Tag: Mr. Justice Harvey

Late Examinations for Discovery and the New BC Supreme Court Rules


Reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the right to conduct an examination for discovery in the two weeks proceeding trial under the New Civil Rules.
In today’s case (Lewis v. Lewis) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision.  ICBC was a statutory third party in the lawsuit and failed to exercise their right to examine the Plaintiff for discovery in a timely fashion.  ICBC served the Plaintiff with an appointment to attend a discovery 10 days before trial.  The Plaintiff objected arguing, amongst other things, that discoveries are not permitted within the two weeks prior to trial.  ICBC applied for an order compelling the Plaintiff to attend.
In support of their application ICBC argued that the prohibition preventing discoveries in the two weeks preceding trial no longer exists in the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules.   Mr. Justice Harvey, while not directly addressing this issue, dismissed ICBC’s motion and in doing so made it clear that the rules of Court operate so as to make it difficult for a party to be permitted to conduct a late discovery.  Mr. Justice Harvey provided the following reasons:
[7]  In response to (ICBC’s argument) Mr. Parsons, on behalf of the plaintiff, says that a clear reading of Rule 12-4(3) makes clear that the new rules still contemplate a prohibition against any step, including an examination for discovery, within the period prescribed in Rule 12-4(2).
[8] Rule 12-4(2) reads
A trial certificate must be filed at least 14 days before but not more than 28 days before the scheduled trial date.
[9] I am not persuaded in these circumstances I need to decide that very interesting issue, because I have also been referred to Rule 12-4(6) which says that:
A party who fails to file a trial certificate under subrule (1) is not, without leave of the court, entitled to make further applications.
[10]  The third party has not filed a trial certificate nor could they have given the requirement to have conpleted examinations for discovery as part of the requirement of “readiness”.  Now, 10 days before trial, it is too late to do so.
[11]  Counsel for the third party see this as an excuse allowing them to, at this late date, seek the Court’s leave for the application to compel the plaintiff’s attendance at the proposed discovery.
[12]  That, with respect, is disingenuous.  It has been open to the third party to conduct its discovery since the time it became a party.  That was in October of 2008.
[13]  Instead, the third party has chosen to rely on the defendant to take the lead in this litigation…
[14]  The third party has, at the last moment, unilaterally set down an examination for discovery over the objections of counsel for the plaintiff as to timing.  Counsel is busy with trial preparation for a 15 day jury trial.
[15]  The third party failed to provide conduct money and failed to file a trial certificate in accordance with the rules…
[16]  Contrary to the Rules, leave was not sought to bring the application when short leave was sought before the Master who heard the application.  The application for short leave was brought without notice and counsel for the plaintiff was unable to draw to the Court’s attention the failure of the third party to (1) require leave for their application and (2) failure to provide conduct money to the plaintiff.
[17]  In those circumstances, I am not prepared to gran the third party the leave required to bring this motion.

BC Court Rejects ICBC's "LVI" Defence

One principle that has become clear in BC injury lawsuits is that ICBC’s LVI Policy of denying tort compensation in minimal vehicle damage accidents has no legal merit.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Mendoza-Flores v. Haigh) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 separate motor vehicle collisions.  She was injured in both.   ICBC accepted that the second accident caused some injuries but argued that the first crash “was incapable of causing the injuries complained of (by) the Plaintiff“.  Mr. Justice Harvey rejected this argument with the following useful comments:
[54] Regarding as the relationship between the damage to the two vehicles and the resultant claim for injuries suffered by one of the occupants, it is trite law that the fact that the damage to the plaintiff’s vehicle was minor does not lead to a conclusion that the resultant injuries are also minor: Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236 (S.C.).
The Court went on to award the Plaintiff damages for her injuries and loss including $40,000 for her non-pecuniary damages.   In reaching this figure Mr. Justice Harvey made the following findings:

[61]        In the result, I find that the plaintiff has experienced a moderate soft tissue injury which continues to cause both discomfort and poses problems in her employment to the present time.

