Tag: ICBC claims

Can you be at Fault for a BC Car Crash if you are Rearended?

Although such a finding is unusual the short answer is yes, you can be at fault for a car crash when rear-ended by another motorist.  Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Saffari v. Lopez) the Plaintiff sustained injuries when she rear-ended the Defendant’s vehicle in West Vancouver on the on-ramp to the Lion’s Gate Bridge.
Traffic at the time of the crash was sparse.  The Plaintiff was following the Defendant’s vehicle.  The Defendant’s passenger attempted to ‘throw out a cigarette and thought it came back in‘ and in reaction to this the Defendant brought his vehicle to ‘a fairly sudden slowdown‘.  At this time the Plaintiff collided with the Defendant vehicle.
Mr. Justice Harvey of the BC Supreme Court found that both the Plaintiff and Defendant were equally to blame for this collision, he reasoned as follows in reaching this conclusion:

[41] Section 144(1)(b) prohibits drivers from driving without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.

[42] Such would include, in my opinion, consideration of the circumstances of stopping or suddenly slowing one’s vehicle in the flow of traffic where other viable options, such as exiting the roadway, existed.  The emergency resulting in the deceleration of the Lopez vehicle was self-created.  In any event, there is no suggestion that the cigarette had fallen onto the driver’s lap or otherwise onto his person.  Mr. Lopez’s reaction, that is to suddenly slow or stop his vehicle, was but one of several choices he had.  He acknowledged these included signalling an intention to change lanes to reach a point of safety where he could stop his vehicle without impeding traffic or putting on four-way flashers to alert following vehicles and other users of the road to an emergency.

[43] I find Mr. Lopez was negligent in suddenly stopping or slowing his vehicle on the roadway approaching the Lions Gate Bridge: Ayers.  Here, unlike in the authorities referred to by the defendant, traffic was not stop and go as was the case in Pryndik v. Manju, 2001 BCSC 502 at para. 2, aff’d 2002 BCCA 639, nor was there such a lapse of time between the action of the defendant and the happening of the accident to bring the circumstances of this case within the reasoning of the Court in Peterson v. Cabot, 2000 BCSC 1453.

[44] I also need to consider the actions of the plaintiff Ms. Saffari and what, if any, responsibility rests with her actions leading to the collision.

[45] I must reject, almost in its entirety, the evidence of Mr. Javanpour as it relates to the driving of Ms. Saffari prior to and leading to the accident.

[46] His evidence concerning matters such as the conversations he overheard, the use or availability of a cell phone during the journey preceding the accident coupled with his description and explanation as to the Jeep’s running lights, all make his evidence of events unreliable.

[47] Ms. Saffari’s description of events, while more credible in terms of the totality of the evidence, is equally wanting in some areas.  Her description of the conversation with Ms. Pfeifer coupled with her denial of it on discovery, her varying estimates of her speed and that of the Jeep, her admission that she “momentarily lost sight of the Jeep” coupled with the elaborate description of her evasive actions also cause me to question more important aspects of her evidence as it relates to the moments or seconds leading to the accident.

[48] Ms. Saffari never said the Lopez vehicle slammed on the brakes.  She testified she saw the brake lights of the Jeep come on as she entered the arc of the curve.  She did not describe a panic stop nor is such consistent with the evidence of Mr. Lopez.  Her evidence as to “losing sight of the Jeep” simply makes no sense if her estimate as to the separation between the vehicles and her speed is consistent and she was maintaining proper lookout.  Were she travelling both at the speed she describes and the distance from the Jeep when she saw the lights come on, she could have stopped.  This is not a case where the doctrine of “agony of collision” applies.  Drivers are daily confronted with vehicles in front of them stopping or slowing for all sorts of reasons.  If Ms. Saffari did react in the elaborate manner she and Mr. Javanpour described in their evidence then she did so because she was travelling either too fast for conditions or too close behind the Lopez vehicle to bring her car to a timely stop once confronted by the hazard posed by the defendant’s driving.

[49] In the circumstances, I find the plaintiff and defendant equally at fault for the accident.  The defendant Ms. Pfeifer is accordingly liable, as owner, in like proportion to Mr. Lopez.

BC Court of Appeal Discusses Future Wage Loss in Personal Injury Claims

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal increasing the award a Plaintiff received at trial for Diminished Earning Capacity (future wage loss).
In today’s case (Pett v. Pett) the Plaintiff sustained serious injuries in a 2003 BC motor vehicle collision.  The findings of fact made by the trial judge giving rise to the appeal were as follows:
[1] The appellant, Jacob Pett, now aged 23, was injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred on a logging road near Rock Creek, British Columbia, on November 15, 2003.  He was a passenger in a pick-up truck being driven by his father, the defendant, David Pett.  The driver lost control and the vehicle slid off the road and rolled over a number of times before coming to rest in a farm field.  The appellant initially suffered from a concussion and an injured shoulder, but recovered satisfactorily from these injuries.  He complained of a very painful back shortly after the accident.  This back injury persists and continued to cause him difficulty at the time of trial…
[5] The judge found that the back injury had a negative impact on his recreational activities and that his enjoyment of those activities had been and will be diminished because of his back pain.  The judge awarded the appellant $85,000 for non-pecuniary damages.  He assessed damages for income loss between the date of the accident and the date of trial at $23,000.  The judge awarded the appellant the sum of $120,000 as damages for future loss.  It is this particular award that has led to the present appeal.  The appellant asserts that the amount awarded for future loss was unreasonably low.  The respondent submits it was an adequate award and says that if anything the award may have been on the generous side.
The BC Court of Appeal agreed with the Plaintiff that the damages for future wage loss were low given the findings of fact made by the trial judge.  In increasing the future wage loss award to $225,000 the Court summarized and applied the law of future wage loss as follows:

[18] In the recent case of Lines v. W & D Logging Co. Ltd., 2009 BCCA 106, Saunders J.A. said this:

[57]      There are two major components to an assessment of loss of future earning capacity.  One is the general level of earnings thought by the trial judge to be realistically achievable by the plaintiff but for the accident, taking into account the plaintiff’s intentions and factors that weigh both in favour of and against that achievement, and the other is the projection of that earning level to the plaintiff’s working life, taking into account the positive and negative vagaries of life.  From these two major components must be applied an analysis that produces a present value of the loss, adjusted for all appropriate contingencies.

[19] I think this to be a helpful framework for a court to follow in fixing a measure of damages for future loss.  Some cases speak of the loss of a capital asset and some of the loss of future earnings, but the essential matter that engages the attention of a court making an assessment in this area is to endeavour to quantify the financial harm accruing to the plaintiff over the course of his or her working career.

[20] In the case at bar, the trial judge said this in making his award for future loss:

[79]      Given the significant negative contingencies present here however, I am not satisfied that the award under this head of damages should be as high as suggested by plaintiff’s counsel.  I note that he is currently working alongside his father and being paid the same hourly rate.  He does, however, work fewer hours, partly in response to his lower back pain.  In all of the circumstances, I assess his loss of future earning capacity at $120,000.

