Tag: Mr. Justice Punnett

Rule 15 Costs Apply to Fast Track Settlement Agreement

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, confirming that a settlement agreement made in a Rule 15 action for an amount “plus costs” contemplates costs capped under the fast track rule.
In this week’s case (Wan v. Smith Estate) the Plaintiff was prosecuting an injury claim under Rule 15.  As trial neared the Plaintiff accepted a defence settlement offer of $60,000 “plus costs and disbursements” .  The Plaintiff then sought Tarriff costs of over $17,000 as opposed to the capped pre-trial costs of $6,500 under Rule 15.  Mr. Justice Punnett held that Rule 15 costs applied to the settlement agreement.  In coming to this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[13]         It is not disputed that the fast track rule governs.  The plaintiff asks the court to exercise its discretion under the fast track rule.  Her counsel refers to the wording in 15-1(15) “unless the court otherwise orders” in support.  The defendant submits that the reference to “the court” in that section is a reference to the trial court not this Court in chambers.  That is that cost awards are within the discretion of the trial court.  Further they submit that the offer and its acceptance were clear and the costs referenced in the settlement are to be awarded pursuant to Rule 15-1.
[14]         The difficulty with the plaintiff’s submission is counsel’s letter confirming settlement responds to the defendant’s offer of costs.  That offer was clearly for costs under the fast track rule.  In my view the plaintiff cannot now seek to redefine what was meant by “costs”.  It is inappropriate for the court to now vary the agreed upon terms of settlement.

$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic PTSD

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic psychological difficulties which arose as a result of a collision.
In last week’s case (Foubert v. Song) the Plaintiff was injured in 2007 collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff was 60 years old at the time and 65 years old at the time of trial.  The collision caused some soft tissue injuries which made a good recovery.  Unfortunately the collision also caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which continued to affect her at the time of trial and led to her early retirement.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Mr. Justice Punnett provided the following reasons:

[107] The evidence of the plaintiff’s co-workers, son and friends indicates that the plaintiff, prior to the accident, was a high energy and enthusiastic teacher and that those traits carried through into her day to day life. They have all had the opportunity to observe and deal with her both before and after the accident.

[108] I am satisfied that as a result of the accident the plaintiff has gone from an independent, energetic teacher with an active and varied social life to an individual who is no longer able to work as a teacher, particularly of young children, who can no longer tolerate large groups nor the over stimulation of a variety of social situations. Her intention to keep working past 65 years of age has been thwarted as a result of this motor vehicle accident.

[109] Given the age of the plaintiff and the fact that it is now 5 years after the accident I am satisfied that the plaintiff while having recovered from the soft tissue injuries and to a certain extent from the PTSD has not, as noted by Dr. Shane completely recovered. Her present and future level of recovery is evidenced by Dr. Shane’s opinion that her status occupationally is unlikely to change and that she remains unable to return to teaching art.

[110] Having observed the plaintiff, her evidence of the effect of the accident and the corroborating evidence of the lay witnesses, as well as the medical evidence, I am satisfied that the plaintiff will not return to employment.

[111] Taking into account the evidence in this case as well as the authorities cited I am satisfied that an appropriate award for pain and suffering and a modest amount for loss of housekeeping is $90,000.

[112] Given my findings with respect to the pre-accident complaints there shall be no reduction for them.

Fixed Trial Date a Prerequisite for Trial Management Conference


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Penticton Registry, confirming that a Trial Date needs to be fixed before the Court has the authority to conduct a Trial Management Conference.
In today’s case (Landis v. Witmar Holdings Ltd.) the Claimant unilaterally set down a Trial Management Conference before a trial date was secured.  The Respondent argued that the conference was a nullity in these circumstances.  Mr. Justice Punnett agreed and in doing so provided the following reasons:

[5] Trial management conferences are a creation of the new Rules and are governed by Rule 12-2.  The objective of a trial management conference is to provide increased judicial supervision of pre-trial steps of litigation and the conduct of trials.  The rationale for increased judicial supervision is to provide assistance to parties in moving the case forward consistent with the overall objective of the Rules, particularly the proportionality principles.

[6] The requirement under Rule 12-2(1) to hold a trial management conference at least 28 days before the scheduled trial date indicates that a trial must be set before a trial management conference is scheduled.

[7] Rule 12-2(1) reads:

Unless the court otherwise orders, a trial management conference must take place at least 28 days before the scheduled trial date, at a time and place to be fixed by a registrar.  [Emphasis added]

[8] Without a trial date a judge is unable to address the issues referred to in Rule 12-2(9), nor would counsel be in a position to comply with the requirements of Rule 12-2(3) respecting the filing of trial briefs.

