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Tag: ICBC claims

Even More Analysis of Rule 37B

Well the cases seem to be coming in at a good pace and hopefully Rule 37B will start seeing some consistency in its interpretation by the BC Supreme Court.  
Today another case was released by the BC Supreme Court applying and interpreting this rule.  In this case the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision and sued for damages.  The Defendants made an offer to settle for $16,000 plus costs under the old Rule 37.  The Plaintiff rejected the offer, went to trial and was awarded just over $12,000.  Madam Justice Morrison made the following findings about the costs consequences flowing from these facts:

Policy Reasons for the Offer to Settle Rule

[42]            I turn first to the policy reasons behind the new rule.

[43]            The Court of Appeal commented on the purpose of the former Rule 37 in several cases.  Although Rule 37 was repealed and replaced with Rule 37B, the underlying rationale of Rule 37 is, in my opinion, still informative.  Rule 37 was designed to encourage settlement.  In MacKenzie v. Brooks, 1999 BCCA 623, 130 B.C.A.C. 95, the court made the following comment on the purpose of Rule 37:

[21]      Rule 37 is clearly designed to encourage the early settlement of actions. It does so by rewarding the party who makes an early and reasonable settlement offer, and by penalizing the party who declines to accept such an offer. The reward or penalty takes the form of costs (in some cases, double costs) from the date the offer is made. The significant role which costs now play in the litigation process operates as a powerful incentive to parties to make early offers of settlement under the Rule and to accept reasonable offers.

[44]            In Skidmore v. Blackmore (1995), 2 B.C.L.R. (3d) 201, 122 D.L.R. (4th) 330 (C.A.), the Court of Appeal commented on an older version of Rule 37 and Rule 57(9) (costs follow the event) at para. 37:

[37]      These Rules are designed to discourage frivolous actions and defences and to encourage the parties to make reasonable offers to settle as early as possible. Thus, party and party costs serve many functions. They partially indemnify the successful litigant, deter frivolous actions and defences, encourage both parties to deliver reasonable offers to settle, and discourage improper or unnecessary steps in the litigation.

[45]            Rule 37B is still designed to discourage frivolous actions and encourage parties to make and accept reasonable offers.  In Alan Seckel & James MacInnis, B.C. Supreme Court Rules Annotated 2009 (Toronto: Thomson, 2008), the authors commented on the introduction of Rule 37B.  They say that the new rule was necessary because the old rules had become dysfunctional, largely because of the lack of flexibility.  They describe the new rule as a welcome improvement.  They add at 373 that “the difficulty with Rule 37B will invariably be its lack of direction for parties and trial judges as to how to effect fairness in the face of the same problems which made interpretation and application of Rules 37 and 37A so difficult.”

[46]            I agree in this respect with the following observation by Hinkson J. in Bailey v. Jang, 2008 BCSC 1372, a personal injury case heard before a jury, at paras. 17-18:

[17]      In Mackenzie v. Brooks et al, 1999 BCCA 623 (sub nom. Mackenzie v. Brooks et al) 130 B.C.A.C. 95 at p. 21, the British Columbia Court of Appeal described the predecessor rules to Rule 37B as designed to encourage settlement by, among other things, “penalizing the party who declines to accept” an offer to settle.

[18]      While Rule 37B has brought about the reversion from a strict code to a reliance on judicial discretion with respect to costs, the use of costs to encourage or to deter certain types of conduct remains, albeit based upon the factors set out in subrule 37B(6).

The Factors under Rule 37B

[47]            I turn now to the factors under Rule 37B.

[48]            In my opinion, given the fact that the offer was made three years and almost four months after the date of the accident and well over a year after the action was commenced, the plaintiff should have known what medical information was available to him.  I agree with the defendants that this is a case where Mr. Leus was working full time from the date of the accident.  It is true that in Fast Track Litigation it is not cost efficient to end up with several medical legal reports from one doctor.  However, Mr. Leus did not have any information from Dr. Hodgeson, informal or otherwise, at the time of the offer.

[49]            As the defendants point out, the plaintiff could have contacted Dr. Hodgeson earlier.  By the time the report was requested, it was already 60 days before the trial so the rule requiring notice could not have been met in any event.  The further requests that were made were well within the 60 days.

[50]            The offer was made in timely manner and at a time when the plaintiff should have known his case.  It was an offer that ought reasonably to have been accepted at the date of the offer.

[51]            While I have considered the argument that the defendants, because of the participation of ICBC, can take advantage of making an early, low offer, in my opinion there is no such unfairness demonstrated.

[52]            In this case, $16,000 is a more favourable amount to the plaintiff than the $12,748.48 ordered by the court.  This factor favours the plaintiff being penalized for not accepting an award 20 percent greater than the judgment.  The fact that the numbers are low does not change the analysis.

[53]            The plaintiff argues that he should get preference under this factor because ICBC has significantly more resources to absorb the costs of litigation than he does and, as a result, ICBC is in a unique position to make early offers to settle.