[21] While there is unquestionably a measure of uncertainty about what the future holds for a person in the position of this appellant with a long working life ahead of him, the judge did not explain what he considered in arriving at that figure.  Particular contingencies are not identified and, perhaps more significantly, there is virtually no reference to the figures put forward by the parties’ experts, aside from a reference to some figure suggested by appellant’s counsel, presumably the $470,000 figure aforementioned.  The task of this Court in deciding on the adequacy of the award for future loss is made difficult because we are left with little to demonstrate how the figure of $120,000 was assessed as an appropriate damages award under this head by the trial judge.  Having regard to the evidence before the judge, particularly the reports of the two economic experts, the award appears to me to be unduly modest.

[22] I have considered whether the case might be remitted to the Supreme Court to deal with this issue in a more satisfactory fashion.  The appellant urged us, if we considered the award of damages inadequate, to set a figure.  It was submitted that considerations of cost and timing would support such an approach.  While this Court is usually reluctant to embark upon its own assessment of what is an appropriate figure for damages, I consider that this case calls for that treatment.  I reach this conclusion because there were no particular live issues of credibility in the instant case and the judge was of the view that he should generally accept the view of the medical experts called by the appellant.  We have the evidence of Messrs. McKellar and Gosling before us.  I consider it would not be appropriate to refer this matter back to the trial court for a new assessment having regard to the amounts involved and the additional delay and expense that would be occasioned.

[23] It seems to me that the figure adumbrated by Mr. Gosling, approximately $300,000, is a useful starting point for an analysis of the loss suffered by the appellant under this head.  Although the earnings history of the appellant did not indicate that he had a history of earnings at around $32,000, which was a statistical figure used by the experts for a person with slightly better educational qualifications, it must be borne in mind that the appellant was just starting out and his historic earnings reflected the situation when he was just entering his twenties.  The level of income referred to by the experts seems to me to be not unrealistic.  A person in the occupation of the appellant with his work ethic should be able to achieve such earnings.  He apparently expected to earn perhaps something over $35,000 in the period immediately preceding the trial.  Of course, his ability to continue to earn at such a level is thrown in doubt by the medical opinions accepted by the judge.  The substantial difference between the experts as to expected loss in future income appeared to relate to their differing treatment of labour market contingencies.  Mr. Gosling essentially took a more pessimistic view concerning labour market contingencies than did Mr. McKellar.

[24] In this case, I consider the approach of Mr. Gosling to be preferable because of the very long span of time left in the expected working life of the appellant.  The length of time to be considered in my view mandates a fairly conservative approach to any prediction of future loss.  However, I do not perceive, as I noted, how the judge arrived at the figure he did.  I view as erroneous his treatment of the educational level of the appellant.  Perhaps this led him to very heavily discount the loss predictions.  I consider that, if one utilizes the approach suggested by Mr. Gosling as a helpful starting point, having regard to the facts in this case, a reduction of the magnitude reflected in the award of $120,000 under this head is not justified.  I think it is significant that this appellant has a very good work ethic and there was and is wide scope for employment opportunities in the construction field through the extended family of the appellant.  Opportunities for advancement in, and indeed continuation by the appellant in this field of endeavour are now considerably attenuated as a result of the accident.  The appellant’s back problem is likely to persist, based on the medical evidence, and there is a very real narrowing of future opportunities for him.  Thus, this injury appears very likely to result in a diminution of career options and, consequently, a long term earnings impairment.

[25] The work ethic of the appellant has to be taken account of in an assessment of a proper figure for future loss.  His positive work ethic suggests that, but for the accident, the appellant might have looked forward to earning more than the statistical average figures posited by the experts.  Thus, one could suggest his loss could be greater over his future earning years than suggested by the statistical figures.  His attitude to work, however, also means that he may in fact do better than expected in future despite his injury because he will not be as affected as might be the case with a person with a less robust work ethic.  This consideration would suggest a lesser loss than the statistical figures relied upon by the experts.  While the defendant tortfeasor must take the appellant as he finds him concerning educational level, he also in this case gets the benefit of a plaintiff with a positive work attitude.  These factors are to be taken account of and balanced in arriving at a fair assessment of damages for future loss.  Doing the best I can with the evidence and adopting a cautious approach because of the long time span, I am of the view that some discount from the amount resulting from the approach of Mr. Gosling would result in an appropriate award under his head of damages.  A discount ranging around $75,000 to $80,000 seems to me justifiable because of the work ethic of the appellant.  This yields a figure of about $225,000 for future loss and this is the amount I would substitute for the figure set by the trial judge.  I would accordingly allow the appeal in these terms and award the sum of $225,000 under the head of future loss.

ICBC Snooping in Jurors Records, Apologies and the Privacy Act

BC Personal Injury Lawyers have been abuzz lately with the news that ICBC intentionally snooped into jurors claims histories while conducting the defence in a recent ICBC Injury Trial.
I have been following this story since it first came to my attention a few weeks ago.  It was reported by Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun and more recently by the Louise Dickson of the Victoria Times Colonist.  In a nutshell the facts behind the story are as follows:  
The Plaintiff was injured in 2 motor vehicle collisions.  She sued for damages.  The trial for both claims were to be heard at the same time.  ICBC chose to have both matters heard by Jury Trial.  At the beginning of trial the Plaintiff brought an application to strike the jury and have the matter proceed by Judge alone.  Mr. Justice Macaulay, the presiding judge, dismissed this motion and let the jury trial begin.  (click here to read the reasons denying the motion to strike the jury).
A few days into the trial a settlement was reached.  At the same time ICBC admitted to improper conduct, particularly snooping in the jurors private ICBC records.   This breach of privacy was apparently initiated by ICBC’s defence lawyer who asked an ICBC adjuster to provide her with the juror’s claims histories.  This admission concerned the presiding judge who discharged the jury and ordered that the ICBC defence lawyer and ICBCs’ corporate counsel appear before him for a subsequent hearing to shed some light on why the jurors claims histories were improperly disclosed to ICBC’s defence lawyer.
The following hearing took place today in the BC Supreme Court.  One thing that I and many other personal injury lawyers had hoped for was that some information would have come to light about the frequency with which this snooping has occurred in the past.  Particularly has ICBC improperly accessed jurors, plaintiffs or witnesses ICBC claims histories in other cases?  Unfortunately these important questions were left unanswered.  
Mr. Justice Macaulay held that the behaviour that came to his attention fell short of contempt of court however that it was improper and left serious concerns about the administration of justice in BC.  The Times Colonist reported that ” The justice again emphasized he had serious concerns that the unauthorized disclosure of the two claims history impacts the administration of justice.  Macaulay said it was not the responsibility of the court to investigate alleged breaches of the Information and Privacy Act, nor was it the function of the court to decide whether the lawyer’s conduct falls short of professional standards. Macaulay said he was concerned about fairness. If the plaintiff had called for a mistrial, Macaulay said he likely would have granted one.”
According to the Times Colonist “Macfarlane (ICBC’s corporate counsel) said ICBC had sent letters of apology to five of the eight jurors, but had been unable to contact the remaining three. Macaulay told him ICBC would not have the assistance of the court in contacting them.”
I wonder if ICBC’s letters of apology to the jurors make any mention of the BC Privacy Act and the fact that “it is a tort, actionable without proof of damage, for a person, willfully and without a claim of right, to violate the privacy of another“.  I hope that ICBC’s letters contain more than a mere apology but proper compensation for this improper use of the jurors records.  I further hope that this is an isolated incident and some sort of objective proof can be had to verify if this is the case.  
The concerns about this behaviour and its impact on the administration of justice are serious ones.  I commend the individuals at ICBC who came clean about this breach of Privacy but given the vast records that ICBC have in their database regarding British Columbians and the relative ease with which these can be accessed by ICBC adjusters this story should not end until there is a proper and verifiable assurance from ICBC that this is an isolated incident and that the jurors whose privacy was breached are properly compensated for this wrong. 

