Skip to main content

Tag: Mr. Justice Betton

$130,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Neck and Back Injuries

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, assessing damages for chronic injuries.
In today’s case (Moreira v. Crichton) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2013 collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff suffered from chronic pain with a poor prognosis.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages for her injuries at $130,000 Mr. Justice Betton provided the following reasons:

[86]         The medical evidence based on multiple assessments and records reviews from both plaintiff and defence experts collectively paints a compelling picture of a plaintiff who has and continues to deal with the adverse effects of her pain. There is no doubt expressed in any of the assessments regarding the sincerity or accuracy of the plaintiff’s experience or the impact that the MVC has had on her. The unchallenged and uncontradicted evidence of her father is also corroborative of her complaints.

[87]         This is a plaintiff who has achieved great success in her career as a result of her own hard work and initiative and who stands to advance even further in that career. I am unable to conclude that she would be inclined to jeopardize that in the hope of reward in this claim.

[88]         On the whole of the evidence I find the plaintiff to be credible…

[93]         The plaintiff’s family and social relationships have suffered as a result of the MVC. She suffers a larger burden in caring for her home now that her marriage has ended. Prior to the MVC, the plaintiff had no physical limitations and had an optimistic outlook on life. The MVC diminished these aspects of herself, and she no longer benefits from the therapeutic aspects of recreational activities and social interactions…

96]         Reviewing authorities is a necessary and useful process but has its limitations. However, considering the evidence here and those cases, I conclude that an award of $130,000 is an appropriate award under this category.

Medico-Legal Expert Criticized for Destroying Digital Recording of IME Before Trial

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, criticizing an expert for destroying digitally recorded observations made during an independent medical assessment.
In today’s case (Birkich v. Canatio) the Plaintiff, involved in a  personal injury prosecution, was examined by a physiatrist who authored a report for trial.  Prior to testifying the physician destroyed digitally recorded observations of the examination.  The Defense objected to the report from being admitted but the Court reluctantly allowed the report into evidence based on the fact that the physician explained the report accurately transcribed what was digitally recorded.  In criticizing this practice Mr. Justice Betton provided the following reasons:

[10]         Given the evidence that I do have on this voir dire, specifically from Dr. Apel, that this is a verbatim transcription (with only the editing that I have described) of what was on the now destroyed digital recording, I am not inclined to grant the defence application to not allow the report. Whether, and to what extent, the examination of Dr. Apel will affect my ultimate conclusion about the weight of her opinions is yet to be determined, but I do not want there to be any illusion that this in any way endorses the practice that Dr. Apel undertook in this case or, from her evidence, what has gone on for some 20 years. It is wrong, it is not in compliance with theRules, it is not to be endorsed, and this decision should not in any way be seen as endorsing that.

[11]         I am going to direct as part of my order here that, at the plaintiff’s expense, a transcript of my decision on this voir dire be prepared and a copy of it be provided to Dr. Apel. To the extent issues of this nature might arise in the future, in respect of Dr. Apel at least, this decision may be brought to the attention of a court dealing with issues on those occasions such that it would be considered in any decision that might be made about future reports. If there is, not that I think that there should be, but if there is any misapprehension or confusion among the bar about the nature of instruction letters and what experts should be informed of, I would hope that this decision might, in some measure, resolve that because it is simply unacceptable. It is an easy process in this digital age for that information to be retained, it is abundantly clear from the Rules what the intention is, and to be faced with these sort of issues, in my view, is something that simply should not be occurring.

Low Velocity Impact Engineering Evidence Found to be Unhelpful

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing the ‘low velocity impact’ defence.
In this week’s case (Pitcher v. Brown) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2004 collision and sued for damages.  The impact was a modest one.  The Court rejected much of the Plaintiff’s claim following credibility/reliability concerns in her testimony.  The Court was equally dismissive of the defence strategy of calling engineering evidence to discuss the modest forces of the collision.  The Court concluded, as have many previous judgments, that demonstrating forces are modest alone is no defence to an injury claim.  In rejecting the LVI aspect of the defence Mr. Justice Betton provided the following comments –

[106]     As to the forces involved and the probability of injuries resulting, the defence relies upon the opinion of two experts. Dr. Craig Good has a degree and Masters in Applied Science-Mechanical Engineering and a doctor in Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering. He opined that it is “highly unlikely that Ms. Pitcher sustained an acute Mild Traumatic Brain Injury at the time of the subject collision when her head contacted the head restraint.”