[54]            The defendants argue that ICBC is not a party and the legal principles that developed under the old rule should still apply.  It would not be fair, they argue, if they were forced to pay the entire judgment, disbursements, and their own costs after they made a reasonable formal offer that was more than the final award.

[55]            Different views have been expressed by members of the court on the question of the relevance of fact that the defendants have insurance.

[56]            Mr. Justice Hinkson made the following comments in Bailey at paras. 32-34:

[32]      Second, [the plaintiff] places her financial position against that of ICBC, as opposed to that of the defendants.

[33]      While I accept that it is likely that most drivers in British Columbia are insured by ICBC, the wording of subrule 37B does not invite consideration of a defendant’s insurance coverage.  There may be good policy reasons for this.  Insurance coverage limits with ICBC are not universal, and will vary from insured to insured.  Certain activities may result in a breach of an individual’s insurance coverage, or the defence of an action under a reservation of rights by ICBC.  A plaintiff will not and likely should not be privy to such matters of insurance coverage between a defendant and ICBC.

[34]      The contest in this case was between the plaintiff and the defendants, and the insurance benefits available to the defendants do not, in my view, fall within the rubric of their financial circumstances, any more than any collateral benefit entitlement that a plaintiff may have would affect that person’s financial circumstances for the purpose of determining their loss.

[57]            Mr. Justice Butler in Arnold said that the mere fact that the defendant is insured is not enough to deprive the defendant of costs at para. 23:

[23]      Mr. Arnold has asked that I take into account the relative financial circumstances of the parties when exercising my discretion.  I find that I am unable to do so.  First, Mr. Arnold has provided no evidence regarding his financial circumstances other than the assertion that the likely result of a costs award in favour of the defendant will leave him with no recovery from the action.  Rule 37B gives this Court greater discretion than it had under the old Rule 37.  It specifically allows the Court to consider the relative financial circumstances of the parties.  However, there will always be a substantial difference between the relative financial circumstances of the usual personal injury plaintiff and the defendant’s motor vehicle insurer.  That difference, in and of itself, is not enough for the Court to exercise its discretion to deprive the defendant of costs.  If that was the intent of the new rule, it would have been more clearly articulated.

[58]            Conversely, Madam Justice Boyd in Radke v. Parry, 2008 BCSC 1397, did consider the fact that the defendants were insured by ICBC at para. 42, a case where costs were awarded against the defendants:

[42]      In the case at bar, on a review of the Rule and the authorities, I conclude that the plaintiff is indeed entitled to double costs from the date of the August 12th offer of settlement forward…It is also clear that there is a substantial disparity in financial circumstances between the parties.  The defendants, represented by ICBC, had substantially greater resources to finance a trial than the individual plaintiff.  Had the defendants accepted the plaintiff’s initial reasonable offer, the plaintiff would not have had to incur the significant costs associated with nearly two weeks of trial.

[59]            Even if there may be cases in which the fact that a party is insured may be relevant to that party’s financial circumstances and hence the party’s ability to pay a costs award, this is not one of those cases.  Here, there is very little information about the actual financial circumstances of the plaintiff, Mr. Leus.  Though Mr. Leus says he has a mortgage and a family to support, no details are provided as to his actual income and expenses.   Nor is there much information about the actual financial information of the defendants, John Laidman, Marjorie Laidman, and Ference Sandor.  The Court cannot draw permissible inferences from the very

[60]            The defendants argue that Rule 57(10) should be considered whereas the plaintiff says that the Court is only being asked to decide entitlement to costs and not quantum, so Rule 57(10) is not applicable.

[61]            Rule 57(10) says:

A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.

[62]            I am satisfied that Mr. Leus has shown that at the time his claim was initiated, there was a sufficient reason to bring the action in Supreme Court.  The amount he was claiming was close to the line; it was appropriate to use the discovery process to obtain evidence of the others involved in the accident:  Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, 72 B.C.L.R. (4th) 1.


[63]            In conclusion, the purpose of Rule 37B is to encourage settlement and avoid frivolous use of court resources by imposing punitive cost sanctions.  In the present case, the defendants made a reasonable offer to settle that ought to have been accepted by the plaintiff.  The offer was 20 percent higher than the plaintiff’s final award.  Given the overarching purpose of Rule 37B, Mr. Leus should be denied his costs, including his disbursements of $7,500, from the date of the offer, because he failed to accept the offer to settle.

[64]            However, though the court could award the defendants single costs, I have decided it is not appropriate to do that in the particular circumstances of this case.  The decision depriving the plaintiff of his costs meets the objectives of the Rule.  I have considered, in particular, the size of the award, the fact that it was less than $4,000 lower than the offer, and the impact of this decision on what Mr. Leus will actually receive.