ICBC Claims, Pre-Trial Costs and Rule 66

If you are involved in an ICBC claim under the fast track rule in BC Supreme Court (Rule 66) and settle your claim prior to trial how much are you entitled to for pre-trial Tarriff Costs?
Rule 66(29) governs and reads as follows:

Costs

(29)  Unless the court orders otherwise or the parties consent, and subject to Rule 57 (10), the amount of costs, exclusive of disbursements, to which a party is entitled is as follows:

(a) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is one day or less, $5 000;

(b) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is more than one day, $6 600

On the face of it, it appears that when a case settles pre trial up to $5,000 in costs could be included. However, recent court cases have applied a restrictive interpretation to this rule limiting the amount of pre-trial costs available in a Rule 66 action.   These cases have limited the amount of pre-trial costs available to $3,400.  Today, a case from the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, was released confirming this restrictive interpretation.

In today’s case (Cathcart v. Olsen) the Plaintiff settled her claim pre trial for an amount plus Tarriff costs.  At issue was how much should be paid for pre-trial Tarriff Costs.  Registrar Sainty of the BC Supreme Court,  in finding that the plaintiff was entitled to $2,890 in tarriff costs summarized the law and reasoned as follows:

[12]        The defendants argue that costs ought to be assessed as a proportion of the maximum allowable for pre-trial preparation under Rule 66, being $3,400. That proportion they say ought to depend on at what the stage in the proceedings the matter settled and how much pre-trial work remained to be done had the matter not settled. This, the defendants argue, is the required result applying the decision of Pittfield, J in Bowen v. Martinec, 2008 BCSC 104. In that case His Lordship was asked to answer the following question:

Where a formal offer to settle made under Rule 37 of the Rules and in Form 64 is accepted before trial in an action to which Rule 66 of the Rules applies, are the costs in the action assessed by reference to the fixed scale of costs under Rule 66(29) of the Rules or by reference to Appendix B to the Rules?

[13]        In answering the question put to him, His Lordship reviewed the law including the decisions of Macaulay, J in Duang and the Court of Appeal in Anderson (both supra) and held:

[21       In my opinion, the principles that can be derived from Duong and Anderson should be applied in the determination of costs in circumstances where an offer has been accepted before the commencement of trial. It is evident from Rule 66 that a cap has been imposed upon the recovery of costs in an action to which the Rule applies. It is also clear that the court can give effect to Rule 37 offers to settle. I am unable to identify any reason why the Rule 66 regime should apply in respect of the determination of costs following a trial where offers to settle have been made and rejected, but those situations where an offer is made and accepted before trial should justify taxation under Appendix B.

[22]      I adopt the view expressed by Macaulay J. which is that the amount of recoverable costs stipulated in Rule 66 should be allocated in part to trial and in part to pre-trial preparation. The part allocable to trial should be determined by deducting the global costs contemplated in respect of a one-day trial from the global costs contemplated in respect of a two-day trial. The costs for pre-trial preparation in either case should be determined as the difference between the global cost amount for a one-day trial and the daily trial costs. As the Rule presently stands, the recoverable costs per day of trial are $1,600, and the recoverable costs attributable to pre-trial preparation, $3,400.

[14]        His Lordship then stated:

[24]      It will be incumbent upon the parties to agree on the proportion of the pre-trial preparation which had been undertaken by the plaintiff to the date of the defendant’s offer to settle. In the absence of an agreement, the parties may resolve differences on taxation, whereupon the court will exercise the discretion conferred upon it by Rule 66(29.1).

[25]      It follows that the answer to the stated case is that costs in an action subject to Rule 66, settled before trial pursuant to an offer of settlement must be assessed by reference to the fixed scale of costs under Rule 66(29), and not by reference to Appendix B to the Rules of Court.

[15]        Essentially Pitfield J’s decision mandates that, where a formal offer to settle has been made in accordance with the Rules, pre-trial costs are to be based on the proportion of pre-trial preparation that has been undertaken up to the date of the offer to settle and the party to whom costs are to be paid is entitled to its proportionate share of the $3,400 cap. Mr. Chaudhary, for the defendants, argues that the same principles ought to apply in these circumstances where, although no formal offer to settle was made, an informal settlement was reached. He submits that I ought not to deviate from the methodology proposed by Pitfield, J. in Bowen (supra).

[16]        Mr. Harbut, for the plaintiff, suggests however that Pitfield, J’s decision in Bowen cannot be reconciled with the decision of the Court of Appeal in Anderson.  He submits Anderson should be read to say that, while there is a ceiling in the amount of costs that a successful litigant may be awarded, where a Rule 66 action has been settled, provided the party whose costs are being assessed can satisfy the assessing officer that that party would be entitled, under Appendix B of the Rules, to at least the amount of the ceiling ($3,400) in tariff items then that party is entitled to be awarded the full amount of that ceiling. I cannot agree with this latter submission. In my view, I am bound to employ the same reasoning as that employed by Pitfield, J in Bowen to these circumstances; i.e. award the plaintiff his proportionate share of the cap, based on the stage of preparation reached as at the date of the offer to settle.

[17]        That being said, there is one additional issue which must be considered. In Anderson, the Court of Appeal states (at ¶47):

I also agree with Macaulay, J that the intent of the rule [Rule 66] was to avoid the necessity of a taxation and that it would frustrate that intent to order a taxation of costs under the rule…

[18]        Accordingly, the Court of Appeal has endorsed the presumption that the intent of Rule 66 is to avoid the necessity of an appearance before the registrar to assess costs. Pitfield, J’s method – to determine costs dependant on the stage of the pre-trial preparation – seems to me to invite assessments, rather than reduce them. I say this as, in instances where the parties cannot agree on the proportion of work undertaken at the time of settlement, taxation becomes the likely, rather than the unlikely, course.