[9] Consequently, the trial management conference should not have been set down.  A notice of trial fixing a trial date must be issued before a trial management conference can be scheduled.

[10] The trial management conference set for June 11, 2012 is struck.

Affidavits: A Reminder Not to Assume, Comment or Argue


Affidavits need to comply with the same rules that govern admissibility of evidence at trial.  Failure to do so can result in portions of affidavits being struck.   Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In last month’s case (Haughian v. Jiwa) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  During a summary trial the Plaintiff introduced an affidavit from a witness who supported the Plaintiff’s version of events regarding the circumstances of the crash.  The affidavit, unfortunately, violated several evidentiary rules and the Defendant objected to its admission.  In striking portions of the affidavit the Court provided the following reasons:

[15] Rule 22-2(12) and 22-3(13) provides:

(12)      Subject to subrule (13), an affidavit must state only what a    person swearing or affirming the affidavit would be permitted to state in evidence at a trial.

(13)      An affidavit may contain statements as to the information and belief of the person swearing or affirming the affidavit, if

(a)        the source of the information and belief is given, and

(b)        the affidavit is made

(i)         in respect of an application that does not seek a final order, …

[16] As noted in Chamberlain v. Surrey School District # 36 (Surrey) (1998), 168 D.L.R. (4th) 222, 85 A.C.W.S. (3d) 72 (B.C.S.C.), by Saunders J. at para. 15:

[15]      The court has the power to strike inadmissible evidence from affidavits: Evans Forest Products Ltd. v. The Chief Forester of British Columbia (6 April 1995), Vancouver A943891 (B.C.S.C.) [summarized 54 A.C.W.S. (3d) 180].  In practical terms, when there is no time between the application to strike inadmissible evidence and the hearing of the lis, this means portions of filed affidavits are given no weight by the court.

[17] The witness was turning right onto Sunset Street.  He deposes the following in his affidavit (the bold portions are in dispute):

6.         At the time Mr. Jiwa turned left on to Sunset Street from Smith Avenue Southbound, I had been about to turn right onto Sunset Street from Smith Avenue Northbound.  Although I had the right of way to proceed onto Sunset Street, Mr. Jiwa was proceeding anyway so I braked and waited until it was safe to make my turn immediately after Mr. Jiwa made his turn.  Mr. Jiwa cut me off to make his turn and I am very confident that had I been continuing straight northbound on Smith Avenue instead of turning right onto Sunset Street, my vehicle would have been struck by Mr. Jiwa.

7.         I disagree with paragraph 11 of Mr. Jiwa’s affidavit.  It was very clear to me that Mr. Jiwa was in a hurry.  He was driving aggressively and too fast for the area.  He was driving dangerously immediately before the accident.

8.         When I turned onto Sunset Street at almost the same time as Mr. Jiwa, I immediately saw that Ms. Haughian’s vehicle was already in the process of parking.  I am certain that Ms. Haughian was not making a wide turn from the left lane at the time Mr. Jiwa struck her vehicle as Mr. Jiwa states at paragraph 12 of his affidavit.  I disagree that Mr. Jiwa was unable to stop before colliding with Mrs. Haughian’s car.  If Mr. Jiwa had not been speeding he had plenty of time to stop because I noticed the Plaintiff’s vehicle immediately upon turning onto Sunset Street and I was behind Mr. Jiwa.  Since I could see that Ms. Haughian was in the process of parking I cannot understand why Mr. Jiwa could not see that.

12.       After the accident, I gave my contact information to Ms. Haughian because I felt that Mr. Jiwa was absolutely the at fault driver.  Mr. Jiwa was driving too fast and could have avoided the accident.

13.       I provided a statement to ICBC on June 17, 2008. Attached hereto and marked as Exhibit “A” to this my affidavit is a true copy of the statement I provided to ICBC.  I do not have an unredacted copy of the statement.  I confirm that the contents of my June 17, 2008 statement to ICBC are true and accurately recount what I observed a the time of the accident.  I disagree only with: firstly that I observed the Haughian vehicle pulling in, and secondly that I referred to Mr. Jiwa as “Indo Canadian”.  As I did not sign the statement, I would have made those changes if I was asked to sign.

[18] The defendant seeks to have the bold portions struck as being hearsay, personal opinion, editorial commentary or argument rather than fact.

[19] The witness should have confined his evidence to facts.  He should not have added his descriptive opinions of those facts (see L.M.U. v. R.L.U., 2004 BCSC 95, at para. 40; Creber v. Franklin, 42 A.C.W.S. (3d) 231, at paras. 19-21).

