Rule 15 is the new BC Fast Track Litigation Rule and it is mandatory for cases for damages seeking less than $100,000 and for cases that “can be completed within 3 days“. Rule 15-1(6) permits a court to remove a case from Fast Track Litigation. The first case I’m aware of dealing with such an application was released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In today’s case (Jones v. Stratford Hall) the Plaintiff sued using the mandatory fast track rule. The Defendant applied to remove the case arguing that the trial would take more than 3 days. Master Bishop refused to remove the case from the Fast Track finding that there was a “rational possibility” the case could be concluded in 3 days. The Court provided the following short but helpful reasons: With respect to the first application, that is a little bit more difficult of a question to resolve, but in my view, given the test set out by Master Bolton that the defendant must show quite clearly that the matter cannot be completed in two days ?? three days, sorry, I believe the defendant fails on that basis. I believe there is a rational possibility that counsel, particularly given the case management conference that is happening tomorrow, can complete matters within the three days, and therefore that application is dismissed.
Master Bishop refers to a case where Master Bolton appears to have addressed this issue previously (and perhaps in more detail) although the reasons for judgement do not indicate which authority the Court is relying on. Until more precedents are developed interpreting Rule 15, authorities addressing the former Rule 68 may be of some assistance and guidance. You can access my archived posts addressing the former Rule 68 here.
As readers of this blog know Rule 68 is a ‘proportionality‘ based rule which was brought in a few years ago and was intended to be mandatory to certain claims worth $100,000 or less in the BC Supreme Court.
Rule 68 has not been particularly successful and many injury lawyers have avoided this rule whenever possible due to its perceived shortcomings. This rule is going to be wiped from the books when the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules take effect on July 1, 2010. Rule 68 will be blended with the New Rule 15 which really combines the best of our current alternative litigation rules.
Despite Rule 68’s mandatory nature, Rule 68(7) permits parties to get out of Rule 68 if a Court “so orders“.
So what factors will a court considering in removing a case from the rule? Reasons for judgement were published today on the BC Supreme Court website dealing with this issue for what I believe is the first time.
In today’s case (The Board of Trustees of School District No. 41 v. Crane Canada Co.) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of allegedly faulty bathroom fixtures. The case was worth less than $100,000 but the Defendant’s wanted it removed from Rule 68. They applied for an order under Rule 68(7) and were successful. In removing the case from Rule 68 Mr. Justice Groves provided a list of non-exhaustive factors that could be considered on such applications, specifically the Court held as follows:
14] Unfortunately, the criteria to apply to an application to remove a case from Rule 68 has not been effectively resolved by the case law as of yet.
 On these facts, a number of considerations are appropriately applied to the consideration of whether or not a case should be removed from Rule 68.
 The following discussion is not meant to be exclusive. It is somewhat factual driven, as must all the cases be. It is not the final word on or is it intended to be a definitive word on when Rule 68 is not appropriate to litigation.
 Of note first is that Rule 68 has the $100,000 cap. That does not mean all case under $100,000 are appropriately litigated under Rule 68. There are many types of cases which fall within the $100,000 cap and based on a simple analysis of complexity it may be inappropriate to allow a case to continue under Rule 68.
 Here is an example. A motor vehicle case which is under $100,000 which involves only an assessment of non-pecuniary damages is clearly a case in which Rule 68 should apply. That, I am probably going out on a limb here to say, is the type of case that Rule 68 was clearly designed to manage. A straightforward piece of litigation.
 However, sticking within the $100,000 criteria and the motor vehicle scenario, there are cases in which a claim for damages from a motor vehicle accident might be under $100,000 but it would not be appropriate for them to continue under Rule 68. That would be a case perhaps where both liability and damages are in dispute and expert evidence is required on both those issues. Additionally, the damages may be under $100,000 but may involve non-pecuniary damages, past wage loss, cost of future care and future lost opportunity. Though all those heads of damages may still work out to a grand total of damages of less than $100,000, that type of case with a liability and damage component is clearly one which is in my view too complex and requiring too many potential streams of evidence and expert evidence for it to logically continue under a Rule 68 model.
 A second consideration that the courts should take in determining whether or not Rule 68 still should apply is whether or not the issues between the parties are of interest only to them or whether or not there is some legal or juristic significance to the litigation. Clearly a dispute between two people about a contract, a property dispute between two neighbours, a simple motor vehicle case, are cases in which the issues between the parties are of interest only to those parties and likely do not have any long-term legal or juristic significance. Case which have long term consequences to litigants or far reaching juristic significance may not.
 Thirdly, a consideration about removal should be whether or not moving the case to the regular stream would have the effect of putting an end to the litigation because of cost and not allowing the parties to actually pursue their litigation because Rule 68 is not open to them.
 With those non-exclusive approach, I now turn to an analysis of this case…
While Rule 68 is being abolished soon this case may still retain some value as a precedent under the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules as Rule 15-1(6) the ‘fast track’ rule contains a similar subrule about removing a case from fast track litigation if a Court ‘so orders‘
As I posted yesterday, the BC Government has announced a full overhaul of the current BC Supreme Court Rules to take effect on July 1, 2010. You can click here to read a full copy of the new Rules. These new rules will apply to all BC Personal Injury and ICBC Claims prosecuted in the Supreme Court after they come into force.
I’ve now had a chance to review these new Rules in their entirety. The first thing I noticed is that most of the new Rules are similar if not identical to the current ones in their wording. This is very important as the countless precedents built up over the years interpreting the current rules should still be of significant assistance when applied to the new rules.
More than anything else, the new Rules are organized in a far better fashion than the current BC Supreme Court Rules. This improvement is more coherent and logical and should make them easier to get through for people unfamiliar with Supreme Court Procedure.
In addition to improved organization, there are some significant changes made to the substance of these Rules. None of these changes jumped out at me as particularly concerning for personal injury litigation and surprisinly the overall changes seem to be for the better.
For today’s post I’ll illustrate one example. The current BC Supeme Court Rules have 2 competing ‘fast track litigation’ rules. Rule 66 and Rule 68. These rules both have some significant advantages and significant shortcomings for litigants. These rules overlap and litigants wishing to take advantage of fast track litigation procedures are forced to choose between the 2 rules relative strengths and weaknesses. Under the New Civil Rules these have been replaced with one “fast track litigation” rule. This can be found in Part 15 of the new rules.
Rule 15, in my opinion, takes the best aspects of Rule 66 and 68 and leaves out most of their shortcomings. Rule 15, like Rule 68, applies to cases below $100,000. It also applies to cases that can be completed in 3 days or less and this appears to be independent of the claims value. This rule does away with the cumbersome ‘will say’ requirement of Rule 68 and allows 2 hour examinations for discovery. This rule also increases the minimal costs allowable under Rule 66 and permits costs awards more reflective of conventional litigation in the BC Supreme Court. The Rule also does away with the ‘one expert’ limit of Rule 68 which to date has kept most BC personal injury lawyers from using the rule.
Below I reproduce the new Rule 15 in full. I’d be interested in the thoughts of other BC Injury Lawyers about the apparent improvements in this rule over our current fast track rules 66 and 68. RULE 15-1 – FAST TRACK LITIGATION When rule applies
(1) Subject to subrule (4) and unless the court otherwise orders, this rule applies to an action if
(a) the only claims in the action are for one or more of money, real property, a builder’s lien and personal property and the total of the following amounts is $100,000 or less, exclusive of interest and costs:
(i) the amount of any money claimed in the action by the plaintiff for pecuniary loss;
(ii) the amount of any money to be claimed in the action by the plaintiff for non-pecuniary loss;
(iii) the fair market value, as at the date the action is commenced, of
(A) all real property and all interests in real property, and
(B) all personal property and all interests in personal property claimed in the action by the plaintiff,
(b) the trial of the action can be completed within 3 days,
(c) the parties to the action consent, or
(d) the court, on its own motion or on the application of any party, so orders. Subsequent filings (2) If this rule applies to an action, (a) any party may file a notice of fast track action in Form 61, and (b) the words “Subject to Rule 15-1” must be added to the style of proceeding, immediately below the listed parties, for all documents filed after the notice of fast track action is filed under paragraph (a) or the court order is made under subrule (1) (d), as the case may be. Damages not limited (3) Nothing in this rule prevents a court from awarding damages to a plaintiff in a fast track action for an amount in excess of $100,000. Rule does not apply to class proceedings (4) This rule does not apply to a class proceeding within the meaning of the Class Proceedings Act. Conflict (5) These Supreme Court Civil Rules apply to a fast track action but in the event of a conflict between this rule and another rule, this rule applies. When rule ceases to apply (6) This rule ceases to apply to a fast track action if the court, on its own motion or on the application of any party, so orders. Case planning conference required (7) Subject to subrule (8), a party to a fast track action must not serve on another party a notice of application or an affidavit in support of an application unless a case planning conference or a trial management conference has been conducted in relation to the action. Exception (8) Subrule (7) does not apply to an application made (a) for an order under subrule (6) that this rule cease to apply to the action, (b) to obtain leave to bring an application referred to in subrule (9), (c) under Rule 9-5, 9-6 or 9-7, (d) to add, remove or substitute a party, or (e) by consent. Court may relieve (9) On application by a party, a judge or master may relieve a party from the requirements of subrule (7) if (a) it is impracticable or unfair to require the party to comply with the requirements of subrule (7), or (b) the application referred to in subrule (7) is urgent. Trial to be without jury (10) A trial of a fast track action must be heard by the court without a jury. Oral discovery (11) Unless the court otherwise orders, in a fast track action the examinations for discovery of a party of record, including any person referred to in Rule 7-2 (1) (b) who is examined in relation to that party of record, by all parties of record who are adverse in interest must not, in total, exceed in duration (a) 2 hours, or (b) any greater period to which the person to be examined consents. When discoveries must be completed (12) Unless the court otherwise orders or the parties to the examination consent, all examinations for discovery in a fast track action must be completed at least 14 days before the scheduled trial date. Setting of trial date (13) If a party to a fast track action applies for a trial date within 4 months after the date on which this rule becomes applicable to the action, the registrar must set a date for the trial that is not later than 4 months after the application for the trial date. If trial will require more than 3 days
(14) If, as a result of the trial management conference in a fast track action, the trial management conference judge considers that the trial will likely require more than 3 days, the trial management conference judge
(a) may adjourn the trial to a date to be fixed as if the action were not subject to this rule, and
(b) is not seized of the action. Costs
(15) Unless the court otherwise orders or the parties consent, and subject to Rule 14-1 (10), the amount of costs, exclusive of disbursements, to which a party to a fast track action is entitled is as follows:
(a) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is one day or less, $8,000;
(b) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is 2 days or less but more than one day, $9,500;
(c) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is more than 2 days, $11,000. Settlement offers
(16) In exercising its discretion under subrule (15), the court may consider an offer to settle as defined in Rule 9-1. Taxes to be added to costs
(17) If tax is payable by a party to a fast track action in respect of legal services, an additional amount to compensate for that tax must be added to the costs to which the party is entitled under subrule (15), which additional amount must be determined by multiplying the amount of costs to which the party is entitled under subrule (15) by the percentage rate of the tax.