[19]        To counterbalance this, however, I believe that the Court of Appeal in Anderson has also endorsed a somewhat “rough and ready” manner of assessing the consequences of accepting an offer to settle when the provisions of Rule 66 apply (see paragraph 49). The Court of Appeal suggests that an assessing officer, on an assessment of costs in similar circumstances, should use a rough and ready approach to establish what stage the proceeds were at when settlement was reached in deciding what proportion of the “cap” ought to be paid. That rough and ready approach (and the one I will employ here), in my view includes both a consideration of the work done to the date of settlement by the party to whom the costs are to be paid as well as a consideration of what costs the payee might be entitled to under the tariff if costs were awarded under Appendix B of the Rules.

[20]        Mr. Harbut stated that his pre-trial preparation had progressed to a great extent when the offer was accepted. He confirmed that the items that had been undertaken included commencing the action, discovery of documents, some examinations for discovery, settlement negotiations and production of expert reports. He argued that, with the exception of the actual trial, most of the trial preparation had been completed. Thus the plaintiff should be awarded substantially all of the amount of the cap.

[21]        Mr. Chaudhary in his submissions set out a number of items that remained to be done (additional document discovery, witness preparation, further expert’s reports, to name a few) and argued that as this action settled some four months before trial a substantial amount of work remained to be done and the proportion awarded should reflect that.

[22]        Here, I am satisfied that some 85% of the work required to prepare for trial had been done up to the date that the offer was accepted. Accordingly, the plaintiff is entitled to $2,890 in “tariff” costs plus applicable taxes, together with such disbursements as have been agreed between the parties. In my view a substantial amount of work had been done to prepare for the trial. In addition, had the costs been awarded under Appendix B of the tariff the plaintiff would likely have received at least 10 units under item 1B, 2 to 3 units under item 3, 2 to 3 units each under items 7 and 8, 4.5 units under items 14 and 15, 2 or 3 units under each of Items 13A and 13B, plus 5 units for item 34 resulting in, on a rough and ready calculation, of some 31 to 35 units, well within or certainly more than I am awarding in these circumstances.

[23]        If the parties require a certificate they may prepare it, each sign it and forward it to me for my signature.

ICBC Pain and Suffering Round-Up

With the Canucks losing game 6 and the series to the Blackhawks I figured its a fitting time to write about Pain and Suffering Claims in BC.
In the first case, Chan v. Kao, the Plaintiff suffered a left shoulder injury as a result of a 2006 motor vehicle collision.   Mr. Justice Verhoeven had credibility concerns with respect to some aspects of the Plaintiff’s testimony.  Despite this he concluded that “I have no difficulty in finding that Mr. Chan did in fact injure his left shoulder in the motor vehicle accident“.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (damages for pain and suffering) at $22,000 the court summarized his injuries and prognosis as follows:
[65]            I accept that Mr. Chan has continued to have shoulder problems and pain since the accident.  The extent to which this has affected his work is impossible to gauge, in view of the unreliability of his evidence.  It seems likely that Mr. Chan has worked at various times and places since the accident, but has chosen not to testify about that work…

72]            In summary, I accept that the plaintiff’s left shoulder was injured in the motor vehicle accident, and that he continues to suffer, to some extent, from shoulder difficulties initially caused by the accident.  The evidence as to the extent to which the ongoing shoulder problem causes the plaintiff ongoing difficulty and disability with respect to his ability to work is subject to considerable doubt, due to the unreliability of the plaintiff’s evidence in this respect, and the lack of corroborating evidence.

[73]            While Dr. Lui’s prognosis of permanent disability is overly pessimistic, both orthopaedic surgeons are of the view that there are ongoing problems in the shoulder which require treatment.  In my view, treatment options have not been adequately explored.

In addition to referencing several cases dealing with pain and suffering values in BC for shoulder injuries this claim is worth reviewing to see how Mr. Justice Verhoeven dealt with his concerns regarding the credibility of certain aspects of the Plaintiff’s evidence.

The second ICBC Pain and Suffering Claim released today (Mattu v. Fust) involved a 2004 collision.  The Plaintiff was 39 years old at the time.  His vehicle was rear-ended with enough force to push it into the vehicle ahead of him.

The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries leading to chronic pain and headaches.  The court found that the effects of these would likely be permanent.  Madam Justice Brown summarized the medical evidence of the Plaintiff’s treating family physician as follows:

 

[31]            Dr. Parhar has been Mr. Mattu’s family physician since April 2004. He provided three reports to the court. In his first report of November 1, 2004, he diagnosed Mr. Mattu with paracervical, parathoracic and paralumbar muscle strain, left shoulder strain and muscle tension headaches.  He had received ice, heat, rest, exercises, massage therapy, kinesiology, acupuncture, herbal medicine and medications: anti-inflamatories, analgesics and muscle relaxants.  With respect to prognosis and recommendations, Dr. Parhar was impressed by Mr. Mattu’s motivation to recover and try different treatments, but was concerned that he may be trying too many modalities.  He recommended limiting treatment to massage and physiotherapy and increasing active modalities such as swimming and exercises.  He anticipated further treatment and improvement.

[32]            In his report of May 26, 2006, Dr. Parhar found that Mr. Mattu continued to have decreased range of motion in the cervical spine, tenderness in the paracervical and paralumbar regions.  He found muscle spasm in the paracervical and paralumbar regions.  His diagnosis remained the same.  His prognosis for full recovery had worsened.  Mr. Mattu had tried a variety of treatments with minimal success.  Dr. Parhar’s recommendations were unchanged, but he thought that Mr. Mattu’s condition had plateaued.

[33]            In his final report of September 16, 2008, Dr. Parhar considered the MRIs of Mr. Mattu’s spine taken September 19, 2006, and July 28, 2008, and concluded that Mr. Mattu’s injuries included cervical and thoracic disc herniations.  He said: “… it is unclear if the cervical and thoracic disc herniations were caused by the motor vehicle accident … but certainly, this motor vehicle accident made these spinal lesions symptomatic.”  He commented on Mr. Mattu’s efforts to recover: “… pursued many more modalities of treatment than most patients would have. Despite all of these modalities his pain symptoms persist.”  He concluded that the prognosis for a full recovery was poor, that Mr. Mattu’s condition had plateaued and further improvement in his functioning or symptomatology was unlikely  

In awarding $60,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss injuries and their effect on the Plaintiff’s life the court accepted the family physicians evidence and stated as follows  

[60]            I found the evidence of Dr. Parhar to be very helpful.  Dr. Parhar has seen Mr. Mattu regularly since shortly after the accident.  I accept his opinion that Mr. Mattu suffered paracervical, parathoracic and paralumbar muscle strain, left shoulder strain and muscle tension headaches from the accident; that his condition has plateaued; and that it is unlikely there will be further improvement.  I also accept the opinions of Drs. Parhar, Hershler and Hunt that the accident likely caused the disc herniations in Mr. Mattu’s back to become symptomatic.  Mr. Mattu will continue to need chiropractic treatment from time to time and would benefit from a personal trainer.

[61]            I have considered the cases which counsel have provided to me.  In my view, an appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss is $60,000.

Could You Be At Fault For A Crash If You Have the Right of Way?

