Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for a long standing soft tissue injury with some room for improvement.
In today’s case (Lluncor v. Anderson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 rear-end collision that the Defendant accepted fault for. The crash resulted in a soft tissue injury to the Plaintiff’s back which lingered to the time of trial. Despite the longstanding nature of the injury the Court found there was prospect for further improvement. In assessing non pecuniary damages at $72,500 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for chronic injuries sustained as a result of two collisions.
In today’s case (Anderson v. Gagnon) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions that the Defendants were responsible for. The collisions resulted in chronic myofascial injury which lingered to the time of trial several years later with a prognosis of some likely lingering symptoms. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:
 In this case, I am satisfied that the plaintiff has suffered a myofascial injury to the paraspinal muscles of the back of her neck, the trapezius rhomboid muscles of the upper back that are chronic and will be ongoing. There are no findings of underlying disc injury or nerve root impingement or other potential injuries.
 The plaintiff’s complaint of chest symptoms is not significant and likely reflect changes as a result of her myofascial pain.
 I accept Dr. Travlos’ conclusion that the hip symptoms cannot be attributed to the accident. The plaintiff has been diligent in participating with various treatment opportunities and those therapists have been the mainstay of her treatment and pain management. The optimum strategy is to continue her exercise activity although she may not respond positively given the length of time the symptoms have persisted since the accident.
 Intermittent massage therapies, physiotherapy and acupuncture are reasonable treatments for the plaintiff to pursue as a means to minimize the interference in her life activities caused by pain. She may also benefit from the use of some anti-inflammatory medications in the case of flare-up of pain.
 Although there is medical evidence that her ongoing symptoms might last indefinitely, or may not resolve in the near future, there are possibilities for improvement as evidenced by Dr. Travlos’ and Dr. Arthur’s recommendations and opinions.
 Overall, the plaintiff is capable of doing chores and activities around her home but must be cognizant of the pain management techniques necessary to enable her to be active. Although she is capable of working full-time, some reduction in work hours may assist her with better pain management. I accept Dr. Travlos’ opinion that she is capable of working longer hours but may benefit from reducing the number of days worked during the week work. This reduction in work is essentially another tool Ms. Anderson has to manage her pain. It contributes to her overall enjoyment of life.
 I am satisfied the plaintiff endures intermittent variable pain that is most taxing on days when she is more physically active or working. The plaintiff’s symptoms tend to worsen between physiotherapy or massage treatments. The symptoms rise to very discomforting levels and are ameliorated by those treatments and it would appear this pattern will continue for the foreseeable future. These injuries have limited her ability to enjoy dancing, skiing, snowshoeing, prolonged cycling, and activities with her children. The evidence suggests that she is fit and works consistently at maintaining her physical condition notwithstanding the symptoms of her injuries.
 As a result of her inability to consistently and thoroughly clean and maintain her house, she has received housekeeping assistants; initially this happened every two weeks but has since been reduced to help once a month due to the cost…
112] Taking into account the plaintiff’s age, the severity and duration of her pain, the absence of actual disability and emotional suffering, the impact on her family, the limits to her physical abilities, and her stoicism, I award non-pecuniary damages of $75,000.
In the world of personal injury lawsuits, video surveillance usually amounts to hours of filming benign activity entirely consistent with a Plaintiff’s known injuries. Occasionally, however, video helps capture images inconsistent with a Plaintiff’s presentation. Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, with such an outcome.
In today’s case (Ma v. Haniak) the Plaintiff was involved in three collisions and sued for damages. Fault was admitted by the Defendant motorists. The Plaintiff was self-represented and sought approximately $1.4 million in damages. The Court largely rejected the Plaintiff’s claims and awarded a small fraction of her sought damages. In reaching the conclusion that the Plaintiff’s claim was exaggerated Mr. Justice Armstrong noted as follows when reviewing video surveillance evidence:
 The defendants tendered video surveillance of Ms. Ma from 2007, 2009 and 2011.
 On September 21, 2007, Ms. Ma was observed working with her brother in their newspaper delivery business. Mr. Maung is seen loading the car with the newspapers. She appears to move without any restrictions in her range of movement and appears to be flexible and capable of moving bundles of newspapers. Although she shows no overt signs of pain, it is not possible to ascertain her actual condition from the video.
 Ms. Ma was able to crouch down, reach in and manually rearrange paper in her car and move several paper bundles.
 Mr. Maung appears physically capable of moving bundles of newspapers to the vehicle from nearby pallets.
