Tag: Moore v. Kyba

Indivisible Injury Analysis Applicable For Both Causation and Quantum of Damages

The BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement this week further addressing the law of indivisible injuries.
In this week’s case (Moore v. Kyba) the Plaintiff was member of the Canadian Navy and suffered an interscapular injury in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.   A year before this he injured his right shoulder in a shipboard fall and lastly suffered a bicep tear during a fall in 2008.
He sued for damages claiming the collision injury permanently disabled him from his naval career.  ICBC argued that no injury was caused and that this man’s disability was related to the falls.  The Jury accepted the Plaintiff’s claims and awarded $823,962 in damages for loss of earning capacity.  ICBC appealed arguing the trial judge gave the Jury improper instructions addressing indivisible injuries.  The Appeal was dismissed with the Court providing the following summary of the law:
[32] Much judicial ink has been spilled concerning the characterization of multiple injuries as divisible or indivisible, and the impact of that characterization on the determination of causation and assessment of damages in a negligence case.

[33] The legal principles underlying these concepts are clear, but explaining them to a jury “is no easy task” (see Laidlaw v. Couturier, 2010 BCCA 59 at para. 40).  Nor is their application in varying particular factual contexts always straightforward.

[34] The relevant principles were clearly set out in Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458.  Their elaboration in Blackwater v. Plint, 2005 SCC 58, [2005] 3 S.C.R. 3, and by this Court in T.W.N.A. v. Canada (Ministry of Indian Affairs), 2003 BCCA 670 at paras. 22-37, B.P.B. v. M.M.B., 2009 BCCA 365, Bradley v. Groves, 2010 BCCA 361 and Laidlaw are also helpful.

[35] The basic principles at play in this analysis are that a “defendant is not liable for injuries which were not caused by his or her negligence” (Athey at para. 24), and “the defendant need not put the plaintiff in a position better than his or her original position” (Athey at para. 35).  These two principles, which deal with the concepts of causation and assessment of damages, were distinguished in Blackwater (at para. 78):

It is important to distinguish between causation as the source of the loss and the rules of damage assessment in tort. The rules of causation consider generally whether “but for” the defendant’s acts, the plaintiff’s damages would have been incurred on a balance of probabilities. Even though there may be several tortious and non-tortious causes of injury, so long as the defendant’s act is a cause of the plaintiff’s damage, the defendant is fully liable for that damage. The rules of damages then consider what the original position of the plaintiff would have been. The governing principle is that the defendant need not put the plaintiff in a better position than his original position and should not compensate the plaintiff for any damages he would have suffered anyway: Athey.

[36] Thus, whether a defendant is liable to a plaintiff for an injury is a matter of causation; the amount of compensation the defendant must pay is a matter of assessment of damages.

[37] The concepts of divisible and indivisible injury are relevant at both stages of the analysis.  At the stage of determining causation, the characterization of the plaintiff’s injury or injuries as divisible or indivisible is relevant in determining what the defendant is liable for.  As explained in Athey (at paras. 24-25):

The respondents submitted that apportionment is permitted where the injuries caused by two defendants are divisible (for example, one injuring the plaintiff’s foot and the other the plaintiff’s arm): Fleming, supra, at p. 201. Separation of distinct and divisible injuries is not truly apportionment; it is simply making each defendant liable only for the injury he or she has caused, according to the usual rule. The respondents are correct that separation is also permitted where some of the injuries have tortious causes and some of the injuries have non-tortious causes: Fleming, supra, at p. 202.  Again, such cases merely recognize that the defendant is not liable for injuries which were not caused by his or her negligence.

In the present case, there is a single indivisible injury, the disc herniation, so division is neither possible nor appropriate. The disc herniation and its consequences are one injury, and any defendant found to have negligently caused or contributed to the injury will be fully liable for it.

[Emphasis added.]

[38] In this case, in determining causation, the jury had to determine whether the appellant caused injury to the respondent, and if so, whether the rotator cuff injury, the interscapular pain, and the bicep tear were divisible injuries or an indivisible injury.  If they were divisible, the appellant could only be found to be liable for the interscapular pain caused by the motor vehicle accident.  If they were indivisible, the appellant would be liable for that indivisible injury. ..

[41] At the stage of assessment of damages, the question is what compensation the plaintiff is entitled to receive from the defendant.

[42] If the injury is divisible, then the plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for the injury caused by the defendant.  In this case, if the interscapular pain was a divisible injury, then the respondent was entitled to compensation for his loss flowing from that injury.

[43] If the injury is indivisible, then the plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for the loss flowing from the indivisible injury.  However, if the plaintiff had a pre-existing condition and there was a measurable risk that that condition would have resulted in a loss anyway, then that pre-existing risk of loss is taken into account in assessing the damages flowing from the defendant’s negligence.  This principle is called the “crumbling skull” rule.  As explained in Athey (at para. 35):  “This is consistent with the general rule that the plaintiff must be returned to the position he would have been in, with all of its attendant risks and shortcomings, and not a better position.”

