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Tag: Madam Justice Fitzpatrick

Liability Discussed Following Parking Lot Collision

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing fault for a parking lot collision involving two vehicles.
In yesterday’s case (Sheikh v. Struys) the Plaintiff and Defendant were both attempting to leave a busy parking lot following a Canucks game.   A truck has stopped leaving a gap in the travelled laneway.  The Defendant drove into the gap and at almost the same time the Plaintiff “reversed back into (the Defendant’s) Jeep“.  The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant was wholly or at least partially at fault alleging the gap was left for him to fill.  Madam Justice Fitzpatrick disagreed and provided the following reasons in dismissing the Plaintiff’s claim:

[47] I find as a fact that Dr. Sheikh’s SUV reversed back into Mr. Struys’ Jeep while Mr. Struys was partially into the laneway and had stopped there. I also find as a fact that Dr. Sheikh could not see Mr. Struys’ Jeep at the time of the collision. Further, I find that Dr. Sheikh could not see what was happening behind his vehicle as he was reversing into the laneway and, therefore, he has no knowledge as to how the collision occurred.

[48] Dr. Sheikh contended that Mr. Struys should have paid more careful attention as to what was going on in front of him. Mr. Struys was said to have mistakenly assumed, without any eye contact with the driver of the Dodge truck, that the Dodge truck had stopped for him, which resulted in him colliding with Dr. Sheikh’s SUV.

[49] In my view, it does not matter which party was the one being allowed to enter the laneway by the driver of the Dodge truck. The driver of the Dodge truck may in fact have been stopping for both of their vehicles in that respect. There is no evidence one way or the other as to whether the Dodge truck had stopped for Dr. Sheikh, Mr. Struys or both of them. The point is that the Dodge truck had stopped and both parties assumed, based on their contact with the driver of the Dodge truck, that he or she was stopped for them. As such, it has not been shown that Mr. Struys “mistakenly” assumed that the Dodge truck had stopped for him…

[53] The Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c .318 addresses the duty of care owed by a driver who is reversing his vehicle:

Caution in backing vehicle

193 The driver of a vehicle must not cause the vehicle to move backwards into an intersection or over a crosswalk, and must not in any event or at any place cause a vehicle to move backwards unless the movement can be made in safety.

[62] I find that Dr. Sheikh has not proven, on a balance of probabilities, any negligence on the part of Mr. Struys. Nor did Dr. Sheikh discharge the burden under the Motor Vehicle Act in proving that he was able to move back “in safety” while reversing his vehicle.

[63] Accordingly, I find Dr. Sheikh entirely responsible for the collision. As such, there will be no apportionment of liability between the parties pursuant to the Negligence Act.

$30,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Lingering Back Injury

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a lingering back injury caused by a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Sidhu v. Johal) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 collision.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist.  Although the Court rejected the Plaintiff’s evidence as to the severity and frequency of his complaints Madam Justice Fitzpatrick accepted the Plaintiff suffered from lingering back pain which flared with heavier activity.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $30,000 the Court provided the following reasons:

[142] After having considered the evidence from Mr. Sidhu, the evidence of his independent witnesses and the medical evidence referred to above, I also find as a fact that Mr. Sidhu suffered the following injuries as a result of the accident and that those injuries were and are as follows:

a)       he suffered driving anxiety for a few days;

b)       he suffered headaches for approximately three weeks;

c)       he suffered pain to his ribcage or chest which was severe in the first three weeks but decreased from that time and was resolved within six months;

d)       he suffered shoulder pain which was resolved within a few weeks and neck pain which was resolved within two months;

e)       he suffered constant and severe pain in his back or lower back immediately following the accident which gradually became intermittent in the two months following the accident;

f)        since August 2007, Mr. Sidhu’s back problems have continued to improve; and

g)       following December 2007, Mr. Sidhu’s back pain was resolved for the most part, however, Mr. Sidhu continues to experience discomfort and mild pain in his back or lower back from time to time on a fairly infrequent basis, which increases to the point of severity depending on his physical fitness (based on his exercise regimen) and depending on the amount of exertion of heavy physical labour.

[143] I specifically reject Mr. Sidhu’s contention that he experienced constant and severe back pain for one and a half years after the accident and that he continues at this time to suffer sharp or severe back pain three to four times per week…

[157] I find that Mr. Sidhu is entitled to non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $30,000.

