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Tag: Mr. Justice Greyell

Courts Do Not Share ICBC's Views About Low Velocity Impact Injuries

As discussed many times, the ‘low velocity impact‘ defence is not particularly compelling and is often judicially frowned upon.  Certainly there is no legal principle which states that minimal impact forces result in no compensable injuries.  This was demonstrated yet again in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In last week’s case (Sourisseau v. Peters) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Defendant advanced the LVI Defence highlighting that the impact caused under $1,000 in repair costs to both vehicles and further that the impact was likely at speeds below 8 kmph.  With this evidence in hand the Defendant argued that the plaintiff “sustained no compensable injury“.
Mr. Justice Greyell rejected this line of reasoning and found the Plaintiff was indeed injured in the low velocity impact and awarded $22,5000 for her non-pecuniary damages.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[54] While the significance of the damage sustained in a collision may be a factor with which the Insurance Corporation is concerned it is not a matter which necessarily has a direct relationship to the plaintiff’s injuries. The issue for determination is whether the plaintiff’s injuries were caused or contributed to by the accident, Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236 (BCSC); Boag v. Berna, 2003 BCSC 779.

[55] In this latter connection, the defendant called Mr. Goudie an engineer who testified the change of velocity at the time of the collision was probably less than 8 km/h.

[56] In my opinion, in the circumstances of this case, the change of velocity alone is of little significance. At the time of impact Ms. Sourisseau had her head turned sideways. The evidence clearly establishes she had had pre-existing difficulties with neck and back pain. It likely took very little by way of an impact to trigger a recurrence of that pain. The defendant called no medical evidence to suggest otherwise…

60] Accordingly, I find the plaintiff suffered pain and suffering from soft tissue injuries for approximately 14 months with the odd flare-up continuing thereafter until early 2010 when she testified she felt she had returned to her pre-accident status.

[61] After reviewing the authorities submitted by counsel I award the plaintiff $22,500 for non-pecuniary damages.

Worker Ordered To Pay $561,000 in Damages for Assaulting Former Supervisor

In a compelling illustration of the potential civil consequences following criminal behaviour, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a brain injury following an assault at over $561,000.
In the recent case (Weber v. DeBrouwer) the Plaintiff worked as a supervisor of the Defendant at the Village of Harrison Hot Springs.   The Plaintiff “suspended the defendant several times” and over the course of their overlapping employment “relations between the two worsened“.   In the summer of 2007 the defendant approached the Plaintiff as the Plaintiff was out for a walk and “brutally assaulted” him.
The assault led to various physical injuries including a mild traumatic brain injury and further led to ongoing psychological difficulties.  Global damages of over $561,000 were assessed with non-pecuniary damages assessed at $150,000.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Greyell provided the following reasons:
[72] In this case, Mr. Weber was 49 years old at the time he was assaulted. The assault caused him significant injury and pain and suffering. He suffered facial injuries, including several fractures, dental injuries, bruising, rib and chest injuries, knee and hand injuries, soft tissue injuries to his back and neck, and a mild traumatic brain injury with ongoing cognitive and speech difficulties which took some time to resolve. Mr. Weber remains affected by depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder. He avoids confrontational situations…

[75] In the present case, Mr. Weber is now 54 years old. A number of his injuries, including his headaches, bruising and soft tissue injuries cleared up after several months. For a considerable time after the assault he was bothered with nightmares and had difficulty sleeping. He is left with a number of problems. He has difficulty with the alignment of his jaw; he still is clumsy and, while greatly improved, he has difficulty finding and pronouncing some words. Mr. Weber remains anxious and fearful of the defendant and avoids going places where the defendant might be. He avoids situations with guests at the motel where any type of conflict could arise, deferring to his wife to handle such matters. Dr. Smith says he will remain permanently impaired by symptoms of anxiety.