 Between October 29, 2009 and November 2, 2009, Ms. Ma was observed and filmed by a private investigator. She was seen driving, entering and exiting her Mazda MPV without any apparent difficulty. Her movements seemed unrestricted and flexible; she carried a cane but did not use the cane to stabilize her walking or support herself.
 In August 2011, more than one-and-a-half years after MVA #3, Ms. Ma was observed and filmed by a private investigator; the recording lasts between 30 and 40 minutes of film.
 At Ms. Ma’s examination for discovery, she testified that she suffered pain when carrying things. She said she avoided carrying items and used the basket on her walker when necessary.
 Nevertheless, on August 9, 2011 Ms. Ma was attending an appointment with Dr. Magrega and used her walker when entering and leaving the office. Later that day she is seen walking and carrying items at a McDonald’s restaurant without any apparent limitation or need for assistance. On that day Ms. Ma is seen exiting her vehicle and walking towards a restaurant with a normal gait, moving at a normal speed and without the benefit of a walker or wheelchair. She collects food from a counter and carries a tray with a drink on top and a separate bag to a table inside the restaurant; she then walks outside to her car carrying a drink and a bag for a person in the vehicle. Ms. Ma’s comportment in this video is significantly different than her comportment at trial. At trial, she used a walker to move in the room and to the witness box. She did not demonstrate the marked flexibility and physical movement that appears on the video.
 What is observed on the video demonstrates significantly less restricted movement than she described in her testimony.
 She testified that when using the sliding doors to enter her van, she suffered severe pain and relied on family members and a cane to open and close the doors when possible. On the date of the video, she is seen freely opening and closing the doors, leaning in and delivering food to others who had not come into the restaurant. The video of the plaintiff was dramatically different from her self-described limitations.
 She testified that if she bumped into a person while being out and about, she would experience excruciating pain; she is seen to be bumped while in the restaurant lineup and shows no evidence of excruciating pain.
 On the video, she was clearly functioning without evidence of pain or limitation in her movement. She walked briskly and without the use of a cane or walker. Her facial expression showed no evidence of pain or discomfort.
 I except that surreptitious video presentations of injured plaintiffs can be misleading; in the circumstances of this case I am satisfied that Ms. Ma’s physical movements on August 9, 2011 were entirely incongruous with her testimony concerning her physical ability and dexterity at the time and since.
 Her only explanation for the apparent differences between her testimony and the video presentation was that she was “tricked” at the discovery. She also said that the limitations in her ability to move or walk distances without a walker do not become apparent until she has been active for approximately ten minutes.
 I agree with the defence that the plaintiff’s claim concerning the level of pain she has experienced after the accidents is wholly inconsistent with her appearance at trial and on the surveillance videos. Although the August 2011 video was taken almost five years before trial, the plaintiff’s examination for discovery evidence, which was given within two weeks of the video, is telling. It contradicted the plaintiff’s appearance in the video surveillance films. Her testimony and use of a walker at trial was consistent with her evidence at the examination for discovery but equally inconsistent with observations of her in the various surveillance videos. From these inconsistencies, I make an adverse finding about Ms. Ma’s credibility.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dismissing a claim for damages following a hit and run collision.
In today’s case (Li v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 rear end collision. After speaking with the at fault motorist the parties agreed to pull over and exchange information. The Defendant fled the scene. The Plaintiff claimed damages directly from ICBC pursuant to s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.
At trial her claim was dismissed with the Court finding she did not take all reasonable steps after the collision to identify the at-fault motorist. The Plaintiff argued ICBC could not rely on this defense as they had failed to advise her of her investigative obligations after promptly reporting the claim to ICBC. Mr. Justice Armstrong rejected this argument finding ICBC has no duty to tell their own insured customers of their obbligatos in order to successfully claim damages caused by unidentified motorists. The Court provided the following reasons:
 The plaintiff contends that ICBC’s failure to notify the plaintiff of her obligations to take steps to identify the owner/driver as a precondition to obtaining judgment should be interpreted as waiving their right to rely on that defence. The claimant relied on Dunn where Chiasson J.A. described the two elements of a waiver claim:
 As the trial judge recognized, the elements of waiver are “that the party waiving had (1) a full knowledge of rights; and (2) an unequivocal and conscious intention to abandon them”:Saskatchewan River Bungalows at 499.
