Tag: Mr. Justice Grauer

Plaintiff Expert Witness Allowed to Attend Defendant Examination for Discovery


The law in BC generally permits only parties and their lawyers to attend examinations for discovery.  In limited circumstances, however, the Court can permit others to attend a discovery relying on the BC Supreme Court’s ‘inherent jurisdiction‘.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In this week’s case (Burgess v. Buell Distribution Corporation) the Plaintiff suffered “very serious personal injury” in a motorcycle accident.  He sued the manufacturer and scheduled an examination for discovery of an engineer employed with the Defendant.  The Plaintiff argued that his expert should be allowed to attend as the claim includes “matters requiring an understanding of technical concepts relating to the design, manufacture, and testing of motorcycles and sidecars“.
The Defendant opposed arguing this would add unnecessary time and expense to the Court Proceedings.  Mr. Justice Grauer disagreed with the Defendant and allowed the expert to attend.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[6] The Rules do not specifically address this issue, but it has certainly been the practice in this province that only the parties and their legal representatives may attend examinations for discovery in the absence of consent or an order of the court.

[7] In Ian Macdonald Library Services Ltd. v. P.Z. Resort Systems Inc. (1985), 67 B.C.L.R. 269, Madam Justice Southin, then of this Court, considered a similar application and said this:

[6]        I think the simple and sensible answer to this question is that counsel should be able to do so whenever the nature of the case is such that counsel cannot reasonably be expected to conduct a full and proper cross-examination of the witness being discovered without expert assistance.

[7]        Whether in any given case such expert assistance is necessary will depend, among other things, on:

1.         The issues in the action;

2.         The level of technical and scientific knowledge which can reasonably be expected of counsel generally at any given time;

3.         The extent of inconvenience to which the parties may be put if counsel must conduct part of an examination then adjourn it, consult with an expert and conduct the rest of it perhaps on some other occasion.

[9] I find that the issues in this case raise a level of technical and scientific knowledge beyond what can reasonably be expected of counsel generally.  While counsel normally are very adept at quickly, if temporarily, acquiring specialized knowledge relevant to their cases, it would be unwise I think for the court to second-guess the judgment of counsel as to what is required for the full and fair examination of an opposite party who possesses specialized expertise in this type of case.  Given the nature of the issues, I see nothing that strikes me as unreasonable about the request.

[10] What must be considered however is whether accommodating the request of examining counsel would result in prejudice to the party being examined.  If so, then the court must attempt to weigh that prejudice against the prejudice to the examining party of being deprived of expert assistance.

[11] In this case, no prejudice has been put forward by Harley-Davidson other than the concerns of disruption, increased expense, and extended time.  As to disruption, both counsel are experienced and I see no reason to suppose that this concern is likely to materialize in any meaningful way.  As to increased expense, the evidence does not satisfy me that such a result is likely.  Similarly, the time is at least as likely to be shortened as it is to be extended.

[12] Counsel for the defendant suggests that this will lead us down a slippery slope to a result where counsel will always request expert assistance at examinations for discovery in technical cases.  I very much doubt that that will follow, but in any event each case will be dealt with on its individual circumstances.  Where the examining party can establish the need, and the party being examined cannot establish prejudice, there is no reason to worry.  It did not worry Madam Justice Southin.

[13] As to the concept of proportionality, it seems to me that granting the relief requested is more likely to promote than inhibit the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of this proceeding on its merits taking into account the amount involved, the complexity of the issues and the importance of conducting a full, fair and informed examination for discovery.  Accordingly, leave is granted as requested.

