Tag: Madam Justice Maisonville

Amending Pleadings and the New Rules: The Low Threshold Continues


Rule 6-1 deals with amendments to BC Supreme Court pleadings.  Unless the opposing parties consent, once a trial date is set pleadings can only be amended with permission from the Court.  Authorities under the former Rules of Court established a very low threshold for obtaining a Court’s permission.  The first case I’m aware of dealing with this issue under the New Rules was released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming that the law remains unchanged.
In last week’s case (TJA v. RKM) the Defendants wished to amend their pleadings by raising the defences of absolute and qualified privilege.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing they would be prejudiced if the amendment was permitted as the lawsuit was mature with examinations for discovery complete.   The Court permitted the amendment and remedied the prejudice raised by the Plaintiff with a costs order.  In reaching this result Madam Justice Maisonville confirmed the law remains unchanged under the new rules and provided the following reasons for judgement:









[12] Rule 6 – 1 (1) (b) (i) provides:

Rule 6-1 — Amendment of Pleadings

When pleadings may be amended

(1) Subject to Rules 6-2 (7) and (10) and 7-7 (5), a party may amend the whole or any part of a pleading filed by the party

(a) once without leave of the court, at any time before the earlier of the following:

(i) the date of service of the notice of trial, and

(ii) the date a case planning conference is held, or

(b) after the earlier of the dates referred to in paragraph (a) of this subrule, only with

(i) leave of the court, or

(ii) written consent of the parties of record.

[13] In Langret Investments v. McDonnell, BCCA March 18, 1996 C.A. 020285 Vancouver Registry, Rowles J.A. for the Court, considering the predecessor rule to 6-1(1)(b)(i), held:

Rule 24(1) of the Rules of Court of British Columbia allows a party to amend an originating process or pleading.  Amendments are allowed unless prejudice can be demonstrated by the opposite party or the amendment will be useless.

[14] The rationale for allowing amendments is to enable the real issues to be determined.  The practice followed in civil matters when amendments are sought fulfills the fundamental objective of the Civil Rules which is to ensure the “just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on the merits”. (See also McLachlin and Taylor, in British Columbia Practice, 2d ed. looseleaf (Butterworths, 1991) pages 24-1 to 24-2-10, and the decision of this Court in Chavez v. Sundance Cruises Corp. (1993), 15 C.P.C. (3d) 305, 309-10).









Motorist At Fault for Failing to Have Headlights On Prior to Sunset


In British Columbia motorist’s obligations to turn headlights on are set out in section 4.01 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations.  This section state that :

4.01 A person who drives or operates a vehicle on a highway must illuminate the lamps required by this Division

(a)  from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, and

(b)  at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavourable atmospheric conditions, objects on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 150 m.

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court considering this section and determining whether a motorist can be partially at fault for a crash for failing to have their lights on prior to sunset.

In today’s case (Schurmann v. Hoch) the Plaintiff was involved in a two vehicle collision.  He was leaving a stop sign and attempting to turn left at an intersection when the Defendant, approaching from the Plaintiff’s left, struck the Plaintiff’s vehicle.   The Defendant was the ‘dominant‘ driver and had the right of way.  The Plaintiff was found at fault for leaving a stop sign when it was unsafe to do so.  However the Court was also asked to determine if the Defendant was partially at fault.

At the time of the crash it was a few minutes prior to sunset.  The lighting conditions “posed visual problems for a person attempting to turn left“.  The Defendant was driving a dark pick-up truck and did not put on his vehicle’s running lights or headlights.   The Defendant was found 50% at fault for this failure.  In arriving at this decision Madam Justice Maisonville provided the following reasons:

[44]         I conclude, however, on the facts before the court that the defendant, driving a dark navy pickup truck without running lights or headlights in effect at approximately less than five minutes before sunset in conditions where there were clouds and it had commenced spitting and light raining, was negligent and failed to act reasonably in all of the circumstances by not putting on the running lights and headlights of his vehicle to make himself visible to other motorists.

[45]         I find that the defendant by failing to have his running lights on was negligent. His actions created an objectively unreasonable risk of harm. The defendant argues that he was in compliance with the statute insofar as it was not necessary to have the lights of his vehicle on as it was not yet sunset. I find however that section 4.01(a) of the Regulations speaks to ideal weather conditions, not conditions as they existed on the afternoon and early dusk of January 10, 2006. Those were cloudy conditions in circumstances where it had just begun to rain. Accordingly this situation was governed by s. 4.01(b) of the Regulations.

[46]         In considering the issue of the impact of breach of a statute, Dickson J., as he then was, held at page 225:

Breach of statute, where it has an effect upon civil liability, should be considered in the context of the general law of negligence. Negligence and its common law duty of care have become pervasive enough to serve the purpose invoked for the existence of the action for statutory breach: see Canada v. Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, [1983] 1 S.C.R. 205.