[20] I agree that the portions of the affidavit that are in bold in paras. 6, 7 and 12 constitute personal assumptions, commentary and argument rather than fact.  However, I am not satisfied that the statements amount to hearsay, as alleged by the defendant.  Paragraph 8 is also struck for the same reasons with the exception of the first two sentences.  Given that the application to strike was concurrent with the hearing of this application, I place no weight on the portions noted when considering the issue of liability.

Examination For Discovery Transcripts and the Adverse Party Limitation

Although examination for discovery transcripts can be read into evidence at trial, the Rules of Court limit the evidence to being used against “the adverse party who was examined“.  In other words, a litigant can’t use their own transcript to bolster their own case.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this limitation.
In last week’s case (Haughian v. Jiwa) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant brought a summary trial application seeking to dismiss the claim.  The Plaintiff produced an affidavit which stated that “in my examination for discovery I described precisely how the accident occurred”  and went on to attach “as an exhibit 29 pages for her examination for discovery conducted by counsel for the defendants“.
The Defendant objected to this evidence arguing it was inadmissible.  Mr. Justice Punnett agreed and provided the following reasons explaining the limitation of discovery evidence at trial:

[8] The plaintiff’s affidavit appends portions of her examination for discovery by counsel for the defendants.  The defendants object to the tendering of discovery evidence in this way.

[9] Summary applications are based on affidavit evidence.  However, they are still trials and as such are governed by the rules and evidentiary requirements of a regular trial.  The followingSupreme Court Civil Rules (the “Rules”) are relevant:

9-7(5)  Unless the court otherwise orders, on a summary trial application, the applicant and each other party of record may tender evidence by any or all of the following:

(a)        an affidavit;

(c)        any part of the evidence taken on an examination for discovery;

[10] However, the breadth of the statement in part (c) above is restricted by Rule 12-5(46) which provides:

(46)      If otherwise admissible, the evidence given on an examination for discovery by a party … may be tendered in evidence at trial by any party adverse in interest, unless the court otherwise orders, but the evidence is admissible against the following persons only:

(a)        the adverse party who was examined;

[12] The defendants’ objection is that only the defendants can tender the plaintiff’s examination for discovery evidence.  They rely on the rules cited above as well as Tesscourt Capital Ltd. v. FG Nutraceutical Inc., 2011 BCSC 814; Mikhail v. Northern Health Authority (Prince George Regional Hospital), 2010 BCSC 1817; Schwartz v. Selkirk Financial, 2004 BCSC 313; Pete v. Terrace Regional Health Care Society, 2003 BCCA 226; Great Canadian Oil Change v. Dynamic Ventures et al, 2002 BCSC 1295, and Shiels v. Shiels (1997), 29 B.C.L.R. (3d) 193 (S.C.).

[13] I am satisfied that the discovery evidence sought to be introduced by the plaintiff cannot be relied upon by the plaintiff for the truth of its contents.

Motorist Cutting Vehicle Off While Parking Found Fully Liable for Crash

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a personal injury lawsuit arising from a 2008 collision which occurred in Burnaby, BC.
In this week’s case (Haughian v. Jiwa) both the Plaintiff and Defendant were travelling Eastbound on Sunset Street.  The Plaintiff was in the inside lane and the Defendant was behind in the curb lane.  Although the Court heard competing versions of how the collision occurred it was ultimately accepted that the collision occurred as the Plaintiff attempted to pull into a parking spot on the right hand side and failed to realize the Defendant was approaching.  As can be seen from the below photo the parking spots are bizarrely positioned on this stretch of road facing away from the eastbound traffic.

As the Plaintiff pulled in the Defendant’s left front corner hit the Plaintiff’s right side passenger door.  In finding the Plaintiff fully at fault and dismissing the lawsuit Mr. Justice Punnett provided the following reasons:

[83] The evidence of the defendant is that the plaintiff turned across his lane without signalling her intentions.  The plaintiff’s assertion that she first saw the defendant when he was 4 to 5 parking spaces away is consistent with the defendant’s evidence that the turn was made immediately in front of him.  The defendant states he was not speeding.  The speed limit was 50 km per hour.  The distance involved on the evidence of the plaintiff was limited.  The resulting time available to the defendant to react was also limited.  That reaction time is to be judged by the “the standards of normal persons and not by applying the standards of perfection” (Tucker at p. 554).

[84] The actions of the plaintiff would not be anticipated by a reasonable person.  Her conduct was so out of the norm that the defendant would have no reason to anticipate her attempt to park by crossing over his lane of travel.  There was no evidence that such a manoeuvre was common practice.  At best, had she signalled, the expectation of a reasonably competent driver would be that she was signalling a lane change.  As required by s. 151 of the Act, the plaintiff had the obligation to ensure that her movement towards the parking space could be completed safely and not affect the travel of the defendant driver.