Sex Abuse Class Action Not Certified Due To Limitation Period Concerns for Victims

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, highlighting the important benefits of BC’s open ended limitation period for victims of sexual abuse.
In this week’s case (Lakes v. MacDougall) the Defendant worked as a correctional guard in BC’s prison system for over 20 years.  During this time he sexually abused a number of convicts.  He was criminally convicted for these deeds.  He was also successfully sued by some of his victims.
The Plaintiff, an alleged victim of this abuse, sued the Defendant and the Province of BC alleging the Province was vicariously liable for the abuse.  He proposed to make his lawsuit a class action on behalf of all of the Defendant’s victims.  The Province of BC agreed that a class action was appropraite.  The Plaintiff and the Province asked the Court to certify a class action and further to approve a settlement process which would permit the victims to seek compensation by way of private arbitration.
One of the Defendant’s alleged victims opposed class action certification.  This individual argued that the proposed settlement method would impose a de facto limitation period for the victims where one otherwise would not exist.  Mr. Justice Grauer agreed and refused to certify the action unless this issue could be addressed.  In doing so the Court provided the following helpful reasons:
[14] The objections can be succinctly stated.  By definition, members of the proposed class are persons who have spent time in jail from a relatively young age, have developed drug and alcohol problems, have damaged senses of masculinity, and have maintained their silence for years.  Mr. Lakes has deposed that the sexual abuse he endured caused him a great deal of humiliation and embarrassment that prevented him from coming forward with the information until August 13, 2010, some 30 years after the events occurred.  Precisely because of such problems, the Limitation Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 266, provides in s. 3(4)(l) that causes of action based on sexual assault are not governed by a limitation period and may be brought at any time.  Yet the certification of this action and approval of the settlement will deny the benefit of this provision to members of the class who have not yet come to a place where they are capable of disclosure.  Instead, their claims will become effectively barred by the expiry of the claims period.  This is particularly troublesome, it is suggested, because this population is not one known for reading newspapers, where notices of the settlement are to be published…

[22] As I see it, the question is whether the loss of that benefit in this particular case is appropriately balanced by the gains offered by certification and approval of the settlement.

[23] I have concluded that, in the circumstances before me, it is not, and accordingly this requirement has not been met.  The advantage to potential members of the class of the resolution of the single common issue, together with the efficiencies of the process, do not match the loss to this particularly vulnerable group that will arise from the imposition of a six-month claims period.  I do not say that such a balance cannot be achieved in relation to MacDougall’s victims.  I say only that it has not been achieved.  If the process were structured differently to allow for a significantly longer claims period and improved notification procedures, I might well take a different view.  I do not, of course, have the authority to alter the terms of the proposed settlement…

[24] In these circumstances, I exercise my discretion under s. 5(6) of the Class Proceeding Act, and direct that the plaintiff’s applications be adjourned to permit the parties to engage in further negotiations and amend their materials if they choose to do so.

More on ICBC Claims and Accelerated Vehicle Depreciation


As I’ve previously written, when a vehicle is involved in a crash and is then repaired it is generally worth less than it would be had it not been in the crash.  The reason for this is quite simple, when a buyer is looking to purchase a vehicle, those that have previously been damaged and repaired carry a stigma.  This stigma generally results in a lower resale value.
The law recognizes this lost value.  If your vehicle was damaged due the the actions of others you can sue to recover your damages for “accelerated depreciation“.  Reasons for judgement were released today discussing this area of law.
In today’s case (Signorello v. Khan) the Plaintiff owned at Mercedez-Benz SL65 AMG.  The vehicle cost $210,000.   On route to a business trip in 2007 he left the vehicle with a valet service.  The valet crashed the vehicle causing $26,000 of damage which was ultimately repaired.
The Plaintiff then claimed damages for accelerated depreciation.  The Defendant argued that the vehicle was repaired properly and to the highest standard therefore there was no accelerated depreciation.  Mr. Justice Grauer disagreed and found that, despite the sufficient repairs, the vehicle was now left with a reduced value and awarded the Plaintiff $16,000 for this loss.  In reaching this verdict Mr. Justice Grauer gave the following reasons:

[11]         In British Columbia, a person wishing to sell a used motor vehicle that has sustained damage in an accident costing $2,000 or more to repair must declare that to any potential buyer.  Other matters that must be declared include whether the vehicle has been leased or rented, whether it has been used as an emergency vehicle, and whether it has been registered out of province.