[107]     Gerald Sdoutz is a professional engineer who provided opinion evidence about the impact severity in the collision and compared it with activities such as sitting down in a low back office chair, coughing or sneezing or being jostled in a crowd.

[108]     While that expert evidence provides some insight I find its utility to be limited. It puts in perspective that the forces involved in the collision were modest. It does not preclude the conclusion that the plaintiff did receive injuries in this collision. In that regard I look to the expert medical evidence and the evidence of the participants in the collision. I will, in subsequent portions of this decision, address specifically my findings in relation to the plaintiff’s injuries.

ICBC Advance Payment Does Not Have "Any Bearing" on Costs Order

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, addressing whether an ICBC tort advance has any effect in a costs order following a trial.
In today’s case (Jackson v. Yusishen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff received a $5,000 advance from ICBC.  Although various offers were made during the course of the proceedings at the start of trial the Defendant had a formal settlement offer of $100,000 and the Plaintiff’s formal offer was for $2 million.
After a lengthy jury trial the Plaintiff’s claim was largely rejected and damages of $5,000 were assessed.  Mr. Justice Betton awarded the Plaintiff costs up to the time that ICBC made their formal offer and ordered that both parties bear their own costs thereafter.  In finding that the advance of damages had no bearing in the costs assessment the Court provided the following reasons:
[14]         The plaintiff had requested an advance and received a $5,000 advance on June 4, 2013. When the advance was provided, the attached letter contained the following:
…The advance is to be applied first towards any heads of damage which will attract pre-judgment court ordered interest.
[49]         I will comment briefly on the advance payment of $5,000. This was not an offer to settle in accordance with the formal requirements of Rule 9-1. It does have the practical effect of making the appropriate order here a dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim. I do not find that it has any bearing on my order as to costs in the circumstances here.

Pedestrian 70% at Fault For Jaywalking Collision

Adding to this site’s archived claims involving pedestrian collisions, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing fault for an incident involving a pedestrian who was crossing a street outside of a crosswalk.
In this week’s case (Khodadoost v. Wittamper) the Plaintiff pedestrian started crossing McKay Avenue in Burnaby, BC two car lengths north of the intersection.  The defendant motorist was stopped in the curb southbound lane.  As the pedestrian stepped in front of the vehicle the Defendant started to drive forward as his light had turned green.

In finding the pedestrian 70% at fault for the incident Mr. Justice Betton provided the following reasons:
[13]         The incident occurred while the plaintiff was crossing McKay Avenue at Kingsway Avenue, in Burnaby, British Columbia. He had obtained a ride from a friend, Ms. Khaki-Khaljan, to the area. She pulled off to the right of the northbound lane of McKay Avenue approximately two car lengths north of Kingsway Avenue. When the plaintiff exited the vehicle, he began crossing McKay Avenue west and outside of the crosswalk but moving at an angle toward the crosswalk…
[18]         When the southbound traffic began to move forward, the defendant followed. The plaintiff at that time was adjacent to the front driver’s side corner of the defendant’s car. The defendant’s vehicle may have made a very slight contact with the plaintiff before the defendant initially applied his brakes. When he placed his foot on the brake pedal, however, his foot slid off the pedal allowing his vehicle to move forward, essentially in a second forward motion. At that time, there was contact between the plaintiff and the defendant’s vehicle, and the plaintiff fell or was knocked to the road…
[64]         There is no question that the plaintiff began his crossing of McKay Avenue outside of the crosswalk. That fact is, however, of limited relevance. What is particularly important is the condition of the pedestrian and traffic control signals, and the plaintiff’s positioning relative to the crosswalk as he moved past the center point of the road and across the southbound lanes.
[65]         I am satisfied on the evidence that by the time the plaintiff had begun to cross those southbound lanes, the traffic signal for southbound traffic was green. All of the evidence indicates that traffic generally, including the defendant, had begun to move. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant commented specifically on the condition of the traffic signal, but it is the only logical inference from the evidence as a whole…
[77]         It is my conclusion that the plaintiff must bear the majority of the liability for the incident. I apportion liability 70 percent to the plaintiff and 30 percent to the defendant. An award of damages must be adjusted based on this division of liability.

