Tag: Mr. Justice Williams

Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality Set Aside For Health Care Costs Recovery Action

Further to my previous posts addressing the implied undertaking of confidentiality, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing whether the undertaking for documents produced in a tort action should be set aside for a subsequent prosecution under the Health Care Costs Recovery Act.
In this week’s case (British Columbia v. Tekavec) the Defendant was found liable for damages after an individual fell from a balcony in a building owned by him.   He was ordered to pay over $322,000 in damages.  The BC Government then sued the Defendant seeking recovery of their Health Care Costs.
In the course of the lawsuit the Government requested production of certain documents which were created in the initial litigation such as examination for discovery transcripts.  The Defendant refused to provide these arguing they were subject to the implied undertaking of confidentiality.  The Court held that in these circumstances it was appropriate to order production.  In doing so Mr. Justice Williams provided the following reasons:
11]         It is a fundamental rule of the litigation model that information, both documentary and oral, obtained by a party through the discovery process is subject to an implied undertaking. It cannot be used by any other party (i.e. other than the originator) except for the purpose of the litigation in which it was produced. The undertaking is essentially perpetual: it survives the resolution of the litigation in which the discovery was made. The restriction can be modified only by court order or with the consent of the party with whom the material originates.
[12]         The principle is authoritatively articulated in Juman v. Doucette, 2008 SCC 8, and the underlying rationale is discussed there at some length. For the purpose of the present discussion, there is no point to delving into that.
[13]         Where a court order is sought to relieve against the implied undertaking, the applicant will have the onus of satisfying the court on a balance of probabilities that the interest to be advanced through the sought-after disclosure is greater than the values that underpin the rationale for the implied undertaking. Central to the analysis will be a careful consideration of any prejudice that will be caused to the party who initially provided the material at issue. Of course, it goes without saying that the material must be relevant to the issues in the action in which the disclosure is sought…
29]         In the matter at hand, it is my conclusion that the circumstances warrant an order overriding the protection of the implied undertaking. The basis for so deciding is that, while the applicant HMTQ was not a party to the original action, the principal issue in the present action is compellingly similar to the issue there: was Mr. Tekavec responsible for the injuries that were sustained by Mr. Jack? I note as well the following: Mr. Jack has apparently indicated that he has no objection to the materials being disclosed to the applicant. There would be no prejudice to Mr. Jack if the materials were to be disclosed. Finally, the same questions and topics that were canvassed with Mr. Tekavec in the examination for discovery at issue could be quite properly raised in his examination for discovery in the present action. In effect, disclosure of the materials represents a proper means of proceeding more efficiently.

"Genuine Sympathy" Not Enough to Move Away From Loser Pays Consequences


As previously discussed, a Plaintiff’s financial circumstances is not relevant when assessing “loser pays” costs consequences following trial in the BC Supreme Court (subject to the different analysis that applies when pre-trial formal settlement offers have been made).  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In last week’s case (Staley v. Squirrel Systems of Canada Ltd.) the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for damages due to alleged wrongful dismissal.  The claim was dismissed at trial.  The Defendant applied for costs to be paid with the Plaintiff opposing arguing, in part, that his poor financial circumstances should preclude such a result.  Mr. Justice Williams disagreed and ordered that the Plaintiff pay the Defendant’s costs.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[17] Regrettably, I find myself unable to accede to the plaintiff’s submissions. The Rule with respect to costs is quite fundamental. While there is some latitude for judicial discretion, the authorities make abundantly clear that the discretion must be exercised in a principled and, I would conclude, cautious manner. Deviation from the basic principle that a successful litigant shall recover must necessarily be carefully constrained…

[21] The third basis for his application is that he is unemployed and experiencing difficult financial circumstances.

[22] While no evidence is before the Court to establish precisely what his present situation is, I will accept that it is not good. I have genuine sympathy for this plaintiff. I am sure that the requirement to pay costs to the defendant will be a real burden for him in his circumstances.