[85] The plaintiff has failed to establish that the defendant had the time, distance or opportunity to react and avoid the plaintiff.  The evidence of the defendant is consistent with the physical evidence; that of the plaintiff on either of her versions is not.  As noted in Haase, any doubts are to be resolved in favour of the defendant.

[86] For these reasons I am satisfied that the necessary findings of fact can be made in this summary application and that it is not unjust to do so.  I am satisfied that the plaintiff was solely responsible for the accident and that no liability rests with the defendant.  The plaintiff’s claim is dismissed.

Scope of Pre-Trial Document Production Under the New BC Supreme Court Rules Discussed


As I’ve previously discussed, one of the biggest changes under the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules is the test relating to pre-trial document production.  Under the former rules parties had to disclose documents “relating to every matter in question in the action“.  Under the new rules this test has been changed to “all documents that are or have been in a parties possession or control that could be used by any party to prove or disprove a material fact” and “all other documents to which a party intends to refer at trial“.
This new test is supposed to be narrower in scope than the old one.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, interpreting the new test for the first time.
In last week’s case (Biehl v. Strang) the Plaintiff sued the Defendants claiming damages for breach of contract.  The alleged contract between the parties was based in part on an a verbal agreement and partly based on the parties actions over the years.   The events in dispute occurred over a 4 year period.  The Plaintiff was alleged to have a history of illicit drug use during part of this period.  The Defendants challenged the reliability of the Plaintiff’s recollection and argued that this was hampered due to drug use.
The Defendants wished to further explore this issue and brought an application to force production of the Plaintiff’s personal diary as this apparently made reference to some of the Plaintiff’s illicit drug use.  The Defendant argued that this was material evidence because the reliability of the Plaintiff’s memory is a central issue in the lawsuit.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that his diary is not material in the action.  Mr. Justice Punnett ultimately granted the motion for production.  In doing so the Court defined what “Material Fact” means under the new Rules of Court.  Mr. Justice Punnett provided the following reasons:

What is a Material Fact?

[16]        In Alan W. Bryant, Sidney N. Lederman & Michelle K. Fuerst, The Law of Evidence in Canada, 3d ed. (Markham: LexisNexis Canada, 2009) at para. 2.50, relevance is distinguished from materiality:

§2.50   A distinction has also been drawn between relevance and materiality.  Evidence is material in this sense if it is offered to prove or disprove a fact in issue.  For example, evidence offered by a plaintiff in a conversion action to prove a loss of profit is not material since loss of profits cannot be recovered in such an action, and evidence that an accused charged with forcible entry is the owner of the land is immaterial since the offence can be committed by an owner.  This evidence may very well be immaterial, but it is also simply irrelevant.  This excluded evidence is no more required to make out the case than is evidence that the accused owns three other properties or owns a black dog for that matter.  There is no probative connection between the fact to be proved and the facts in issue as determined by the substantive law.  Little is added to the analysis by adding a concept of materiality, as different results do not depend on the distinction. The concept of materiality, however, requires the court to focus on the material issues in dispute in order to determine if the proffered evidence advances the party’s case.[Footnotes omitted.  Emphasis added.]

In other words, the requirement that the disclosure relate to a material fact limits the breadth of what is relevant.

[17]        The authors of The Law of Evidence in Canada define relevance at para 2.35:

§2.35   A traditionally accepted definition of relevance is that in Sir J.F. Stephen’s A Digest of the Law of Evidence, where it is defined to mean:

… any two facts to which it is applied are so related to each other that according to the common course of events one either taken by itself or in connection with other facts proves or renders probable the past, present, or future existence or non-existence of the other.

Pratte J. in R. v. Cloutier accepted a definition from an early edition of Cross on Evidence:

For one fact to be relevant to another, there must be a connection or nexus between the two which makes it possible to infer the existence of one from the existence of the other.  One fact is not relevant to another if it does not have real probative value with respect to the latter.

[18]        In January 2009, Rule 14.01(1)(a) of the Nova Scotia Civil Procedure Rules changed document production in Nova Scotia by requiring a judge to determine relevancy “by assessing whether a judge presiding at the trial or hearing of the proceeding would find the document … relevant or irrelevant”.