[12]         Since any person considering the purchase of Mr. Signorello’s Mercedes would presumably investigate further and thereby become aware of its history and the cost of its repairs, Mr. Signorello maintained that the market value of his vehicle has been reduced, a phenomenon known as accelerated depreciation.

[13]         The plaintiff’s claim under this heading was supported by expert evidence from Mr. Garry Cogbill of C/S Automotive Appraisals.  It was his conclusion that the loss amounted to 15% of the vehicle’s value at the time of the collision, varying between $12,500 and $18,000 depending upon whether one takes wholesale or retail.

[14]         The defendants’ contention that the plaintiff has suffered no loss in this regard was supported by expert evidence from Mr. Tom Cino of T.C. Consultants.  Mr. Cino expressed the view that so long as a vehicle damaged in an accident has been repaired properly, as this one clearly was, then there is no loss due to accelerated depreciation regardless of the amount of the damage.

[15]         Having read their reports and listened to the evidence of both experts, I find that I prefer the evidence of Mr. Cogbill to that of Mr. Cino…

[19]         The issue is whether, in the marketplace, people prepared to pay a six-figure sum for an exotic performance motorcar such as Mr. Signorello’s are likely to pay less for one that they learn has sustained $26,000 worth of damage, then they would for one that had never been in an accident, all else being equal.

[20]         The thrust of Mr. Cino’s opinion seems to be that a reasonable person who is as knowledgeable about motor vehicles as he most certainly is, would not think that a car that had been properly repaired is worth less than a like vehicle that has never been damaged.  That does not answer the question of what is likely to happen to this car in the marketplace, where reason does not necessarily prevail, and where few have his depth of knowledge.

[21]         Mr. Cino further based his opinion in part on the proposition that the majority of the repair work performed on Mr. Signorello’s Mercedes was to repair cosmetic damage rather than mechanical damage or damage to the frame.  He included in his description of “cosmetic damage” damage that could be repaired by the removal and replacement of the damaged part.  Mr. Cogbill, on the other hand, described most of the damage as other than cosmetic.  I prefer Mr. Cogbill’s approach.

[22]         To my mind, to be of significance in this context, cosmetic damage must mean damage that pertains only to the vehicle’s appearance, and need not be repaired in order for the vehicle to operate properly.  On that basis, I can well imagine that a potential buyer’s approach to a vehicle that had suffered $20,000 worth of cosmetic damage would be different from his approach to a vehicle that had suffered $20,000 worth of damage of a type that had to be repaired in order for the vehicle to be operable.  In this case, it is clear that the majority of the damage to the SL 65 was of the latter type, even if it consisted largely of the removal and replacement of mechanical parts.  I therefore found Mr. Cino’s approach in this regard to be less than convincing.

[23]         Finally, Mr. Cino sought to support his opinion by making a comparison to people purchasing very expensive vintage collector car, such as a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda, that has had all kinds of work put into it to restore what was a rusted hulk to like-new status.  With the greatest respect, that is not an apt comparison to a discriminating purchaser considering a near-new exotic luxury sports car….

[29] The law does not require that the plaintiff demonstrate the loss precisely by having sold the vehicle.  It is enough for him to establish, as I find that he has, a reduction in its value:  seeCummings v. 565204 B.C. Ltd., 2009 BCSC 1009.  I accept Mr. Cogbill’s conclusion in that regard, and doing the best that I can with his figures, I assess the reduction at $16,000.

Another interesting part of this judgement was the Court’s award of costs.  Usually when a Plaintiff is awarded less than $25,000 they are deprived their costs because they could have sued in Small Claims Court.  Despite this usual result, Mr. Justice Grauer awarded the Plaintiff costs finding it is reasonable to bring accelerated depreciation lawsuits in the BC Supreme Court even if the claim is worth below $25,000.  The Court provided the following useful reasons:

[52] On the matter of costs I am satisfied, in all of the circumstances of this case, that it was appropriate to commence this action in Supreme Court.  It was subject to former Rule 66, indicating an attempt to reduce expense.  It concerned an area that is not well traversed in fact or in law, particularly given the rarity and unusual nature of this motor vehicle.  Therefore, I find that the plaintiff is not limited to disbursements only, as though the action should have been brought in Provincial Court.  He is entitled to costs in the ordinary way under the Supreme Court Rules.