 The plaintiff argues that while ICBC does not have a legal or statutory obligation, it has an equitable obligation to inform its insureds of their obligations and consequences following an accident caused by an unidentified motorist’s negligence or to obviate the possibility of the claimant assuming that ICBC has accepted the claim without the need to take further steps.
 Victims of unidentified motorists who do not take steps required under s. 24(5) lose access to the $200,000 fund designed to compensate the innocent victim. The plaintiff contends that claimants face serious losses when claims are defeated because they failed to take “efforts sufficient to satisfy section 24(5) (that) could have been easily and inexpensively satisfied”.
 Typically claimants fail to take steps to identify the negligent driver in the expectation that ICBC is administering and adjusting their claim and will not act to their prejudice. This includes an expectation that ICBC will bring s. 24(5) to their attention. In this case there was no evidence of what expectations the plaintiff held concerning ICBC’s role.
 The plaintiff argues that ICBC is overwhelmingly in the best position to inform their insureds on the process, and when they fail to do so they knowingly allow the injured claimant to fall into the trap that is s. 24(5).
 Nevertheless, the evidence in this case does not satisfy me that in its administrative processing of this hit-and-run claim ICBC consciously abandoned its rights when staff discussed the plaintiff’s claim with her. I conclude that ICBC’s decision or practice of withholding information concerning s. 24(5) of the Act while at the same time addressing Ms. Li’s claim could not operate as a waiver of their right to rely on the provisions of s. 24(5) to obtain judgment.
 Nothing in the evidence satisfied me that ICBC had considered the plaintiff’s claim and “unequivocally and consciously” elected to abandon its protection under s. 24(5). Further, if a hit and run claim proceeds to trial, ss. (5) is not a section of the Act that could be waived by ICBC; the section prevents the court granting judgment unless satisfied that the claimant has met the obligation under ss. (5). Although I do not decide the point, it seems to me nothing would prevent the parties from making admissions of facts necessary to prove compliance with the subsection; judgment could then be granted.
Earlier this month I discussed the “Garbage In Garbage Out” Principle which basically means an expert opinion based on flawed facts is of little value to the Court. Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry demonstrating that an opinion based on misconstrued facts is not helpful.
In today’s case (Gillespie v. Yellow Cab Company Ltd.) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions and sustained a head injury. He suffered from ongoing cognitive problems at the time of trial and damages of $85,000 were assessed for his non-pecuniary loss.
The Defendants argued that the Plaintiff did not sustain a head injury but instead suffered from a “metabolic syndrome” unrelated to the crash. In rejecting this opinion the Court noted that the Defendant’s expert’s report was based on flawed facts and provided the following reasons:
202] Dr. Eisen’s report described both accidents as being “of a mild nature”.
 He did not view photographs of the plaintiff’s car in the first accident until after he presented his report. He was not aware his car was a total loss or that there was $4,900 damage to the taxi and $6,900 damage to the cube van. Although the doctor described the plaintiff’s windshield as “shattered” he did not know where he obtained that information.
 Although the second accident was evidently quite minor, in my view, Dr. Eisen was clearly in error in describing the December 2009 accident this way. Although no questions were asked to clarify “mild” “moderate” or “severe” the evidence points to the first accident being in the range of two moderate collisions involving two impacts. Dr. Eisen did not view the photographs of the damage to the three vehicles nor understand the force of impact that led to Mr. Gillespie striking his head. The apparent damage to all three vehicles, the blow to his head, and the description of the impacts during the accident are inconsistent with Dr. Eisen’s conclusion that this was a mild impact collision.
 In this regard I conclude that Dr. Eisen’s opinion was based on a clear misapprehension of the accident and the injury mechanism. This factor alone diminishes the weight of his report.
 The evidence is uncontroversial that Mr. Gillespie’s head struck and shattered the windshield in spite of the airbag deploying.
 I observed that Dr. David concluded that Mr. Gillespie’s inner ear dysfunction occurred because of direct impact, acoustic trauma from airbag deployment, and the explosive forces associated with airbag deployment.