[19]        The Nova Scotia Supreme Court in considering the new rule in Halifax Dartmouth Bridge Commission v. Walter Construction Corporation, 2009 NSSC 403, 286 N.S.R. (2d) 179 at para. 18, stated:

[18]      … As to what is meant by relevancy, in Sydney Steel v. Mannesmann Pipe (1985), 69 N.S.R. (2d) 389 (S.C.T.D.), Hallett, J. (as he then was) stated, at paras. 14-18:

[17] In the Law of Evidence in Civil Cases by Sopinka and Lederman, at p. 14 the authors also make reference to the quotation from Stephen’s Digest as to the meaning of relevance and make the following statement that is applicable and worthy of consideration when assessing the relevancy of the documents that are before me on this application:

“The facts in issue are those facts which the plaintiff must establish in order to succeed together with any fact that the defendant must prove in order to make out his defence. It is seldom possible to prove a case or establish a defence solely by direct evidence as to the facts in issue and, therefore, the law admits evidence of facts, which, although not themselves in issue, are relevant in the sense that they prove or render probable the past, present or future existence (or non-existence) of any fact in issue.

“The facts in issue are controlled by the date of the commencement of the action. All facts essential to the accrual of a cause of action must have occurred prior to commencement of the action but evidence may be tendered as to facts occurring after the commencement of the action if they merely tend to prove or disprove the existence of the facts in issue. On the other hand any fact giving rise to a defence need not have occurred before the commencement of the action. An admission after the issue of the writ by one of the parties is admissible and conduct which is tantamount to an admission is equally admissible.

The state of mind of a party may be proved as a fact in issue or as tending to prove or disprove a fact in issue. Thus the knowledge of a party may be directly in issue or relate to a matter directly in issue.” [emphasis by Hallett J.]

Is the Reliability of the Plaintiff’s Memory a Material Fact?

[25]        The defendants argue that the reliability of the plaintiff’s evidence, given the potential memory loss from drug use, is at issue in this case. The plaintiff asserts that reliability includes credibility and a line cannot be drawn between reliability and credibility. Therefore the information relates only to credibility and as such is a non-material collateral fact.

[26]        “Reliable” is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed., as the “able to be relied on.” Credibility relates to whether or not the court accepts or believes the evidence. In assessing credibility, the court may consider how reliable the evidence is.

[27]        In my view, the error in the plaintiff’s position is conflating reliability and credibility when the former is but part of the latter. The ability of the plaintiff to remember is, in my opinion, relevant to proof of a material fact, namely the existence of a contract based on oral terms.

[28]        Frequently courts take into account factual considerations, such as the ability of a witness to see or hear what occurred, in determining whether evidence is reliable and should be accepted. Surely, if an individual has suffered damage to his cognitive or memory functions, that is equally a relevant fact.

[29]        I am satisfied that, if otherwise admissible, the requested production is relevant and could prove or disprove a material fact. Rule 7-1 does not restrict production to documents that in themselves prove a material fact. It includes evidence that can assist in proving or disproving a material fact.

More on Court Costs and "Sufficient Reason" For Suing in the BC Supreme Court

Further to my previous posts on this topic, if a Plaintiff successfully sues in the BC Supreme Court but receives damages below $25,000 they may be deprived of their court ‘costs’ unless they had ‘sufficient reason’ for choosing the Supreme Court over small claims court.
Two judgements were released this week by the BC Supreme Court discussing this area of law.  In this weeks cases (Spencer v. Popham and Spencer v. Horton) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 separate  BC car crashes.  She started separate lawsuits in the BC Supreme Court but settled her cases before they went to trial.  Both claims settled form amounts below $25,000 (the current financial limit of BC’s small claims court).  The Plaintiff and ICBC could not agree on the issue of costs.
ICBC argued that since both cases were in the small claims courts jurisdiction the Plaintiff did not have sufficient reason for suing in the Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Punnett disagreed and awarded the Plaintiff costs in both claims.  In doing so he provided the following useful and through summary of this area of the law:

[8] Rule 57(10) of the Rules of Court states:

A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.

[9] This rule encourages persons to bring actions in Small Claims Court when a claim falls within that court’s monetary jurisdiction. It is an example of “proportionality”; the judicial process should match the amount in dispute. However, the court must also respect a party’s “legitimate choice” of forum: Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, 286 D.L.R. (4th) 330 at para. 35.

[10] The burden is on claimants to evaluate their claims prior to commencement and to justify their decision if they recover less than the Small Claims Court limit, currently $25,000:Reimann at para. 38. If plaintiffs fail to sufficiently investigate and assess their claims prior to commencement, they risk not recovering costs. In a personal injury action this may require plaintiffs to obtain medical records and medical reports, to gather evidence to support claims for loss of earnings and earning capacity, and to assess the evidence in support of the claims being advanced before commencing the action.

