Tag: Meghji v. Lee

More on the Reality of Insurance and Costs Consequences Following Trial


Update March 21, 2014 – the Trial Judgement with respect to the relevance of insurance and costs was upheld today by the BC Court of Appeal
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In 2010 the BC Court of Appeal confirmed that Judges can look at insurance when considering the “financial circumstances” of litigants when addressing costs consequences following trials where a formal settlement offer was made.  Further reasons were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, confirming that costs consequences should not be applied with the ‘fiction‘ of ignoring insurance.
In last week’s case (Meghji v. Leethe Plaintiff suffered brain trauma after being struck by a motorist while walking in a marked cross-walk in 2003. At trial the motorist was found 90% at fault for the crash with the Ministry of Transportation shouldering the remaining 10% for designing the intersection with inadequate lighting.
Prior to trial the Plaintiff offered to settle for $750,000.  Neither Defendant accepted.  Damages at trial were assessed at just over $1.1 Million with the Defendants being jointly and severally liable.  The Plaintiff sought and was awarded double costs from the time of her offer onward.  In doing so Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following useful reasons addressing the reality of insurance and the risks of joint and several liability:

[33]Also relevant to consider is the fact that a well-funded party, such as MoTH,  faces higher risk with joint liability when other potentially liable parties have less means or no means with which to satisfy a possible judgment. In such circumstances, the well-heeled party may end up paying more than its proportionate share to the plaintiff if or when the impecunious party exhausts its ability to pay.

[34]This risk is balanced by the potential that the plaintiff might be held partly to blame for her losses, which would confine the well-funded party’s liability to its proportionate share of the loss through several liability: Leischner (Next friend of) v. West Kootenay Power, [1982] B.C.J. No. 1641…

[40]Quite apart from the fact that I am bound by the decision in Smith v. Tedford, its reasoning eliminates one fiction that ought not to complicate proceedings before a judge alone. That fiction is that there is no plan of universal compulsory automobile insurance in effect in British Columbia, mandated by statute, where the details of the coverage available are found in statute and regulation. If judges and others are presumed to know the law, there is little sense in requiring that judges ignore what the law provides when dealing with costs.

Insurance Policy Limits Relevant to Formal Settlement Offer Costs Analysis


In 2010 the BC Court of Appeal found that Judges could consider the existence of insurance when exercising costs discretion following a trial in which a formal settlement offer was made.  Last week reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, expanding on this principle finding that the limits of insurance coverage were equally applicable.
In last week’s case (Meghji v. Lee) the Plaintiff suffered brain trauma after being struck by a motorist while walking in a marked cross-walk in 2003.  At trial the motorist was found 90% at fault for the crash with the Ministry of Transportation shouldering the remaining 10% for designing the intersection with inadequate lighting.
Following trial the Plaintiff applied for double costs as the trial result exceeded a pre-trial formal settlement offer she made.   The Defendant wished to place information relating to his insurance policy limits before the Court before a costs decision was made.  In finding this was appropriate Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:

[6] Rule 7-1(4) reads:

(4)        Despite subrule (3), information concerning the insurance policy must not be disclosed to the court at trial unless it is relevant to an issue in the action.

[7] Subrule (3) requires a party to list in his or her list of documents insurance policies that, generally speaking, might be available to satisfy a judgment in whole or in part should the judgment be entered.

[8] Mr. Lee has responded by arguing that the trial is over (subject, of course, to an application to re-open prior to entry of judgment), and even if the trial is not at an end, his policy limits are now relevant to an issue in the action, being costs. That relevance can fall under one or more of the considerations set out in Rule 9?1(6).

[9] Counsel for the Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MoTH) disagrees as to the relevance of Mr. Lee’s insurance limits.

[10] I have concluded that the amount of Mr. Lee’s automobile liability insurance limits is relevant to the considerations set out in Rule 9-1(6). The amount of available insurance could affect the question whether the offer was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, and it could also affect the weighing of the relative financial circumstances of the parties.

[11] Counsel for Mr. Lee is authorized and directed to disclose the amount of Mr. Lee’s liability insurance limits operative at the time of the accident.