 Dr. Eisen formed his opinion that Mr. Gillespie’s ongoing cognitive symptoms following the accident are the product of metabolic syndrome based on his assumptions that Gillespie’s past and ongoing health included evidence that he was diabetic and had impaired glucose function, was obese, had untreated hypertension, and had impaired lipid metabolism. He described his condition of metabolic syndrome on the basis of those four factors…
 Not only was the expert’s opinion based on a clear misapprehension of the accident and the initial injury mechanism but also, in the end, Dr. Eisen’s analysis of the underlying data was so flawed that his opinion that the plaintiff suffered from metabolic syndrome is markedly unreliable…
 However, Dr. Eisen seems to have ignored that Dr. Levis, Fraser Health Concussion Clinic and Dr. Foti recorded the plaintiff’s complaints of short-term memory loss, reversing numbers, headaches, dizziness, and difficulty word-finding from December 21, 2009 until October 2011. Clearly, his cognitive problems persisted throughout the months after the accident without abatement; they did not re-emerge 11 -12 months later as assumed by Dr. Eisen. This error by Dr. Eisen relating to his ongoing cognitive impairment would likely have affected his opinion if he had relied on more accurate information.
 Dr. Eisen’s misconstruction of the facts leading to his conclusion that the plaintiff did not suffer a head injury in December 2009 is a significant flaw in his opinion. Further, his opinion that Mr. Gillespie developed unrelated cognitive problems in 2011 because he was experiencing metabolic syndrome is not supported by the facts or his own opinion that some of the indications of Mr. Gillespie’s altered state of mind in the interval after the accident were indications of an accident related to mild traumatic brain injury.
 … I treat his report with little to no weight…
Adding to this site’s database of cases dealing with ICBC shoulder injury cases, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Campbell River Registry, addressing such an injury.
In this week’s case (Proctor-McLeod v. Clarke) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 rear end collision. The 51 year old plaintiff suffered a variety of soft tissue injury including a chronic shoulder injury which continued to pose problems at the time of trial. Despite the chronic nature of her symptoms the ultimate prognosis was a favourable recovery. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:  The onset of the plaintiff’s shoulder symptoms was brought on by the defendant’s negligence. The medical opinions suggest that these symptoms may have never appeared if the plaintiff was not injured in the accident. Dr. Hawkins did not explain to my satisfaction why he believed that the shoulder pain would have become symptomatic if the plaintiff had not been injured. In my view, the accident was part of the cause of the plaintiff’s ongoing complaints. Common sense dictates that there is a causal connection due to the uninterrupted continuation of these symptoms, albeit on an intermittent basis.  I accept Dr. Hawkins’ opinion that further treatments might result in a resolution of her shoulder symptoms and that her soft tissues have improved significantly. The plaintiff has been suffering from the after effects of the calcium deposits and friction in the coracoacromial arch in her shoulder. The plaintiff’s continued pain from flare ups would not have happened but for the accident. Although she made a good recovery from her other injuries, there is persisting pain developing intermittently in her neck and radiating to her left arm. This causes her pain levels to rise from a daily level of three out ten to six or seven out of ten. These estimates are of limited use; however they do give a subjective measure of the plaintiff’s perception of her condition during flare ups of symptoms.  I conclude that the plaintiff’s symptoms will likely resolve over time….  … I have assessed the plaintiff’s loss at $60,000 for non-pecuniary damages.
Three years ago the BC Court of Appeal clarified that a Defendant’s insured status can be taken into account when considering costs consequences in a trial where a formal settlement offer was in place. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court heavily relying on this factor in denying a Defendant post offer costs.
In this week’s case (Currie v. Taylor) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision. Prior to trial ICBC offered to settle the issue of liability with the Defendant shouldering 41% of the blame. The plaintiff rejected this offer and proceeded to trial where a less favorable split of 75/25 was obtained.
The Defendant sought post offer costs. Mr. Justice Armstrong did strip the Plaintiff of trial costs but did not award these to the Defendant either. In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following comments about the significance of the Defendant’s insured status:  The defendants accept that the plaintiff is financially disadvantaged and that they are represented by an insurer. The defendants’ bill of costs has been presented in the sum of $30,000.32 whereas the plaintiff has disclosed an expenditure of disbursements exceeding $56,000. The plaintiff has not provided a draft bill of costs and I accept that the majority of those disbursements may relate to the issue of quantum. There is simply insufficient evidence on this point to influence the decision.  However, I am guided by the comments of Sewell J. Wong-Lai where he said:  I have also given consideration to the relative financial circumstances of the parties. The plaintiff has very limited means. The defendants are covered by insurance and in a very real sense it is the defendants’ insurer who is at risk in this action. I am entitled to take this factor into consideration in exercising my discretion: see Smith v. Tedford, 2010 BCCA 302, 7 B.C.L.R. (5th) 246. Given these circumstances, it is obvious that the relative financial consequences of depriving the plaintiff of her costs are much greater to the plaintiff than to the defendants.  I accept that there is a significant disparity between the financial resources of the parties and that the plaintiff has very limited means whereas the defendants are supported by an insurer and are at little risk in this action.  I will not order the plaintiff to pay the defendants’ costs after the delivery of their offer to settle. I have accepted the plaintiff’s arguments: there was a reasonable explanation for the plaintiff’s failure to accept the offer, the magnitude of the plaintiff’s claim is substantial, and there is a substantial discrepancy in the resources of the parties.  Accordingly, the plaintiff will recover 25% of his costs at Scale B until the date of trial. The defendants will not recover costs.