[44] For a recent example of a reduction in damages to reflect a pre-existing condition, see Bouchard v. Brown Bros. Motor Lease Canada Ltd., 2012 BCCA 331.

At the conclusion of the reasons the Court of Appeal attached the trial judge’s jury charge which is worth reviewing.  For access to my archived posts addressing indivisible injuries you can click here.

Rule 9-1 Does Not Allow the Court to Award Double Disbursements


(Update – April 19, 2013 – The below decision should be cross-referenced with reasons for judgement released today (Gonzales v. Voskakis) where Madam Justice Fitzpatrick came to a different conclusion)
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, confirming that the Court cannot award double disbursements following a trial where a formal settlement offer was bested.
In this week’s case (Moore v. Kyba) the Plaintiff was awarded substantial damages in a jury trial following a motor vehicle collision.  The damages awarded exceeded both the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s pre-trial formal settlement offers.  The Plaintiff brought an application seeking double costs and double disbursements.  Mr. Justice Brown held that while it was appropriate to award double costs, Rule 9-1 does not go so far as to give the Court authority to award double disbursements.  Mr. Justice Brown provided the following reasons:
[8]I am not convinced by the applicant’s argument.  The repeal of the definition relied on in Browne v. Lowe is not determinative and does not require its reversal.  In any event, I conclude that the proper interpretation of Rule 9-1(5) does not permit the Court to award double disbursements.  In Rule 9-1(5)(a), the rule specifically provides for disbursements, while Rule 9-1(5)(b) does not.  Therefore, properly interpreted, Rule 9-1(5)(b) does not permit the Court to award double disbursements after the delivery or service of the offer to settle.

Opening Statement Visual Aid Admissibility Should Be Canvassed At Trial Management Conferences


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, disallowing the use of a PowerPoint presentation in an opening statement before a jury.
In last week’s case (Moore v. Kyba) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  Shortly prior to trial the Plaintiff advised the Defendant that he was going to use a PowerPoint presentation in his opening statement.  The Defendant objected arguing this ought to have been canvassed at a Trial Management Conference.  Madam Justice Brown agreed and refused the presentation from being presented to the Jury.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[4] In Brophy v. Hutchinson, 2003 BCCA 21, the British Columbia Court of Appeal sets out the principles which apply to an opening statement.

[24]      The opening’s purpose is to outline the case the party bearing the onus of proof (usually the plaintiff) intends to present.  Counsel’s goal in opening is, or should be, to assist the jury in understanding what his or her witnesses will say, and to present a sort of “overview” of the case so that the jury will be able to relate various parts of the evidence to be presented to the whole picture counsel will attempt to present.

[5] The court continues:

[41]      In an opening statement, counsel may not give his own personal opinion of the case.  Before any evidence is given he may not mention facts which require proof, which cannot be proven by evidence from his own witnesses, or which he expects to elicit only on cross-examination.  He may not mention matters that are irrelevant to the case.  He must not make prejudicial remarks tending to arouse hostility, or statements that appeal to the jurors’ emotions, rather than their reason.  It is improper to comment directly on the credibility of witnesses.  The opening is not argument, so the use of rhetoric, sarcasm, derision and the like is impermissible: see Halsbury, supra, at para.103; Williston and Rolls, The Conduct of An Action (Vancouver: Butterworths, 1982); Olah, The Art and Science of Advocacy (Toronto: Carswell, 1990) at 8-8; Lubet, Block and Tape, Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame: National Institute for Trial Advocacy, 2000).  Against this general background, I will consider the objections the plaintiff now makes to the defendant’s opening address.

[6] I was also provided with Schram v. Austin, 2004 BCSC 1789 and Ramcharitar v. Gill, 2007 Oral Ruling, Docket 01-2332, a decision of Mr. Justice Macaulay.

[7] In Ramcharitar, the defendant did not object to the use of the presentation but to the form and some of the specific content.

[8] At para. 9, Mr. Justice Macaulay said:

Counsel should not expect to use a presentation as an aid during an opening unless he or she has first shown it to opposing counsel and the court, so that any issues about form and content can be addressed in the absence of a jury.

As pointed out in Schram, and as was done here, the proposed use should be raised at a pre-trial conference.  The risk of a mistrial arising otherwise from the improper use of a presentation is simply too great, and any counsel who seeks to rely on the use of a presentation at the last minute, without seeking consent or permission beforehand, may find that the proposed use is not permitted.

[9] Here, there are problems with the content of the Power Point, which include references to the contents of opinions not yet in evidence.  The Power Point would need to be modified before it could be used before the jury.  However, the Power Point was delivered too late to the defendant and to the court to permit this to be done.  As Mr. Justice Macaulay indicated, the Power Point presentation should be dealt with at a trial management conference, it should not be left to the morning of trial to be addressed.  In this case, there was simply no time available to deal with this problem.

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