Court Directs Early UMP Payment Noting "The Application of Law Should Not Be Blind to Practical Solutions"

Reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, creating a practical solution to a real world problem, getting a judgement paid in the face of ongoing claims which may exceed a Defendant’s coverage.
In this week’s case (Clark v. Bullock) the Plaintiff along with other individuals were injured in a serious collision.  The Plaintiff’c claim proceeded to trial and damages of $550,000 were assessed.  The Defendant’s had $5,000,000 of liability coverage however, there were ongoing claims involving injured infants and there was “a real and legitimate concern that there may not be sufficient coverage” to pay all the claims.
The Plaintiff had Underinsured Motorist Protection however a practical difficulty arose in that those funds could not be forced to be paid until it can be proven the Defendant’s were underinsured.  In this case that could have taken many years as the infants claims were not yet ready to be quantified.  This left the 67 year old plaintiff facing a real possibility that he could not receive payment on his judgement for a number of years.  The Court, with the consent of the parties, fashioned a sensible solution and ordered that the money be paid via the UMP policy even though it technically was not accessible at this time.  Mr. Justice Betton provided the following sensible reasons:
[23]         In this particular case, ICBC determined that it would waive the entitlement that it has by virtue of the legislation to require that Mr. Clark exhaust all of his remedies, including awaiting the payment of his pro rata entitlement to the $5,000,000 coverage under the Bullock policy; that is, ICBC would waive its entitlement to insist on all of those steps being taken before accessing the underinsured motorist protection coverage.
[24]         The condition it attaches is that it requires a declaration from court that would protect it against the potential for having to pay out more than the amount of the Bullock policy.
[25]         With that concession or that position being adopted by ICBC, these parties come before me with a request for a declaration. That declaration essentially allows ICBC to access the underinsured motorist protection coverage available to Mr. Clark to pay the amount that Justice Barrow has determined Mr. Clark is entitled to with adjustments as agreed to by the parties….
[30]         In my view, the interpretation of the statutes and the application of the law should not be blind to practical solutions when parties, fully cognizant of their rights and entitlement, present such a proposal. The court should make efforts to facilitate that, so long as it is not running afoul of legislation or established legal precedent, and does not prejudice parties who would have an interest in the pool of funds that they would have available to them.
[31]         I am satisfied in these circumstances that, indeed, this arrangement is in the interests of both Mr. Clark and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, the applicants before me, and it does not prejudice or adversely affect the rights of the other entities, all of whom have been served with notice of this application and have chosen not to participate.
[32]         The only other entity which is not a party that may, in a general sense, have an interest in this type of situation would be the Public Guardian and Trustee who, through its statutory obligation, has an interest in protecting infants in this type of context.
[33]         I should say as well that all of those other parties are represented by counsel. No interested party in this matter is self-represented or unrepresented.
[34]         I have chosen and determined not to require that there be any notice to the Public Guardian and Trustee, or that it be served with this application, because I am satisfied that the declaration which I will be making does not adversely affect the infants who are plaintiffs in separate proceedings arising out of this collision. They will still have full access to their proportionate shares of the insurance policy limits of the Bullocks.
[35]         Accordingly, I will make the declaration.