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for Chronic STI's; Adverse Inference Discussed

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries arising from a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Milburn v. Ernst) the Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle when it was rear-ended by the Defendant’s vehicle.  The impact “resulted in the motorcycle becoming embedded in the gill of the (Defendant’s vehicle); to the point that only half of the motorcycle could be seen protruding from the front of the car“.
The Plaintiff, although he missed little time from work, suffered soft tissue injuries that were expected to pose long term limitations.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Madam Justice Fitzpatrick made the following findings and provided the following reasons:

[96] After having considered the evidence from Mr. Milburn, the evidence of his independent witnesses and the medical evidence referred to above, I find as a fact that Mr. Milburn suffered the following injuries as a result of the accident:

a)       he was bruised in the pelvic region, he had wrist pain and he had some cognitive dysfunction and sleep disturbance, all of which were resolved shortly after the accident;

b)       he had some chest pain in the fall of 2007 arising from his temporary use of crutches after the knee surgery;

c)       he had severe pain in his neck, back and shoulder, all of which were largely resolved by December 2007;

d)       the disc bulges found to be present in Mr. Milburn’s spine were not caused by the accident but were rendered symptomatic as a result of the accident; and

e)       he continues to experience discomfort and mild pain in his neck and back from time to time, which increases to the point of severity depending on his level of physical activity and his level of physical fitness…

[105] I accept the evidence of Mr. Milburn that he enjoyed an active and physical life before the accident. In the aftermath of the accident, he experienced significant pain and discomfort relating to his injuries at that time which, for the most part, were resolved by December 2007.

[106] Since the accident, he has struggled to deal with the back and neck pain that arises from time to time, particularly given his employment, which is physically demanding and at times, can be quite physically demanding. He has not, however, required prescription medicine to deal with that, which speaks to the severity of the pain that he experiences from time to time. In addition, his doctors have recommended that with a proper exercise regime and with care taken in the manner of lifting and other physical activities, he should be able to minimize the difficulties that he might otherwise have. This recommendation appears to have been taken up by Mr. Milburn in that he is now regularly exercising on his own.

[107] His need of physiotherapy for some years now has been infrequent, a sign that the need for more formal treatment has not been great, despite what he describes as “flare-ups” in his condition.

[108] Based on the medical evidence of Dr. Badii, which I accept, his condition is not expected to materially improve from this time forward and as such, it is to be expected that Mr. Milburn will continue to suffer some pain in the future.

[109] In addition, I find that the accident has resulted in Mr. Milburn abandoning some of his recreational activities, such as kickboxing, snowboarding and rollerblading. In addition, some of his favourite activities have been curtailed. His love and enjoyment of motorcycling is now somewhat limited to the extent that he has to stop frequently while on long rides. In addition, acting roles with stunt assignments are no longer open to him, an activity that he particularly enjoyed although such roles were limited.

[110] I accept that the accident has also affected his personal life in that he has some pain accomplishing more physically demanding tasks around the home. I note, however, that he continues to enjoy what can only be called very physical activities, and no doubt more enjoyable activities, such as weightlifting, ATVing, scuba diving, snorkeling and horseback riding.

[111] I find that Mr. Milburn is entitled to non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $50,000.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the ‘adverse inference‘ principle.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff obtained two privileged medico-legal reports.  The Plaintiff maintained the claim of privilege through trial and did not introduce these reports into evidence.  The Defendant argued that an adverse inference should be drawn.  Madam Justice Fitzpatrick disagreed and provided the following reasons:

[87] The defence also points out that in Mr. Milburn’s list of documents, he listed two privileged medical-legal reports dated June 11 and 12, 2010. These were commissioned by Mr. Milburn’s counsel but were never served or presented at trial. The defence submits that an adverse inference should be drawn that the evidence in those reports would be contrary to Mr. Milburn’s case. Cases cited in support include Buksh v. Miles, 2008 BCCA 318 at paras. 30-35, 296 D.L.R. (4th) 608; Bronson v. Hewitt, 2010 BCSC 169 at paras. 323-337, 58 E.T.R. (3d) 14; Bouchard v. Brown Bros. Motor Lease Canada Ltd., 2011 BCSC 762 at paras. 118-122. In Buksh, at para. 31, the court cites from Barker v. McQuahe (1964), 49 W.W.R. 685 (B.C.C.A.) at 689, that in a personal injury claim, the plaintiff “ought to call all doctors who attended him in respect of any important aspect of the matters that are in dispute, or explain why he does not do so.”