[11] However, as noted by Justice Savage in Gradek v. DaimlerChrysler Financial Services Canada Inc, 2010 BCSC 356 at para. 19, R. 57(10) contemplates the possibility that factors other than quantum must be considered:

[19]      The proviso in Rule 57(10) is “unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in Supreme Court and so orders”. The Rule does not define “sufficient reason”. There is nothing in the Rule that limits the extension of the term “sufficient reason” to matters relating to the quantum of the claim.

[12] Factors that can give rise to “sufficient reason” were set out in Kuehne v. Probstl, 2004 BCSC 865 at para. 22, and accepted in Icecorp International Cargo Express Corp. v. Nicolaus, 2007 BCCA 97, 38 C.P.C. (6th) 26 at para. 27. They include:

i. the legal or factual complexity of the case;

ii. the need for discovery of documents and examinations for discovery;

iii. the need for a judgment enforceable outside of British Columbia;

iv. a bona fide preference for a jury trial; and

v. access to the summary trial procedure available in Supreme Court.

Other factors can be the need for the plaintiff to have legal counsel (Faedo v. Dowell, 2007 BCSC 1985 at para. 36; Ostovic v. Foggin, 2009 BCSC 58 at para. 42; Gradek at para. 43), and the defendant’s denial of liability, causation, and injury or loss and allegations of contributory negligence, pre-existing conditions, previous causes and a failure to mitigate (Ostovic at paras. 39-40; Gradek at para. 35).

[13] Therefore, a plaintiff’s evaluation of his or her claim, can also involve an assessment of these factors. Even if the plaintiff assesses the claim to be within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court, the plaintiff can rely on these other reasons to commence the action in Supreme Court: Johannson v. National Car Rental (Canada) Inc., 2009 BCSC 1284 at para. 5.

[14] In my opinion, a plaintiff’s simple desire to retain counsel is not in and of itself a sufficient reason for commencing the action in Supreme Court. Other factors, such as those noted above, determine whether retaining counsel is justified.

[15] In Faedo, the plaintiff was in a low impact collision and suffered a soft tissue injury to her neck and back. Justice Vickers found that the case was not that complex and plaintiff’s counsel could not have considered ICBC’s original dispute of liability a serious threat to recovery. However, Justice Vickers concluded that it was reasonable for the plaintiff to have brought her claim in Supreme Court for two reasons: (1) when the action was commenced, the plaintiff believed she was suffering from the accident and her pleadings included a claim for loss of earning capacity and disruption of the ability to earn income; and (2) ICBC put her credibility seriously in issue when it took the position that she had not suffered from any injury or any significant injury. Justice Vickers continued at para. 36:

[36]      … I observed this plaintiff to be very nervous in court. She had no previous experience in court and in my opinion when she was confronted with a case where the defendant represented by counsel was suggesting that she hadn’t been injured at all and this was a low impact accident in which it was suggested she wouldn’t be injured, that the plaintiff reasonably required counsel to represent her and reasonably started an action in the Supreme Court where she could hope to recover some of the cost of retaining that counsel which was necessary for her to properly put her case to get the compensation I have found her entitled to. Furthermore, an offer to settle such as the plaintiff made in this case puts very little pressure upon a defendant to settle where there is no exposure to costs.

[16] In Ostovic, another case arising out of a low impact accident, Justice Savage noted that because the defendant denied liability, causation and special damages, the plaintiff had to prove these issues in court. Because of this, the plaintiff needed to avail himself of pre-trial discovery, which provided important evidence of the speed of impact, the consequences of impact and concern over the plaintiff’s condition. In addition, Justice Savage found at para. 42:

[42]      There is the additional factor that, as in Faedo and Kanani [v. Misiurna, 2008 BCSC 1274], the Plaintiff faced an institutional defendant which, in the ordinary course, has counsel. To obtain any recovery the Plaintiff is forced to go to court, where he is facing counsel and counsel is reasonably required, but in Provincial Court there is no way of recovering the costs of counsel.

[17] In Gradek, before the issuance of the writ, the defendants’ insurers had informed the plaintiffs that their position was the accident did not result in any compensable injury. In their pleadings, the defendants denied liability and injury or loss and alleged contributory negligence, the existence of a pre-existing injury and previous causes, and a failure to mitigate. There was a broad range of findings possible respecting liability. The plaintiff, Henryk Gradek, was a Polish immigrant who spoke halting English. Justice Savage found at para. 42 that “he would have had extraordinary difficulty presenting a case on his own” and would have been “out-matched” by either a lawyer or an ICBC adjustor. The plaintiff needed counsel to obtain a just result and, therefore, had sufficient reason to begin the action in Supreme Court.