[76] Mr. Weber’s injuries and the residual effects of those injuries are significant, however, in my view, each of the cases cited by counsel for Mr. Weber involve circumstances where the injuries and residual effects to the plaintiffs were more significant. After a consideration of the factors outlined above in Stapley, I conclude $150,000 is an appropriate and fair amount to award for non-pecuniary damages.

Vancouver Jury Awards Canadian National Boxing Champion $1,023,000 In ICBC Claim

While an injured hand would effect most individuals in a negative fashion the consequences can be far more severe depending on the nature of your occupation.  Illustrating that an injury’s valuation largely depends on the unique circumstances of a Plaintiff, a recent Vancouver Jury verdict valued a Boxer’s ICBC claim involving a right hand injury at just over $1,000,000.

In the recent case (Albert v. Politano) the Plaintiff Jegbefumere ‘Bone’ Albert was involved in a 2008 collision.  He was a professional cruiser weight boxer at the time with a 4-0 professional record and a 251-3 amateur record.  The collision caused a chronic right hand injury.  This injury flared with training/fighting.  The Plaintiff had 3 more professional contests post crash and despite his hand injury he won all these contests.  The chronic nature of the injury, however, interfered with his abilities and required the Plaintiff to take early retirement in 2009 at the age of 29.

After a 5 day trial before Mr. Justice Greyell the Vancouver Jury awarded the Plaintiff just over $1 million for his losses including the following damages:

Non-Pecuniary Damages: $125,000

Past Diminished Earning Capacity: $60,000

Future Diminished Earning Capacity: $868,000

As with all Jury verdicts, there are no ‘reasons for judgement’ to publish.  I would like to thank Vancouver lawyer John Cameron for sharing this result with me for publication on this blog.

ICBC 'Third Party' Settlement Ends Tort Litigation Despite Defendant Protests

When a motorist is in breach of their insurance ICBC has the right to intervene in a lawsuit against them and settle any tort claims arising from a collision pursuant to the powers given to them under sections 76 and 77 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  ICBC is further given the power to recover the amount of the settlement from the breached motorist provided the settlement was entered into in good faith and further that appropriate notice is given to the breached motorist.  This remedy is available to ICBC even where the ‘breached’ motorist disputes fault for the collision as was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry.
In last week’s case (Chandler v. Gomez) the plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued the defendant for damages.  The defendant was insured with ICBC but the insurer alleged the defendant was in breach of their coverage. ICBC joined the lawsuit as a statutory Third Party and eventually settled the plaintiff’s claim for $112,000.  ICBC sought recovery of this amount from the defendant.  The defendant argued that she was not at fault for the crash and the tort matter should proceed to trial on that issue.  Mr. Justice Greyell disagreed and found that the tort claim was concluded with the settlement despite the defendant’s protests. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[14] Section 21(6) of the Act (s. 77(2) of the new Act) provides that ICBC has the right to recover any amount paid under or by way of a settlement or other payment, and I refer to this section which provides that:

. . . if the corporation has paid an amount to a person under this section, by way of settlement or otherwise, that it would not otherwise be liable to pay, and has personally delivered or forwarded by registered mail to the last known address of the insured a demand for reimbursement of that amount, the insured is liable to reimburse the corporation that amount, and the corporation may enforce the right [of] action in court.

[15] Accordingly, s. 21 provides ICBC with the right to defend the action, to settle the action, and to recover any amount paid under that settlement from an insured.  In essence, ICBC stands in the place of such defendant when it makes itself a third party to the action, as it has in this case, under s. 21.

[16] The necessary result of a combined reading of ss. 21(2), (6), (7), and (8) is that, upon settlement, the tort action has been concluded.  ICBC has acted pursuant to its statutory authority as insurer to settle the action.

[17] As stated by Madam Justice Gray in Insurance Corp. of British Columbia v. Schmidt, 2004 BCSC 1786, a case which raises similar issues to those present in this case:

[22]      ICBC’s third party notice is an unusual form of pleading.  It does not purport to make a claim against Mr. Schmidt.  Instead, it denies liability for indemnity and claims the right to defend the action as well.  It does not constitute a claim by ICBC for payment from Mr. Schmidt.

