Tag: Madam Justice Dardi

ICBC Psychiatrist Criticized for Not Being "An Impartial Expert"

In my continued efforts to archive judicial critisism of expert witnesses who cross the line into ‘advocacy’, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, finding a psychiatrist retained by ICBC failed to provided evidence with “the sufficient degree of objectivity“.
In this week’s case (Drodge v. Kozek) the Plaintiff was involved in 2006 collision.  He suffered chronic pain and cognitive dysfunction following the crash.   ICBC retained a psychiatrist who authored a report and provided opinion evidence to the court which, in contrast to the Plaintiff’s treating doctor, placed less emphasis on role of the collision with respect to the Plaintiff’s complaints.
The Court found that this psychiatrist was not sufficiently objective and placed ‘little weight‘ in his opinion.  Madam Justice Dardi provided the following criticism:

[49] Dr. Solomons is a qualified psychiatrist who at the request of ICBC examined Mr. Drodge on July 9, 2009, and prepared a report dated August 2, 2009. At trial I ordered that certain contents of his report be expurgated, on the basis that the statements were not properly admissible opinion evidence.

[50] Dr. Solomons opined that Mr. Drodge did not sustain any functional brain injury as a result of the accident; nor did he develop any psychiatric condition or disorder as a result of the accident. It is Dr. Solomans’ view that the pre-conditions for the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder were not met in this case. Rather, in his opinion Mr. Drodge presented with non-specific stress symptoms that potentially related to a number of causes, including physical pain, unemployment, financial constraints, and boredom. Other than some stress associated with his financial difficulties, he opined that Mr. Drodge’s present psychological status is “essentially normal”. Insofar as a prognosis, Dr. Solomans opined that there are no cognitive or psychiatric concerns, and that Mr. Drodge has no psychiatric or neuro-cognitive impediments for any vocational activities.

[51] In cross-examination Dr. Solomans admitted that a person could suffer from cognitive symptoms as a consequence of severe headaches. He agreed that headaches of this nature could affect someone’s mood and their ability to work, and that the headaches could therefore be disabling.

[52] Although Dr. Solomons maintained that Mr. Drodge did not exhibit any cognitive difficulties during his interview, the evidence supports a finding to the contrary. In cross-examination he acknowledged that his notes from the interview indicate as follows:

Not had cognitive tests. Then he says did. Query name. Not remember when. About 18 months to two years ago. Not remember the feedback about the test results.

Not recall anything about it at all, not even why he was treated.

Moreover, Mr. Drodge had mistakenly told him he had sustained his back injury in 1986; his back injury occurred in 1996.

[53] In my view, Dr. Solomons was not an impartial expert providing a balanced discussion on Mr. Drodge’s condition. Overall, I found his evidence lacking the sufficient degree of objectivity to be of any real assistance. In the result I have accorded his opinion little weight.

No "Principled Basis" To Award ICBC Costs Following Trial in Place of Defendant


As previously discussed, the BC Supreme Court has a “loser pays” system.  In short this means that the losing party generally has to pay the winning sides costs.  Since most personal injury lawsuits are defended by ICBC (or other insurance companies) do they get the benefit of a costs award when they are on the winning side of a lawsuit or do the costs get paid to the insured Defendant?  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this interesting issue.
In last week’s case (Wong v. Lee) the Plaintiff sued for damages following a motor vehicle collision.  The lawsuit was dismissed with Jury finding that the Defendant was not responsible for the crash.  Ultimately the Plaintiff was ordred to pay the Defendant costs.  ICBC argued the costs award should be in their favour (presumably to make it easier to exercise their collections rights under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act).  Madam Justice Dardi refused to make this order finding that there is no ‘principled basis’  to do so.  The Court provided the following reasons:
[35] The defendants contend that any costs awarded to them ought to be paid directly to ICBC, who is not a party to this proceeding. The defendants acknowledge that there does not appear to be any authority directly on point.


[36] The paramount principle to be derived from the authorities is that any discretionary exceptions to the usual costs rules must be made judicially: Bailey v. Victory (1995) 4 B.C.L.R. (3d) 388, 57 B.C.A.C. 23 (C.A.) at para. 13.

[37] The defendants primarily anchor their submissions on s. 84(1) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 231 [formerly s. 26 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act]. Section 84(1) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act provides as follows:

84  (1) On making a payment of benefits or insurance money or assuming liability for payment of benefits or insurance money, an insurer

(a) is subrogated to and is deemed to be the assignee of all rights of recovery against any other person liable in respect of the loss, damage, bodily injury or death of a person to whom, on whose behalf or in respect of whom the payment of benefits or insurance money is made or to be made, and

(b) may bring action in the name of the insured or in its own name to enforce the rights referred to in paragraph (a).