The Old, The New and The Ugly – Costs Consequences Involving Rule 37 and Rule 37B

I’ve blogged about most if not all of the recent reported BC Supreme Court judgements applying the new Rule 37B and don’t intend to summarize a history of the rule here (for a history of the rule and to read my previous articles on Rule 37B cases simply use the search feature on this site and type Rule 37B).
Reasons for judgement were released today considering an interesting issue.  Rule 37B, once it came into force, repealed Rule 37.  In recognizing that a transition period was necessary the rule permitted costs consequences to flow from formal offers delivered under the old Rule 37 if those offers were made before July 2, 2008.  Today;s case decided what costs consequences should flow when an old Rule 37 offer is accepted after Rule 37B comes into effect.
In this case the Defendants made a formal offer in April, 2008 under the old Rule 37.  The Plaintiff accepted the offer in November of 2008, after Rule 37B took effect.  The parties could not agree on the costs consequences of the acceptance and application was brought to the BC Supreme Court.  The point of contention was who should be responsible for the costs incurred after delivery of the offer to the time of acceptance.  The court dealt with this issue delivering the following reasons:

[11]            Both parties advanced arguments that the court has discretion under Rule 37B to make an order regarding costs.  However, it is my opinion that the court has no discretion to make an order regarding costs in this matter.  Mr. Buttar accepted the offer put forth by the defendants, including the offer regarding costs, without reservation.  It is my view that Rule 37B does not confer a discretion on the court to set aside an agreement that has been entered into between the parties regarding costs.

[12]            The offer made by the defendants reads as follows:

TAKE NOTICE that the Defendants offer to settle this proceeding on the following terms:

1.         the sum of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($100,000.00), less deductible benefits paid or payable pursuant to Part 7 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation, and Section 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 231, and less any advances paid to date; and,

2.         Costs to be taxed in accordance with Rule 37(22) and (37).

[13]            Although Rule 37 was repealed and replaced by Rule 37B, by incorporating the wording of Rule 37(22), the offer provided that the defendants would pay costs to the plaintiff to the date the offer was delivered and that, if the matter were to continue, the defendants would be entitled to their costs from the date of delivery.  Former Rule 37(22) provided that if an offer made by a defendant was accepted by a plaintiff, the plaintiff is entitled to costs to the day of the offer, and the defendant is entitled to costs from the date of the offer.

[14]            In this case, there has been no determination of any issues in this lawsuit.  Rather, Mr. Buttar accepted the offer to settle as presented by the defendants.

[15]            The letter of acceptance is unequivocal and states the following:

We confirm that there have been no advances under Tort or under Part 7 to our client.

We accept the Defendants’ Offer to Settle dated April 28, 2008.

I note that the Defendants’ Offer to Settle was made under the old Rule 37, but our acceptance of that offer is clearly under the new Rule 37B which does not provide a form for acceptance.  As such, out of an abundance of caution, I also enclose an Acceptance of Offer in Form 65A.

[16]            On this application, the parties argued the effects of Rule 37B(4),which provides that the award of costs is discretionary, and Rule 37B(5)(a), which provides that the court may do one or both of the following:  deprive a party, in whole or in part, to costs that would otherwise be entitled to and award double costs of all, or some, of the steps taken in litigation after the date of the delivery of the offer to settle.

[17]            I agree that subrules 37B(4) and (5) are permissive.  However, it is my view that the court has no discretion to consider costs in this matter because Mr. Buttar accepted an offer which contained a term as to when costs would be payable and to whom.

[18]            Accordingly, Mr. Buttar’s application is dismissed.  The defendants are entitled to the costs of this application.

How Can $125,000 really equal $0 in an ICBC Claim?

Costs consequences, that’s how.  If ICBC beats their formal offer at trial they can be awarded costs under Rule 37B.  These costs can sometimes exceed the amount of a judgement and reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this principle.
Trials can be risky and expensive and to the victor go the spoils.  In today’s case the Plaintiff claimed she suffered a brain injury as a result of 2 collisions.  The Defendants collectively offered to settle the Plaintiff’s claims for $450,000.  The Plaintiff made a settlement offer of $1,500,000.  After a 41 day trial Mr. Justice Gropper of the BC Supreme Court rejected the brain injury claim and awarded damages of $125,349.  The Defendants brought an application to be awarded costs from the date of their respective formal offers and succeeded.  In reading the judgement it appears that these consequences are so significant that the Plaintiff may be left with $0 or perhaps even owe money to the Defendants after all the dust settles.  In addressing this reality the court held that such an outcome in and ofitself is not enough to extinguish the Defendant’s entitlement to costs.  Specifically, Mr. Justice Gropper reasoned as follows:
As stated, the plaintiff received judgment.  The defendants’ costs and disbursements from the time of the offers may exceed the judgment.  This is an appropriate factor to consider in determining the appropriate order for costs.  It is not sufficient, in my view, to deny the defendants their costs arising from the offers to settle.  If the aim of the rule is to encourage reasonable settlements, denying the defendants their costs in the circumstance does not meet that aim.  It may be a reason to deny the defendants double costs, but the defendants have not sought double costs in this matter.  While it is an important factor to consider, it is not sufficient, in and of itself, to extinguish defendants’ entitlement to the costs.
Cases such as this which illustrate the potential costs consequences of an unsuccessful ICBC claim need to be reviewed when considering claim settlement.  Trials come with risk and settlement offers have to be weighed against this risk.  Reasons for judgement don’t always reflect who the real winner is.  In ICBC claims the real winner is often the party that beats their formal settlement offer and this is not always revealed in judgements.  
In addition to illustrating the significant costs consequences which parties can be exposed to in the BC Supreme Court, this case does a good job in discussing Rule 37B.   Mr. Justice Gropper summarized the authorities to date applying Rule 37B as follows:

[18]            The jurisprudence is developing in this court under Rule 37B(5) in regard to the effect of offers to settle on costs.  The following principles have been stated:

1.         “…Rule 37B is permissive in nature and provides the Court with a broad discretion to award double costs”: Radke v. Parry, 2008 BCSC 1397 at ¶37.