[23]      In fact, no claim against Mr. Schmidt under s. 21(6) could have arisen at the time of the third party notice.  Such a claim can arise only after payment and after delivery of the demand for reimbursement as required.

[24]      The issues in this litigation, a form of lawsuit sometimes termed a “recovery lawsuit,” are whether ICBC has met the terms of the statute giving it a right to recover, and whether the settlement was reasonable and effected by the insurer in good faith.  See the discussion of the respective issues in ICBC v. Doyle, [1984] B.C.J. No. 889, a decision of Judge Boyle when he was a County Court judge.

[26]      Bearing in mind this articulation of the issues in any recovery action, the issue before me is whether ICBC’s settlement was reasonable and made in good faith.  If ICBC had paid money to Mr. Neumann following the entry of a dismissal order, it is likely that any payment by ICBC would have been unreasonable.  But I must judge the reasonableness of ICBC’s conduct at the time that settlement was achieved.  At that time, the consent dismissal order had not been made.

[33]      While s. 21(2) permits ICBC to compromise or settle the claim at any stage, Mr. Straith argued that once ICBC becomes a third party in a tort lawsuit, the issues between ICBC and the driver over liability ought to be resolved in that lawsuit.  Mr. Straith suggested that if ICBC wanted to be able to proceed against Mr. Schmidt, ICBC ought to have reserved its rights, or proceeded to trial, or obtained an assignment from Mr. Neumann of his claim against Mr. Schmidt, or compromised with a judgment against Mr. Neumann and obtained an assignment of that judgment.

[34]      There is nothing in s. 21 which restricts ICBC to proceed under only one of the subsections, or requiring it to proceed as suggested by Mr. Straith.  Section 21(6) and the case law provide adequate protection for a driver who is denied indemnity by ICBC.  Any compromise ICBC enters into can be recovered from the driver only if the settlement were reasonable and entered into in good faith.

[18] The decision of Madam Justice Gray sets out a clear distinction between the tort action or the issues in the tort action which are between plaintiff and defendants, and ICBC pays out funds pursuant to s. 21.

[19] The lis between the parties in the tort action has been resolved by way of the settlement.  Whether the settlement was reasonable and whether it was effected in good faith is not a subject matter for determination in this case.  That issue must be determined when ICBC seeks to recover the amount it has paid by way of settlement.  The issue as stated is then between ICBC and Ms. Gomez as to whether that settlement was effected reasonably in all the circumstances of the case…

[22] I accept counsel for ICBC’s interpretation of the issue remaining to be determined between the third party ICBC and the defendant Ms. Gomez.  The forum for determination of that issue is in what is commonly referred to as a recovery action by ICBC.  It is not in these proceedings.

$125,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Fractured Ankle and Psychological Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, assessing damages for physical and psychological injuries resulting from a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Verge v. Chan) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 head-on collision.  She was 34 at the time and lived a ‘farming lifestyle’ which required significant strenuous labour.  The Plaintiff suffered a fractured ankle and psychological injuries both of which lingered to the time of trial and impeded with her physical lifestyle.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $125,000 Mr. Justice Greyell provided the following reasons:

Ms. Verge suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck and back, a fractured right talus, bruising to and pain in her chest, and pain in her left shoulder, both knees, and hip.