[88] In my view, this is not an appropriate case to conclude that an adverse inference should be drawn. There is no evidence that the authors of those reports even saw Mr. Milburn. If so, Mr. Milburn could have been examined on the point and copies of clinical notes obtained, such as was done in Bouchard (see also para. 35 of Buksh). Mr. Milburn’s counsel has advised that this evidence was not submitted because it was of no assistance to the court, not that it was adverse to the current medical evidence. In fact, there may have been any number of reasons why the reports were not submitted and while it is possible that they contradicted the reports of Drs. Behroozi and Badii either in whole or in part, it is equally possible that they did not materially add to those reports. As was noted by the court in Bronson at para. 329, an adverse inference can only be drawn if such testimony would be superior in respect of the facts to be proved.

[89] Counsel for Mr. Milburn is entitled to prepare his case, and obtain whatever expert reports that might assist in advancing his case. To suggest that any decision not to use an unidentified expert report leads to an adverse inference in respect of any case is going well beyond the general proposition relating to adverse inferences. The disclosure process is intended to provide opposing counsel with the means of testing the claim of privilege, not to allow such claims to be made that an adverse inference should be drawn in these circumstances.

Renewing a Lawsuit and the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, applying Rule 3-2(1) of the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules.  This rule permits the Court to renew a Notice of Civil Claim before or after it expires.  Today’s case is the first I’m aware of applying this new rule.
In today’s case (Stuart v. Patterson) the Plaintiff was injured in two consecutive instances while engaging in exercises known as “dead-lifts”.  These exercises were apparently being supervised by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff started two separate lawsuits against the Defendant alleging that he was at fault for her injuries.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer failed to serve the Writ of Summons within the first year after filing.  The Plaintiff brought an application to renew the lawsuit relying on Rule 3-2(1) of the New Rules of Court.
Madam Justice Fitzpatrick found that the Plaintiff’s lawyer acted reasonably in taking steps to renew  the lawsuit after learning it expired and that there was little prejudice to the Defendant and accordingly renewed the filed documents for a further two months permitting them to be properly served on the Defendants.  In doing so the Court seemed to accept that Rule 3-2(1) reads almost identically to the old Rule 9(1) and that the precedents developed under the old rule remain in force.   Madam Justice Fitzpatrick summarized the applicable law as follows:

[10]         The leading case on the test to be applied on this application is Bearhead v. Moorhouse, [1977] B.C.J. No. 1324, (1977), 3 B.C.L.R. 81 (S.C.), upheld on appeal (1978), 5 B.C.L.R. 380. The test adopted by the Court of Appeal at that time requires the court to ask itself the basic question of “what is necessary to see that justice is done?”  In considering that question, the following factors are to be considered:

1.               Was the application to renew brought promptly?

2.               Did the defendants have notice of the claim before the writ expired?

3.               Did the defendant suffer prejudice?

4.               Was the failure to serve the writ attributable to the actions of the defendants?

5.               Was the failure to serve the writ attributable to the actions of the plaintiff?

[11]         Recent considerations of these factors are found in our Court of Appeal decisions of Seeliger v. Eagle Ridge Hospital, 2007 BCCA 582, and Fast Fuel Services Ltd. v. Michelin North America (Canada) Inc., 2008 BCCA 216.

[12]         It is clear from the authorities cited to me by both counsel that each case is to be decided on its particular facts.

[13]         Further, counsel for Ms. Stuart refers me to the statements from the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in Simpson v. Saskatchewan Government Insurance Office (1967), 61 W.W.R. 741, at p. 750, 65 D.L.R. (2d) 324, to the effect that failure to renew a writ is an “irregularity” and that “if the refusal to renew the writ would do an obvious and substantial injustice to the plaintiff, while to permit it is not going to work any substantial injustice to the defendant or prejudice the defendant’s defence, then the writ should be renewed”: see Bearhead, BCCA at para. 8; Lowe v. Christensen (1984), 54 B.C.L.R. 88 (C.A.) at para. 13; Sutherland v. McLeod, 2004 BCCA 653, at paras. 28-29.

[14]         I accordingly consider the Bearhead factors:

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