[38] On a plain reading of s. 84(1) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, the provisions pertain to the statutory subrogation issues between the insured and the insurer, which issues were not before me in this litigation. It is axiomatic that this subsection is not determinative of the dispute between the plaintiff and the defendants in this case. An award of costs to ICBC, who is not a party to this proceeding, would constitute a departure from the usual rule that the defendants who were the successful parties in this litigation be awarded costs. In my view, these statutory provisions do not establish a basis for an order displacing the usual rule…

[44] While the Court of Appeal in Perez v. Galambos, 2008 BCCA 382, recognized the jurisdiction to make a costs award in relation to a non-party, the Court observed that such an award is unusual and exceptional, and should only be made in “special circumstances” (at para. 17). The Court stated that a non-party who is funding litigation can be liable for costs as the real litigant if they have put forward an insolvent party as a “man of straw” to avoid liability for costs or if the non-party has promoted the litigation improperly so as to be liable for the tort of maintenance. The Court in Perez declined to order that the insurer who defended the action pay the costs of the successful plaintiff. Since the facts in this case are clearly distinguishable from those in Perez, that case does not assist the defendants. Moreover, I also note that neither counsel brought it to the Court’s attention that this decision was reversed by the Supreme Court of Canada and the issue of costs was left to the parties to resolve or, in the alternative, remanded back to the Court of Appeal for further consideration. It does not appear that there has been any further consideration by the Court of Appeal.

[45] In their submissions the defendants also cite Qureshi (Guardian ad litem of) v. Nickerson (1991), 77 D.L.R. (4th) 1, 53 B.C.L.R. (2d) 379 (C.A.). However, in my view there is no principle to be derived from Qureshi that supports the defendants’ submission that ICBC should be entitled to an award of costs in this case. In that case, the plaintiff argued that the defendant had not incurred any costs in his successful defence of a medical malpractice claim because those costs had been paid on his behalf by the Canadian Medical Protective Association. The Court of Appeal found that there was no contract of indemnification and no right of subrogation between the defendant and the Canadian Medical Protective Association. The Court concluded that in the absence of a right of subrogation, and having not incurred any liability for fees and disbursements in defending the claim, the defendant was not entitled to a costs award against the plaintiff.

[46] In summary on this issue, I am not persuaded that in the circumstances of this case, there is any principled basis upon which this Court should order that the plaintiff pay costs to the non-party ICBC.


"Special Costs" Clause Takes the Teeth Out of ICBC's Formal Settlement Offer


I’ve written many times about the risks and consequences formal settlement offers can create in the course of a personal injury lawsuit.  Interesting reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, refusing to give ICBC double costs after the dismissal of a lawsuit because of a ‘special costs‘ clause in their formal offer.
In this week’s case (Wong v. Lee) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2003 motor vehicle collision.  She sued her driver but the lawsuit was dismissed with a Jury finding the driver was not negligent.  Typically such a result obligates the Plaintiff to pay the Defendant’s costs due to the BC Supreme Court’s Loser Pays system.
Prior to trial ICBC made a formal settlement offer of $60,000.  In these circumstances the Court has the discretion to award ‘Double Costs‘.  ICBC, on the Defendant’s behalf, asked for the Court to make such an order.  Madam Justice Dardi refused, however, finding that the ‘special costs’ clause which is contained in many of ICBC’s formal settlement offers operates to create uncertainty in the settlement process.  The Court provided the following useful reasons:








[27] The plaintiff’s overarching submission is that the inclusion of para. 6 in Appendix A of the Offer to Settle is fatal to the defendants’ application for double costs. The Offer to Settle was subject to the conditions in Appendix A which provides in para. 6 as follows:

Nothing in this offer detracts from the Defendants’ right to seek special costs against the Plaintiff or his counsel above and beyond the Defendants’ entitlement to costs under this offer. Neither the making nor the acceptance of this offer shall be deemed a waiver or estoppel by the Defendants in respect to any reprehensible or improper conduct on the part of the Plaintiff and / or his counsel in respect of this proceeding. [Emphasis added.]

[28] Based upon these terms, even if the plaintiff had accepted the Offer to Settle, the defendants nonetheless would have been at liberty to pursue the plaintiff for special costs. Thus, there was a potential risk that the acceptance of the offer may not have ended all of the outstanding disputes between the parties.

[29] The Court of Appeal, in discussing Rule 9-1(5) in Evans v. Jensen, 2011 BCCA 279, articulated at para. 35 that “the most obvious and accepted intent of this Rule, namely to promote settlement by providing certainty to the parties as to what to expect if they make, or refuse to accept, an offer to settle”. The Court reasoned as follows:

[41]      This conclusion is consistent with the importance the Legislature has placed on the role of settlement offers in encouraging the determination of disputes in a cost-efficient and expeditious manner. It has placed a premium on certainty of result as a key factor which parties consider in determining whether to make or accept an offer to settle. If the parties know in advance the consequences of their decision to make or accept an offer, whether by way of reward or punishment, they are in a better position to make a reasoned decision. If they think they may be excused from the otherwise punitive effect of a costs rule in relation to an offer to settle, they will be more inclined to take their chances in refusing to accept an offer. If they know they will have to live with the consequences set forth in the Rule, they are more likely to avoid the risk.