[7] She continues to suffer from her ankle injury, sleep disturbance, headaches, stress, anxiety, including post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), depression and chronic pain…

[72] The injury she sustained in the accident of December 6, 2006, has had a significant effect on her physical and mental health.  She is left in virtually constant pain with an unstable ankle such that she can no longer perform the tasks she used to perform on the farm and about the house or enjoy the hobbies and recreational pursuits she used to enjoy pre-accident.  She has developed mental health issues, including PTSD and depression, which will require a significant course of treatment before she can return to work.  As a result of her injuries, the work opportunities which will be available to her are less than pre-accident.  She has lost the farming lifestyle she enjoyed and her family, marital, and social relationships have been impaired…

78] After considering the evidence, the factors enumerated by the Court of Appeal in Stapley, and the authorities cited by counsel, I award non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $125,000.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Scapholunate Ligament Tear with Persistent Limitations

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a wrist injury causing long term limitations.
In this week’s case (Jackson v. Jeffries) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 head on collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The Plaintiff, who had learning difficulties, trained to be a plumber and was working as an apprentice plumber by the time of the collision.  The crash caused a Scapholunate ligament injury to his wrist which required surgery.  He was left with persistent pain and stiffness in his wrist and, as a result of these limitations, was no longer medically suited for his physical career.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 the Court provided the following reasons:

[39] Dr. Perey, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in hand, wrist and elbow surgery, saw Mr. Jackson on February 4, 2010, on referral from Dr Wong.  Mr. Jackson was complaining of activity related wrist pain, notwithstanding that x-rays and an MRI did not reveal any abnormality.  Dr. Perey suspected a scapholunate ligament tear which was confirmed during wrist arthroscopic surgery performed May 10, 2010.

[40] Following surgery, Mr. Jackson was placed in a splint for 10 days followed by a cast for 8-10 weeks.  Dr. Perey wrote in his medical report of August 31, 2010, that Mr. Jackson was making “remarkable strides” although he had residual pain and stiffness.

[41] It was Dr. Perey’s prognosis that Mr. Jackson’s symptoms would continue to improve, but that he would likely have some persistent pain and stiffness with his wrist which would be aggravated by heavy use.  Dr. Perey recommended “a re-training program to a less physically demanding occupation than a plumber.”  He concluded Mr. Jackson could “resume intermittent physical activities involved in hobbies and sports.”…

[71] As Dr. Feldman described, Mr. Jackson has a partial permanent disability which will result in him not being able to continue as a plumber in the future.  He will be left with ongoing back pain and stiffness and weakness in his wrist.

[72] Mr. Jackson is not fitted to labouring-type work or other work which will place strain on his back and wrist.  The range of potential occupations has been narrowed as a result of the injuries…

[84] As the cases are similar on their facts, I award Mr. Jackson non-pecuniary damages of $75,000.

Quantum Before Liability?

Rule 12-5(67) allows the BC Supreme Court to order that one issue “be tried and determined before the others“.
In the personal injury context, where fault is contested, it is not unusual for a Court to agree to determine the issue of fault before valuing the case.  The reason being that if a Defendant is found faultless splitting the issues can save both parties the substantial costs associated with proving the value of the claim.
Interestingly, reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing the value of a claim before determining the issue of fault.
In yesterday’s case (Simmavong v. Haddock) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 head on collision.  The Plaintiff suffered various injuries and the value of her claim was assessed at just over $332,000 in global damages.  In what must be a very rare set of circumstances, the Court did so prior to the issue of fault being addressed.  The parties apparently consented to this turn of events and unfortunately the judgement does not provide any discussion addressing when such an approach is warranted but does provide the following introductory comments:

[1] This trial concerns the plaintiff’s claim for damages arising from a motor vehicle accident, which occurred on June 24, 2007.

[2] Liability for the accident is denied as there is an action yet to be commenced relating to the plaintiff’s daughter.  The parties have agreed to litigate the claim for the plaintiff’s damages only at this time.

