While there are a host of issues involved in most ICBC injury claims (tort claims), the issues can be broken down into 2 broad categories 1. Who is at Fault (Liability) and 2. How much is the ICBC claim worth (quantum).
In a case where the issue of fault is hotly contested, is it possible to have that matter heard first before spending time (and in all likelihood a lot of money) presenting the medical evidence addressing the extent of injury? The answer is sometimes.
Reasons for judgement were released today considering exactly such an application.
The Plaintiff was injured in a motor cycle accident in 2006. He brought a personal injury claim. He asked the court to determine the issue of fault ahead of the issue of quantum of damages.
Rule 39(29) of the BC Supreme Court Rules allows such an applicaiton, particularly it holds that:
39(29) The court may order that one or more questions of fact or law arising in an action be tried and determined before the others, and upon the determination a party may move for judgment, and the court, if satisfied that the determination is conclusive of all or some of the issues between the parties, may grant judgment.
Some of the factors a court will consider in such an application include the following:
a. A judge’s discretion to sever an issue is probably not restricted to extraordinary or exceptional cases. However, it should not be exercised in favour of severance unless there is a real likelihood of a significant saving in time and expense.
b. Severance may be appropriate if the issue to be tried first could be determinative in that its resolution could put an end to the action for one or more parties.
c Severance is most appropriate when the trial is by judge alone.
d. Severance should generally not be ordered when the issue to be tried is interwoven with other issues in the trial. This concern may be addressed by having the same judge hear both parts of the trial and ordering that the evidence in the first part applies to the second part.
e. A party’s financial circumstances are one factor to consider in the exercise of the discretion.
f. Any pre-trial severance ruling will be subject to the ultimate discretion of the trial judge.
In today’s case, the application was dismissed. Madam Justice Holmes of the BC Supreme Court held that:
 Even if a case need not be exceptional to support an order for severance, it must disclose some compelling reason for such an order. Compelling reasons must arise from the circumstances of the particular case. Although I have considerable sympathy for Mr. Biggs’ personal situation, I find no compelling reason for separate trials of liability and damages. Difficult though Mr. Biggs’ personal circumstances undoubtedly are, I am not persuaded that, in the context of the litigation as whole, they support a departure from the general practice by which all issues are determined in a single trial.