[23] Indeed, I expect that it is frequently the case that there are substantial discrepancies between the means of parties to litigation. Unsuccessful litigants are not infrequently in difficult financial straits, and orders for costs can exacerbate that situation.

[24] However, I am unable to conclude that an order requiring him to pay the defendant’s costs, in accordance with the relevant tariff, $11,000, would be so “unfair and inappropriately punitive” to make the order sought. There are no special circumstances in this case which warrant an order for reduced costs or relieving the plaintiff from paying the defendant’s costs.

Examination for Discovery Caselaw Update: Scope of Proper Questions


Two useful, albeit unreported, cases were recently provided to me dealing with objections to two fairly common examination for discovery questions and dealing with their propriety.
In the first case (Blackley v. Newland) the Plaintiff was injured in two motor vehicle collisions.  In the course of examining the Defendant for discovery, the Plaintiff’s lawyer asked a series of “do you have any facts known or knowable to you” questions addressing the specific allegations set out in the Pleadings such as:

  • do you have any facts known or knowable to you that relate in any way to whatever injuries Mr. Blackley received in this collision?
  • do you have any facts known or knowable to you that relate in any way to what pain or suffering Mr. Blackley has had because of this collision?

At trial, the Plaintiff proposed to read this series of questions and the answers that followed to the Jury.  Mr. Justice Williams held that while the exchange should not go to the jury as its prejudicial effect outweighed its probative value, the series of questions was entirely appropriate in the context of an examination for discovery.  Mr. Justice Williams provided the following comments:
[10]  Speaking generally, in this case, I do not find that the questions asked at the examination for discovery are improper.  They can be said to have been substantially informed by the statement of defence that was filed by the defendant.  As is usual, that statement of defence is replete with denials and positings of other alternative propositions.
[11]  The examination for discovery conducted by plaintiff’s counsel was obviously shaped in part as a response to the pleadings of the defendant and was an appropriate use of the examination process, specifically to discovery the defendant’s case.
In the second decision (Evans v. Parsons) the Defendant put a medico-legal report to the Plaintiff and asked the broad (and arguably compound) question “Okay.  Was there — the facts in Dr. Aiken’s report, was there anything that struck you as incorrect?“.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer objected to the question resulting in a chambers application.  The Defendant argued the question was fair and further that the limited two hour discovery in Rule 15 matters allowed this type of a short cut question.
Master Caldwell disagreed finding the question was too broad and vague.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
All right.  Thank you.  Applications to have a subsequent examination for discovery done specifically to address what I do find as an extremely general and vague question which was asked and objected to at the first discovery.  That comment probably leads one to surmise the application will be dismissed, at it will.  There was an opportunity to specify what facts were being referred to, and counsel refused to further qualify.  There’s a reason for short discoveries in rule 15-1 cases.  Two hours were granted.  If this was an important question, it could have been addressed earlier in the discovery.  I don’t, in the circumstances of the context of the question, believe it to have been a fair question to the plaintiff.  It was far too general, and, as I say, defence counsel refused the opportunity to further qualify or narrow it.  I’m not going to force the Plaintiff to answer such a general question.  Application is dismissed.  Costs to the Plaintiff.
To my knowledge these judgements are not yet publicly available.  As always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests copies.

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages For Chronic Shoulder Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry assessing damages for a chronic shoulder soft tissue injury.
In last week’s case (Araki v. Guitard) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  She was 17 at the time.  The vehicle in which she was riding as a passenger was T-Boned by the Defendant’s vehicle.  Fault was admitted.
The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries.  Many of these went on to recover, unfortunately her shoulder was injured and continued to pose problems at the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Williams made the following findings:

[7] Based on all of the evidence, I am satisfied that it has been proven that the plaintiff sustained physical injuries in the collision. Those included injuries to the right side of her neck, the right side of her upper and mid back, and to her right shoulder. As well, she experienced occasional headaches.

[8] The headache condition resolved within a short time, a matter of months at the most.