The short answer is yes, and reasons for judgment were released by the BC Supreme Court (Bain v. Shafron) today discussing this legal principle.
In today’s case a collision occurred over 8 years ago in Vancouver, BC.  (the reasons why the case took over 8 years to get to trial are discussed in the judgment).  The Defendant entered an intersection on a green light.  While there she yielded to a bus that was trying to make a left hand turn.  By the time the bus cleared the intersection the Defendant’s light turned red.  The Plaintiff, then approaching from the Defendant’s right, entered the intersection on a green light and a collision occurred.   
Despite entering on a green light Madam Justice Fisher of the BC Supreme Court found the Plaintiff to be 100% responsible for this collision and dismissed the claim.
In doing so she discussed the law relating to collisions and the duties of driver’s with the right of way as follows:

[11]            As I explain below, I have found that Ms. Shafron lawfully entered the intersection of Oak and Broadway.  Accordingly, she had a statutory right of way under s. 127(1)(a)(iii) of the Motor Vehicle Act and Mr. Bain was obligated to yield to her right of way when he entered the intersection:

127 (1) When a green light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a)        the driver of a vehicle facing the green light

(iii)       must yield the right of way to vehicles lawfully in the intersection at the time the green light became exhibited …

[12]            Ms. Shafron as the driver of the vehicle with the right of way was the dominant driver and Mr. Bain was the servient driver.  A dominant driver does not lose that position by unreasonable actions but the existence of a right of way does not entitle the dominant driver to disregard an apparent danger: Atchison v. Kummetz, (1995), 59 B.C.A.C. 81 at para. 19, Abbott Estate v. Toronto Transportation Commission, [1935] S.C.R. 671.  There is a duty of care to avoid a collision when the dominant driver sees or ought to see that the other driver is not yielding the right of way: Bedwell v. McGill, 2008 BCCA 6.  In order for the plaintiff in this case to prove that the defendant was negligent, Mr. Bain must establish that Ms. Shafron should have become aware that he was not yielding and that she had a sufficient opportunity to avoid the collision.  Any doubts should not be resolved in favour of the plaintiff: Walker v. Brownlee, [1952] D.L.R. 450 (S.C.C.) at para. 50, Brewster (Guardian ad litem of) v. Swain, 2007 BCCA 347, Kerr (Litigation Guardian of) v. Creighton, 2008 BCCA 75.

[13]            The standard of care of a driver is not one of perfection, but whether the driver acted in a manner which an ordinarily prudent person would act: see Hadden v. Lynch, 2008 BCSC 295 at para. 69 and the cases cited therein.

The principles summarized by Madam Justice Fisher are something all BC motorists should be familiar with.  Just because you have a green light (or otherwise have the right of way) does not necessarily mean you are not at fault for a collision.  If you are a ‘dominant driver’ and can reasonably avoid a collision where someone is not yielding to your right of way you may be negligent and liable for the crash.

ICBC Negotiations – Formal Rule 37B Offers and the Effects of a Counter Offer

Under the old Rule 37 when a formal settlement offer was made by ICBC the Plaintiff could continue to negotiate and make counter offers without jeopardizing the ability to accept ICBC’s formal settlement offer at a later date.  This was so due to rule Rule 37(10) and 37(13) which held that a formal offer to settle did not expire by reason that a counter offer was made.
As readers of this blog know Rule 37 has been repealed and replaced with Rule 37B.  What if ICBC makes a formal settlement offer under Rule 37B that does not contain any language addressing under what circumstances the offer expires.  Would a counter offer act as a rejection of the formal offer such that it can’t be accepted at a later date?
The first case that I’m aware of dealing with this issue was released today by the BC Supreme Court (More Marine Ltd v. The Ship “the Western King”).
In today’s case the Defendant made a formal offer under Rule 37B to settle a lawsuit for “$40,000 inclusive of interest and costs“.  The Plaintiff made several counter offers which were not accepted.  The Plaintiff then purported to accept the defence formal settlement offer.  The parties could not agree on the documents that would be signed to conclude the settlement and the Plaintiff brought a motion to enforce the settlement.
In dismissing the Plaintiff’s motion Madam Justice  Satanove held that in the circumstances of this case the Plaintiff’s counter offer acted as a non-acceptance of the Rule 37B formal offer which then extinguished the formal offer of settlement.
Her summary of the law as applied to this case could be found at paragraphs 5-11 of the judgement which I reproduce below.

[5]                The plaintiffs’ argument would have succeeded under the old Rule 37 which provided in subsections (10) and (13) that an offer to settle did not expire by reason that a counteroffer was made, and an offer to settle that had not been withdrawn could be accepted at any time before trial.  Rule 37(8) provided that a party could withdraw an offer to settle before it was accepted by delivering a written notice of withdrawal in the prescribed form.

[6]                However, Rule 37B contains none of these provisions.  It simply provides a mechanism for the Court to consider an offer to settle when exercising its discretion in relation to costs.  It has been described as “significantly different, and represents a radical departure, from its predecessor Rule 37” (Alan P. Seckel & James C. MacInnis, British Columbia Supreme Court Rules Annotated 2009 (Toronto: Thomson Carswell, 2009) at 372-374).

[7]                In my view, Rule 37B does not change the common law with respect to settlement agreements, which in themselves are just another form of contract.  The old Rule 37 expressly changed the common law in this regard, but the old Rule 37 is repealed.  If the Legislature had intended the provisions of old Rule 37(8), (10), and (13) to continue to apply to the new Rule 37B, it would have retained the wording of those subsections.

[8]                Turning then to the common law of contracts, it is trite to say that a counteroffer constitutes non-acceptance of a previous offer.  The previous offer must be revived in order to be accepted after a counteroffer has ensued.  (United Pacific Capital v. Piché, 2004 BCSC 1524; Cowan v. Boyd (1921), 49 O.L.R. 335 (C.A.)).

[9]                Applying these principles to the chronology of facts in this case, when the plaintiffs issued the counteroffer of January 6, 2009, they were communicating non-acceptance of the Rule 37B offer of November 28, 2008 from the defendants, and this latter offer was no longer extant.

[10]            The only question that remains is whether the November 28, 2008, offer was revived.  The plaintiffs’ purported acceptance in their letter of March 3, 2009, could be construed as a form of offer to the defendants in the same terms as the defendants’ November 28, 2008 offer, but the defendants’ letter of March 5, 2009, once again evidences a counteroffer by its terms.  The subsequent correspondence between the parties reflects further negotiations between them, but no consensus ad idem.

[11]            In conclusion then, based on my interpretation of new Rule 37B, there is no binding separation agreement for me to enforce and the plaintiffs fail in their application.

This case is a reminder that the common law of contract is alive and well regarding settlement offers under Rule 37B and that many of the statutory terms that applied to Rule 37 formal offers no longer are in place.  Formal settlement offers made by ICBC should be carefully scrutinized to see if a counter offer can be made or if doing so will extinguish the formal offer.

How Much is the Pain and Suffering Worth in my ICBC Injury Claim?