[62]        The plaintiff never fully recovered from the effects of the first accident although it would seem, from the evidence, she was heading toward a complete resolution of her symptoms. Her symptoms just before the second accident were appreciably better than they are presently…

[67]        While unresolved to some extent, I do not view the evidence as proving the plaintiff’s injuries as permanent. Both from an investigative and treatment standpoint it appears there were, and are, further steps available to the plaintiff.

[68]        Reviewing her injuries and comparing them to the authorities I have been referred to, I conclude that $40,000 represents a proper global assessment of the plaintiff’s general damages arising from the two accidents.

You can click here to read my archived posts discussing other BC Court cases dealing with so-called Low Velocity Impacts.

Can A Motorist Be At Fault For Being Rear-Ended?

(Please not the case discussed in the below post was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal who ordered a new trial.  You can read the BCCA decision by clicking here)
While unusual the answer is yes.  Reasons for judgement were released today discussing this area of the law.
In today’s case (Skinner v. Guo) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 BC Car Crash.  The Plaintiff was driving on Highway 1 when he rear-ended the Defendant’s vehicle which was stationary in the Plaintiff’s lane of travel.  The Defendant did not give any evidence at trial although it appears the Defendant stopped because he struck a coyote.  Given the Defendant’s lack of explanation for being stopped in a travelled portion of the roadway the Court found that he was in violation of s. 187 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant was at fault for the collision for stopping his vehicle and failing to activate his emergency flashers.  Mr. Justice Harvey disagreed and found the Plaintiff 100% at fault for failing to see a stationary vehicle that was there to be seen.  Before dismissing the case Mr. Harvey said the following with respect to fault when a motorist rear ends another in British Columbia:

[15] All of the cases referred to me by counsel note that there is a high onus on a following driver, as stated in Molson v. Squamish Transfer Ltd. (1969), 7 D.L.R. (3d) 553 (B.C.S.C.).  One principle to be extracted from the rear?end cases is that when one car runs into another from behind, the onus is on the driver of the rear car to show that the collision was not occasioned by his fault.  However, each case must be decided upon its facts, and I have been referred to cases where substantial liability has been imposed upon the front driver and others where the following driver has been assessed one hundred percent of the claim.  I do not find this case similar to the authorities referred to me by counsel for the plaintiff, which include McMillan v. Siemens, [1994] B.C.J. No. 2546 (S.C.); Lloyd v. Fox (1991), 57 B.C.L.R. (2d) 332 (C.A.); and W.K. Enterprises Ltd. v. Stetar, [1976] B.C.J. No. 484 (S.C.).  In each of those cases the hazard created by the negligence of the driver who had stopped his vehicle was not apparent for either reasons of weather conditions or the design of the roadway until a point where the plaintiff’s vehicle was much closer than was the case here.

[16] Baker v. Cade, [1999] B.C.J. No. 239 (S.C.), has facts which are most analogous to the case at bar.  There, the collision involved two cars and a motorcycle.  The first car stopped in the middle of a bridge, and the car immediately behind that car came to a stop as well, without activating emergency flashers.  The plaintiffs were following behind on a motorcycle.  The stopped vehicles were approximately 800 feet away when the plaintiff crested the bridge and had a view of what was happening.  The plaintiffs were unable to stop the motorcycle and collided with the rear of the second vehicle, suffering significant injury.  The role of the driver of the second vehicle in that situation is analogous to that of the defendant in this case.  While Drost J. concluded that the driver of the second vehicle was negligent, he held that his negligence was not the proximate cause of the accident.  I reach the same conclusion here.

[17] The only distinguishing factor in this case is that the accident occurred at night.  However, I find as a fact that the area was well lit and the sight line of the plaintiff would have allowed him to the defendant’s stationary vehicle approximately a kilometre away.  Indeed, the plaintiff says he did see the defendant’s vehicle, but that he did not determine until it was too late that it was stopped.  Despite his description of the traffic, he took no evasive manoeuvres to avoid striking the rear of the defendant’s vehicle.  He believes he was some 20 to 30 yards away when he slammed on the brakes.