UPDATE – April 30, 2014 – The below decision was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal
I have previously discussed the real world consequences of waivers of liability and the fact that these can strip people seriously injured through the fault of others of meaningful legal recourse. Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, creating a troubling precedent allowing such a waiver to stand in the context of a motor vehicle collision claim.
In today’s case (Niedermeyer v. Charlton) the Plaintiff embarked on a tour to Whistler BC to participate in various activities including a zip lining experience. Transportation to and from Whistler was provided the by the Defendant. During the return trip the bus driver “allowed the bus to get too close to the edge of the road and…the bus went off the road and over the edge“. The Plaintiff suffered severe injuries including a fractured neck, ribs and vertebra.
Prior to the trip the Plaintiff signed a waiver agreement which covered activities such as ziplining but also included a clause covering “travel to and from the tour areas”. The Defendant was, like most BC motorists, insured with ICBC and the Plaintiff sued for damages. The Defendant admitted he was negligent but the waiver was upheld dismissing the plaintiff’s claim. In doing so Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:  In my view, the Release is a clear and relatively easy to read document. Although some of the print is small, large capitalized portions of the Release draw attention to the important features of safety, assumption of risks, release of liability and waiver of claims. A reasonable person would recognize the purpose and extent of the document, including the connection between the release and travel to and from the tour site.  I have concluded that the defendants were not obliged to point out the waiver clauses, with specific reference to the bus transportation to and from the tour site. There were no distinct features of the bus trip as opposed to the other zip line activities that should have been brought to the plaintiff’s attention…  I have considerable sympathy for the plaintiff due to the injuries sustained in the accident. The plaintiff is entitled to some benefit as an insured person under Part VII of the Act. However, the plaintiff is not entitled to recover damages due to the defendants’ negligence because she surrendered that right when agreeing to the waiver and release of all claims as a condition of being permitted to use the defendants’ zip line facility.
This is a troubling finding and can pave the way for commercial vehicle operators requiring customers to sign waivers of liability in essence shielding these operators in the face of negligently caused injuries. Mr. Justice Armstrong held such a result “is not contrary to public policy“. In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons: 92] However, in this case, the Release does not impact public policy or the statutory automobile insurance scheme. This Release deals only with the plaintiff’s right to recover damages from the defendants caused by the defendants’ negligence. The statutory scheme is not engaged until there has been a determination, or settlement, of a complainant’s entitlement to money as compensation for injury suffered as a result of the negligence. In my view, the plaintiff’s argument does not engage a debate about public policy.
I understand the decision is being appealed and I will author a follow up post after the Appellate Court addresses this issue.
Assuming, however, that this result is correct it is one which clearly calls out for legislative intervention. If the law requires motorists to carry Third Party liability coverage to ensure those injured through their carelessness have recourse to damages the law should not permit waivers to apply to strip innocent individuals of this statutorily required protection.
The below decision was upheld in reasons for judgement released in February 2014 by the BC Court of Appeal
_________________________________ As previously discussed, having the right of way is not always enough to escape fault (or partial fault) for a collision. If a dominant motorist fails to react reasonably in the face of an obvious hazard liability can follow despite having the right of way. This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.
In this week’s case (Currie v. Taylor) the Defendant was travelling down highway 97 near Vernon, BC. The Plaintiff, approaching from the Defendant’s right, left his stop sign attempting a left hand turn.