One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a BC Personal Injury Lawyer is ‘how much is my pain and suffering worth?’.
This is an important question for anyone injured through the fault of another in a BC motor vehicle collision.  When negotiating with ICBC the playing field is typically imbalanced in that the ICBC claims adjuster has lots of experience in valuing personal injury claims.   Unless you are an injury claims lawyer you understandably would have little experience in valuing pain and suffering and may need help valuing this loss.  
It is important to empower yourself for the negotiation because in tort claims ICBC is negotiating on behalf of the person that injured you (the tort claim is, after all, made against the other persons policy of insurance). Practically speaking, this means that this imbalance in experience can work as a huge disadvantage, particulary if you think the ICBC adjuster is ‘your’ adjuster.  
With this in mind, here is some basic informaiton on paind and suffering and ICBC tort claims.  Pain and Suffering is awarded under the legal head of damages called ‘non-pecuniary loss’.  One of the best ways to value pain and suffering in an ICBC tort claim is to find cases with similar circumstances and injuries to see what damages were awarded.  When you find several similar cases a range of damages starts to become apparent and this range can serve as a useful guide in helping you understand the potential value of your ICBC personal injury tort claim.
Reasons for judgement were released today (Hoang v. Smith Industries Ltd.) dealing with the issue of pain and suffering in a BC motor vehicle collision tort claim.  In awarding the Plaintiff $19,000 for his non-pecuniary loss as a result of soft tissue injuries Madam Justice Russell summarized the law of non-pecuniary damages as follows:

[32]            The purpose of non-pecuniary damage awards is to compensate the plaintiff for “pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities”: Jackson v. Lai, 2007 BCSC 1023, B.C.J. No. 1535 at para. 134; see also Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229; Kuskis v. Tin, 2008 BCSC 862, B.C.J. No. 1248.  While each award must be made with reference to the particular circumstances and facts of the case, other cases may serve as a guide to assist the court in arriving at an award that is just and fair to both parties: Kuskis at para. 136. 

[33]            There are a number of factors that courts must take into account when assessing this type of claim.  Justice Kirkpatrick, writing for the majority, in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, outlines the factors to consider, at para. 46:

The inexhaustive list of common factors cited in Boyd [Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146] that influence an award of non-pecuniary damages includes:

(a)  age of the plaintiff;

(b)  nature of the injury;

(c)  severity and duration of pain;

(d)  disability;

(e)  emotional suffering; and

(f)  loss or impairment of life;

I would add the following factors, although they may arguably be subsumed in the above list:

(g)  impairment of family, marital and social relationships;

(h)  impairment of physical and mental abilities;

(i)   loss of lifestyle; and

(j)   the plaintiff’s stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the plaintiff: Giang v. Clayton, [2005] B.C.J. No. 163, 2005 BCCA 54 (B.C. C.A.)).

More from BCSC on Rule 37B and ICBC Claims

Reasons for judgement were released today (Lumanian v. Sadler) by the BC Supreme Court giving further consideration to Rule 37B in an ICBC claim.
In this case ICBC made a settlement offer before trial.  The Plaintiff proceeded to trial and ultimately received judgement below ICBC’s formal offer.  In an application for costs the court refused to award ICBC costs or double costs but did deprive the Plaintiff of costs from the date of the offer onward.
The court’s key reasons are set out below.

Costs

[17]            ICBC presented a formal offer to settle on May 23, 2008, in the amount of $110,000 “after taking into account Part 7 benefits paid or payable,” and any advances, plus costs and taxable disbursements.  There is no disagreement that the plaintiff should get 75% of her costs up to May 23, 2008. 

[18]            The plaintiff submits she should have 75% of her costs to the end of trial; or in the alternative, that each party should bear its own costs after the date of the offer.  The defendant seeks double costs for all steps in the proceeding after May 23, 2008.

[19]            There is no dispute that the offer was a valid offer to settle within the terms of Rule 37, notwithstanding an issue that I will address below.

[20]            The relevant subsections of Rule 37B for the purposes of this application are:

(4)        The court may consider an offer to settle when exercising the court’s discretion in relation to costs.

(5)        In a proceeding in which an offer to settle has been made, the court may do one or both of the following:

(a)        deprive a party, in whole or in part, of costs to which the party would otherwise be entitled in respect of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery of the offer to settle;

(b)        award double costs of all or some of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery of the offer to settle.

(6)        In making an order under subrule (5), the court may consider the following:

(a)        whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on any later date;

(b)        the relationship between the terms of settlement offered and the final judgment of the court;

(c)        the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(d)        any other factor the court considers appropriate.

[21]            Recent decisions on this new Rule are clear that the court’s discretion is now unfettered, but that the underlying purpose of the old rule – encouraging settlement through the use of costs — remains an important objective.

[22]            The amount the plaintiff will receive as a result of the judgment is approximately $81,000 before deductions.  The settlement offer was $110,000 plus costs.  ICBC submits that the result at trial was a significant win for them, and that the plaintiff, having rejected their reasonable offer, assumed the risk of cost ramifications and should pay double costs as a result.

Ought the offer to have been accepted?/Relationship to final judgment

[23]            Although Rule 37B(5)(a) and (b) separate the issues of “reasonable acceptance” and “relationship between the offer and the final judgment,” in the circumstances here, where the plaintiff received a substantial award but one which is less than the offer, it is in my view appropriate to consider these factors together.  The offer was for $110,000; the award at trial will be between $70,000 and $80,000, depending on deductions, and the plaintiff retains the potential to claim Part 7 benefits up to approximately $138,000.

[24]            Argument on this issue proceeded on the basis that the plaintiff would have been required, if she had accepted the offer, to sign a release of her Part 7 benefits.  I requested further submissions on that aspect of the argument, based on the decision of the Court of Appeal in Anderson v. Routbard, 2007 BCCA 193, 239 B.C.A.C. 98, in which a similarly worded offer was held to be clear and unambiguous, and was deliberately drafted to ensure that full access to Part 7 benefits remained unimpaired by acceptance of the offer.  Although the legislation makes no such differentiation, the Court of Appeal decided in that case that the use of the word “payable” in these offers means only those Part 7 claims that have been submitted and are outstanding at the time of the offer, leaving the rest of the potential Part 7 fund available to be claimed.

[25]            Counsel for ICBC now acknowledges that she was in error in submitting that the plaintiff would have been required to sign a release before accepting the offer, although she says it is common practice to settle both claims at once. 

[26]            Counsel for the plaintiff says it was clear in all negotiations concerning this matter that ICBC would require a release of both the tort and Part 7 claims if the offer were accepted.  He does not go on to say that the offer itself is unclear in these circumstances, but says the issue of the reasonableness of rejecting the offer should be analyzed on the basis that such a release would have been required.  Counsel for ICBC disputes plaintiff’s counsel’s assertion that there was an understanding that acceptance of the offer was predicated on a release of Part 7 claims.

[27]            Although in law the plaintiff would not have been required to sign a release of Part 7 benefits as a term of accepting the offer, it appears from the positions of both counsel during oral argument and even from the subsequent written submissions that in the course of settlement negotiations, they both understood that a release would have been required.  To resolve the dispute between counsel as to their respective understandings of whether the provision of a release would also have been a condition of the acceptance of the formal offer to settle would require counsel to provide additional information about their discussions and the settlement process.  It might even require counsel to give evidence.  This application for costs risks being complicated unproductively by such an examination, which would only add expense to the proceeding.   

