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Tag: Litigation Guardian

Rule 20-2: Disabled People Must Use a Lawyer to Sue in the BC Supreme Court

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing the requirement that disabled people must be represented by a lawyer (or the Public Guardian and Trustee) when suing in the BC Supreme Court.  In short the Court held that despite some minor changes in language, the current Rule 20-2 is to be applied identically to the former Rule 6(4).
In today’s case (Sahyoun v. Ho) the plaintiff was “incapable of managing himself or his affairs” and his father was appointed as his committee.  Shortly after this the committee started a complex lawsuit on the Plaintiff’s behalf against numerous defendants.  He did not hire a lawyer to assist with the process.   Some of the Defendants brought a motion seeking directions as the lawsuit was not brought in compliance with Rule 20-2.  Mr. Justice Voith found that the Court has no discretion to deviate from Rule 20-2 and ordered that the lawsuit be stayed.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[13] Rule 20-2 of the Rules of Court deals with persons who labour under a legal disability. The relevant portions of the Rule provide:

Start of proceedings by person under disability

(2) A proceeding brought by or against a person under legal disability must be started or defended by his or her litigation guardian.

Lawyer must be involved

(4) A litigation guardian must act by a lawyer unless the litigation guardian is the Public Guardian and Trustee.

Committee as litigation guardian

(6) If a person is appointed committee, that person must be the litigation guardian of the patient in any proceeding unless the court otherwise orders.

[14] Rule 20-2(4) is very similar to R. 6(4) of the former Rules of Court. Arguably, the wording is now stronger. Formerly, R. 6(4) stated that the litigation guardian “shall act by a solicitor…” R. 20-2(4) now states that the litigation guardian “must act by a lawyer…”. Both “shall” and “must” are, however, defined in s. 29 of the Interpretation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 238 as “imperative”.

[15] Rule 22-7(2) sets out the powers of this court when there has been non-compliance with the Rules:

Powers of court

(2) Subject to subrules (3) and (4), if there has been a failure to comply with these Supreme Court Civil Rules, the court may

(a) set aside a proceeding, either wholly or in part,

(b) set aside any step taken in the proceeding, or a document or order made in the proceeding,

(c) allow an amendment to be made under Rule 6-1,

(d) dismiss the proceeding or strike out the response to civil claim and pronounce judgment, or

(e) make any other order it considers will further the object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules.

[16] This court has interpreted the requirement that a litigation guardian “act by a lawyer” as set out in R. 20-2(4), and formerly under R. 6(4), very strictly. In Daniel v. ICBC, 2002 BCCA 715,  the plaintiff had sustained a brain injury in a car accident as child. When he was 23 years of age his mother sought to act on his behalf as his committee under the Patients Property Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 349.

[17] She was not able to afford to retain a lawyer. Southin J.A. (in Chambers) did not permit her to proceed and stated:

[3] As I see the present situation, Mrs. Daniel has no status whatever in this Court on her own to sue on behalf of her son even if the Style of Cause here were to be amended accordingly.

[4] Since, obviously, the Daniels are not able to afford solicitors to act for them, this action cannot be brought in Mrs. Daniel’s name. To put it another way, as this action was intended to be on behalf of Attila, either he must bring the action or his guardian ad litem must bring the action, but a guardian ad litem must act through a solicitor and not in person. Those are the rules. The only other suggestion I can give is that Mrs. Daniel see the Public Trustees Office and see whether anything can be done….

[28] I have decided to stay the action. I do not believe it would be appropriate, at this stage, to strike the plaintiffs’ claim. It may be that the plaintiffs will be able to find a lawyer to assist them. In saying this, I am mindful that the continued existence of the action, notwithstanding the fact that it has been stayed, is a source of some difficulty for the Defendant Physicians.

Infant Injury Claims in British Columbia and Conflicts of Interest

When an infant (for the purposes of civil lawsuits anyone under 19 years of age is considered an ‘infant’ in British Columbia) is injured and wants to sue for damages they can’t start a lawsuit on their own.  They must do so through an adult ‘litigation guardian‘.
For obvious reasons, it is common for a parent to fill the role of litigation guardian.  Oftentimes in infant injury claims Defendants argue not only that the child is to blame for the accident but also that the child’s parents are to blame for failing to adequately supervise their children.  If this defence is raised against a parent litigation guardian it can place them in a conflict of interest.  So what can be done in this situation?  Reasons for judgement were released demonstrating one possible outcome to such a fact pattern.
In today’s case (Gill v. Morin) the Plaintiff was “grievously hurt” when his ATV struck or was struck by a car driven by the Defendant.  He started a lawsuit against the motorist with his mother acting as litigation guardian.  The Defendant denied fault and argued that the Plaintiff’s mother was to blame for “failure to adequately supervise (her) son”.
Once placed in this conflict of interest the Plaintiff’s mom applied to the Public Guardian and Trustee (“PGT”) and asked them to take over the lawsuit.  The PGT refused to do so unless they were “insulated from any claim for costs” in the event it turned out to be a losing lawsuit.
The parties turned to the Court for a solution.  The Plaintiff asked the Court to order that the PGT act as litigation guardian.  The PGT opposed this arguing that the lawsuit should simply be put on hold until the infant becomes an adult.  The Defendant opposed the PGT’s position arguing this would result in unfair delay.
The Court ultimately sided with the PGT and held that the lawsuit should be put on hold until the infant’s 19th birthday and from there he could decide whether to carry on with the lawsuit.  Master Keighley provided the following analysis:

[32] It is indeed regrettable that this defendant, who may eventually be found to be blameless with respect to this accident, may be obliged to wait several more years for the issues of liability and perhaps quantum to be resolved, but in the absence of any specific evidence, I am not prepared to find that the defendant is prejudiced by a stay of this action until the plaintiff obtains the age of majority. The limitation for this cause of action will not begin to run against the infant plaintiff until he reaches the age of majority on February 2, 2012 and it seems to be the defendant is no more prejudiced by a stay of proceedings then he would be had the plaintiff waited until then to commence this action.


[33] In the result then, Piar will be removed as litigation guardian forthwith. The third party’s application to appoint the PGT as litigation guardian is dismissed. The action will be stayed until the infant plaintiff reaches the age of majority. Should counsel be unable to resolve the issue of costs, that issue may be brought back before me.

If you are faced with a similar dilemma this case is worth reviewing in full as the Court summarizes a handful of useful precedents disposing of similar applications at paragraphs 16-30 of the reasons for judgement.