15] The first issue is whether Lombard should be held liable to the plaintiff Ms. Danicek for the costs of the trial.

[16] There is no serious dispute that although Lombard was not a defendant but a third party, it may be liable in costs. It was put this way by Egbert J. in Sunburst Coaches Ltd v. Romanchuck;Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation Limited (Third Party) (1953) 9 W.W.R. (N.S.) 385 (Alta. S.C.) at 392, para. 19:

The third party, on its own application became a party to and actively defended the action, and by so doing made itself subject to the jurisdiction of this court as to costs. I see no reason why the plaintiff should not have judgment against the third party as well as against the defendants, for its costs computed in the manner aforesaid.

[17] Because of the other settlements in this action Lombard found itself the only party left to defend the claim.  Although Mr. Poole had admitted liability, Lombard contested both the liability of Mr. Poole and damages.  It was entitled to do so but faces the possibility of an award of costs either in its favour or against it, depending on the outcome of the lawsuit…

[23] The purpose of an award of costs is to indemnify successful litigants; deter frivolous proceedings and defences; encourage parties to deliver reasonable offers to settle; and discourage improper or unnecessary steps in litigation:  see Skidmore v. Blackmore (1995), 122 D.L.R (4th) 330, at para. 37.

[24] My conclusion is that the plaintiff is entitled to her costs in respect to Phase 1 of the trial against Lombard.  It was Lombard that decided to contest liability and quantum.  Ms. Danicek’s position was upheld on each of these issues.  Quantum far exceeded the settlements she had reached with Mr. Poole, Alexander Holburn and the other third parties.

[25] Lombard was not, ultimately, liable for the judgment against Mr. Poole.  This was because of the conclusion reached in the second phase of the trial that the Lombard policy did not provide coverage.  But that was not the issue in Phase 1 of the trial.  (There was evidence relevant to the coverage issue adduced at trial.  That is because witnesses were called at the first phase who had evidence to give in respect to the second phase.)  The issues decided in Phase 1 were liability of Mr. Poole and quantum of damages.

[26] In my view having in mind the principle of an award of costs, costs should be awarded against Lombard in respect of Phase 1 from the time that it filed a statement of defence.  The plaintiff was substantially successful on the issues involving Lombard in that part of the trial.

ICBC Denied Double Costs Despite Significantly Besting Formal Settlement Offer

(Update February 9, 2012 – the below decision is under appeal with the BCCA granting leave to appeal on February 9, 2012)

Last year highly publicized reasons for judgement were released assessing damages at $5.9 million for a lawyer who sustained a traumatic brain injury during a dance floor incident.   Despite the headline making award, only a fraction of the damages were recoverable due to the limits of the responsible insurer.  In what may be the final chapter of this long legal saga, reasons for judgement were released addressing costs.
As was widely reported, the Plaintiff was injured in a dance floor incident and successfully sued another lawyer that knocked her down causing her brain injury.  The reason why ICBC played a role is because the Plaintiff was involved in a subsequent car crash.  She sued the motorist for damages claiming the crash aggravated her brain injury.  Prior to trial ICBC made a formal settlement offer of $500,000.  The Plaintiff countered at $1.9 million.   Ultimately her allegations that the crash aggravated the brain injury were rejected and damages of just over $10,000 were awarded for the car crash.
ICBC asked the the Court to award them double costs under Rule 9-1.  Despite ICBC’s success in relation to their formal settlement offer and despite concerns about aspects of the Plaintiff’s trial testimony, Mr. Justice Kelleher declined to award ICBC double costs.  In today’s case (Danicek v. Li) the Court provided the following reasons:
[38] Considering all the factors, I conclude that there should be no award of double costs.  The plaintiff suffered, I found, career ending injuries.  I cannot say it was unreasonable to decline the offer.  Although I considered Ms. Danicek to be less than candid, I conclude on a consideration of all factors that no double costs award should be made.
Despite this, the Court did go on to award Costs and Disbursements at Scale C (the highest scale).  In reaching this decision Mr. Justice Kelleher provided the following Reasons:

[40] Counsel agree that the relevant factors for determining whether Scale C costs should be awarded include:

–       the length of trial;

–       the complexity of issues involved;

–       the number and the complexity of pre-trial applications;

–       whether the action was hard fought with little conceded;

–       the number and length of examinations for discovery;

–       the number and complexity of expert reports; and

–       the extent of the effort required in the collection and proof of facts.