[28]            Since I have found that the amount of future care costs is low, I will proceed on the basis that the issue of Part 7 benefits would not be conclusive either way in the assessment of whether or not the offer ought reasonably to have been accepted.

[29]            ICBC says the plaintiff was unreasonable in rejecting the offer.  She was obviously able to quantify her claim by the time the offer came in, as she submitted her own offer to settle for $185,000 the day before.  ICBC then put in its offer, and also participated in mediation which the plaintiff instigated. 

[30]            Plaintiff’s counsel says he had medical and other expert reports backing up his client’s position, and to accept the offer would have meant ignoring all their evidence.  Counsel for ICBC responds quite properly that a consideration of an offer does not mean that a party must ignore its own evidence; instead it requires an assessment of whether the offer is reasonable and this requires a realistic look at the whole case.    

[31]            A significant difference between the plaintiff’s position at trial and the amount of the award is in the area of future care costs, and this is reflected in the disparity between the plaintiff’s own offer and the result at trial.  A trial judge is required to look into a crystal ball and assess future care costs for the tort claim based on the evidence adduced at trial, and then to look even further and assess future contractual Part 7 claims that might be made by the plaintiff insured against its insurer for the purpose of deductions from the tort award.  This is an exercise fraught with uncertainty and potential unfairness, especially for a plaintiff like Ms. Lumanlan, whose future care costs are not clear and are contingent on whether and to what extent she develops arthritis, whether she moves into a house, whether she assumes care of her son (which she now deposes she is attempting to do), and what career she decides to pursue.  She is young; her future plans are uncertain.  Prior to the accident she had two good hands.  Now she does not.

[32]            As counsel for the plaintiff pointed out, this type of claim for future care, unlike one where no future care is required, or one where significant future care is required, is difficult to assess. 

[33]            The court in this tort action was circumscribed by the lack of evidence, and by its duty to be fair to both the plaintiff and the defendant, which prevents speculation unsupported by evidence.  In terms of her relationship with her own insurer, however, within the Part 7 context, the plaintiff may well have to make claims in the future under her insurance contract as she matures and gains perspective on her limitations, especially if the court is shown, by the crystallization of events in the future, to have been unfairly limited by the lack of evidence at the tort trial.

[34]            The result at trial was not dismissal of the action; Ms. Lumanlan obtained a not insignificant award.  She suffered extensive damage to her hand.  She was uncomplaining and not particularly adept at putting forth her evidence, and these limitations did not accrue to her advantage, but she did have a serious claim to advance.

[35]            As well, an assessment of non-pecuniary damages, as every trial judge knows, is a difficult and somewhat subjective task, as hard as one tries to be consistent with other judgments.  A jury verdict can, of course, be even more disparate when compared to assessments by judges.  In my view, one should be cautious, with the advantage of hindsight, in equating having guessed wrongly with having been unreasonable in rejecting an offer, especially when the plaintiff receives a substantial award at trial.

[36]            In Bailey v. Jang, 2008 BCSC 1372, the plaintiff’s entire claim was dismissed by a jury.  Nevertheless, the trial judge held that he was unable to say she had been unreasonable in rejecting the offer.  Rule 37B is worded in the affirmative.  It is suggested that the court may consider “whether the offer … ought reasonably to have been accepted,” not whether the plaintiff was unreasonable in rejecting it.  Nevertheless, given the broad discretion now existing in the section, I am of the view that the important conclusion to be taken from that decision is that this consideration is not one to be done with “hindsight analysis.”

[37]            The trial judge in that case held that dismissal of the claim was not determinative of the reasonableness of rejection of the offer.  Conversely, however, in my view, the size of the award at trial may offer some assistance in assessing the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s position at the time the offer was made.  Here, the award was significant, although not as high as the offer. 

[38]            Bearing in mind the above considerations and the relationship between the offer and the eventual award at trial, I am unable to say in all these circumstances that the plaintiff, who did not have the benefit of hindsight, ought reasonably to have accepted the offer at the time it was made and prior to the commencement of the trial.

Financial circumstances

[39]            ICBC submits that the relative financial circumstances of the parties should be at best a neutral factor.  Although they defended the action, it is really the defendant whose finances are relevant.  They will pursue their expenses against him.

[40]            The plaintiff submits that ICBC was the party who conducted the litigation, and they did so because the defendant breached his insurance by driving dangerously and injuring the plaintiff.

[41]            The fact that the defendant will have to pay ICBC back because he breached his contract through conduct which also resulted in the plaintiff’s injury should not be used to her detriment.  However, I agree with counsel for the Third Party that it is not reasonable to compare the plaintiff’s financial circumstances to those of ICBC, even where ICBC has entered the action as a Third Party.

[42]            The plaintiff deposes that she continues to make the salary she made at trial, that is $8.00 an hour, and she has moved out of her parents’ house to live with a friend temporarily while she asserts custody/access rights to her son, who is now cared for by her mother.

[43]            The defendant, 26, is presently unemployed but intends to look for work as a heavy machine operator, which has been his employment since he was 16, when he gets his licence back later in 2009.

[44]            There is not a sufficient imbalance in the parties’ relative financial circumstances to make this a significant factor in the present analysis.

Other factors

[45]            The plaintiff has presented a draft bill of costs to show what a substantial penalty she should incur if forced to pay double costs to the defendant for steps taken after the offer to settle.  It would indeed substantially deplete her award. 

[46]            In Bailey v. Jang, supra, double costs were awarded to the defendant under the new rule, even though the judge held that the offer was not rejected unreasonably, on the basis that to fail to do so would ignore the deterrent effect of the rule.  There, the defendants had made an offer to settle of $35,000 and the jury dismissed the plaintiff’s claim entirely. 

[47]            Obviously, in the case at bar, the plaintiff’s claim was not dismissed.  She received an award that is reasonably close to the offer, until reduced by contributory negligence.  Under Rule 37(24)(b), which was in effect when the offer was presented, the defendants would have been entitled to double costs only if the action had been dismissed.

[48]            ICBC argues that the plaintiff’s failure to acknowledge any contributory negligence was a barrier to settlement.  The plaintiff did indeed pursue that position at trial.

[49]            Counsel for the plaintiff takes the position that the mistake regarding the requirement for a release, which he contends was mutual and which counsel for ICBC contends was not, is another factor to consider.  It is unfortunate that this dispute has arisen and remains unresolved, but as I stated earlier, the ultimate significance of future care claims is small.

Result on costs

[50]            Whether or not the plaintiff was under the impression that she would have had to release future Part 7 benefits to accept the offer, it is apparent that she would have to establish entitlement to some $30,000 to $40,000 worth of Part 7 benefits to attain the amount of the offer, and she would, of course, have received taxable costs and disbursements.  This is all without regard to her own legal costs, which obviously increased through the trial.