[42]      This certainty in terms of the result of either making, accepting or refusing to accept an offer is also more conducive to the overall object of the Rules, which is “to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits”.

[30] It clearly emerges from the authorities that an important objective of offers to settle under the Rules is to bring certainty and finality to litigation. The reservation of the defendants’ right to seek special costs from the plaintiff after the acceptance of the offer is antithetical to this objective. It cannot be said that the Offer to Settle provided a genuine incentive to settle. As was stated inGiles v. Westminster Savings and Credit Union, 2010 BCCA 282 at para. 88, “plaintiffs should not be penalized for declining an offer that did not provide a genuine incentive to settle in the circumstances”.

[31] In short, para. 6 in Appendix A of the Offer to Settle militates against an award of double costs…





[34] In weighing all of the factors, the most significant being the inclusion of para. 6 in Appendix A of the Offer to Settle, I conclude that the plaintiff should not be required to pay double costs.



$140,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for T-12 Burst Fracture

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages following a 2005 motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (X v. Y) the Plaintiff was an RCMP officer.  (Supplemental reasons were released permitting the Plaintiff to identify himself by initials and to seal the Court file given the Plaintiff’s undercover work).  He was responding to an emergency call.  He was travelling on his motorcycle when he was struck by a truck driven by the Defendant who was in the course of making a U-turn.  Although fault was put at issue the Court found the defendant fully liable for the collision.

The Plaintiff suffered a burst fracture at the T-12 level which required surgical intervention.  He suffered from chronic pain following this and although he was able to return to police work he could only do so in a more administrative (as opposed to front-line) capacity.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $140,000 Madam Justice Dardi provided the following reasons:
[101] The plaintiff underwent surgery on July 21, 2005, after which Dr. D. explained to the plaintiff that he had a burst fracture in his vertebrae in the thoracolumbar region, and that metal rods, clamps and screws had been placed in the area to fuse the spine together. The plaintiff was fitted with a clamshell brace in order to stabilize his fused spine and prevent him from moving. He was not allowed to sit or stand up unless he was wearing this brace. He used a walker to manoeuvre around the hospital. After physiotherapy treatments, he was able to walk short distances, go to the bathroom, and get in and out of his hospital bed. He was released from the hospital on July 27, 2005…
[147] It is uncontroversial that the plaintiff suffered a serious injury in the accident: a fractured spine which required surgical fusion with metal instrumentation. The medical evidence clearly establishes that he is permanently disabled insofar as repetitive heavy bending, lifting and high-impact activities. He has an increased risk for the development or acceleration of degenerative disc disease and is at an increased susceptibility for reinjuring his back…




[163] In summary on this issue, I find that the plaintiff’s symptoms are genuine. He regularly experiences varying degrees of pain and significant stiffness, tightness, and spasms in his back. The cold exacerbates his symptoms. He will continue to experience episodic aggravation of his symptoms. He is at an increased risk of developing degenerative arthritis and he has an increased susceptibility for further injury to his back. He also faces the possibility of another surgery to remove the hardware in his back. He has reduced stamina and tires much more easily than prior to the collision. I also conclude that as the plaintiff ages, there is a substantial likelihood that his pain and discomfort will increase because he will not be able to maintain the same level of conditioning in the muscles supporting the fused area of his back.

[164] In terms of his career, the preponderance of the evidence clearly supports a finding that the plaintiff is not fit to perform the full range of policing duties. He must avoid impact activities and any risk of physical altercations with suspects, which restricts him from participation in front-line policing duties. He can no longer perform the duties of a motorcycle officer, nor is he able to pursue his ambition to join the ERT as an operational member…




[179] While the authorities are instructive, I do not propose to review them in detail, as each case turns on its own unique facts. Having reviewed all of the authorities provided by both counsel, and in considering the plaintiff’s particular circumstances, I conclude a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary damages is $140,000.