2.         “…there are important differences between Rule 37B and the predecessor rules, Rule 37 and Rule 37A.  Notwithstanding the differences … the underlying legislative policy remains the same.  The goal has been and remains to encourage the early settlement of disputes ‘… by rewarding the party who makes an early and reasonable settlement offer, and by penalizing the party who declines to accept such an offer’ (see MacKenzie v. Brooks, 1999 BCCA 623, 130 BCAC 95…)”:Radke ¶38.

3.         “Subrule (5) is permissive.  It empowers the court to make either type of order mentioned in the subrule.  By necessary implication, it contemplates that the court may make an order that denies one of the two forms of relief set out in the subrule”: BCSPCA v. Baker, 2008 BCSC 947at ¶ 15.

4.         “[Subrule (5)] does not specifically state that it is possible for the court to order costs to a defendant where an offer to settle was in an amount greater than the judgment.  Nevertheless, that is implied in the rule.  If the court can deprive a party of costs or order double costs, it must also be able to order costs, the intermediate step between those two extremes”: Arnold v. Cartwright Estate, 2008 BCSC 1575 at ¶15.

5.         “One of the goals of Rule 37B … is to promote settlements by providing that there will be consequences in the amount of costs payable when a party fails to accept an offer that ought reasonably to have been accepted.  That goal would be frustrated if Rule 37B(5) did not permit the court the option of awarding costs of all or some of the steps taken in a proceeding after the date of delivery of an offer to settle”: Arnold at ¶16.

He then went on to decide that the Defendants ought to be awarded their costs in the present case and came to the following conclusion:

[35]            In all of the circumstances, applying the factors addressed by the Rules and the parties, I find that it is reasonable that the defendants recover their taxable costs and disbursements in this action.

[36]            I therefore order that the defendants Paul be awarded their taxable costs and disbursements from June 8, 2005 onwards.  The plaintiff is entitled to her taxable costs and disbursements in the Paul action up to June 8, 2005 only.

[37]            The defendants Brandy are awarded their taxable costs and disbursements from October 26, 2006 onwards and the plaintiff is entitled to recover her taxable costs and disbursements in the Brandy action up until October 26, 2006.

What interested me most in these reasons was the judge’s refusal to look at the fact that the Defendant was insured with ICBC when weighing the relative financial circumstances of the parties under Rule 37B(6).  The courts are currently split on whether this is a relevant factor and once the BC Courts come up with a consistent analysis of this topic it will be easier for ICBC claims lawyers to better predict the costs consequences for their clients following trial.  Hopefully the BC Court of Appeal has an opportunity to shed some light on this subject in the near future.

ICBC Claims and Court 'Costs'

One important difference between the BC Supreme Court and BC Small Claims Court is the availability of court ‘costs’ to the winning litigant.
A winning party in the Provincial Court is usually awarded their disbursements, that is, the money it cost to bring the legal proceedings such as court filing fees, the cost of producing medical evidence etc.  The winner cannot, however, be awarded Tariff Costs (money to compensate the party for the various steps they took in the lawsuit).  This can be contrasted with the Supreme Court where a winning party can be awarded Costs and Disbursements.   This can make a big difference as a ‘costs’ award after a Supreme Court trial could easily exceed $10,000.
What if you bring your ICBC injury claim in Supreme Court but are awarded an amount of money in the Small Claims Court’s jurisdiction (currently up to $25,000).  Could you still get awarded Tariff Costs?  The answer is sometimes and the starting point is to look at Rule 57(10) which states:
(10)  A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.
So, the question is when is there sufficient reason for bringing an ICBC injury claim in Supreme Court when the claim ends up being worth less than $25,000?  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court addressing exactly this question.
In today’s case the Plaintiff was awarded $20,000 in damages as a result of a 2005 BC motor vehicle collision.  In deciding that the Plaintiff is entitled to costs Mr. Justice Truscott summarized and applied the law with the following reasons for judgment:

[17]            The plaintiff Truong relies upon a decision of this court in Caldwell v. Maga [1997] B.C.J. No. 2166 (BCSC) where there were two plaintiffs, one being awarded $5,500 for damages and the other $4,500 for damages, both involved in a rear end accident.  This was at a time when the limit in small claims actions was $10,000.