ICBC Hit and Run Claim Succeeds With The "Expectation The Other Driver Would Comply With the Law"

Useful reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, which I summarize in my continued efforts to highlight the ‘reasonable efforts’ requirement for hit and run accident victims.
In last week’s case (Singh v. Clay) the Plaintiff was injured in a handful of collisions.  In one of the incidents the Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended.  Following impact the offending motorist “drove away without stopping, as the Plaintiff exited his vehicle“.  As a result the Plaintiff was unable to take down the offending vehicles licence plate number.
ICBC argued that the Plaintiff did not take reasonable efforts at the scene to identify the driver.  The Plaintiff conceded that he “could have done so but he did not look at the licence plate as he did not expect the driver to drive off as she did“.  Mr. Justice Greyell found this was a reasonable explanation and concluded the Plaintiff complied with his obligations under section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  The Court provided the following useful comments:

[78] In the present case, Mr. Singh might have been able to take down the licence plate number of the offending vehicle if he had done so immediately.  However, he did not expect the vehicle to leave the scene of the accident.  Once it became clear that the vehicle was not going to stop, his wife made an effort to write the number down, but only got two of the letters.  Following the accident Mr. Singh took all reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the driver.  He spoke to two witnesses, he telephoned ICBC, attended the police, phoned his lawyer to obtain advice as to how to proceed, and, as a result, put up flyers seeking witnesses.

[79] In Leggett the plaintiff’s case was dismissed because the Court found he had made a decision not to pursue his rights at the time of the accident.  In Smoluk the Court distinguishedLeggett stating, at para. 9:

[9]        In my view, the Leggett case is clearly distinguishable from this case because the plaintiff in this action made no decision not to pursue her rights. She was prevented from obtaining more information because of the precipitate departure of the wrongdoer, and in my view the plaintiff acted reasonably in taking down the license plate number which would lead any reasonable person to believe that the identity of the person had been or could easily be ascertained. The fact that she got the number wrong in such circumstances does not indicate unreasonableness.

[80] The facts in Smoluk are similar to those in this case.  The offending driver in that case drove away while the plaintiff was inspecting the damage to his vehicle.  While the driver in Smolukdid get the opportunity to take down a partial plate number Mr. Singh did not.  I find that under the circumstances his expectation the other driver would comply with the law and stop his/her vehicle was a reasonable one.  When the vehicle left the scene as he was getting out of his vehicle, it was too late to get particulars of the licence plate number.  I conclude Mr. Singh acted as a reasonable person would have acted in preserving his rights.

$65,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages For Thoracic Outlet Syndrome With "Mixed" Prognosis

Adding to this site’s public database of BC Thoracic Outlet Syndrome cases, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a TOS Injury with a “mixed” prognosis.
In this week’s case (Singh v. Clay) the Plaintiff was involved in a total of 5 collisions.  He alleged 4 of these caused or aggravated a Thoracic Outlet Injury and sued for damages.  Fault was admitted in all actions.
Mr. Justice Greyell concluded that the Plaintiff did in fact suffer from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and that the injury was caused, on an indivisible basis, from the collisions.  Damages were assessed on a global basis.  In awarding $65,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) the Court made the following findings:

[81] Based on the medical reports and testimony of Drs. Keyes and Travlos, I am satisfied the plaintiff suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome which causes him difficulty holding his hands above his head, causes his left arm and shoulder to go numb such that he must lower his arm and “shake” the tingling and numbness out, and that this injury affects him both at work and in his home life as described earlier in this decision.

[82] He is also affected because his injury wakes him several times each night, causing him to be tired the following day.

[83] The plaintiff also suffered low back pain and persistent headaches which lasted for several years after the second accident but which have now cleared up…

[88] I find the prognosis for Mr. Singh is a mixed one.  Dr. Keyes’ diagnosis is a difficult one to understand.  On the one hand he has opined that there is likely some permanent injury to the plaintiff’s neurovascular bundle in the left thoracic outlet space.  On the other hand, he has opined there is no permanent injury or damage of the neurovascular bundle in the left thoracic anatomic space.  Dr. Keyes was clear however Mr. Singh would “almost certainly respond” without surgical intervention and expected that his symptoms would improve “and probably resolve over time”.  Dr. Keyes’ prognosis for the plaintiff’s injuries is “very good to excellent” and he says that his recreational and employment activities would “not be significantly affected over the long term”.  The caveat Dr. Keyes offered to this opinion in the penultimate paragraph was that “repeated injuries to the same areas… would be expected to result in similar symptoms and a more prolonged recovery…”  Mr. Singh was involved in motor vehicle accidents on September 18, 2007 (which he did not tell Dr. Keyes about) and November 1, 2008, and the at-fault accident on March 19, 2007.