More on ICBC Claims and Lack of Objective Signs of Injury


As I’ve previously written, objective signs aren’t always present to verify an injury.  Often times victims of motor vehicle collisions experience pain and limitations but the source of the injury can’t be documented through objective tests such as X-rays, CT Scans and MRI’s.  If an injury can’t be objectively verified does that prevent a successful lawsuit for compensation?  The answer is no and reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this fact.
In today’s case (Sandher v. Hogg) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.  Her vehicle was rear-ended by the Defendant’s.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The trial focused on the nature and extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries.
The Plaintiff’s doctors gave evidence that she suffered injuries to her connective tissues (often referred to as soft tissue injuries) and that these have not fully healed.  The Plaintiff went on to experience chronic pain as a result of these injuries with a chance that the pain would continue indefinitely.
The Defendant’s lawyer argued that all of the Plaintiff’s complaints are subjective and can’t be verified.  He argued that the Plaintiff was exaggerating her symptoms to advance her personal injury claim.  Madam Justice Dardi rejected these arguments and awarded the Plaintiff $40,000 for her non-pecuniary damages.  In doing so the Court provided the following useful comments illustrating that objective signs are not necessary in a personal injury lawsuit:

[67]         The absence of objective physical findings is not determinative of whether Ms. Sandher continues to suffer from chronic pain. Since pain may well be a subjective phenomenon not easily measurable by independent objective indicia, the assessment of Ms. Sandher’s soft tissue injuries to a certain extent turns on the assessment of her subjective complaints and reported symptoms:  Szymanski v. Morin, 2010 BCSC 1 at para. 106; and Shapiro v. Dailey, 2010 BCSC 770 at para. 35.

[68] The defence contends that the minor damage to Ms. Sandher’s vehicle is inconsistent with the severity of her reported injuries. While evidence of vehicle damage is relevant to the assessment of injuries, ultimately the extent of her injuries is to be assessed on the evidence as a whole:  Robbie v. King, 2003 BCSC 1553 at para. 35….

[70] I accept the evidence of Ms. Sandher that her back and shoulder pain has not resolved. I reject the defence suggestion that she is exaggerating her symptoms to advance her litigation objectives; the evidence does not support such a finding. The overarching frustration and emotional distress she has experienced as a result of her persisting discomfort and pain was evident in her testimony. I find her complaints of continuing shoulder and back pain generally consistent with the surrounding circumstances and evidence…

[72]         On the totality of the evidence, I conclude that there is a realistic prospect for significant improvement in the foreseeable future, but there is also a realistic prospect that Ms. Sandher may never recover to her pre-accident levels of fitness.

[73]         In summary, having considered Ms. Sandher’s own evidence and all of the medical evidence, I conclude that as a result of the accident Ms. Sandher sustained soft tissue injuries to her shoulder and upper and lower back, and that these injuries have caused her pain and suffering. I accept that Ms. Sandher continues to experience pain from her injuries. I find on balance that there will be some continuing chronic pain suffered by Ms. Sandher in the future for an uncertain period of time….

[84] Having reviewed all of the authorities provided by both counsel, and in considering all of Ms. Sandher’s particular circumstances, I conclude that a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary damages is $40,000.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Ruptured Posterior Cruciate Ligament


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Port Alberni Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $220,000 in total damages for injuries and loss sustained as a result of a 2007 BC motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Haley v. Gust) the Plaintiff was operating her motorcycle when she was struck by a left-turning motorist.  The Defendant admitted full fault for the crash.  The trial focused on the extent of and value of the Plaintiff’s injuries.
The Plaintiff’s most serious injury was a tear to her posterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.  The injury was expected to lead to long term pain and limitations with the possibility of a total knee replacement in the years to come.  In awarding the Plaintiff $75,000 for her non-pecuniary damages Madam Justice Dardi made the following findings about the extent of the injury and it’s interference with the Plaintiff’s life:
[50] In summary, I find that the March 4, 2007 accident caused Ms. Haley permanent and significant injury to her left knee and the rupture of her PCL. I accept that surgical repair is not a viable option. I accept that she experiences pain on occasion and that the damage to the PCL may cause her knee to fail under stress or when she performs highly strenuous activity. I also accept that she faces a realistic prospect of developing osteoarthritis of the joint and of requiring a total knee replacement in the future…
[57] She is currently 38-years-old and has suffered a permanent injury to her knee. Her injuries, while not catastrophic, are very real. As a result of the accident she clearly has suffered pain and a loss of enjoyment of life, and she will no doubt continue to do so. As well, as referred to earlier, she faces the realistic prospect of osteoarthritis, and in Dr. Leete’s opinion, it is more likely than not that she will require a total knee replacement in 20 to 25 years….

60] While she attempts to remain as active as possible (she now participates in “quadding”), she remains limited when compared to her pre-accident activities. Since the accident, she has become very cautious about any activity that might injure her knee. She is no longer able to participate in mini-triathlons and dirt-biking with her family. She cannot ski or participate in water sports. It is likely she will continue to be restricted for the rest of her life to some degree in respect of the scope of the activities she would have enjoyed but for the accident.

[61] I have also considered as a factor in my assessment the adverse emotional impact of Ms. Haley’s inability to pursue a line of work which she clearly enjoyed…

[65] Having reviewed all of the authorities provided by both counsel, and in considering all of Ms. Haley’s particular circumstances, I conclude that a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary damages is $75,000.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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