[18]            Mr. Justice Drost referred to a previous decision of Mr. Justice Drake where he also dealt with two plaintiffs, who were each awarded under $10,000, and said in awarding them costs that the totality of the two judgments amounted to more than the small claims limit and they were entitled to costs.

[19]            Mr. Justice Drost determined to follow the reasoning of Mr. Justice Drake in that decision (Phosy & White v. Island Pacific Transport Ltd. [1996] B.C.J. No. 1037, (2 May 1996), Victoria Registry No. 95/1123).

[20]            I question the correctness of these two decisions as I tend to agree with defence counsel that taken to its logical conclusion that reasoning would mean that 26 claimants each with $1,000 claims would be entitled to sue in Supreme Court in one writ because the total would exceed $25,000, the present limit of small claims jurisdiction.

[21]            I consider it far more likely that the $25,000 limit of small claims jurisdiction should apply to each claim of each plaintiff no matter how many plaintiffs there might be.

[22]            However, I am obliged to follow the previous decisions of this Court which would probably entitle the two plaintiffs to sue in Supreme Court.

[23]            Apart from this, at the best of times I consider it difficult for any plaintiff’s counsel to estimate the appropriate range involved for personal injury claims of his clients at the initiation of the action.  The medical conditions of many plaintiffs continue to change following the initiation of the action as they continue to recover from their injuries or continue to suffer.

[24]            Here, even after Dr. Yong’s optimistic report of March 14, 2006, by January 26, 2008 he was still saying that it was likely that the plaintiff Truong would continue to suffer some degree of left shoulder pain probably for another one or two years.

[25]            The award to the plaintiff Truong of $20,000 is by itself less than the limit of jurisdiction in small claims of $25,000, but is not less by any large amount, and with the difficulty facing counsel of accurately estimating the range for a personal injury for his client at the initiation of litigation, knowing that if action is commenced in small claims his client will be limited to $25,000 no matter that the assessment might be in excess of $25,000, I am satisfied this plaintiff did have sufficient reason for bringing her claim in Supreme Court.

[26]            The plaintiff Truong will therefore have her costs of her claim at Scale B, only attributable to her claim.

$25,000 Awarded for Pain and Suffering in ICBC Low Back Injury Claim

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $50,000 in total damages as a result of a motor vehicle collision, $25,000 of which represented non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering).
The collision occurred in 2005.  The Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended.  The court concluded that the force of the impact was mild.  
The court accepted that the Plaintiff suffered a mild muscular injury to his lower back in the motor vehicle accident.  The court also found, however, that the Plaintiff was partly to blame for his ongoing symptoms stating that:
[53]            The fact that Mr. Moojelski has been long-delayed in returning to a normal state of health results from a combination of inadequate or ineffective exercise and supervision, Mr. Moojelski’s refusal to take prescribed medications in prescribed dosages and his decision to exceed the recommended dosages by some substantial margin.  In that regard, Mr. Moojelski admitted that he reported to Dr. McPherson that when he had been prescribed Tylenol 3, he had used 6 tablets every 2 hours, greatly in excess of the prescribed quantity.  I find that it is likely that Mr. Moojelski’s mental health was adversely affected by his personal decision to rely on marijuana as a source of relief rather than adhering to his physician’s prescription of anti-depressants, and by not pursuing physical reconditioning of the kind Dr. le Nobel considers appropriate to a man of his pre-accident physical ability and age. 
The court found that the Plaintiff should fully recover from his injury.  In valuing the pain and suffering claim at $25,000 the court noted the Plaintiff’s role in his prolonged symptoms stating as follows:
[60]            In all of the circumstances, I am satisfied that an award of $25,000 as general damages adequately compensates Mr. Moojelski for the pain and suffering he has endured, and for the adverse effect upon his enjoyment of life and the loss of amenities.  In that assessment, I have taken into account the onset of a mild depression in March 2006, which was accident-related.  However, the depression was prolonged by Mr. Moojelski’s failure to adhere to the use of prescribed medications.  His refusal was unreasonable and is therefore reflected in the assessment of general damages.

ICBC Claims, Settlement Offers and Timelines for Acceptance

Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal setting aside a settlement of an ICBC injury claim.
In this case the Plaintiff was allegedly injured as a result of a 2001 BC motor vehicle collision.  In September, 2006 the parties attended a mediation and ICBC made an offer to settle the Plaintiff’s claim for $50,000 plus costs and disbursements.  The Plaintiff did not accept the offer at mediation and the mediation came to an end.  
The following month the Plaintiff’s lawyer attempted to accept the settlement offer.  The defendants refused to proceed with the settlement, stated that the offer was revoked and attempted to proceed to trial.
The Plaintiff brought an application to enforce the alleged settlement and appeared before the BC Supreme Court.  The presiding judge ordered that there was a binding settlement.  The Defendants appealed.  The Court of Appeal ordered that there was no settlement or if a settlement was reached it was ‘void for uncertainty and unenforceable‘.
The court’s key discussion is set out at paragraphs 15 – 21 which I set out below:

[15]            In my view, on the evidence presented in this rather unsatisfactory record, a settlement cannot be said to have been reached for two reasons.  First, the offer made in mediation was not accepted within a reasonable time.  Second, the terms of the purported settlement lacked certainty. 