$125,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for TBI – Adverse Inference Discussed

Update March 21, 2014 – the Liability findings in the below case were upheld today by the  BC Court of Appeal
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Adding to this site’s ICBC Case Summary Archives, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages for a traumatic brain injury sustained in a BC vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Meghji v. Lee) the Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle while walking in a marked cross-walk in 2003.  Both the Defendant driver and BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways were found at fault for the crash.  The former for failing to keep a proper lookout while driving, the latter for designing the intersection at question with inadequate overhead lighting.  The driver was found 90% at fault with the Ministry shouldering 10% of the blame.
The Plaintiff suffered a fracture near her left shoulder, left elbow, ankle, knee and a traumatic brain injury.   The consequences of these were expected to cause permanent dysfunction.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $125,000 Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

[134]Mr. Lee struck Ms. Meghji on her left side. That caused a significant fracture to Ms. Meghji’s left upper arm, a less significant fracture just below and into her left knee and an injury to her left ankle, all of which required immediate medical intervention. There were also the soft tissue injuries that would reasonably be expected to accompany such trauma.

[135]Within a day of the accident, Ms. Meghji had surgery to her left upper arm that involved the insertion of a rod that was fixed by screws just below her shoulder and just above her left elbow. She also had a screw placed into her left ankle…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

[270]Based upon the evidence of Dr. Ali and Mr. Brozak of the substantial change noted in Ms. Meghji during this time, as supported by similar observations from Ms. Chauncey’s and Ms. Wyeth’s description of Ms. Meghji’s abilities in her math class and as a teaching assistant before the accident, I conclude that Ms. Meghji has more likely than not suffered a brain injury in the accident, and that the combination of the effects of the brain injury and the depression and chronic pain disorder, which I also find was caused by the accident or flows from injuries suffered in the accident, are so inextricably intertwined that they cannot possibly be disentangled.

[271]In all of the circumstances, the defendants are ordered to pay Ms. Meghji $125,000 for non-pecuniary damages for pain, suffering, and loss of amenities and enjoyment of life.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s application of the ‘adverse inference’ principle.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff’s lawyers had her assessed by a neurologist.  The neurologist did not tender evidence at trial.  Mr. Justice Johnston used his discretion to draw an adverse inference in these circumstances finding that the privately hired doctor likely did not have helpful evidence to give in support of the Plaintiff’s claim.  The court provided the following reasons:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

[240]In ordinary circumstances, I would agree that a claim of litigation privilege should be sufficient explanation for the failure to produce evidence from an expert who examined a party, and no inference adverse to that party should be drawn from the failure to produce the evidence.

[241]However, where, as here, counsel has assumed control of medical management of a plaintiff’s injuries, the circumstances are not ordinary.

[242]Dr. Grimwood would ordinarily have been expected to coordinate Ms. Meghji’s treatment, including referrals to specialists as he thought advisable. In this case, Dr. Grimwood appears to have largely ceded that responsibility to Ms. Meghji’s counsel, largely because counsel were able to arrange examinations by medical specialists much sooner than could Dr. Grimwood.

[243]Where counsel becomes actively involved in arranging treatment, or in treatment decisions, or in selection of treatment providers to the extent that it becomes difficult or impossible to determine whether any particular doctor is involved for treatment purposes, or to advise counsel, the protective cloak of litigation privilege becomes tattered.

[244]In such circumstances, counsel and the party who permit the line between treating physicians and physicians retained to advise counsel to become blurred must accept some risk that the protection ordinarily afforded by litigation privilege might be lost.