Court Finds ICBC's "Claim Payment Proposal" Extends Limitation Period

When you can’t agree with ICBC as to the value of your claim they sometimes provide a “Claim Payment Proposal” which, unlike a conventional settlement, does not resolve a claim but leaves the door open to litigation.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, considering the effect of such a proposal on a limitation period.
In this week’s case (Coombs v. LeBlond Estate) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  The Plaintiff and ICBC could not agree on the value of the claim and ICBC provided a Claim Payment Proposal.  The Plaintiff eventually sued for damages but did so after the expiry of his limitation period. ICBC applied  to dismiss the lawsuit on this basis.  The Plaintiff argued that the Claim Payment Proposal, despite being marked ‘without prejudice‘ was an admissible confirmation of the cause of action extending the limitation period.  Mr. Justice Betton agreed and dismissed ICBC’s application.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[23]         The act of marking a document with the clause “without prejudice” alone is insufficient to determine whether a document is privileged. Rather, the two conditions stated in Belanger must be present for a “without prejudice” letter to be privileged. There must be:
(a)      a dispute or negotiation between two or more parties, and;
(b)      terms of settlement offered.
[24]         There is no issue with condition (a) in the present case. The privilege issue turns on whether terms of settlement were offered by ICBC in their letter.
[25]         In my view, neither the letter of December 8, 2008 nor the attached claim payment proposal contain such terms. The defendants stress that there are terms attached, but they are not, in my view, terms of settlement.
[26]         In Rogic the first letter attaching the full and final release clearly communicated that the terms of settlement would be payment of $5,000 in exchange for a full and final release. If that release was signed, the action was concluded; accordingly, the letter was not admissible.
[27]         The second letter, as was noted in paragraph 32, did not contain any such terms and was admissible; however, it did not constitute a confirmation of a cause of action.
[28]         The defendants also cite Strassegger v. Harrison Hot Springs Resort Hotel Ltd., [1999] B.C.J. No. 1878 (S.C.) in support of their position. I find this case is not helpful to the defendants’ cause. Strasseggerwas decided on the ground that the correspondence could not be relied upon as confirmation of the action, not whether the document was privileged: see paragraph 11.
[29]         Here the effect of the letter, the cheque, and the claim payment proposal is to confirm the cause of action. It also informs the plaintiff as to ICBC’s view that the money represents a reasonable offer of settlement. It does not, however, impose any terms for the settlement of the action. It provides only that there be an acknowledgement of the receipt of the monies and that they would be deducted from any future recovery.
[30]         In my view, even if the plaintiff had executed the claim payment proposal, the terms contained in it are not the sort of terms contemplated by the Court of Appeal in Belanger or this court in Rogic as being terms of settlement of the dispute or negotiation.
[31]         Accordingly, the application of the defendants is dismissed.

$20,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for "Mild" Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for lingering soft tissue injury.
In the recent case (Densem v. Sidal) the Plaintiff was involved in two consecutive rear-end impacts with the Defendant.  The defendant was wholly responsible for the first impact although this caused no injury.  There was competing evidence about the particular facts which led to the subsequent collision and the Court ultimately found both parties were equally to blame for this impact.
The Plaintiff suffered from soft tissue injuries to his neck and shoulders as a result of the collision.  He also advanced a claim for a low back injury although the Court found that this was unrelated.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages for the soft tissue injuries at $20,000 Mr. Justice Betton raised some credibility concerns with respect to the Plaintiff and provided the following analysis:

[99] I conclude that the plaintiff suffered soft-tissue injuries to his neck and shoulders in the motor vehicle collision. I do not accept that there has been any low back injury from the motor vehicle collision. Indeed low back injury is not among the list of injuries set out by counsel in his argument.

[100] I conclude that the best evidence of the severity of the soft-tissue injuries that the plaintiff did receive is the plaintiff’s activity level. The plaintiff had returned to a high level of function, including competitive cycling and a rigorous training schedule which included high demand weight training. He had also returned to work, and the evidence suggests that he did so successfully. He was able to perform his employment, which involved long periods of sitting mixed with periodic demanding physical work. This was despite his ongoing back problems which are not a result of the accident.

[101] The credibility issues referenced prompt me to view the plaintiff’s evidence with some caution. It is my conclusion that the plaintiff is not a heroically stoic individual who fought through pain and physical limitations to be able to engage in the activities that he did. Rather, he was able to do so because he had in fact limited or minimal ongoing symptoms…

[109] In summary, the plaintiff did receive soft-tissue injuries to his neck and shoulder areas. He has had ongoing lower back pain that pre-dated the motor vehicle collision, and was not affected in any material way by the motor vehicle collision. He has had a number of subsequent events and injuries that required medical intervention and affected him for various periods of time. I accept the evidence and observations of Dr. Cameron in cross-exanimation that the effect of the motor vehicle collision injuries (that is the physical injuries) has been mild.