One of the tools in a BC Trial Lawyers arsenal is BC Supreme Court Rule 18-A.
Rule 18-A permits claims to proceed to court via ‘summary trial’. In summary trials no live witnesses are called, instead the evidence is put before the Judge by way of affidavit evidence. From there the lawyers make their submissions and a ruling is made. By this method the time, and therefore the cost, of trial can be cut down significantly.
Rule 18-A is, however, not without its shortcomings. Without live witnesses taking the stand and getting faced down by a judge or jury it is difficult to weigh credibility. Where there are 2 different sides to the story and credibility plays a central role Rule 18-A is usually not an appropriate way to proceed to trial.
In personal injury litigation the credibility of the Plaintiff is usually a key issue at trial and for this reason Rule 18-A is rarely used. That said, this rule can be effective for certain ICBC and other personal injury claims and reasons for judgement were released today by the New Westminster Registry of the BC Supreme Court illustrating this fact.
In today’s case (Smith v. Bhangu) the Plaintiff was injured when she was 14 years old in a BC Car Crash. The issue of fault was admitted. This left the issue of quantum of damages (value of the ICBC case) to be decided by the trial judge.
Both lawyers agreed that Rule 18-A was appropriate for this case. The Plaintiff;s MRI showed a herniated lumbosacral disc injury. There was no dispute that the Plaintiff suffered from this condition, rather the key issue was whether the Plaintiff’s herniated lumbrosacral disc was related to the car accident. In agreeing that it was, Mr. Justice Grist made the following findings:
I am satisfied that the evidence provides, on a balance of probabilities, a causal link between the motor vehicle collision and the lower back condition. I accept the Plaintiff’s evidence that the lower back complaints presented after a period of weeks or months from the motor vehicle collision and that there were no prior or subsequent events causing or contributing to the condition. Further, I accept that following the initial visit to the doctor, she did not present these continuing complaints for medical treatment until lower back spasms developed in 2004 and 2005. I also note Dr. Hershler’s comment that, based on the history and his physical examination, both the neck and lower back symptoms were referable to the motor vehicle collision.
The upper back condition continues to be symptomatic from time to time, but as in many cases, has shown improvement, and the overall effect of the assessments in the medical reports is an expectation of further progress.
The lower back condition, however, is more of a problem. The MRI shows a herniated lumbrosacral disk which continues to cause episodes of back pain, sometimes debilitating to the point of prompting attendance at an Emergency Ward. I accept that at age 14, this was not likely a degenerative condition and, as I have previously indicated, on the evidence, is most likely attributable to the collision.
General damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) were assessed at $65,000 and a further $80,000 was awarded for the Plaintiff’s diminished earning capacity to reflect the fact that her chronic condition will likely effect her vocationally over her lifetime.
What is remarkable about this case is that the trial took only one day. Often times when ICBC Claims with serious injuries proceed to trial the process takes numerous days or even weeks. Rule 18-A permitted this case to be adjudicated with one day of court time with costs savings to both parties.
While Rule 18-A is inaproppriate for many personal injury claims, this case shows that it can be used effectively in certain circumstances. When prosecuting an ICBC injury claim this rule should not be automatically brushed aside and should be considered in appropriate circumstances.
If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.
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.
This blog is authored by personal injury and ICBC Claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Use of the site and sending or receiving information through it does not establish a solicitor/client relationship. The views expressed and the content provided on this blog is for nonprofit educational purposes. It is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice on any specific set of facts. The use of this website does not create a solicitor-client (attorney-client) relationship. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer directly.