[245]Ms. Meghji testified that she saw Dr. Cameron for headaches. In the face of that evidence, I infer, from the refusal to produce evidence from Dr. Cameron, that any opinion generated as a result of his examination of Ms. Meghji was not helpful to the claims she makes in this trial. I also infer that, while examining for headache, had Dr. Cameron observed any signs that suggested to him that Ms. Meghji had suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, his observations or opinion would have been produced at trial.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Scope of Neuropsychological Evidence in BC Brain Injury Cases Discussed


Reasons for judgement were published today on the BC Supreme Court website dealing with the scope of permissible neuropsychological opinion evidence in BC Brain Injury Cases.
When ICBC or other BC brain injury cases go to trial a neuropsychologist is a common type of expert witness called by both Plaintiff and Defence Lawyers.  Neuropsychologists are extensively trained with respect to the cognitive and behavioural consequences of brain injuries and for this reason their evidence is often vital in the prosecution of brain injury claims.
In today’s case (Meghji v. Lee) the Plaintiff alleged she suffered a traumatic brain injury.  In support of her case the Plaintiff sought to have a neuropsychologist give opinion evidence with respect to the cognitive and behavioural sequelae of brain injuries and also with respect to whether the Plaintiff suffered from organic tissue to her brain.  The Defence lawyer objected claiming the latter opinion is outside of the scope of a neuropsycholgists permissible expert opinion.  Mr. Justice Johnston agreed with the defence objection and summarized and applied the law as follows:

[27] Counsel for the plaintiff wants Dr. Malcolm to be permitted to give an opinion on whether Ms. Meghji has had an injury to her brain. I looked briefly at Dr. Malcolm’s written reports, and in his first report, the one of February 1, 2007, Dr. Malcolm provides an overview of the place of psychometric testing in his overall task in this way. He says:

Once the test results are determined to reflect the person’s neuropsychological status with acceptable accuracy, the question remains as to whether clinically significant test results reflect organic damage, or stem from other factors, such as psychological causes. The neuropsychological process considers all of these possibilities in reaching diagnostic conclusions. The conclusions reached are based on a balance of probability, the strength of which is indicated where possible.

[28] At the risk of appearing to be overly semantic about this analysis, I take it that what counsel want Dr. Malcolm to be able to do is to testify by way of opinion about whether or not there has been some form of harm or damage to the tissues of the brain of Ms. Meghji as opposed to some form of harm or damage to the mind or emotions or personality of Ms. Meghji. Whether there is a distinction between the brain as an organ of the body, on the one hand, and the mind and personality of the person in whose body the brain is found, on the other, is a metaphysical question that I hope I never have to answer in a court of law. I am going to confine myself to what I think is in issue, and that is Dr. Malcolm’s qualifications as a neuropsychological and whether they permit him to provide the ready-made inference through opinion on whether there has been physical harm or damage to the brain as an organ of the body, and in my view, they do not.

[29] The statutory regime does not, in my view, go any further than to allow testing, assessment, diagnosis of, and therefore opinions on the abilities, aptitudes, interests, et cetera, or the behaviour, emotional, or mental disorders, that is, disorders of the mind. These conditions may arise with or without damage to the structure or tissues of the brain. They may be associated with or flow from injury or damage to the brain itself. They may arise from or flow from other causes. It does not necessarily follow that because Dr. Malcolm is permitted by statute to test, assess, or diagnose behavioural, emotional, or mental disorder that he must therefore be permitted to give in evidence his opinion that the cause of any of these conditions stems from an injury to the tissues or structures of the brain.

[30] In my view, Dr. Malcolm’s qualifications do not go so far as to permit that opinion.

[31] That does not say that Dr. Malcolm cannot give, in evidence, his opinion based upon the results of his testing, nor does it prevent Dr. Malcolm from giving an opinion on whether the test results as evaluated by him are of a nature, kind, or quality seen in people who have been diagnosed as having had organic brain injuries.

[32] In my view, the distinction drawn by Mr. Justice Clancy in Knight remains appropriate, and that is, Dr. Malcolm is qualified to give his opinion on the cognitive and behavioural sequelae of brain injuries and to indicate the relative likelihood of any cognitive and behavioural abnormalities being the consequence of a traumatic brain injury, but to paraphrase Mr. Justice Clancy, it does not permit him, that is, Dr. Malcolm, to diagnose physical injury and the manner in which it was incurred.

[33] It therefore follows that Dr. Malcolm will not be permitted to give his opinion on whether Ms. Meghji has had an injury to the tissues of her brain or, obviously, as to the cause of any such injury, but he will be permitted to testify as I have indicated.

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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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