Non-Pecuniary Damages for Fibromylagia Assessed at $110,000 in ICBC Claim

(Update March 19, 2012 – The Below Decision was modestly modified by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgement released today, reducing the claim for future care by $32,115.  The other trial findings were left intact)
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding just over $1.4 million in total damages for injuries and loss suffered as a result of a BC car crash.
In today’s case (Shapiro v. Dailey) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 intersection crash.  The Defendant driver had been drinking earlier in the day and was operating the vehicle without permission of its owner.  Fault was not admitted but the Defendant driver was ultimately found 100% responsible for the crash.
The Plaintiff was 23 years old at the time of the crash and 29 by the time of trial.  The Court heard from a variety of expert physicians who all agreed the Plaintiff suffered “serious injuries“.  The Court concluded that the Plaintiff did indeed suffer serious and permanent injureis and would struggle to earn a competitive living throughout her career.  Mr. Justice Grauer awarded $110,000 for non-pecuniary damages and $900,000 for diminished earning capacity.  In reaching the award for non-pecuniary damages the Mr. Justice Grauer made the following findings:

[58]         On the whole of the evidence, I am satisfied that, as a result of the motor vehicle collision that is the subject of this action, Ms. Shapiro suffered soft tissue injuries to her cervical, lumbar and sacral spine that, through no fault of her own, have left her with:

·                 disabling cervicogenic headaches, and periodic headaches of a migraine nature;

·                 chronic pain disorder, manifesting itself as myofascial pain syndrome and post-traumatic fibromyalgia syndrome;

·                 depressive symptoms falling short of depressive disorder;

·                 mood disorder including resolving post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder and panic attacks;

·                 mild, but not insignificant, cognitive difficulties in concentration and memory.

[59]         Whether some of these diagnoses overlap in terms of their symptomatology matters not.  What is clear is that Ms. Shapiro genuinely suffers from the symptoms, and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  This has wrought a profound change in every aspect of her life, from interpersonal relationships with her family, friends and partner to her ability to love, work, play, exercise, relax, sleep, and her ability to move forward with her life.  I find that her prognosis is not hopeless, but is extremely guarded.  Although Ms. Shapiro is the type of person who will work hard to achieve as much improvement as is possible, I am satisfied that, on a balance of probabilities, nothing more than a modest improvement can reasonably be expected.  Accordingly, at the age of 29, Ms. Shapiro faces a lifetime of struggling with pain and fatigue in everything she does.

[60]         I have considered the authorities to which counsel referred me, including Dikey v. Samieian, 2008 BCSC 604; Alden v. Spooner, 2002 BCCA 592, 6 B.C.L.R. (4th) 308;Prince-Wright v. Copeman, 2005 BCSC 1306; La France v. Natt, 2009 BCSC 1147; Pelkinen v. Unrau, 2008 BCSC 375; Whyte v. Morin, 2007 BCSC 1329; Niloufari v. Coumont, 2008 BCSC 816, varied 2009 BCCA 517; and Unger v. Singh, 2000 BCCA 94.

[61]         Each case must, of course, be assessed on its own facts.  Considering all of the circumstances, including her age at the time of the accident (23), the toll her injuries have taken on her, and her prospects for the future, I consider Ms. Shapiro’s plight to be considerably worse than that of, for instance, the older plaintiff in the recent decision of La France($80,000) and worse than the older plaintiff in Prince-Wright ($100,000).  I have considered as well the very recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Poirier v. Aubrey, 2010 BCCA 266, where the 38-year-old plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages were increased to $100,000.  I assess Ms. Shapiro’s non-pecuniary damages at $110,000.

This decision also has a useful discussion of the law of ‘diminished earning capacity‘ and ‘failure to mitigate’ and is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s comments on these areas of law.

If you’re researching the non-pecuniary value of post traumatic fibromyalgia cases you can click here to access my recent archived posts.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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