[51]            Nevertheless, I have concluded that the plaintiff’s decision not to accept the offer was reasonable at the time, and although the award at trial was less than the offer, it was still substantial. 

[52]            Although the use of hindsight is not appropriate in the consideration of the reasonableness of accepting/rejecting the offer, an overall analysis of all of the factors under Rule 37B must be done with the advantage of hindsight, also keeping in mind the court’s unfettered discretion.  From that perspective, the plaintiff would have been better off if she had accepted the offer.  Her position on some aspects of the trial, such as contributory negligence, appears to have been a stumbling block to settlement. 

[53]            There should be some consequence in costs as a result, but in my view, it would be unfair and excessively penal to award double costs against the plaintiff, especially where these costs would not have been available under the rule in place when the offer was presented.  Given the significant injury to the plaintiff, which was caused by the defendant’s foolish and reckless behaviour, and the effect on the award of a further reduction for costs, even if not doubled, and taking into account all of the above considerations, in my view it would not be fair or just to require the plaintiff to pay ICBC’s costs after the date of the offer.

[54]            In the result, it is appropriate to give the plaintiff 75% of her costs up to the date of the offer and to deprive her of her costs thereafter.  Each party will bear their own costs after the date of the offer.

This is the second ICBC Injury Claim that I am aware of that went to trial where ICBC beat their formal offer but were not awarded costs under Rule 37B.  It seems that a middle of the road approach is being taken in some circumstances where the ‘punishment’ purpose of Rule 37B is being fulfilled by simply denying the Plaintiff costs.  This may be a just result in cases where ICBC’s offer is not much greater than the amount awarded at trial and requiring a plaintiff to pay costs would be prohibitive in relation to the judgement.  Interestingly the court here seems to have considered the defendants ‘foolish and reckless behaviour’ in causing the collision as a factor in determining costs consequences.
The judgements applying Rule 37B to ICBC Injury Claims keep coming and I will keep posting these as they come to my attention.

ICBC Expert Rejected in Injury Claim, $100,000 Awarded for Myofacial Pain

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a 22 year old Plaintiff $50,000 for pain and suffering and a further $50,000 for loss of earning capacity as a result of soft tissue injuries.
The court’s findings of injuries are summarized at paragraphs 45-46 which stated as follows:

[45]            In the final analysis, I am unable to place much weight to Dr. Schweigel’s report.  I accept Dr. Anton’s evidence that as a result of the accident, the plaintiff has suffered soft tissue injuries of the cervical and thoracic spine and shoulder girdle, which in turn have given rise to a myofascial pain syndrome. 

[46]            I accept his evidence that while there is some room for improvement, the plaintiff will likely suffer intermittent headaches and neck and upper back pain indefinitely.  She must be careful to modify her activities and avoid bending, leaning, heavy lifting or repetitive lifting—particularly those involving sustained postures of the neck and upper arms or repetitive use of the upper arms—which will exacerbate her pain. 

What interested me most in this judgement was the judges discussion weighing the Plaintiff’s medical evidence against the evidence tendered by the Defendant.  The Defendant relied on Dr. Schweigel, a senior orthopaedic surgeon who is often retained by ICBC to review injury claims and often disagrees with Plaintiff’s physicians regarding the long term prognosis of soft tissue injuries.  In today’s case the court largely rejected his opinion and offered the following analysis:

[36]            The defence relies heavily on the evidence of Dr. Schweigel, an orthopaedic surgeon who examined the plaintiff in January 2008.  Dr. Schweigel concluded the plaintiff suffered no more than a very minor soft tissue injury to the cervical and upper back area. 

[37]            In Dr. Schweigel’s opinion, cervical soft tissue injuries may be classified as either minor, moderate or severe, depending on the presence of various findings and complaints.  In his opinion, a cervical soft tissue injury must be in the moderate to severe category before it will give rise to a chronic myofascial pain syndrome. 

[38]            In his opinion, before being diagnosed with a moderate to severe soft tissue injury the patient must present with a constellation of at least three complaints including:  moderate to severe spasm, moderate to severe deformity, and a moderate loss of motion.  Sometimes the patient will also present with neurological findings and/or x-ray changes and sometimes the patient will require strong pain medication for a few days. 

[39]            Based on his review of Dr. Fahim’s clinical records, including the CL-19 report, which he understood was completed on March 3, 2003, Dr. Schweigel concluded that the plaintiff did not suffer a moderate to severe soft tissue injury.  In his view, since the CL-19 report reflects pain and tenderness of the neck and upper back, a good range of motion of the neck and upper back and mild tenderness of the neck and upper back, the physical abnormalities noted at this time were “extremely minimal”.  He noted that “(s)he had mild tenderness of the neck muscles with good range of motion”. 

[40]            The difficulty here is that the CL-19 report relied upon by Dr. Schweigel was actually authored on March 3, 2004 rather than March 3, 2003.  At that time the plaintiff was in Grade 12, she was dancing regularly and the intensive final examination study period had not begun.  She was in fact doing quite well. 

[41]            This is in contrast to her condition just over a year earlier when Dr. Fahim examined her on February 15, 2003.  At that point he noted her complaints of pain and tenderness in both the trapezius and upper back areas, and the decreased range of motion of her neck in all directions.  There is no recording of “mild” tenderness with a good range of motion as Dr. Schweigel suggests in his report of January 14, 2008. 

[42]            While Dr. Fahim’s clinical records were available for review, Dr. Schweigel made no reference to them in his report.  Nor did he refer to the records of the physiotherapist, Dawn Stevens, who, three weeks post accident, noted that the plaintiff’s neck was “very stiff” and that it was “very hard to mobilize (her) neck”.  

[43]            Quite apart from his erroneous reliance on the March 3, 2004 CL-19 report, I am not persuaded that Dr. Schweigel’s rigid classification of soft tissue injuries and his insistence that a myofascial pain syndrome may only arise in the case of a moderate to severe soft tissue injury case are reliable. 

[44]            While I accept that Dr. Schweigel is a very senior and experienced orthopaedic surgeon, with a long career focused particularly on spinal cord injury, in my view he did not demonstrate the same degree of expertise as Dr. Anton in the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injury.  His categorization of soft tissue injuries struck me as both rigid and simplistic.  No peer reviewed journals or other medical literature were produced to support his analysis.  Nor did he demonstrate any in depth appreciation of the characteristics of a “trigger point”, as described by Dr. Anton. 

[45]            In the final analysis, I am unable to place much weight to Dr. Schweigel’s report.  I accept Dr. Anton’s evidence that as a result of the accident, the plaintiff has suffered soft tissue injuries of the cervical and thoracic spine and shoulder girdle, which in turn have given rise to a myofascial pain syndrome. 

[46]            I accept his evidence that while there is some room for improvement, the plaintiff will likely suffer intermittent headaches and neck and upper back pain indefinitely.  She must be careful to modify her activities and avoid bending, leaning, heavy lifting or repetitive lifting—particularly those involving sustained postures of the neck and upper arms or repetitive use of the upper arms—which will exacerbate her pain.  

Contact

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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