[9] The back and neck discomfort have substantially resolved although it is not exactly clear when. I am satisfied that state had been attained within three years of the accident. The discomfort from those particular areas was not especially significant; it would be fairly described as modest. If there are occasional discomforts in those areas now, I find they are associated to the shoulder pain.

[10] The plaintiff’s right shoulder has continued to be painful. The pain and discomfort has significantly lessened since the early stages following the accident, but remains an issue nevertheless. The pain is not constant but intermittent. It is affected by her activities; for example, when she is reaching overhead or when her shoulder is subject to load in a certain way, discomfort will result. Also, on occasion she experiences discomfort as a consequence of taking certain postures; that is, it is a matter of how she is sitting or lying.

[11] The matter of the shoulder injury has been extensively investigated. The conclusion which emerges is that there is no detectable damage to her shoulder structure. The pain is muscular or musculoligamentous in nature. There is no reason to believe that surgical intervention would be warranted. Given its persistence, it is unknown whether it can be expected to resolve. Certainly the prognosis for a complete recovery is guarded: the shoulder pain may not resolve…

[32] In all the circumstances, I am influenced by the fact that the effect of this injury does cause the plaintiff discomfort of a discernible sort and that occurs not infrequently, both at work and while doing other things.

[33] I am of the view that an appropriate award under this head is $50,000.

Circumstantial Evidence and ICBC Unidentified Motorist Claims

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a Plaintiff’s ICBC Claim alleging that an unidentified motorist caused a significant collision.
In last week’s case (Paguio v. Fraser) the Plaintiff was injured when his scooter collided with another vehicle.  The Plaintiff suffered a “serious head injury” and his ability to give evidence surrounding the circumstances of the crash were limited.
The Plaintiff conceded that the vehicle he collided with did nothing wrong but alleged that an unidentified motorist cut the plaintiff off forcing him into the other vehicle.  Mr. Justice Williams rejected this argument concluding that on a balance of probabilities the evidence did not support such a finding.  Prior to doing so the Court listed the following applicable principles when faced with a claim based on circumstantial evidence:

[60]I must be guided by certain basic concepts that govern the approach that must be taken to the proof of a plaintiff’s case where it rests on a base of circumstantial evidence. In Tweedie v. ICBC, 2002 BCSC 1937, Mr. Justice Wilson provided a helpful discussion of the approach that must be taken to the proof of a plaintiff’s case where it rests on a base of circumstantial evidence and provided reference to the applicable authorities.

[61] The principles as I understand are these:

(a)      Where a case is not proved by direct evidence, the court will carefully examine and consider the relevant circumstantial evidence.

(b)      Circumstantial evidence derives its effect through the process of the trier of fact drawing reasonable inferences. That is a cognitive process whereby, once certain facts are established or proven, then a logical conclusion is considered. It is the process of reasoning from a proven fact or facts to a reasonable, rational and logically legitimate conclusion.

(c)      The drawing of an inference is different than mere conjecture or a guess, no matter how shrewd or plausible that guess might be.

(d)      An inference, once properly drawn, must give rise to a reasonable conviction in the mind of the trier of fact that the element of which proof is necessary is at least more likely than not, or to some greater degree of certainty.

(e)      The plaintiff can succeed in proving his case on the strength of a reasonable inference which gives rise to a conclusion that the element has been proven on a balance of probabilities. If the inference does not support the conclusion to that standard, then the proof is not made out.

[62] In the final analysis, applying these guiding principles, and having examined the evidence carefully, I have concluded that the circumstantial evidence proffered by the plaintiff does not enable me to find that the case has been proven to the necessary standard. The plaintiff has not met the onus of proof he bears to establish his claim and it must therefore stand dismissed.