Court Criticizes Unilateral Discovery Scheduling Practices

Unilaterally scheduled discoveries, while technically permissible, are a frowned upon practice.  Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, critically commenting on such a tactic.
In this week’s case (Morgan v. BC Transit) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of a motor vehicle incident.  In the course of the litigation issues arose with respect to scheduling the discovery of the Plaintiff.  The Defendant unilaterally set a discovery date which the Plaintiff indicated he could not attend.  After non-attendance the Defendant brought a motion seeking to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claim but eventually backed away from this harsh request and instead sought an order that the Plaintiff attend discovery on another date and further seeking costs.
The court directed the parties to get on with the discovery and reserved dealing with costs consequences until this took place.  Ultimately Mr. Justice Betton dismissed the Defendants application and ordered that costs be paid to the Plaintiff.  In doing so the Court provided the following comments regarding unilaterally set examinations for discovery:
[14]         Obviously, the system would be challenged if appointments were routinely taken out without consultation with opposing parties and applications for dismissal followed non-attendance at such appointments. There is a balance that requires considered utilization of Rule 22-7(5). Circumstances must justify the application. Those who have an obligation to submit to an examination for discovery must cooperate reasonably in allowing the examinations for discovery to occur. Indeed it is a relatively unusual application and quite rare that such a severe remedy is granted. The reasons for this are numerous and most are self-evident. Most parties are represented and counsel are well aware of their own and their clients’ obligations. They make accommodations appropriately and reasonably to assist in achieving the objectives of the Rules. Even those who are not represented understand that procedural rules exist, and are to be followed, and there are consequences for failing to do so.

[15]I note in this case, there is no evidence before me indicating that there was any particular urgency to having the examination for discovery of the plaintiff concluded by the end of December. The trial date, as I noted, is set for December of 2012. When the December 1 date was adjourned on November 8, there was some discussion, but nothing done to formally set the examination for discovery until November 28, approximately three weeks later, when the issues quite quickly emerged. In this case, it is of significance that plaintiff’s counsel advised on December 18, approximately one month before this application was filed, that he had become available to have the examination for discovery of the plaintiff concluded in early January 2012. That is now some two months ago.

[16]There are cases when parties with or without counsel either use the Rules or ignore them to frustrate another’s legitimate efforts to prepare their case. In my view, this is not one of those cases. There are also cases where the Rules are used in ways which serve to defeat the broader objectives as described in the Rules of having cases proceed in an efficient and fair way. In all of the circumstances, it is my conclusion that the defence in these circumstances was overly aggressive in its utilization of this Rule and making an application to have the action dismissed with costs to the defendants; pressing to set the date on December 15 without consultation or without agreement was not necessary. Of most significance is the fact that before this application was set, plaintiff’s counsel had advised that they were now available to accommodate the examination for discovery occurring in early January. That discovery would have long since been concluded, rather than now being set in March and this application having had to proceed.

[17]In all of the circumstances, I decline to grant any costs thrown away to the defence for the examination for discovery of December 15, 2011.

[18]With respect to the costs of this application, in the circumstances, the defence will not have its costs of this application. The plaintiff will have its costs.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries and PTSD

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, assessing damages arising from injuries sustained a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Smith v. Williams) the Plaintiff was a young veterinarian.  She was involved in a 2009 collision.  The Defendant crossed the centre-line and caused a head-on collision.  The Plaintiff sustained chronic soft tissue injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The Plaintiff’s symptoms were on-going at the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Betton provided the following reasons:

[33] The plaintiff indicated that the accident has left her with a feeling of vulnerability. She is very anxious in a motor vehicle, especially on highways, envisioning accidents unfolding. There are occasional panic attacks. She gets a tingling and pain down her right arm that is aggravated by repetitive motion and particular movements or positions. One of these, I note, was holding her child while breastfeeding. Others relate to her work as a vet.

[34] She spoke of how the physical and psychological injuries have adversely affected her enjoyment of her wedding and her regret for how she reacted to the stresses associated with the wedding toward her husband. For her part, the plaintiff indicates that she simply battles through her restrictions. She says that the more physically demanding her day, the greater the consequences in symptoms…

[43] This plaintiff is a young professional, early in her career. She has historically been a high-achiever, endowed with intelligence, motivation and physical ability. The motor vehicle collision came as she was planning her wedding and the purchase of a business. Her wedding, as described by her, was not the enjoyable experience that she, as a young woman, had dreamed of.

[44] The purchase of the business completed, and she has been able to live up to the work demands of that practice, facilitated in part by the fact that it is less demanding than work she did prior to acquiring the practice. In addition, her absence for maternity leave coincided with her rehabilitation. She has actively engaged in rehabilitation during all of the significant developments in her life, including being a new mother. The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms linger and also influence the enjoyment of an activity which is part of everyday life, that is, driving…

[53] Taking what one can from those authorities and applying the general principles, as referenced in Stapley, it is my conclusion that an appropriate award for general damages is $75,000.