[89] At the time of trial Dr. Keyes had not seen the plaintiff for some four years.

[90] Dr. Travlos’s prognosis, based on an assessment made in April 2009 was much more guarded.  As noted above he was of the opinion “there is no real expectation that further treatment is going to magically cure his symptoms.”  Dr. Travlos recommended Mr. Singh commence a structured conditioning program outside the home.  There was no evidence to suggest Mr. Singh has followed Dr. Travlos’s recommendation to engage in a conditioning program outside his home or that he take medication to help relieve his sleeping problems.  Had he done so it is possible these problems would have resolved more quickly than they have.

[91] In my view the injuries suffered by Mr. Singh are more significant than those suffered by the plaintiff in Langley but less serious than those suffered by the plaintiffs in Cimino and Durand.  I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $65,000.

The High Cost of Losing an ICBC Injury Claim

I’ve written many times about the significant costs a party can be exposed to for being on the losing end of a BC Supreme Court lawsuit.  Reasons for judgement were released today further demonstrating this reality under the New BC Supreme Court Rules.
In today’s case (Chen v. Beltran) the young Plaintiff entered an intersection against a red light on his skateboard.  He was struck by a vehicle operated by the Defendant and sustained injuries.  He sued for damages but his claim was dismissed with the Court finding him entirely at fault for the accident.
Rule 14-1(9) of the BC Supreme Court Rules typically requires a losing party to pay costs to a successful party.  ICBC relied on this section and requested that their costs of over $75,000 be paid by the Plaintiff’s family.   The Plaintiff opposed arguing that no costs should be awarded.  One of the reasons advanced by the Plaintiff was that such an order would “financially cripple the (plaintiff’s) family“.
Mr. Justice Greyell rejected this argument.  The Court, while disallowing some of the most significant disbursements claimed by the Defendant, did go on to order that the Plaintiff pay the Defendant’s costs.  In rejecting the “financially crippling” argument Mr. Justice Greyell reasoned as follows:
[11] The first basis upon which the plaintiff says the defendants should be denied costs is that Allan suffered significant injuries in the Accident and will require ongoing medical and psychological care throughout his life.  His ongoing care will involve significant cost to both his parents.  Allan’s parents have already incurred substantial debt to prosecute the lawsuit, have limited financial resources and will have difficulty providing for Allan’s future care even if they are successful on this application.  The plaintiff says that an order for costs will financially “cripple” the family.  While I have great sympathy for Allan’s parents the case law is clear that the financial circumstances of a litigant, standing alone, are not to be taken into consideration as a factor in the awarding of costs…

[14]         It is clear based on the above authorities that this Court is unable, on any principled basis, to take the plaintiff’s financial circumstances into account in determining whether to award costs.

[15]         To conclude otherwise would undermine the rationale underlying Rule 14-9 and would likely lead to the promotion of litigation rather than to promote the “winnowing” function described by Hall J.A. in Catalyst Paper.  It would lead to a collapse of the general principle discussed in the authorities and result in the unacceptable proposition that costs in each case would be measured not by a party’s success but by the personal financial circumstances of the litigants.

It is worth noting that this result should be contrasted with cases decided under Rule 9-1(5) where the Court does have a discretion to consider a party’s financial circumstances following trial where a formal offer of settlement was made.
Today’s case demonstrates the real world expenses that can be associated with losing an ICBC Claim in the BC Supreme Court.  It is vital to gauge these costs and the risks of trial prior to putting a case before a Judge or Jury.