See: Mort v. Saanich School Board, 2001 BCSC 1473 at para. 6; 566935 B.C. Ltd. v. Allianz Insurance Co. of Canada, 2005 BCSC 3032 at para. 7.

[41] Based on these criteria, there will be an award at Scale C.

[42] The trial was 29 days.  A central issue was whether the plaintiff’s symptoms would have resolved but for the motor vehicle accident.  There were reports and/or testimony from physiatrists, neurologists, psychiatrists and others.  The plaintiff alone relied on 21 expert reports.

[43] The action was complex. There were some seven parties involved. The plaintiff was examined for discovery on eleven occasions over several years. There were a number of applications both prior to and during the trial.  This case bears similarity to Graham v. Marek, 2002 BCSC 214; Ramcharitar v. Gill, 2007 BCSC 1268; and Mosher v. Sedens Estate, [1998] B.C.J. No. 2822.

[44] I have considered Hussack v. School District No. 33 (Chilliwack), 2010 BCSC 304, and Radke, when costs at Scale B were awarded.

[45] Hussack was a 23-day trial.  However, the liability issue was not complex; there were only four pre-trial applications and none was complicated.  The examination for discovery of the plaintiff was one full day and three half days.  There was one plaintiff and one defendant.

[46] In Radke, Madam Justice Boyd cited these circumstances in concluding that the matter was not a matter of “more than ordinary difficulty” (at para. 26):

[26]      The one circumstance which I agree made this case somewhat unusual was the fact that the defendant apparently took a very heavy interest in this case, to the point of following her neighbour (the plaintiff) about and gathering evidence to challenge her claims of disability.  In response the plaintiff’s counsel apparently conducted an in- depth investigation of the defendant, including her history of unusual behaviour in the neighbourhood, so as to challenge her own credibility and reliability.  The trial was settled before that evidence was heard.

[47] The complexity of this matter is well beyond what was before the Court in Hussack and Radke.


Danicek v. AHBL: Looking Beyond the Headlines


Last year reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for personal injuries at over $5.9 million dollars.
The case received a lot of publicity.  The size of the assessment and the facts underlying the case  (one lawyer fell on another lawyer while dancing at a nightclub) were some of the reasons why this case received so much press.
However, looking behind the headlines gives a better (and less sensational) account of a story of compensation for longstanding and debilitating injury.
The Plaintiff’s damage assessment at a quick glance appears high, however, she suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the incident.  The Court found that she would never work competitively as a lawyer again.  The lion’s share of the damage assessment was intended to compensate the young lawyer for a lifetime of lost earnings.
Of greater significance was the fact that the Plaintiff never received anywhere near the assessed $5.9 million in damages from the personal Defendant.   Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, (Danicek v. Alexander Holburn Beaduin & Lang) revealing the rest of the story.
As the high profile case was being tried an underlying battle was being fought between the Plaintiff, Defendant and various insurance companies about coverage.
The Defendant, Jeremy Martin Poole, agreed to pay the Plaintiff just over $1,000,000 of the damages.  This money was obtained from an insurance company that agreed that coverage was in place based on the allegations.  A seperte insurer, whose policy provided $5,000,000 in coverage, denied payment arguing that this type of lawsuit fell outside the scope of their coverage.  This issue went to trial and in today’s reasons Mr. Justice Kelleher sided with Lombard Insurance finding that they did not have to pay any part of the damage assessment to the Plaintiff.
What’s left when all the dust settles is something far less sensational than what early headlines would lead people to believe.  Ultimately a brain injured plaintiff has received less than complete compensation for the long-standing consequences of traumatic brain injury.

$5.9 Million Damage Assessment To Lawyer For Mild Traumatic Brain Injury


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages of just over $5.9 million for injuries and losses sustained in a Dance Floor injury.
In today’s case (Danicek v. Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang) the Plaintiff lawyer was out at a lawfirm function in 2001.  After dinner some members of the Plaintiff’s firm went dancing at a nightclub in downtown Vancouver.  During the evening a fellow lawyer fell backwards while dancing.  During his fall he struck the Plaintiff causing her to fall as well.  The Plaintiff hit her head on the ground with enough force to knock her unconscious.  Liability was in issue however Mr. Justice Kelleher found the Defendant was impaired when he fell and that he was fully responsible for the incident.
The Plaintiff suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) the consequences of which were expected to never fully recover.  The court found that the Plaintiff would likely never work competitively as a lawyer again and awarded over $5 million for her diminished earning capacity.  Mr. Justice Kellehar also awarded the Plaintiff $185,000 for her non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).  In reaching this figure the Court made the following findings about the severity and extent of the Plaintiff’s brain injury:

227]     I find Ms. Danicek suffered a mild, traumatic brain injury in the April 6, 2001 accident. It has had a profound effect on her life. She was completely disabled from work until December 2001. As Dr. Anderson notes in his report dated January 26, 2007, the mild traumatic brain injury has resulted in ongoing post-concussive symptoms, which include physical, cognitive, and emotional difficulties.

[228]     Her headache pain has persisted and persists today, some nine years after the accident. The post-traumatic headaches have resulted in the plaintiff developing chronic pain disorder. Dr. Anderson notes that chronic pain disorder “causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” …

[229] The medical evidence suggests that the plaintiff is not likely to completely or even substantially recover from these symptoms….

230]     Dr. Robinson noted that persons who suffer from severe headache disorders similar to the plaintiff’s condition are not likely to realize substantial improvements with the available treatments.

[231]     Dr. Anderson does not consider it likely that the plaintiff’s chronic pain disorder will meaningfully improve…

[232] In addition to the headaches and pain disorder, I accept that the dance accident caused some measure of cognitive impairment. Ms. Danicek felt that before the accident she was quick to understand new concepts. Today, she feels that, in her words, everyone gets it except her….

254]     The dance accident has impacted the plaintiff’s life profoundly. She has lost much. She has had and continues to have headaches of varying severity and duration. The injury has affected her physical and mental abilities and had a significant impact on her relationship with Mr. Schober.

[255]     The plaintiff has experienced a loss of enjoyment of life, and is unable to engage in many recreational activities. Her lifestyle has drastically changed since the dance accident.

[256]     An example of the effect of the dance accident on the plaintiff’s life is found in the evidence of her friend, Kristen Schneider. Prior to the accident, Ms. Schneider described the plaintiff as having “the most energy I think out of anybody I know”. At trial, Ms. Schneider testified that after the dance accident, Ms. Danicek was unable to consistently make their customary lunch dates; when she did, they had to find restaurants that were quiet to avoid exacerbating her headaches.

[257]     Additionally, she and the plaintiff no longer regularly go for runs, rollerblade, or hike the Grouse Grind, as was their habit prior to the dance accident.

[258]     Ms. Danicek is no longer able to pursue her career as a corporate solicitor working on “big deals”, a position she worked hard to obtain. The plaintiff enjoyed this work and her career was a source of pride for her. I accept this loss has negatively affected her feelings of self-worth and emotional well-being. In Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta.), [1987] 1 S.C.R. 313, Dickson C.J. (in dissent) stated at 368:

Work is one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life, providing the individual with a means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributory role in society. A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense of identity, self-worth and emotional well-being.

[259]     It is clear the plaintiff continues to suffer from her injuries, and her problems are likely to continue in the future without substantial improvement or resolution. Her prognosis for recovery or diminishment of her chronic headaches and pain is not good.

[260]     While individual judgments turn very much on their particular facts, two decisions which have influenced me are Reilly v. Lynn, 2000 BCSC 360, varied on other grounds, 2003 BCCA 49, leave to appeal ref’d [2003] S.C.C.A. No. 221, and Adamson v. Charity, 2007 BCSC 671.

[261]     In the circumstances, an award of $185,000 is appropriate.

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If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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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