[18] Plaintiffs do not have an ongoing duty to reassess their claims as the matter proceeds: Reimann at para. 44. Thus, the court must assess whether a plaintiff had “sufficient reason” to bring the action in Supreme Court when the plaintiff started the action: Ostovic at para. 35. This analysis is necessarily done with the benefit of hindsight since it only occurs after trial or settlement, but the court must be careful not to use that hindsight in deciding what was reasonable: Faedo at para. 28.

[19] It also must be remembered R. 57(10) “does not involve an exercise of discretion.” Rather, “the court must make a finding that there was sufficient reason for bringing the action in the Supreme Court” (emphasis added): Reimann at para. 13.

In my continued effort to cross reference the current Supreme Court rules with the new Rules of Court that come into force on July 1, 2010 I will note that the Current Rule 57(10) will become Rule 14-1(10) and it reads identical to the current rule so the precedents developed under Rule 57(10) regarding costs should continue to assist litigants under our new rules.

BC Supreme Court Confirms Mandatory Nature of Rule 68

Further to my previous posts on this topic reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry discussing the mandatory nature of Rule 68,
Although previous cases have addressed this point, today’s case is important because it is the first such case that I am aware of from a BC Supreme Court Judge (the previous cases were decisions of Masters).
In today’s case (Berenjian v. Primus) the Plaintiff sued for injuries as a  result of a BC Car Crash.  The claim was set for trial in December, 2009.  The Defendants set the matter for Jury Trial.  The Plaintiff then brought a m motion to move the case into Rule 68 which would have the effect, amongst others, of eliminating the possibility of trial by Jury.
The Plaintiff pointed to the fact that this case was worth less than $100,000 and argued that Rule 68 was mandatory.  The Defendants opposed the motion.  After hearing submissions Mr. Justice Punnett agreed with the Plaintiff and held as follows:
[22] Subrule (9) contemplates an action becoming an expedited action after it has been commenced…

[35] I do not agree that Rule 68 cannot be invoked once the pleadings are closed. If the rule is mandatory then the logic of Rule 68(7) is consistent. That is, the rule is a mandatory rule and, as such, no provision is required for the court to order that the rule does apply to a particular action. However, because it is mandatory, a provision was needed to remove actions from the rule.  The absence of the endorsement is simply an irregularity in actions which meet the criteria of Rule 68(2).

[36]         In my view Rule 68 places no time limit for it to be brought into play…

[45]         As noted above the principal of proportionality pervades Rule 68. Rule 68(13) requires that “[i]n considering any application under this rule, the court must consider what is reasonable in relation to the amount at issue in the action” (emphasis added).

[46]         As in Uribe, a jury trial is pending. Given the amount involved (and the defendants do not allege that the claim is worth an amount over $100,000), I am of the opinion that the matter should proceed under Rule 68. It is not reasonable that a claim in the range of $25,000 should proceed to a jury trial for the reasons noted earlier in Uribe. To do so would defeat the purpose of Rule 68.

[47]         Neither party has brought an application under Rule 68(7) for an order that Rule 68 does not apply. The plaintiff seeks an order transferring the proceeding to Rule 68. The defendants oppose that application. Given the mandatory nature of Rule 68, the question of whose obligation it is to bring the action formally under the rule raises an interesting issue that may well have relevance to any claim for costs arising from the late date of this application.

[48]         The plaintiff’s application is granted. There will be an order allowing for the the style of cause to be amended to read “Subject to Rule 68”. The trial currently set for December 7, 2009, shall proceed under Rule 68 without a jury. The plaintiff has tendered two expert reports pursuant to Rule 40A and the defendants one expert report. The parties have leave to call a total of three expert witnesses, namely  Dr. Wright, Dr. Mamacos and Dr. Leith.

This interpretation will likely remain good law under the New BC Supreme Court Rule 15 (the fast track rule which comes into force on July 1, 2010) as it also incorporates principles of proportionality, has the same mandatory tone of language and contemplates actions commenced outside of the fast track be brought into the fast track by filing :”a notice of fast track action” as contemplated by Rule 15-1(2).

Can an ICBC Tort Claim be Worth Less for Not Going to the Doctor Regularly?

