Tag: Han v. PArk

"En Masse" Document Book and Discovery Transcript Admission Leads to New Trial Following Jury Verdict

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal ordering a new trial after a document book was admitted ‘en masse’ along with a discovery transcript in a personal injury  jury trial.
In today’s case (Han v. Park) the Plaintiff was injured in a 1999 collision that the Defendant admitted fault for.  The litigation had a “somewhat tortured history” finally coming to trial in October 2013.  The Plaintiff was awarded only a fraction of the damages she sought.  The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial finding it was inappropriate to give the jury access to a defence document book without careful limitations as to the use of the various documents contained therein and also for having access to a discovery transcript.  In criticizing these steps the Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[31]         This Court has held that medical records should not be entered en masse: Samuel v. Chrysler Credit Canada Ltd., 2007 BCCA 431:

[39]      The preferable approach is obvious. Clinical records should not be admitted into evidence, by consent or otherwise, unless counsel identify the specific purpose for particular portions of the records. Furthermore, it would be preferable to introduce discrete portions of the records when they become relevant so that their admissibility can be ruled on at that time, when the jury will better appreciate the purpose of those portions in the context of the case and will have the assistance of a contemporaneous limiting instruction. In no event should a “book” of documents simply be handed up to the court and admitted as a whole.

[Emphasis added.]

[32]         I would not restrict this comment to medical records. Further, the fact that an appellant may have consented to the admission of the records is not always the determinative factor in deciding whether documents should have been entered into evidence, and will not preclude the ordering of a new trial with costs to the appellant after prejudicial clinical records were entered into evidence: Owimar v. Greater Vancouver Transit Authority, 2007 BCCA 630, citing Samuel.

[33]         In Owimar the court held that a new trial was required where the admission of certain psychiatric records without a proper limiting instruction resulted in an unfair trial:

[41]      In my opinion, the admission of the psychiatric records in this case rendered the trial unfair. The records were left with the jury at the second day of trial. The limiting instruction as to opinions expressed in the records was given shortly before the jury retired to consider its verdict. In the meantime, there were many statements contained in the records that portrayed the plaintiff as unstable and out of touch with reality. Those statements might easily have been accepted by the jury as further diminishing the plaintiff’s credibility. Although there is no doubt that the plaintiff’s credibility was a central issue in the case and he had much to do to convince the jury of his truthfulness, that issue deserved to be proved independent from psychiatric evidence that had no bearing on the physical injuries he claimed to have suffered. I would accordingly order a new trial.

[34]         I agree with the appellant that like Owimar, the inclusion of some of the clinical records and material contained in the Exhibit had the effect of portraying the appellant as a difficult, manipulating, and stubborn individual. As appellant’s counsel states, this portrayal shifted the focus of the jury to the appellant’s negative character traits, rather than to the main issues of the trial.

[35]         The respondents’ trial counsel assured the judge all the documents in the Exhibit would be referred to in the cross-examination of Ms. Han but they were not. Some of the documents were irrelevant, some were prejudicial, and some were inflammatory. The Exhibit was marked outside the presence of the jury – the trier of fact – which is an irregularity. There was no document agreement in place, so the basis for the appellant’s consent to the admission of the Exhibit is not clear. Even with consent, the trial judge is always the gatekeeper.

[36]         In my view, the Exhibit should not have been admitted en masse. Some of the documents and records should not have been admitted at all, as their admission was highly prejudicial and resulted in a substantial wrong or miscarriage of justice.

[37]         On this ground alone, it is in the interests of justice to order a new trial….

[39]         I agree with the appellant there was a significant risk that the jury would give greater weight to the transcribed portions than to the appellant’s testimony since there was no transcript of her answers given in evidence in response. The judge’s instruction to the jury that the transcript was an aide memoir did not overcome the resulting prejudice to the appellant resulting from the jury having only one side of the picture during their deliberations.

[40]          This procedure was highly irregular and prejudicial to the appellant, resulting in a substantial wrong or miscarriage of justice.

[41]         I would also allow the appeal on this ground.

Lastly, the Court noted it is inappropriate to conduct a present value calculation when considering the costs consequences of a historic formal settlement offer.