[16]            What is a reasonable time is a question of fact.  However, it is a question to which the learned chambers judge never directed her attention in either of the two sets of reasons she gave.  In the absence of any express provision, a reasonable time for acceptance of the offer at mediation depended on all the circumstances.  The mediation concluded with no agreement.  The trial date was approaching.  Both sides were no doubt preparing for trial and incurring the attendant costs.  The reasonable observer would, if asked, have concluded that the time for acceptance of the offer, even if it continued after the mediation had ended, had gone by.

[17]            Nor can the terms of the purported settlement be said to be certain.  The offer at mediation was to pay $50,000 plus costs and disbursements.  The letter of 20 October 2006 purported to accept an offer of $50,000 “plus party and party costs in the tort action”.  The letter did not specify the date at which such costs were to be determined.  It did not specify the amount of the costs, nor the manner in which they were to be determined.  If the letter of 20 October 2006 can be said to have concluded an agreement, it was at best an agreement to agree. 

[18]            The learned chambers judge recognized this difficulty.  She said:

It is apparent that the parties have not agreed upon the matter of costs.

[19]            She then directed that the issue “be referred to the trial judge”.  There was no trial, and there was no trial judge.  Moreover, there was no order as to who should pay what costs, at what level, or for what period of time.  None of the factors which might guide a judge in making a ruling on costs were known or knowable.

[20]            Even if one were to read this direction as one for taxation of costs before the Registrar, there is nothing in the evidence to suggest that this was what either party intended, or the basis on which a Registrar could conduct a taxation.

[21]            If there was any kind of an agreement reached, it was void for uncertainty and unenforceable.  And in any event, the offer not having been accepted within a reasonable time, no agreement can be said to have been reached.

This case illustrates the fact that if an informal settlement offer is made (as opposed to a formal settlement offer under Rule 37B) it is important for the parties to have a meeting of the minds and know exactly what is being offered.  Does the offer include court costs?  Disbursements?  How long is the offer open for acceptance?  These and other questions are important factors when considering a settlement offer for an ICBC claim.  

Brain Injury Claim Dismissed, $55,000 Pain and Suffering for STI's and Hearing Loss

The first released judgment by the BC Supreme Court in 2009 dealing with an ICBC Injury Claim was handed down today.
The Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  It was an intersection collision where the Defendant turned left in front of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  The Plaintiff had a green light and a significant impact occurred.
The Plaintiff’s vehicle sustained ‘considerable’ damage and her vehicle was written off.  Liability (fault) was admitted on behalf of the defendants on the morning of trial.  The trial focused on the Plaintiff’s injuries and their value.
The most contentious claimed injury was a concussive injury affecting cognitive abilities.   The court dismissed the alleged brain injury stating that “The plaintiff bears the onus of proving that it is more probable than not that she suffered each of the injuries she alleges.  In my opinion, it has been shown that there is a reasonable possibility that the plaintiff sustained a mild brain injury as a result of the motor vehicle accident.  But I am not persuaded that it is more probable than not that this occurred.”
Mr. Justice Halfyard did a great job addressing the competing medical evidence and the discussion at paragraphs 30 – 58 of this judgement is worth reviewing for anyone advancing an ICBC brain injury claim to see some of the issues that often come into play during litigation.
In valuing the Plaintiff’s Pain and Suffering at $55,000 the court summarized her injuries and their effect on her life as follows:

[89]            I conclude that the plaintiff sustained injuries to the soft tissues of her neck and upper back, the rotator cuff muscles in her left shoulder and the soft tissues in her chest wall.  I would describe the severity of these injuries as being moderate.

[90]            I find that the plaintiff sustained a loss of her hearing ability (much more pronounced in her left ear), as a result of a mild labyrinthine concussion caused by the accident.  Not all of this loss of hearing was caused by the injury.  Some of it was attributable to the normal aging process.  I accept Dr. van Rooy’s description of the overall loss of hearing ability as being mild.

[91]            I am not satisfied that the plaintiff sustained injury to her brain.  Nor am I satisfied that any injury she sustained in the accident caused a loss of her ability to maintain proper balance or equilibrium. 

[92]            The plaintiff has substantially recovered from all of her injuries except for the injury to her left shoulder.  Three years have elapsed since the accident, and the plaintiff’s symptoms may persist for another two years into the future.  These symptoms will be troublesome and sometimes painful, when she is working with her hands while holding her arms in certain positions.  To some degree, these effects will affect the plaintiff’s ability to make and repair costumes, and to work in her daughter’s shop.  But her hip and her low back problem are probably as much or more a hindrance to the plaintiff, than is the residual problem with her left shoulder.  The depression and anxiety that has plagued the plaintiff for some years is the most likely cause of her loss of motivation.  But I accept that the plaintiff’s emotional reaction to her injuries from the motor vehicle accident did aggravate her pre-existing psychological condition, to some extent.