[47]         It must not be forgotten that the other elements of tortious responsibility equally apply to situations involving statutory breach, i.e. principles of causation and damages. To be relevant at all, the statutory breach must have caused the damage of which the plaintiff complains. Should this be so, the violation of the statute should be evidence of negligence on the part of the defendant (see Saskatchewan Wheat Pool).

[48]         The defendant submitted to the court that in order to find negligence one must first find a breach of the statute. I am mindful of the comments of Dickson J. Other elements of tortious responsibility equally apply – it is not necessary to find breach or for that matter compliance with a statute to find actions that created an objectively unreasonable risk of harm…

50] In this case, but for the defendant not having his running or head lights on, the plaintiff would have seen him, and would not have attempted the turn. The defendant thus breached the duty of care he owed to the plaintiff causing the plaintiff the unforeseen risk of injury ? and he did in fact suffer injury.

$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Torn Bicep Tendon; Video Surveillance Discussed

(photo depicting muscle deformity from ruptured distal bicep tendon)
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding damages for a rather unique injury, a ruptured bicep tendon.
In this week’s case (Taylor v. Grundholm) the Plaintiff was involved in motor vehicle collision.  His vehicle was struck by the Defendant’s as the Plaintiff “opened the driver’s side door to reach into the back to retrieve a box of soap….His left hand was holding the steering wheel and he was leaning into the back seat area when the collision occurred.”
The Plaintiff’s vehicle sustained significant damage and was written off.  Fault for the collision was admitted.
The Plaintiff sustained a variety of soft tissue injuries.  The Plaintiff also tore his bicep tendon which caused a muscle deformity.  The most contentious issue was whether the tendon was torn as a result of the collision.  Ultimately the Court concluded that it was and went on to assess the non-pecuniary loss for this injury at $90,000.  In reaching this decision Madam Justice Maisonville noted as follows:

[42]         I find the injury to Mr. Taylor’s biceps tendon and to his upper left quadrant did occur as a result of the accident. Nowhere in the medical records is there a note of this injury — now described by Dr. Leith as a “noticeable deformity” — prior to the accident. The evidence from the physicians was that there would have to have been a significant event to cause this type of injury.

[43]         The biceps tendons are attached to the bone, which anchors the muscle.  When flexed, the muscle will appear to be at about the middle of the upper arm. If an individual has sustained a biceps tendon tear near the elbow (distal), the muscle is no longer anchored and will bunch up proximally, appearing much like the cartoon character Popeye’s arm. This is a noticeable deformity…

49] Dr. Leith further testified that a distal biceps tear is almost never repaired unless it is acute because people with this injury usually have no problems with function; rather (as noted), they will have problems with strength.  Mr. Taylor is thus left with a lifelong cosmetic deformity in addition to the attendant loss of strength…

[60] There is no issue that the plaintiff has suffered a debilitating loss. He will no longer be able to look after his cabin and it will have to be sold. He will no longer be able to enjoy the activities that he enjoyed with his friends and family. Additionally, Mr. Taylor was nearing retirement. As Griffin J. noted in Fata v. Heinonen at para. 88:

The retirement years are special years for they are at a time in a person’s life when he realizes his own mortality. When someone who has always been physically active loses his physical function in these years, the enjoyment of retirement can be severely diminished, with less opportunity to replace these activities with other interests in life. Further, what may be a small loss of function to a younger person who is active in many other ways may be a larger loss to an older person whose activities are already constrained by age. The impact an injury can have on someone who is elderly was recognized in Giles v. Canada (Attorney General), [1994] B.C.J. No. 3212 (S.C.), rev’d on other grounds (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 190 (C.A.)…

[67] In all the circumstances, I award the plaintiff $90,000 in non-pecuniary damages..

The Court went on to reduce this award by 10% finding that the Plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages by not attending physiotherapy which was recommended by his treating physicians.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

  • Video Surveillance

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the impact of video surveillance in injury litigation.

As I’ve previously posted, video surveillance can and does occur and it can be intrusive.  However, video surveillance in and of itself does not harm a person’s injury claim.  Damage is only done if the video demonstrates that the Plaintiff has not been truthful about their injuries / limitations.   In today’s case Madam Justice Maisonville was quick to dismiss the impact of video that did not contradict the Plaintiff’s evidence as can be seen from the following passage:

[50] Mr. Taylor had been placed under surveillance and videotaped by investigators retained by the defendant on certain days in March and April of 2010. I find he was not shown to be doing anything inconsistent with his statement that he sustained an injury and was in pain. At one point, he was shown seated in the driver’s seat of his vehicle and reaching to about ear level with his left arm to grab the seatbelt. It was not a movement where he had to twist his body in any way, significantly arch his back or lift his arm directly over his head. Similarly, he was shown removing his hat with his right hand and smoothing his hair down with his left. I do not find those motions to be inconsistent with his injury. He was not directed by his physicians to cease using his left arm. The fact that he did not show obvious signs of distress when doing these movements is not inconsistent with his injury. He was not observed to be lifting anything. Accordingly, I do not find the videotape surveillance inconsistent with the evidence of the plaintiff and his physicians.

  • 1
  • 2

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

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

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer