Tag: Mr. Justice Burnyeat

LVI Defence Rejected, $27,500 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Soft Tissue Injuries

In my continued effort to highlight the judicial treatment of the Low Velocity Impact defence, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing such a strategy.
In last week’s case (Guzman Gonzalez v. Dueck) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 rear-end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash but denied the Plaintiff suffered injury arguing the the crash occurred at “about one kilometre per hour” and that if felt like “a little love tap“.
Mr. Justice Burnyeat rejected this evidence finding as follows:
[6] The damage to the respective vehicles was $1,270.80 to the vehicle of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez and $1,001.52 to the vehicle of Mr. Dueck.  Mr. Dueck described the damage to his vehicle as being “a little damage to the front-end bumper”, “it got pushed down”.  I do not accept the evidence of Mr. Dueck that his vehicle was only going one kilometre per hour and that the collision only involved “a little love tap”.  Although the damage to the vehicles was not extensive and although I can conclude that this was a low impact collision, I cannot reach the conclusion that the respective damage to the vehicles could have been caused by the collision described by Mr. Dueck.
In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $27,500 the Court made the following findings:

[28] On the basis of the testimony of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez, the expert opinions of Drs. Tong and O’Connor, and the testimony and reports of Mr. Snip, I can conclude as follows regarding the extent and the duration of the pain and suffering of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez caused by the accident:

(a) Regarding the low back pain experienced by Mr. Guzman Gonzalez, I conclude that he had fairly constant pain for the first month or so, but that his complaints had resolved by the time Mr. Guzman Gonzalez saw Dr. Tong on October 21, 2009.

(b) Regarding the headaches suffered by Mr. Guzman Gonzalez, while Mr. Guzman Gonzalez testified at his Discovery that he had his last headache in December 2010, I am satisfied on the basis of the medical legal opinion of Dr. O’Connor that any headaches associated with the accident were common daily for the first three months, but had largely resolved within three to four months so that Mr. Guzman Gonzalez now only experiences headaches every so often.

(c) Regarding the pain experienced in his shoulder, Mr. Guzman Gonzalez confirmed that there is only pain when he lifts his arm above his head or when he sleeps on that particular shoulder.  I take into account the following evidence to come to the conclusion that the neck and shoulder pain caused by the accident lasted in the neighbourhood of six to eight months, although it was particularly acute during the first two months after the accident:  (i) by December 5, 2009, Mr. Guzman Gonzalez was reporting to Dr. Tong that there was only “occasional flareup” associated with the “tightening up of the muscles”; (ii) the clinical notes of Dr. Tong did not record any complaint by Mr. Guzman Gonzalez about neck and shoulder pain for the December 5, 2009 through February 20, 2012 visits; (iii) in his February 20, 2012 medical legal opinion, Dr. Tong noted that there was neither “residual neck musculo-ligament tenderness” on palpation, that the left shoulder exhibited “slight decreased external rotation and abduction”, and that there was “no tenderness on the anterior aspect of the left shoulder”; (iv) neck pain and left shoulder pain was described by Dr. O’Connor in his December 16, 2011 legal opinion as being “about 50% better”; and (v) in his December 16, 2011 opinion, Dr. O’Connor states that the neck pain was “initially triggered by musculoligamentous strain to the neck, and likely aggravation of the cervical facet joints at the mid-cervical spine”.

[29] The x-ray arranged by Dr. Tong in late 2009 indicated “moderate osteoarthritis of the  acromio-clavicular joint” and that this “may cause impingement”.  There is no medical evidence which would allow me to conclude that the accident caused an acceleration of the osteoarthritis or that this would not have developed but for the accident.  In the circumstances, I find that the condition described by Dr. O’Connor was the result of a degenerative condition in the AC joint which had previously not caused pain to Mr. Guzman Gonzalez but is presently causing pain during or after what Dr. O’Connor described as “overhead reaching”.  The prognosis of Dr. O’Connor is that there is an increased risk of injury or aggravation of the left shoulder with any heavy lifting or overhead reaching or carrying required in the occupation of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez.  I find that this ongoing problem is attributable to the osteoarthritis and not to injuries caused by the negligence of Mr. Dueck.

[30] As a result of the injuries caused by the negligence of Mr. Dueck, I find that Mr. Guzman Gonzalez was not able to play tennis for about six months, that he had limited ability to play soccer, that he was less active on the dance floor for six to eight months, but that, after about eight months, he was fully able to carry on with all of his previous recreational activities.  I find that any further limitations regarding his recreational activities can be attributed to a problem that Mr. Guzman Gonzalez has with his knee which is in no way associated with the results of the injuries he suffered as a result of the accident.

[31] Taking into account the injuries suffered by Mr. Guzman Gonzalez as a result of the accident and the duration of the pain and suffering of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez, I assess the non-pecuniary damages of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez at $27,500.

Hiring Multiple Lawyers Means Paying Multiple Lawyers

As previously discussed, if you are unhappy with your representation in an ICBC claim and are considering changing lawyers a key consideration to take into account is the amount of legal fees you will need to pay.  Hiring multiple lawyers typically means paying multiple lawyers.  This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In today’s case (Herman v. Ian Sisett Law Corporation) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 motor vehicle collision.  She hired the Defendant law firm to represent her.  She did so on a contingency basis and the contract contained some of the typical provisions dealing with fees in the event the relationship terminated prior to settlement.
In the course of representation a conflict of interest became apparent and the lawyer could no longer represent the Plaintiff.  She hired a second lawfirm who gave an undertaking to protect the fee of the first firm.  The Plaintiff then changed lawyers again hiring a third firm.   The third firm gave no undertaking to protect the account of the first firm.
Ultimately the claim settled while the third firm represented the plaintiff and she paid their account.  The first firm then sent the client a final account of $62,500 for services rendered.   The parties could not agree on payment and the first lawyer brought an application for the third lawyer to produce their full file.  Mr. Justice Burnyeat found that this was an appropriate order to make to help determine a fair amount to be paid to the first lawyer.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[18] Here, there was no undertaking provided by Mr. Gordon that the fees of Sisett would be protected.  In that regard, the only undertaking to Sisett came from Becker Mathers.  Even though there was no such undertaking available to Sisett, I am satisfied that it would only be possible for Sisett to set a statement of account which was reasonable if the total amount of the settlement, any contingency fee arrangement in effect, and an outline of what work had been undertaken by Mr. Gordon was available.

[19] I am satisfied that this approach is in accordance with the decision in McQuarrie, Hunter v. Lord Estate (1983) 41 B.C.L.R. 123 (C.A.) where the trial judge ordered the Defendants to pay to the original firm the sum calculated on a quantum meruit basis immediately after taxation and where the Defendants appealed the ruling of the trial judge.  The question which was before the Court was described as follows:

The essential point at issue before us, therefore, is whether a solicitor who has been discharged without cause from a contingency fee contract is entitled to recover his fees on a quantum meruit basis prior to the conclusion of the action in which he was originally retained (at para. 6).

The question then arises: What compensation, if any, is the discharged solicitor entitled to, and at what time? (at para. 13).

[20] The Court concluded that the first firm would have to wait until after the disposition of the action.  On behalf of the Court, Nemetz C.J.B.C. stated in this regard:

While an obligation to pay arises on discharge, the client and solicitor await the completion of the lawsuit, and the result obtained becomes a factor in determining the value of the services of the original solicitor.  On this approach, no money is due until the value of the services has been determined.

I prefer this approach because of the historic recognition of the solicitor-client relationship as a very special one.  It is a relationship based on confidence and trust.  The dignity and integrity of the legal profession demand that the interests of the client be fully protected.  The relationship is such that the client is justified in seeking to dissolve it whenever he ceases to have absolute confidence in his solicitor.  The fact that the solicitor has rendered valuable services under his employment, or that the client is indebted to him for these services does not deprive the client of this right.  If, however, the client were to become liable to pay the reasonable fees of the solicitor at the time of discharging him, the client would be forced to choose between continuing the employment of a solicitor in whom he has lost faith or, in some cases, discontinuing his action.  This would defeat the underlying rationale of contingency fees.  In addition, if responsibility to pay reasonable fees were to accrue immediately upon discharge and the subsequent damage award to the client were substantially less than that anticipated, a financial disaster for the client may occur.  The risk of success or failure would have been shifted entirely to the shoulders of the client.  It is more consistent with the special relation between solicitor and client and the underlying rationale of a contingency fee agreement to have both parties await the happening of the contingency.  The interests of both parties can then be balanced in light of the outcome of the litigation.

Another reason for preferring this approach is that it does not require the taxing officer either, on the one hand, to tax the solicitor’s account as if the contingency was irrelevant, or, on the other hand, to hear the evidence that would be led in the principal action so that he can anticipate the contingency and assess the fee that the solicitor would have received if he had not been discharged.

Knowing the amount of the award, determined either by the Court or by settlement, the Registrar will be able to settle the amount of the bill of the contracting solicitor in the light of the recovery obtained by the client.  If nothing is recovered or the amount recovered is a modest one, the Registrar may nevertheless award the contracting solicitor some amount for his work.  If, on the other hand, a client, who sees success coming up, discharges his solicitor on the eve of the trial, the lack of any risk remaining in the contingency will be of very great significance.

(at paras. 13-16)

[21] In order to prepare a fair and reasonable bill on a quantum meruit basis, Sisett was entitled to have the information that it had requested:  the details of the settlement; the details of the contingency arrangement that was in effect between Ms. Herman and Slater Vecchio; the time records maintained by Slater Vecchio; any detailed account provided by Slater Vecchio; the fees and disbursements charged by Slater Vecchio; and any fees and disbursements paid to Becker Mathers for the work that they had undertaken.

City Not Vicariously Liable For Alleged Sexual Abuse by Police Officer

With more victims of historic childhood sexual abuse prepared to come forward and have their claims heard we have the benefit of more decisions being published by the BC Courts addressing the circumstances when an institution will be held vicariously liable for sexual abuse by their employees.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this area of law.
In last week’s case (R.G. v. Vancouver Police Board) the Plaintiff alleged to be the victim of historic sexual abuse at the hands of the Defendant police officer.  (its worth noting the Court made no findings about whether the abuse actually took place).
In his childhood the Plaintiff “alternated between living with his parents….and living with Mr. Hughes“.  They formed what was described as a father-son relationship.  The Plaintiff alleged he was abused in the course of this relationship.  The Defendant was a member of the Vancouver Police Department at the time.
The Plaintiff sued the personal defendant and also the City of Vancouver arguing they were vicariously liable for the abuse.  Mr. Justice Burnyeat disagreed and dismissed this portion of the Plaintiff’s claim.  In finding no employer vicarious liability should arise in these circumstances the Court provided the following reasons:

[27] The Plaintiff submits that society teaches children from an early age to trust police officers and that makes children and young people particularly vulnerable to the abuse of power by police officers.  In the circumstances, the Plaintiff submits that the City “has sufficient control, either directly or indirectly through its constant presence on the Board, to be vicariously liable for Hughes’ wrongdoing”, and that the City “had sufficient power over him through his extracurricular activities – pistol shooting competitions and fishing derbies, during which his abuse of … [the plaintiff] continued that it should be held vicariously liable”.

[28] If I could conclude that Mr. Hughes was an employee of the City, I could not conclude that his wrongful acts were sufficiently related to conduct authorized by the City.  I can find no “significant connection”.  I can only find that there were incidental connections between the abuse that occurred and the location of the abuse.  Many of the alleged abuses took place in VPD vehicles.  However, the power that was exerted by Mr. Hughes was the power flowing from the “father-son” relationship which had grown and not any relationship between the Plaintiff and Mr. Hughes as a police officer.  As well, the fact that Mr. Hughes was granted access to a VPD police vehicle did not afford any particular ability for Mr. Hughes to abuse his power.

[29] In rejecting the submission made on behalf of the Plaintiff, I cannot conclude that the wrongful acts of Mr. Hughes are sufficiently related to conduct authorized by the City to justify the imposition of vicarious liability.  There is not a significant connection between any promotion by the City and by society in general to promulgate the message that children should be taught from an early age to trust police officials and the significant wrongs that are alleged to have occurred.

Provincial Court BackLog Justifies Modest Injury Trials in BC Supreme Court

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages and costs for modest injuries following a motor vehicle collision.  Although the claim was straight-forward and damages were within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court, the Plaintiff was awarded costs with Mr. Justice Burnyeat finding that the Supreme Court’s summary trial process is a reasonable alternative to the backlog litigants face in Small Claims Court.
In today’s case (Parmar v. Lahay) the Plaintiff sustained a modest whiplash injury as a result of motor vehicle collision.  ICBC ran the “Low Velocity Impact” defence arguing no compensation should be awarded.  The trial proceeded summarily and took less than one day.  The Plaintiff’s evidence was accepted and non-pecuniary damages of $12,000 were awarded.
The Court went on to award costs despite the modest quantum.  In doing so Mr. Justice Burnyeat provided the following reasons:

[9] I cannot reach the conclusion that the legal or factual complexity of the case, the need for discovery of documents and examination for discovery, and the need for a judgment enforceable outside of British Columbia are applicable reasons why this action was commenced in the Supreme Court of British Columbia rather than in Provincial Court.  However, I am satisfied that the summary trial procedure available in the Supreme Court and the availability of costs makes the Supreme Court a preferable and justified forum for this Action.

[10] I take judicial notice that this case reached the Court for decision much more quickly than if the Action had been commenced in the Provincial Court.  In this regard, I take judicial notice of the absence of a considerable number of judges at the Provincial Court level and the backlog in hearing matters that the failure to appoint more judges has produced.

[11] I also take into account the ability of the Plaintiff to have costs awarded in this Court but not in Small Claims Court.  In that that regard, I adopt the reasoning of Harvey J. in Zale v. Colwell, 2010 BCSC 1040, where he states:

In each of the above three decisions [Spencer v. Popham, supra; Faedo v. Dowell, 2007 BCSC 1985; and Kanani v. Misiurna, 2008 BCSC 1274] the primary reason for awarding the plaintiff costs, in circumstances not unlike these facing the plaintiff here, was the consideration that given the need to retain counsel to battle an institutional defendant, a reasonable consideration in determining the forum is the matter of indemnity for the costs of counsel.  (at para. 14)

[12] I also adopt the statement of Humphries J. in Kananisupra:

… in a situation where the defendant put the plaintiff to the proof of having suffered any injury at all, thus making her credibility a crucial issue at trial, it was reasonable for the plaintiff to require the assistance of counsel.  She was therefore justified in commencing the action in Supreme Court where she could hope to recover some of the costs it was necessary for her to expend in retaining counsel to recover the compensation to which she was found to be entitled. This reasoning has application here as well. (at para. 8).

[13] I take into account that it may well be economically unrealistic for counsel to be retained for up to three appearances in Small Claims Court where the damages sought are nominal.  This must be contrasted with the institutional defendant and its unlimited resources.  In an action in Supreme Court, counsel for a plaintiff is only required to appear once in Court if an application pursuant to Rule 9?7 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules is appropriate.  In the case at bar, the application has taken approximately one hour.

[14] In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the Plaintiff should be entitled to his costs throughout on a Party and Party (Scale B) basis.

Ongoing Negotiations and Other Factors Postpone Personal Injury Limitation Period

(UPDATE: May 10, 2010 – The below case was overturned today by the BC Court of Appeal; reasons can be found here)

Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the postponement of a limitation period in a personal injury claim.
In last month’s case (Iezzi v. R.) the Plaintiff worked as a foster parent.  She alleged that in 2001 one of her foster children, identified as “MW” accidentally stuck her with a hypodermic syringe and infected her with Hepatitis C.  She claimed the Ministry of Children and Family Development was responsible for the harm and started a lawsuit in 2009.
The Ministry argued the action was brought out of time set out in the Limitation Act and brought a motion to dismiss the claim.  The motion was dismissed, however, with the Court finding that on-going settlement discussions and other factors operated to postpone the running of the limitation period under Section 6(4) of BC’s Limitation Act.  In dismissing the Ministry’s motion Mr. Justice Burnyeat provided the following reasons:

[15] I am satisfied that there was a postponement of the limitation period to sometime between the Spring of 2008 and the Fall of 2008 as a result of a number of factors.  There were negotiations with the Ministry during 2006 and until April 2008 regarding a possible settlement of damages flowing from the Hepatitis C infection and from the breach of contract.  It would have been unwise to interrupt those by the commencement of an action.  While negotiations were ongoing and while there was still a hope that a settlement could be reached, a reasonable person would believe that it was not necessary to commence an action for damages flowing from the Hepatitis C infection.  It was not until the April 1, 2008 meeting with a Ministry representative that the final position of the Ministry regarding a possible settlement was received.  Even then, Ms. Iezzi advised the Ministry that she had “no desire to go to a lawyer” although she also did advise that “I have been left with no other choice”.  It was only at that point that negotiations came to a conclusion and that Ms. Iezzi was left with no other alternative.

[16] It was not until sometime between April 2008 and September 2008 that Ms. Iezzi obtained the actual documentation relating to the Hepatitis C status of MW.  Before commencing an action, a reasonable person would first ascertain the exact knowledge the Ministry had about the Hepatitis C status of MW when she was placed as a foster child.  A reasonable person would not want to rely on the unsubstantiated information that was available from an employee of the Ministry.  A reasonable person would first wish to see the actual documentation before proceeding.  That documentation was not available to Ms. Iezzi until she ascertained in a document that was made available to her that the Ministry was aware that MW had Hepatitis C when MW was placed with her because the Ministry was in possession of the records available from the Juvenile Detention Centre.

[17] Until that information was available, it would have been foolhardy and unreasonable for a person to conclude that an action should be commenced and that there was a reasonable or any possibility of success.  Until the actual documentation was available to her, Ms. Iezzi had only the hearsay statements from her resource worker.  It was reasonable not to proceed until a determination could be made that there was a reasonable prospect of success and that there was a reasonable prospect of there being sufficient funds available if an action was successful to justify the action being commenced in the first place.

[18] I also consider that Ms. Iezzi was under intense stress.  I am satisfied that I should take into account a number of circumstances in dealing with whether the running of the limitation period should be postponed.  First, she had lost her house.  Second, she had lost her health as a result of the Hepatitis C infection.  Third, she had lost her livelihood because she could no longer take foster children.  At the same time to require her to face the intense stresses and strains involved in suing the Province is unrealistic.

[19] Taking into account all of the circumstances surrounding the commencement of this action in October 2009, I am satisfied that the application of the Defendant should be dismissed.

Inspecting Your Opponent's Documents and Location: Rule 7-1(17)

The BC Supreme Court Rules set out the requirements of parties to list relevant documents and make these available to opponents in litigation.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with the Court’s discretion addressing where and when documents can be inspected by opposing parties.
In today’s case (More Marine Ltd. v. Alcan Inc.) the Defendant’s list of documents included 125 boxes of materials which were stored in Kitimat, BC.   The Plaintiff lived in the lower mainland and argued that the documents need to be made available in Vancouver (the location of the Defendant’s lawfirm) for inspection.  The Defendant disagreed and argued that the documents should be inspected in Kitimat.  The Court sided with the Defendant and in doing so Mr. Justice Burnyeat provided the following reasons:

[4] Rule 7?1(15) of the Rules of Court provides:

A party who has served a list of documents on any other party must allow the other party to inspect and copy, during normal business hours and at the location specified in the list of documents, the listed documents except those documents that the listing party objects to producing.

[5] However, Rule 7?1(17) of the Rules of Court provides:

The court may order the production of a document for inspection and copying by any party or by the court at a time and place and in the manner it considers appropriate.

[6] While Rule 7?1(15) uses the words “must allow” and “at the location specified”, I am satisfied that the Court retains a discretion under Rule 7?1(17) of the Rules of Court to order production at a time and place “it considers appropriate”.  If there was no discretion available to the Court, then Rule 7?1(17) would be superfluous.

[7] In McLachlin and Taylor, the Learned Authors make this statement regarding the location specified under Rule 7?1(17):

Place specified for inspection should be reasonable.  Books or business records in use are frequently inspected at the place of business.  Other documents are commonly inspected at the office of the solicitor representing the party in questions.  (at p. 7?123)….

[9] Given the number of documents involved and the nature of the documents, it is unrealistic to expect that either party will want copies made of all of the documents…

[10] Here, it would be very costly to make copies of all of the documents in the 125 boxes and, accordingly, that is not an alternative that is available.  The Plaintiff alleges an exclusive contract to carry the product of the Defendant and a breach of that contract.  The documents to be inspected relate to work that was undertaken by third parties in alleged contravention of the contract between these parties.  A number of the documents are invoices relating to work allegedly lost and the damages flowing to the Plaintiff as a result of the work that was lost.  The many thousands of documents may well be summarized by agreement into several pages once totals are taken from the documents inspected in order to arrive at work which is said to be in contravention of the contract between the parties.  Accordingly, I cannot conclude that it will take weeks for a representative of the Plaintiff to examine the documents in the 125 boxes.

[11] Here, the business of the Plaintiff was carried on in Kitimat and these business records have been retained in storage in Kitimat.  In the circumstances, I am satisfied that I should exercise the discretion available to me to designate Kitimat as the place where the documents will be available for inspection and copying.  After initial inspection has been undertaken, it may well be that the principal of the Plaintiff may be in a position to provide specificity of the further documents to be inspected such that it will not be necessary for all 125 boxes of documents to be inspected.

[12] The documents on the List of Documents of the Defendant relating to the documents stored in the 125 boxes of materials in Kitimat will be made available by the Defendant in Kitimat.  Costs will be costs in the cause.

Saanich Police Officer Found "Grossly Negligent" For Fatally Shooting Disturbed Man

(UPDATE January 10, 2013In reasons for judgement released today the BC Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in the below discussed case finding that the trial judge’s reasons did not adequatly address the important evidence presented at trial)
Important reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing lawsuits for damages against police officers when excessive force is used in the line of duty.
This week’s case (Camaso v. Egan) has been covered in the conventional press and I don’t intend to repeat all the well publicized details.  From a legal perspective, however, this case is useful for anyone interested in the law of police officer liability in British Columbia.
In this week’s case the Saanich Police Department were called to deal with a disturbed man.   Constable Dukeshire was one of the officers who responded to this call.  Shortly after encountering the disturbed individual Constable Dukeshire shot him several times resulting in his death.  He was found negligent making the City of Saanich liable for his actions under the principles of vicarious liability.  Damages of almost $350,000 were awarded to the disturbed man’s survivors under the BC Family Compensation Act.
Mr. Justice Burnyeat of the BC Supreme Court went further and found the officer grossly negligent for the death.  Paragraphs 269-308 are worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in this area of law.  Some of the highlights of Mr. Justice Burnyeat’s reasons were as follows:

[272]It is not in dispute that Constable Dukeshire shot Mr. Camaso.  Having established that, the onus shifts to Constable Dukeshire to establish that the shooting was justified.  In Prior v. McNab (1976), 16 O.R. (2d) 380 (Ont. H.C.), Reid J. stated in this regard:

… It is enough to allege and prove an assault.  Plaintiff need not prove that the force used was excessive.  He need prove only that it was used upon him.  The onus of proving that the force was not excessive would lie on the policeman.  This is clear from the decisions of our Court of Appeal.

The onus on a plea of justification in the use of force lies on him who asserts it: Miska v. Sivec, [1959] O.R. 144, 18 D.L.R. (2d) 363.  This applies to one who sets up the defence of self-defence (as in Miska) or on one who relies on a statutory duty:  O’Tierney v. Concord Tavern Ltd., supra, per Roach, J.A., who said, at p. 534:

It was implicit in a plea of justification even based on a statutory duty that the degree of force used was not excessive and the party making that plea must prove it.

That onus would lie on the police if sued. (at p. 385)…

[282]The “Use of Force Continuum” that is taught to all officers and which is part of the Policy of the Saanich Police Department provides for a continuum from “presence” to “communication” to “open hand control” to “taser” to “capsaicinoid aerosols” (pepper spray) to “empty hand impact techniques” to “impact weapons” to “lateral neck restraint” to “firearms”.

[283]After Mr. Camaso came out from behind his vehicle the first time, Constable Dukeshire moved directly to “firearms” without going through any of the earlier stages of the continuum.  After Constable Dukeshire saw that Mr. Camaso was not holding a weapon which could cause him harm from afar, Constable Dukeshire failed to deescalate the situation in order to establish “presence” and in order to establish “communication”.  This failure to do so breached the duty of care which Constable Dukeshire owed to Mr. Camaso.

[284]Rather than calling for backup, Constable Dukeshire pursued Mr. Camaso on his own.  Saanich Police Department Policy required Constable Dukeshire to engage a supervisor.  He failed to do so.  Saanich Police Department Policy required Constable Dukeshire to take charge and coordinate the efforts of the other two Constables.  He did not do so.  Rather than pursuing Mr. Camaso as the leader of a team or as part of a team, Constable Dukeshire pursued Mr. Camaso without the knowledge of the location of Constables McNeil and Murphy, and without attempting to coordinate their activities with his own.  No call was made by Constable Dukeshire for a supervisor to coordinate activities.  No attempt was made by Constable Dukeshire to allow Constables McNeil and Murphy to catch up to him in order that they could assist him in apprehending Mr. Camaso under the Mental Health Act….

[289]It was not reasonable for Constable Dukeshire to continue to aim his gun at Mr. Camaso when Mr. Camaso appeared to be complying by going down onto the ground as was requested by Constable Dukeshire.  His service revolver should have been holstered….

[295]Even with one or two potential weapons in Mr. Camaso’s hands, Constable Dukeshire who weighed almost one hundred pounds more and stood almost a foot taller than Mr. Camaso could not have had a reasonable belief that it was necessary to shoot Mr. Camaso for his own preservation.  It was always apparent to Constable Dukeshire that Mr. Camaso did not have a gun in his hands. …

[299]Putting myself in the position of Constable Dukeshire or putting a reasonable officer in the position of Constable Dukeshire, it is not reasonable to conclude that it is part of the responsibility of Constable Dukeshire to shoot Mr. Camaso three times and it is not possible on reasonable grounds to conclude that the force he used was necessary for the purpose of protecting himself and others from imminent or grievous bodily harm.  Putting myself in the position of Constable Dukeshire or putting even an inexperienced officer in the position of Constable Dukeshire, it is not possible on reasonable grounds to conclude that the force that was used was necessary.  Constable Dukeshire did not act on reasonable grounds when he shot Mr. Camaso.

[300]I find that Constable Dukeshire breached the duty of care owed to Mr. Camaso when he did not use the least amount of force necessary to carry out his duties, when he failed to remain a safe distance away from Mr. Camaso, when he failed to properly assess the situation before approaching Mr. Camaso, when he failed to plan an appropriate method to deal with the situation, when he advanced on Mr. Camaso thereby failing to deescalate the situation once it appeared that Mr. Camaso was beginning to comply with his commands, and when he failed to wait for backup support.  Constable Dukeshire breached his duty owed to Mr. Camaso to use only so much force as was reasonably necessary to carry out his legal duties.

[301]In the circumstances, I find Constable Dukeshire liable in negligence because I find that there was duty of care owed to Mr. Camaso, that there was a breach of that duty of care, and that the breach of the duty of care caused the death of Mr. Camaso.

[302]At the same time, Constable Dukeshire has failed to establish that the shooting was justified and that the force that he used was not excessive.  In fact, the Plaintiffs have shown on the balance of probabilities that the force that was used was excessive.  I find that Constable Dukeshire cannot rely on s. 25 of the Criminal Code of Canada or the provisions of ss. 16 and 28 of theMental Health Act.  His use of force was not justified.  I cannot find that Constable Dukeshire believed on reasonable grounds that it was necessary for his self-preservation to use the force that he did.  I have reached the conclusion that Constable Dukeshire is liable in damages as a result of his failure to act in good faith and with reasonable care…

307]In reviewing all of the circumstances of this case, I conclude that Constable Dukeshire was grossly negligent.  When the pursuit of Mr. Camaso commenced, Constable Dukeshire was not involved in a dangerous activity.  However, as soon as Constable Dukeshire removed his service revolver from its holster and aimed it at Mr. Camaso, he was involved in an activity where it is plain that the magnitude of the risks involved were such that more than ordinary care had to be taken.  If more than ordinary care was not taken, a misstep or a mishap was likely to occur such that loss of life or serious injury would be almost inevitable.  More than ordinary care was not taken.  The loss of the life of Mr. Camaso resulted.  I also find Saanich vicariously liable for the damages caused by Constable Dukeshire.

ICBC Claims and Medical Treatment; How Often Should I See My Doctor?

One common question I’m asked by people advancing ICBC injury claims is “how often should I see my doctor?“.  The short answer is “as often as necessary to properly diagnose and treat your injuries“.  Recovery should always be the main reason behind physicians visits, not litigation.
There is no magic number of times you need to see a doctor in order to be properly compensated for your injuries.  A person who sees their doctor 100 times prior to settling may receive less than a person who only receives medical attention a handful of times.  The severity and duration of injuries are some of the most important factors when valuing loss, not the number of medical treatments.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, highlighting this.
In today’s case (Co v. Watson) the Plaintiff was involved in a “T-Bone” collision in 2006.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist.  The trial focused on the value of the Plaintiff’s ICBC claim.   Mr. Justice Burnyeat found that the Plaintiff suffered from shoulder pain, back pain, neck pain and some sleep disturbance.  Some of the injuries improved prior to trial while other symptoms continued to bother the Plaintiff.
The Defendant argued that since the Plaintiff did not “regularly” attend to be treated by her GP that the Court should be weary of the Plaintiff’s credibility.  Mr. Justice Burnyeat rejected this argument and went on to award the Plaintiff $27,500 for her non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).  In addressing the topic of frequency of medical treatment the Court stated as follows:

[26]         Ms. Co did not regularly attend to be treated by Dr. Porten.  The credibility of Ms. Co was put in questions by Mr. Watson as a result.  In this regard, I adopt the following statement made in Mayenburg, supra, where Myers J. stated:

The defendants challenge the credibility of Ms. Mayenburg. They point to the limited number of times she visited physicians to complain about her pain. They also refer to the fact that she did not raise the issue of her injuries when she visited Dr. Ducholke on several occasions for other unrelated matters.

I do not accept those submissions, which have been made and rejected in several other cases: see Myers v. Leng, 2006 BCSC 1582 and Travis v. Kwon, 2009 BCSC 63. Ms. Mayenburg is to be commended for getting on with her life, rather than seeing physicians in an attempt to build a record for this litigation. Furthermore, I fail to see how a plaintiff-patient who sees a doctor for something unrelated to an accident can be faulted for not complaining about the accident-related injuries at the same time. Dr. Ducholke testified how her time with patients was limited.

In summary, Ms. Mayenburg’s complaints to her doctors were not so minimal as to cast doubt on her credibility.

(at paras. 36-38).

[27]         Taking into account the injuries suffered by Ms. Co as a result of the accident and the duration of the suffering relating to those injuries, I assess the general damages of Ms. Co at $27,500.00.

Excluding Witnesses From Open Court in British Columbia

If there are concerns that witnesses at trial will try to ‘match-up‘ their testimony it is  important to exclude them from Court before they testify.   In British Columbia the Supreme Court Rules don’t have any provision addressing the exclusion of witnesses during trial, however the Court retains a discretion to make such an order pursuant to it’s ‘inherent jurisdiction‘.  Reasons for judgement were released today providing a summary of this area of law.
In today’s case (He v. Yeung) the parties had a dispute about a commercial relationship.  The key witnesses to the negotiations were expected to testify and the Court was asked to decide whether an order should be made excluding these witnesses before they took the stand.  Mr. justice Burnyeat refused to make such an order and in doing so provided the following useful summary of this area of BC Civil Procedure:

[3] McLachlin and Taylor, British Columbia Practice (3rd ed.), Looseleaf (Markham, Ont.:  LexisNexis Butterworths, 2006), sets out this statement regarding the practice in British Columbia:

One limitation on the principle of an open court is the practice as to exclusion of witnesses.  The court, upon application of any party, may order that witnesses be excluded in the interest of securing the best possible evidence.  While the British Columbia Rules, unlike those of certain other jurisdictions, do not expressly confer a power to exclude witnesses on the court, it appears that the court has an inherent power to make such an order: see Moore v. Lambeth County Court Registrar, [1969] 1 All E.R. 782 (C.A.).  The practice is for counsel to ask for an order excluding witnesses.  …. If a witness defies an order of exclusion or circumvents it by discussing the proceedings with those who were present in the courtroom, his evidence cannot be excluded for this reason, although the weight given it may be reduced: Crawford et at. v. Ferris, [1953] O.W.N. 713 (H.C.); R. v. Dobberthien, [1973] 6 W.W.R. 539 (Alta. C.A.), affd (sub nom. Dobberthien v. The Queen) (1974), 50 D.L.R. (3d) 305 (S.C.C.).  Moreover, the witness may be cited for contempt:R. v. Carefoot, [1948] 2 D.L.R. 22 (Ont. H.C.).

(at p. 40?2)

[4] The Learned Author of The Law of Evidence, 10th ed. (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1906) states:

If the judge deems it essential to discovering the truth that the witnesses should be examined out of the hearing of each other, he will order them all on both sides to withdraw, excepting the one under examination.  Such an order is, upon the application of either party at any period of the trial, rarely withheld, but it cannot be demanded of strict right.

(footnotes omitted) (at pp. 1007-1008)

[5] A more extensive history tracing the practice as far back as the story of Susannah from the Book of Daniel is set out in Wigmore, A Treatise in the Anglo-American System of Evidence in Trial at Common Law, Vol. 6 (Boston: Little Brown, 1940).  Wigmore states that the practice came from Germanic common law which the English law inherited.

[6] While the Rules of Court in Alberta (since 1923), in Manitoba (since 1913), in Ontario (since 1913), and in Saskatchewan (since 1921) provide that a judge may order a witness to be excluded at the request of either party, no such provision is specified in the British Columbia Rules or in a British Columbia statute.  Accordingly, it is the inherent jurisdiction of the Court which confers the power to exclude witnesses in civil trials.

[7] The traditional reasons for excluding witnesses include:  (a) if the hearing of opposing witnesses were permitted, the listening witnesses could ascertain the points of difference between their testimonies and could shape their own testimony to better advantage; and (b) regarding witnesses on the same side of the litigation, it deprives the later witness of the opportunity of shaping his or her testimony to correspond with the testimony of the earlier witness.

[8] In Bird et al. v. Vieth et al. (1899), 7 B.C.R. 31 (S.C.–F.C.), McColl C.J. on behalf of the Court stated that the ruling of a trial judge to exclude defendants as if they were witnesses was in error, and that a new trial should be allowed.  In the context of that appeal, the following statement was made:

We are of opinion that the learned trial Judge erred in dealing with the question of the defendants’ exclusion from the Courtroom as if they were in the same position as a witness, not a party to the action, whose exclusion, if requested, is commonly ordered as of course.  (at pp. 31?32)

[9] In McIntyre et al. v. McIntyre, [1925] 2 W.W.R. 581 (B.C.S.C.), Macdonald J. ruled that both plaintiffs who would be witnesses were entitled to remain in the Court but that, with the concurrence of their counsel, the one plaintiff would be excluded while the other plaintiff was giving evidence.  The rationale for why it was necessary for the plaintiffs to be available was described as follows:

If that were granted and the plaintiff excluded, something might arise and counsel would not be aware of what his client’s views were on the matter, and he would have to run out of Court. … The party instructing counsel would not be in a position to conduct his case if he were excluded from the Court.  (at p. 582).

[10] In the context of a criminal appeal, Branca J.A. made this statement in R. v. Smuk, [1971] 4 W.W.R. 613 (B.C.C.A.):

In my practice, in our law courts, counsel have always asked for an order excluding witnesses and the order is a discretionary one.  On the civil side the litigants, of course, have an absolute right, subject to certain exceptions, to remain in court and on a criminal charge the accused has the same right.

Can Interest on Disbursements be Recovered in BC Injury Litigation?

As I’ve written before, personal injury litigation can be an expensive business.
It usually costs thousands of dollars if not tens of thousands of dollars to bring an injury claim to trial in the BC Supreme Court.  I’m not talking about lawyers fees here either.  What I’m referring to is the cost of gathering evidence for presentation in court.  To succeed in Court usually expert opinion evidence is required to address many areas that frequently come up in injury litigation such as diagnosis of injury, prognosis, disability etc.   Expert medical reports usually cost anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
These significant disbursements are often funded by personal injury lawyers or on a line of credit.  When a Plaintiff is successful in their personal injury claim they can recover their reasonable disbursements from the opposing party.  But can the interest on these disbursements be recovered?  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry addressing this topic.
In today’s case (Milne v. Clarke) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 BC Car crash.  In advancing his claim private MRI’s were arranged between 2005-2006.  These cost $975 a piece.
The claim settled in 2009 for $170,000 plus costs.  By the time of settlement the costs of the MRI’s with interest came to almost $4,000.  The Plaintiff sought this amount from the Defence and the Defence refused to pay.
Ultimately the matter went before a Master of the BC Supreme Court who held that the interest was not recoverable.  The Plaintiff appealed.  Mr. Justice Burnyeat reversed the Master’s ruling finding that interest on disbursements can be recoverable.  Specifically the Court reasoned as follows:

[4] In support of the submission that the Learned Registrar erred in principle, Mr. Milne submits that the law which was binding on the Learned Registrar is set out in McCreight v. Currie, [2008] B.C.J. No. 2494, where ….  In allowing the interest, Registrar Young concluded:

… The plaintiff really had no choice but to pay the interest given that she did not have the funds to be retaining experts and paying for their reports up front.  I suppose the defendant’s choice was that the defendant could have offered to pay for the report up front once it was disclosed to him, but no offer was forthcoming.  Given this was the only way to finance the obtaining of a report, I find this to be a reasonable expense and I will allow it.

[6] Rule 57(4) of the Supreme Court Rules provides that, in addition to determining fees, the Registrar must:

(a)   determine which expenses and disbursements have been necessarily or properly incurred in the conduct of the proceeding, and

(b)   allow a reasonable amount for those expenses and disbursements.

[7] In support of the application, it is said that Mr. Milne had no means of paying for the required M.R.I. scans other than to borrow money from the provider and that, since the cost of the M.R.I. had already been agreed upon, so too should the interest on the unpaid accounts rendered by the provider of the M.R.I. images.  Here, it is the provider of the M.R.I. and not counsel for Mr. Milne who is charging the interest on the invoices.

[8] I find that the Learned Registrar erred in principle.  The December 29, 2009 decision was clearly wrong.  First, even if the Learned Registrar was not bound by the decision inMcCreight, I am not bound by the decision reached by the Learned Registrar herein.  I am satisfied that the statement set out in McCreight accurately represents the law in British Columbia.  Second, the decision in Hudniuk relates to the question of whether disbursement interest is a head of damage and not to the question of whether it is recoverable as costs on an assessment.

[9] The law in British Columbia is that interest charged by a provider of services where the disbursement has been paid by counsel for a party is recoverable as is the disbursement.  The interest charge flows from the necessity of the litigation.  If the disbursement itself can be assessed as an appropriate disbursement, so also can the interest owing as a result of the failure or inability of a party to pay for the service provided.  In order to obtain the M.R.I., it was necessary to pay not only the $975.00 cost but also the interest on any unpaid balances that were not paid immediately.  The cost plus interest was the cost of obtaining the M.R.I.  The claim for interest should have been allowed.

This judgement is a welcome development for people advancing personal injury claims in BC as the Court’s reasoning provides greater certainty that successful Plaintiffs can recover interest charged on reasonable disbursements incurred in the course of litigation.


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


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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