The Defendant had the right of way and the Plaintiff’s actions were found to be negligent. The Defendant, however, was also found at fault for speeding and failing to react reasonably to the obvious hazard that the Plaintiff created. In assessing the Defendant 25% at fault Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:  The defendant Sharp’s evidence is confusing. He saw the Taxi moving away from the stop line but he did not take any evasive steps during the 10 seconds the Taxi was travelling across Highway 97. He looked into his rear view mirror but he had no time to avoid the accident. He confirmed that his vehicle did not decelerate significantly when he took his foot off the brake before impact; there was no reason that he could not have gone into the right lane before reaching the Intersection…  The defendant Sharp, travelling 33 km/h over the posted limit, would have reduced the time available to take evasive action or stop and would not have collided with the plaintiff in any event. It seems to me that the defendant Sharp, having seen the plaintiff start before he left the stop line and after, neglected to keep a proper lookout for the emergency that was developing in front of him…  Neither the defendant Sharp nor Mr. Tuckey had any difficulty in identifying the bright yellow Taxi as it was stopped on Meadowlark Road. The defendant Sharp’s discovery evidence was equivocal as to what he saw before impact. He first testified that he saw the Taxi leaving the stop line and followed it across his path, but then he indicated he had not seen the Taxi after it left the stop line. At that juncture he ought to have been aware the plaintiff might cross over into his lane…  It is clear that if the defendant Sharp’s speed had been as little as 110 km/h, the plaintiff would have cleared the Intersection without incident. Although speed, in itself, is not necessarily a breach of the standard of care I have concluded that the defendant Sharp’s speed was more than one third higher than the posted limit and his speed that interfered with his ability to take evasive steps. He would have had more time to react to the hazard and could have avoided the accident by steering and/or braking. In the circumstances he could otherwise have performed those manoeuvres which a reasonably careful and skilled driver might have taken. I have concluded that his lack of attention to the Taxi after it left the stop line, coupled with his excessive and unsafe speed, were a breach of his duty of care to the plaintiff…  In my view the plaintiff was obliged to yield the right-of-way and failed to do so, likely because he did not see the Van which was clearly visible. The defendant Sharp travelled at a speed more than one third above the limit and failed to take any timely measures to avoid the collision. The defendant Sharp also failed to keep a proper lookout and that, combined with his speed, deprived him of the opportunity to avoid the collision. In the end, when he realised that the Taxi was moving in front of him he looked to the right to attempt a lane change but was travelling too fast to be able to change lanes. I conclude that the plaintiff was more blameworthy. I apportion the liability for this collision 75% to the plaintiff and 25% to the defendants.
Further to my previous posts discussing legal obligations when seeking compensation following an unidentified motorist collision in BC, interesting reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, suggesting that in the right circumstances estoppel could be used to overcome a ‘failure to take reasonable efforts to identify the Defendant’ defence after a collision has been reported to ICBC.
In this week’s case (Springer v. Kee) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision. The at fault driver fled the scene before the plaintiff could identify them. The plaintiff reported the claim to ICBC and to the police but did not take any steps after this to try and identify the at fault motorist.
The plaintiff brought an action seeking compensation from ICBC pursuant to Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. ICBC brought an application to dismiss the lawsuit arguing the plaintiff failed to take all reasonable steps to identify the motorist after reporting the claim. Mr. Justice Armstrong agreed and dismissed the claim. Before doing so, however, the Court criticized ICBC’s actions and suggested that if estoppel was plead the outcome may have been different. The Court provided the following reasons:
I accept the view that ICBC was not obliged to warn the plaintiff of his ongoing obligations in the immediate aftermath of his reporting the accident to ICBC; ICBC was, in my view, remiss in their duty to inform the injured party about the steps necessary to perfect his claim, particularly in light of the conversations with the adjuster indicating that his claim had been accepted by the corporation. It seems to me that ICBC’s communications with an injured person ought to include a warning about the prerequisites of the claim against an unidentified motorist.
In my view, although not obliged to advise people of their obligations under s. 24(5), ICBC ought to recognize the risks that laypeople will rely on remarks made by adjusters suggesting settlements can be expected without warning that the claim will be denied if s. 24(5) is not complied with. Regrettably, I also note that the “Helping You with Your Hit and Run Claim” pamphlet published by ICBC that was given to the plaintiff by the adjuster does not mention the implications of s. 24(5) of the Act.
Counsel for the plaintiff mentioned the concept of waiver, but did not argue this as a case of estoppel and the pleadings do not advance any claim against ICBC except as nominal defendant.
Section 24(5) does not permit me to consider the actions of ICBC in the assessment of the plaintiff’s obligations under the Act. That may be the subject of a waiver or estoppel, which is outside of the scope of this application.
For the reasons given by Barrow J. in Tessier, I am unable to conclude that the actions of ICBC excuse Mr. Springer’s inaction in the weeks following the accident. Therefore, I would dismiss the argument of the plaintiff in this case; I cannot grant judgment because he did not take all reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver as required under s. 24(5) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 231.
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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