Tort Reform For The Better: Adding Liquidity to Dry Judgements


Below is a brief article which was first published yesterday at Slaw.ca, one of Canada’s best read and most recognized legal blogs.  For your convenience I republish the article here in its entirety.  If you find this topic of interest I suggest you visit the original article and weigh in on the comments that follow.
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I’ve written many times that the phrase tort ‘reform‘ is often used in association with efforts to strip the rights of injury claimants.  Reform, however, is a neutral concept in and of itself.  Reform simply means change and the change could be for better or worse.  With this in mind  I’d like to share a tort reform idea for the better which recently crossed my mind.  In short the idea is to add a pool of liquidity to rectify the injustice of dry judgement.
The thought crossed my mind as I was reading reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.  In this week’s case (Saether v. Irvine) the Plaintiff was injured when the Defendant battered him.  The consequences were “profound and catastrophic” causing a brain injury that “severely compromised (the plaintiff) in virtually all facets of his life“.  Damages of $1,075,000 were assessed to cover the Plaintiff’s anticipated future care costs alone.  Given the fact that this case involves an intentional tort it is a safe bet that this judgement will be uninsured and likely (at least partially) dry.
Reading this reminded me of a 2005 case (Chow v. Hiscock) where the Court expressly recognized the injustice of dry judgement facing a plaintiff left “in a permanent semi-vegatative state” following a “brutal, unprovoked assault“.  The Plaintiff’s future care costs were anticipated to exceed $4,000,000.  Madam Justice Koensberg made the following comments hoping the Plaintiff would some day be able to receive some of these funds from the uninsured defendants:
[40]           Can I say that this is still a case where punitive damages should be awarded?  If I were to award punitive damages, it would be purely symbolic.  I have heard nothing which indicates that the magnitude of this award or even some small part of it is likely to be payable by any of these three young men.  One can hope that they find a straight path to earn a significant amount of money or that one even wins the lottery, so that the earnings could be available to increase Mr. Johnson’s quality of life.
The law recognizes that those harmed through the fault of others are entitled to reasonable compensation.  When it comes to negligently caused harm defendants are often insured and plaintiffs can collect their judgements.
In cases where Defendants hold inadequate insurance examples can be found where legislatures have intervened to ensure victims can collect on their judgments.  For example, in BC, Section 20 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act provides a pool of $200,000 of available compensation from ICBC for damages caused by uninsured motorists.  A further example is the requirement for BC motorists to purchase a minimum of one million dollars of under-insured motorist protection coverage.
When plaintiffs suffer harm through intentional torts, however, there often is no insurance to protect the wrongdoer or compensate the victim.  This is an unfair reality in Canadian law.  Victims harmed through assault, battery, sexual molestation and other intentional acts are often faced with dry judgments.  When they seek legal advice they are often turned away being told that litigation may not be worth the effort unless the Defendant has deep pockets
There is no justification I can think of making it fair for a car crash victim to be able to collect their judgement from a pool of money created by the government when the victims of crime are left with dry judgments.
The financial well being of a defendant has no bearing on a victim’s right to damages.  If the government has seen fit to create a pool of funds for victims of motor vehicle collisions to collect from surely a similar system can be created to allow victims of intentional torts facing dry judgments.  This is a rough idea.  Thoughts and feedback are welcome from lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

Plaintiff Awarded $9,500 Costs Despite $4,000 Damage Assessement


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, with the “curious result” of costs recovery at over double the amount of assessed damages.
In last week’s case (Kargbo v. Chand) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  ICBC disputed both fault and injury.  At trial the Plaintiff’s claim was accepted and modest damages of $4,000 were awarded.  The Plaintiff sought her costs.  ICBC opposed arguing the Plaintiff did not have sufficient reason to sue in Supreme Court.
Earlier this year the BC Court of Appeal made it clear that more than the value of an ICBC Claim can be considered in deciding whether there is sufficient reason to sue in the Supreme Court.  Mr. Justice Williams went on to canvass factors other than value and concluded that the Plaintiff was entitled to $9,500 in costs under Rule 15-1(15).  The Court provided the following reasons:

[9] The problem ultimately reduces to this: If the Court determines that the plaintiff had sufficient reason for commencing or proceeding in the Supreme Court, she should be entitled to recover costs in accordance with Rule 15-1(15). If the Court finds that there was not sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in this Court, then she is not entitled to recover her costs.