Perhaps with the exception of the “failure to mitigate defence” the frequency of medical appointments attended by a plaintiff is not necessarily tied to the value of an ICBC tort claim.  The value of a claim is largely tied to the severity of injuries and the impact of the injuries on a persons life.  As a matter of common sense one would expect a Plaintiff with very severe injuries to receive more extensive medical intervention than a Plaintiff with relatively minor injuries.  In this sense there may be an indirect connection between the value of a claim and the number of medical treatments.  However, the number of doctor’s visits does not in and of itself add value to an ICBC tort claim and reasons for judgement were released today exploring this area of the law.
In today’s case (Brock v. King) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 T-Bone collision in Burnaby, BC.  The Court found that the Plaintiff suffered various injuries and in awarding $50,000 for her pain and suffering summarized the injuries as follows:
I find that the plaintiff continues to suffer from back pain, neck pain and headaches. These injuries continue to interfere with her work and her daily activities. It appears that some further improvement may occur but that some level of ongoing chronic pain is probable.
The Defence Lawyer argued that the Plaintiff’s injuries were not all that serious and in support of this conclusion drew the court’s attention to the fact that “there were large gaps in treatment and medical visits“.
Mr. Justice Punnett rejected this submission and in doing so summarized some of the principles courts consider in tort claims when reviewing the frequency and nature of post accident medical treatment.  The key discussion was set out at paragraphs 58-65 which I set out below:

[58]         The defendants place significant emphasis on the fact that the plaintiff had relatively little in the way of treatment, that there were no referrals to any specialists, that there was limited therapy, that there were large gaps in treatment and medical visits, little in the way of prescription medication and that there were no diagnostic examinations arranged by the family physicians.

[59]         The defendants rely on Mak v. Eichel, 2008 BCSC 1102, and Vasilyev v. Fetigan, 2007 BCSC 1759, in support of their position on the issue of gaps in the plaintiff’s reporting to her physician and the inference to be drawn. In Mak v. Eichel there appeared to be a gap in treatment with no evidence that the discomfort continued during that period and inVasilyev v. Fetigan there were credibility issues. As a result both cases are distinguishable.

[60]         The plaintiff relies on Travis v. Kwon, 2009 BCSC 63, and Myers v. Leng, 2006 BCSC 1582. In both cases there were gaps in the plaintiffs’ attendance on their physicians. InTravis v. Kwon, Mr. Justice Johnston states at paras. 74 and 77:

[74]      …Where a plaintiff gives credible evidence at trial, and is not significantly contradicted by entries in medical records or otherwise, the absence of a full documentary history of medical attendances it not that important.

[77]      In this case the plaintiff is generally credible, and I do not fault her for a commendable desire to avoid making a nuisance of herself by going to a doctor primarily in order to build a documentary records and thus avoid the risk of an adverse inference from failing to do so, or out of a misguided belief that by papering her medical files, she can prove her claim. A sensible plaintiff, having some knowledge of the medical system and its capabilities from her training, would be better advised to go to the doctor only when necessary, and thus avoid accusations that she is exaggerating, or suffering from what some authorities have referred to as “chronic benign pain syndrome”: Moon v. Zachary, [1984] B.C.J. No. 241, 1984 CarswellBC 2000, at para. 100.

[61]         In Myers v. Leng Madam Justice Gropper stated at para. 50:

[50]      I am not troubled by the gap in the plaintiff seeking treatment. His decision not to continue to see a doctor about his neck and back complaints was clearly based on a reasonable conclusion that the doctors could only provide temporary relief from the pain by prescribing medication and physiotherapy. The plaintiff did not consider either to be helpful. It is a sensible and practical approach to medical treatment. If continuous medical treatment can cure you, or make you feel better, then it is worthwhile to attend on a regular basis. If it cannot, there really is no point in taking the doctor’s time. The purpose of a seeing a doctor is not to create a chronicle of complaints for the purpose of proving that you have ongoing pain from an injury arising from a motor-vehicle accident. Rather than detract from the accuracy of the plaintiff‘s complaint, I consider the plaintiff‘s course of conduct, in not seeing the doctor on a continuous basis, to enhance his evidence.

[62]         Mrs. Brock testified that she is not sure if the physiotherapy helped that much and sometimes it increased her pain. Likewise she indicated that she did not like taking prescriptions and preferred to avoid medications other than Tylenol or Advil. She was told to exercise daily doing stretching and other exercises which she did.

[63]         I accept that she was aware that her doctor really could not do much more for her than he had already done. Given that, it made sense not to keep raising her injuries with him on a regular basis or, indeed, each time she visited with him.

[64]         The defendants also argued that the fact that Dr. Nakamara did not order further tests or investigations relating to the neck and back injuries while doing so for an earlier knee injury and a sprained thumb indicates that the neck and back injuries could not have been viewed by him as serious.

[65]         The defendants did not call Dr. Nakamara for the purposes of cross examination on his report. They are asking that the court infer the medical reasons for the lack of a more extensive investigation of the plaintiff’s injuries. That is a medical decision and not one for the court to make. It is likely more probable that he did not order more extensive investigations because in his opinion they were not required. He notes in his report that there was no structural damage. I decline to accept the defendants’ submission on this point.

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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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