ICBC Insurance Claims and Wilfully False Statements

If you are insured with ICBC and are making a claim for benefits you have a duty to act in good faith in your communications with ICBC.   Similarly, ICBC has a duty to process your first party insurance claim in good faith.
What happens if you make a false statement to ICBC?  Can this cause a breach of your insurance?  The answer is yes, depending on whether the statement is willful and if it was material in processing the claim.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court addressing this issue.  The Plaintiff owned a 2000 Porshe Boxter which was allegedly stolen in 2005.  The Plaintiff purchased the vehicle in 2004 and paid $38,000.
After the vehicle went missing the Plaintiff reported the theft to ICBC and the police.  He told the police that the vehicle was worth $45,000.  When filling out a form titled ‘Report of Automobile” to ICBC the Plaintiff he filled out the box asking ‘amount paid’ with the sun of $44,000.
ICBC refused to pay the Plaintiff for the value of the vehicle.  The Plaintiff sued.   The claim was dismissed because the court found that the Plaintiff ‘inflated’ the value of the vehicle when reporting the loss to ICBC and doing so was ‘material to (ICBC’s) assessment of the claim), thus holding the Plaintiff in breach of section 19 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act Regulations.
The court summarized the law starting at paragraph 114.  I reproduce this below:

Forfeiture Pursuant to the Provisions of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act Regulations, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 231, S. 19(1)(e)

[114]        The section reads:

19(1)    If …

(e)        an insured makes a wilfully false statement with respect to a claim under a plan,

all claims by or in respect of the applicant of the insured are rendered invalid, and his or her right and the right of a person claiming through or on behalf of or as a dependant of the applicant or the insured to benefits and insurance money is forfeited.

[115]        The leading statement of law in this matter was enunciated by McEachern C.J.B.C. in Inland Kenworth Limited v. Commonwealth Insurance Company, (1990) 48 B.C.L.R. 2d 305 at pages 309 – 311, and cited by Rowles J.A. in Brown v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, 2004 BCCA 254 at paras. 10-11:

10.       In Inland Kenworth, in which s. 231(1) of the Insurance Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 200 was under consideration, McEachern C.J.B.C. said, at 309-311 (B.C.L.R.):

I agree that a wilfully false statement which is not material may not usually be relied upon by the insurer. Materiality is, however, one of the fundamental principles of insurance law and it manifests itself in many ways. The classic test of materiality in insurance law is whether a statement is capable of affecting the mind of the insurer.

* * *

It is sufficient, in my view, if the fraud or wilfully false statement is capable of affecting the mind of the insurer either in the management of the claim or in deciding to pay it. It is unnecessary to speculate about what the insurer would have done if the fraud had not occurred but I point out that the insurer may have waived appraisal and decided to pay Blue Book value. On the other hand, the insurer may have done exactly what it did in this case, that is submit the question to appraisal.

A contract of insurance is one of utmost good faith and one cannot commit frauds or make wilfully false statements about the subject matter of the claim for any purpose without risking the loss of the right to indemnity if it turns out to be material on any issue.

* * *

I do not say that any wilfully false statement will be sufficient to vitiate coverage. It must be material. I think the wilfully false statement about the subject matter of the insurance, intended to comply with the warranty, but which also related to the question of value, and was capable of affecting the mind of the insurer, destroyed the integrity of the claim, and was material at least to the latter question. Under the Act, and at law, this forfeits the right of the insured to indemnity.

11.       In Peterson v. Bannon , supra, s. 18(1)(e), which is now s. 19(1)(e) of the Act, was under consideration,.  In that case, Finch J.A., as he then was, said at para. 59:

Inland Kenworth therefore affirmed that if an insured makes a wilfully false statement about the subject matter of his or her claim, that person risks forfeiture if the statement is material to any issue arising in the claim. Although the respondent argued otherwise, there is no real distinction between the language of s. 231(1) and s. 18(1)(e). I consider myself bound by Inland Kenworth, a judgment with which I respectfully agree. A wilfully false statement will invalidate an insured’s claim only if the statement is material to the claim at risk of forfeiture.

[Underlining added

[116]        Mr. Chahal correctly argues that there has to be a wilfully false statement and secondly that it was material to the processing of the claim.

[117]        As well, he relied on the decision of Cullen J. in DeCastro v. I.C.B.C., oral reasons given October 2, 2006, which had some similarities in a central issue arising from the effectiveness of the immobilizer in a BMW that had been apparently taken from outside a pub on March 31, 2004, and subsequently found without tires and wheels, various front-end components and destroyed by fire.

[118]        Cullen J. noted the initial burden falls on the plaintiff to show that loss falls within the coverage but that is not onerous and that secondly, the onus then shifts to the defendant to prove on a balance of probabilities intentional material conduct by the plaintiff that is in breach of one of the sub-sections of s. 19(1).

[119]        The principal arguments about representations made with respect to the claim are: (1) the statement made as to the price paid; (2) the number of keys provided by Mr. Leach.

[120]        Mr. Chahal paid $38,000 to Mr. Leach by official cheque on November 10, 2004.