[18] Accordingly, the action is dismissed.

For more on this area of the law click here to read a case summary where a motorist was found partially at fault for being rear-ended.

I'd Buy That For a Dollar – Rule 37B and Nuisance Settlement Offers


As readers of the blog know Rule 37B of the BC Supreme Court Rules has given the Court considerable discretion with respect to awarding parties costs when formal offers of settlement are beat at trial.  One pattern that is becoming clear under the new Rule is that token offers of settlement are not particularly effective in triggering meaningful costs consequences.  Reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Skinner v. Fu) the Plaintiff was involved in a BC Car Crash and sued the other motorist.  The issue of fault was hotly contested by ICBC who argued that the Plaintiff was fully at fault for the accident and his injuries.  Mr. Justice Harvey of the BC Supreme Court agreed and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim after a summary trial.
Having successfully defended the lawsuit ICBC (through the Defendant) applied for costs from the Plaintiff.  Prior to trial the Defendant made a formal offer to settle the claim for $1.  ICBC asked the Court to award them double costs.
Mr. Justice Harvey dismissed the motion for double costs.  In doing so he commented that a $1 offer in an ICBC Claim with contested liability is not a ‘reasonable offer’ which ought to trigger increased costs consequences for the losing party.  Specifically the Court held as follows:

[15] Liability was the central issue between the parties. The defendants, from the time the matter was first reported to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, took the position that no liability rested with the defendant driver despite his apparent breach of s. 187 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318.

[16] Immediately after the writ of summons was issued, the offer to settle the matter for $1 was forwarded to the plaintiff.

[17] Where, as in the case at bar, the central issue is liability, I do not consider an offer of $1 plus costs of filing the writ of summons an offer which ought reasonably be accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on any later date. Were it so, all defendants in similar positions would follow suit and, as a result, enhance their entitlement to costs without promoting the underlying objective of Rule 37B, which is to encourage reasonable settlement.  As a result, this offer to settle will have no effect on the order of costs in this case.

This is not the first case interpreting Rule 37B in this way (click here to read my previous posts discussing the Court’s application of Rule 37B in BC Injury Claims) and the pattern seems well established that nominal offers will rarely be effective for triggering meaningful costs consequences.

In my continued efforts to get prepared for the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules I am cross referencing Civil Procedure cases that I discuss on this blog with the New Rules.  I will again point out that Rule 37B will be replaced with Rule 9 under the New Rules. The new rule uses language that is almost identical to Rule 37B which should help cases such as this one retain their value as precedents.

$25,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded in Low Velocity Impact

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday (Boyd v. Shortreed) by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with a Low Velocity Impact (LVI).  The Plaintiff testified that she was involved in a rear-end crash and that she was injured despite having minimal damage to her vehicle.  Interestingly, the Defendant denied that the crash happened at all.
Mr. Justice Harvey rejected the Defendant’s evidence and concluded that a crash did occur.  Specifically he held that:
[33] The plaintiff reported the accident on April 19, 2005 by telephone and advised the adjuster for ICBC of the damage to her vehicle and the fact she had been injured.  Without first bringing the vehicle to ICBC, she took the car to an auto body shop for repairs and the bumper was fixed.  She testifies that the total cost of repairs was about $360.  No documentary evidence concerning the repairs was ever produced in evidence.  Photographs of the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s vehicle were of little assistance in determining whether there was any damage visible.  It is conceded that the damage amounted to nothing more than an abrasion or scratch requiring repainting.  There was no structural damage to the plaintiff’s car…

[59] There were other inconsistencies in the evidence of the defendant which cause me to reject his evidence as to the happening of the incident.  Accordingly, wherever the evidence of the plaintiff and the defendant conflict, I accept the evidence of the plaintiff as being the accurate version of events.

[60] That being found, I conclude that the defendant struck the plaintiff’s car from the rear.  While I accept there was a situation of peril created by the driver of the tractor trailer, the proximate cause of the collision between the defendant’s vehicle and that of the plaintiff was the inattention of the defendant by travelling too close to the rear of the plaintiff’s vehicle or, alternatively, the condition of the brakes on his vehicle which did not allow him to slow his vehicle in time to avoid hitting the plaintiff’s vehicle.