Costs Following Unsuccessful "Considerable Gamble To Achieve A Significant Award"

Update – July 13, 2015 – the below decision was overturned today by the BC Court of Appeal for several reasons and a new trial was ordered.  In reaching this conclusion the court noted it was improper for the Court to make a present value calculation when considering a formal offer to settle.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[53]         I agree with the appellant that the judge erred in adjusting the initial offer to reflect its 2013 value. This approach is not supported in law. As a result, the amount that the appellant was awarded ($51,300) exceeded the formal offer ($50,000) and the judge had no basis to award costs to the defendants pursuant to Rule 9-1(5)(d).

[54]         The trial judge also erred in applying the incorrect standard to determine which party was successful. The appellant was clearly the successful party in the action, as that standard is described in Loft. Though the appellant was not awarded the entire amount in damages that she sought, she established liability under a cause of action – as in Loft, by way of the defendants’ admitting liability and conceding some damages – and she obtained a remedy. The defendants did not obtain a dismissal of her case, either with respect to liability or damages.

[55]         Thus the order for costs could not have been sustained in any event of the appeal.

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Reasons for judgment were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing costs consequences following a jury trial.
In this week’s case (Han v. Park) the Plaintiff was injured in a 1999 collision that the Defendant admitted fault for.  The litigation had a “somewhat tortured history” finally coming to trial in October 2013.    The Plaintiff sought damages of over $2 million.  Following a 14 day trial a jury assessed damages at $51,300.
In 2002 ICBC tendered a formal settlement offer of $50,000.  When coupled with advances paid the offer slightly exceeded the ultimate jury award.  Given the duration of time that passed the Court was also presented with economic evidence adjusting the offer for inflation indicating it was worth about $61,100 in 2013 dollar terms.  In any event the Court was asked to assess costs consequences flowing from this formal offer.  In finding that costs should be used as a remedy where a litigant takes “a considerable gamble to achieve a significant award” the Court ordered the Plaintiff pay the Defendant’s costs from 2004 onward.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Fitzpatrick provided the following reasons:
[69]         Like the plaintiff in Bailey v. Jang, 2008 BCSC 1372, aff’d 2011 BCCA 146, Ms. Han took a considerable “gamble to achieve a significant award” and lost: paras. 22, 38. Given that the majority of the time at trial was spent on her unsuccessful attempt to persuade the jury of her disability, one can only describe her as being substantially unsuccessful at trial. Accordingly, even without the application of Rule 9-1, Ms. Han would have faced meritorious arguments by the defence that a costs award should reflect that result and my conclusions below are also consistent with an analysis in this context.
[70]         She conducted herself in this litigation so as to ignore the considerable efforts of the defendants to gather evidence regarding the extent of her injuries, all at considerable cost to them. The early efforts of the defendants were geared to either provide a proper basis for a negotiated settlement or to provide the necessary evidence for a trial. All the while Ms. Han entirely failed to muster any medical opinion evidence that she either knew or should have known would be needed to support her claims at the end of the day. She refused to respond to any settlement offer until the eve of the trial.
[71]         Ms. Han’s intractable position must nevertheless be considered in the face of the July 2002 offer to settle. By this time, over three years had gone by and one would have thought that she would be in a position to critically consider her position. The offer fully addressed the position of the defendants that no brain injury had occurred. The premise of the offer was not contradicted by any medical opinion evidence obtained by Ms. Han. Even if she had chosen, strangely, to rely on the medical evidence of the defendants, by no later than May 2004, Dr. O’Shaughnessy had emphatically concluded that no disability or brain injury had resulted from the accident.
[72]         In the above circumstances, Ms. Han’s position was not an “honest but … mistaken view” per Fan, nor did she have a “meritorious, albeit uncertain claim” per A.E.
[73]         The defence calls Ms. Han “delusional” and while the remark is uncharitable, it is not far from the mark. Ms. Han has purposely conducted this protracted litigation where there was no basis in the evidence upon which to conclude other than that she had suffered a relatively straightforward soft tissue injury. Despite that, 14 years of litigation has gone by, no doubt at great cost to the defendants and to those who have financially supported this litigation on behalf of Ms. Han.
[74]         I conclude that Ms. Han is entitled to her taxable costs, including disbursements, of the action to May 2004. The defendants are entitled to their taxable costs, including disbursements, from June 2004 which will include this application to determine costs. Both costs awards will be on Scale B.

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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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