[121]        From the outset of Mr. Chahal’s report to the Delta police, through the reports of loss to I.C.B.C., the initial recorded statement of August 31, 2005 and the statement on oath in December 2005, Mr. Chahal spoke of the price paid or value as $44,000 or $45,000.  Only in the case of the Proof of Loss form sworn on November 8, 2005, did he say he had researched the value.

[122]        I am unable to accept that he would not have known precisely the amount he paid as reflected in the official cheque.

[123]        I accept the reported value of the vehicle was material to the insurance corporation’s assessment of the claim and that the plaintiff sought to inflate the value of the vehicle.  Further, no evidence was led by Mr. Chahal to support the alleged value.


Pain and Suffering and Your ICBC Claim

One of the most common questions asked of me through this blog is “how much is my Pain and Suffering worth in my ICBC personal injury tort claim?”.  The answer to this, of course, depends on various factors and who better to discuss these than a BC Supreme Court judge?
On that point, reasons for judgement were released today discussing the law of ‘pain and suffering’ in tort claims.  Pain and Suffering is awarded under the legal head of damage called “Non-Pecuniary Loss”.  Non Pecuniary Loss includes damages for “pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities”.
In today’s case $70,000 was awarded in non-pecuniary damages as a result injuries sustained in a 2005 BC car crash.  In doing so Madam Justice Russell summarized the law of non-pecuniary damages ar paragraphs 104-105 of the judgment as follows:

Non-pecuniary damages

[104]        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. 

[105]        There are a number of factors that courts must take into account when assessing this type of claim.  The majority judgment in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, outlines a number of 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.)).

Cases such as this one are key in helping one understand the principles behind awards for pain and suffering in ICBC tort claims.  Once the general principles of this head of damage are understood, the extent of injuries and prognosis known, and cases with similar injuries are canvassed the easier it will be to value the potential range of damages for pain and suffering in an ICBC personal injury (tort) claim.

Ice, Snow and Your ICBC Personal Injury Claim

It’s snowing heavily outside, our Christmas tree is lit and the the fire is going.  It’s a beautiful December evening in British Columbia unless of course you’re out in traffic.  With that in mind I’m republishing a post I originally wrote in April of this year on this ICBC injury claims blog:
Snow in BC has two reliable results 1. Car Accidents, 2. Phone call to BC personal injury lawyers about those car accidents. The second is particularly true for Victoria personal injury and ICBC claims lawyers because of the local populations relative inexperience dealing with winter driving conditions.
In anticipation of the almost certain phone calls I will receive this week as a Victoria ICBC claims lawyer I write this post.
If you are the driver involved in a single vehicle accident in British Columbia, and you lost control due to the weather, all you can likely claim from ICBC are Part 7 Benefits (also referred to as no fault benefits). There is (except in some unusually peculiar situations such as an ICBC insured driver contributing to the road hazards) in all likelihood no claim from ICBC for pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages) in these circumstances. A person’s right to claim pain and suffering and other “tort” damages only arises if someone else is at fault for your injuries. In these single vehicle accidents you usually only have yourself or the weather to blame, and last time I checked you can’t sue mother nature.
If someone else contributed to the accident (perhaps the road maintenance company for failing to act in a timely fashion or perhaps a mechanic for failing to bring your vehicle up to snuff last time you had it inspected) you will have to make a claim against them. Chances are they are not insured through ICBC for such claims and instead you will have to go against their policy of private insurance.
Now, if you are a passenger in a single vehicle, weather related accident, you may very well have a claim for pain and suffering. This claim would be against your driver (except perhaps in the unusual circumstances mentioned above). If your driver did not operate the vehicle safely in all the circumstances (for example driving too fast for the known or anticipated poor road conditions) and this caused or contributed to the collision then you have a tort claim. Assuming the driver is ICBC insured then you have the right to apply for both no-fault benefits from your own insurance and make a tort claim against the driver that will be covered through his third party liability ICBC insurance.
If you are advancing a tort claim against a driver be weary of the defence of “inevitable accident”. ICBC defends claims. One of the best defences to a weather related accident is that it was “inevitable”. What this means is that the driver, operating safely, could not have avoided losing control of his vehicle. If this can be proven than the tort claim can be defeated.
People naturally don’t want to get those known to them in trouble and it is all too common that when reporting such a claim to ICBC passengers too readily agree to how unexpected the accident was and how the driver was operating the vehicle very carefully. If this is true that’s fine. My words of caution are as follows: If the driver was not safe (I’m not talking about driving like a maniac here, I’m talking about driving less than carefully for the winter driving conditions) and you give ICBC the alternate impression with a view towards helping the driver out, the result may be severely damaging your ability to bring a tort claim.
Tell the truth and know what’s at stake when doing so. If ICBC gets the false impression that the accident was inevitable you will have a much harder time advancing or settling your ICBC tort claim.
The bottom line is this: If an accident truly is inevitable and there is no tort claim so be it, but, don’t lead ICBC to this conclusion if it isn’t true. Doing so will hurt your claim for pain and suffering.