[61] I do not find the plaintiff’s reaction to the danger created by the tractor trailer driver to be wanting and decline to apportion any fault for the accident to her.  She reacted appropriately to a situation of emergency created by another driver who is not a party to the action.

[62] As a result, the defendant is 100% liable for the collision and resultant damages.

In valuing the Plaintiff’s Non-Pecuniary Damages at $25,000 Mr. Justice Harvey made the following findings with respect to her accident related injuries:

[76] The only new complaint arising from the accident appears to be the onset of mid-back pain.  This is based mainly on self report.  The extent and duration of these symptoms are described in some detail in the reports of Dr. O’Connor and Dr. McKenzie.  This complaint seems to have occasioned the most pain and has persisted, although significantly improved, to the date of trial.  Her recovery was estimated by the plaintiff to be at 85% of normal when she last attended Dr. McKenzie in August 2009.  There is no ongoing disability related to the complaints nor has there been for some since late in 2007.

[77] In summary, the plaintiff suffered an exacerbation of her previous symptoms in her neck and lower back.  I find these complaints had substantially resolved to their pre-accident condition inside of one year.  In April of 2006, according to the notes of Dr. Shah, there was a further onset of lower back pain but, on the whole of the evidence, I cannot relate this flare up to the accident of April 2005.  The injury to her mid-back was as a result of the accident.  It persisted longer and caused her more discomfort than the exacerbation of her pre-existing symptoms.

[78] Accordingly, taking all of this into account, I assess general damages in the amount of $25,000 in respect of her soft tissue injuries.

Double Costs Awarded After Jury Dismisses ICBC Injury Claim

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Defendant double costs following a Jury dismissing a Plaintiff’s ICBC Injury Claim.
This is one of the first cases that I am aware of under Rule 37B where a defendant was awarded double costs.
In today’s case (Luzuka v. Chuang) the Plaintiff was involved in an intersection collision.  Both fault and value of the claim were at issue.  ICBC, through the defendant’s counsel, made a formal settlement offer in 2007 for $40,000.  This offer was rejected by the Plaintiff.  The claim proceeded to trial which lasted 9 days before a Judge and Jury.  The Jury dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim finding that she did not prove the Defendant was responsible for the collision.
The Defendant sought an award of costs up to the date of delivery of the offer and double costs from that point on.  The application was largely successful and Mr. Justice Harvey noted that the “deterrent functions” of punishing a party who refused to accept reasonable settlement offer should not be ignored in such applicaitons.  Specifically Mr. Justice Harvey found as follows:

[24] The offer to settle was one which ought to reasonably have been accepted by the plaintiff within seven days of the disclosure to counsel of the identity of the witness, Ms. Kapil, which occurred during examinations for discovery on November 27, 2007.

[25] By that date, the plaintiff’s medical condition was well defined and it ought to have been clear to the plaintiff that liability for the accident was seriously in dispute.

[26] As was noted by Hinkson J. in Bailey, at para. 39, a refusal to award double costs following the date determined that the offer of the defendants ought reasonably to have been accepted, “would completely ignore the important deterrent function of the Rules”.

[27] Therefore, the defendants are entitled to costs and disbursements of the action until December 4, 2007, pursuant to Rule 57(9). Thereafter, the defendants are entitled to double costs together with actual disbursements, pursuant to Rule 37B(5)(b).

While no mention of the amount is made, the costs and disbursements stemming from this order would likely be in the tens of thousands of dollars.  This ‘deterrent‘ effect is a real one and unfortunately needs to be accounted for when preparing for trial where a formal settlement offer is made under Rule 37B.

As readers of this blog are likely aware, Rule 37B will be replaced with Rule 9 on July 1, 2010 when the new BC Civil Rules come into force. The new rule uses language that is almost identical to Rule 37B which should help cases such as this one retain their value as precedents.

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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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