[10] In Reimann v. Aziz, 2007 BCCA 448, the Court of Appeal clarified that the issue has to be analyzed as at the point in time that the plaintiff initiated the action; there is no ongoing obligation to assess the quantum of claim.

[11] I have been provided with a number of decisions where judges of this Court have assessed the circumstances of cases to decide whether or not an order for costs is warranted. Obviously, the plaintiff bears the onus of establishing that there was sufficient reason for filing in the Supreme Court. It is not simply a matter of assessing the anticipated value of the claim. A number of factors have been identified in the cases as being relevant to the issue. These include the following (the list is not intended to be exhaustive):

1.         the legal or factual complexity of the case;

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

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

4.         a bona fide preference for a jury trial;

5.         access to the summary trial procedure available in Supreme Court; and

6.         the need for the plaintiff to have legal counsel, in light of the defendant’s denial of liability, dispute as to causation, injury or loss and allegations of contributory negligence, pre-existing conditions, previous causes and a failure to mitigate.

[12] In the present case, liability was denied and in the circumstances could reasonably have been expected to represent a challenge to prove. As well, the issue of damages had the real potential of being a problem. The plaintiff had a history of prior accidents and had been hospitalized shortly after the accident in question for matters not related to the accident. She was also injured in another more serious accident some several months after the accident at bar. It was the sort of case that a self-represented plaintiff would find daunting no doubt.

[13] Taking those considerations into account, it is my view that this plaintiff had sufficient reason for bringing her proceeding in the Supreme Court.

[14] As a parenthetical observation, it is true that a party such as this plaintiff could elect to pursue the claim in the Provincial Court with legal counsel, although the prospect of incurring the expense to do so without any right to recover court costs is a legitimate factor to consider. As well, where the plaintiff elects to bring suit in the Supreme Court, she runs the real risk of an adverse costs outcome if the action is unsuccessful.

[15] In the circumstances, it is my view that the plaintiff should be entitled to costs in accordance with the Rules of Court. I recognize that might appear to produce a curious result in that the award of costs is substantially greater than the damages that she recovered. However, if the matter is considered fairly and objectively and the relevant rule applied, that result follows.

[16] There is no question that the policy which underpins Rule 14-1(1) is to encourage parties with claims of modest value to bring their action in the Provincial Court, and to provide for a penalty against one who does not. That is consistent with the concept of proportionality which is a foundational consideration of the Court’s Rules.

[17] The clear default position will be that, with respect to claims where the award is less than $25,000, the plaintiff will not be entitled to an award of costs. Nevertheless, there will be situations where there is sufficient reason to bring the action in the Supreme Court. It will be for the Court to examine the circumstances of each particular case to determine whether or not there is sufficient reason.

For more cases addressing sufficient reasons to sue in Supreme Court you can click here to access my archived posts on this topic.

Production of Documents, Forced Authorizations and the New Rules of Court


As previously discussed, the BC Supreme Court Rules require parties to give discovery of relevant documents in their possession or control.  Often times there are relevant documents that are not in the Plaintiff’s possession or control but the Plaintiff has the ability to easily get these documents.  (For example medical records documenting accident related injuries.)  Such records are commonly referred to as “Third Party Records”.
It has been a matter of much judicial debate whether the BC Supreme Court could order a Plaintiff to sign an authorization to consent to the release of Third Party Records with Mr. Justice Hinkson recently finding that the Court did not have this power under the Former Rules.
The first case I’m aware of dealing with issue under the New Rules of Court was released today by the BCSC , New Westminster Registry.   Keeping the uncertainty on-going, Mr. Justice Williams found that the Rules do authorize a Court to force a party to sign authorizations for the release of Third Party Records
In today’s case (Nikolic v. Olsen) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant brought a motion to compel the Plaintiff to sign various authorizations.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that the Court lacked the authority to make such an order.  Mr. Justice Williams disagreed.  The Court provided a lengthy review of the relevant authorities and ultimately provided the following reasons addressing this issue:
[11] There are conflicting judicial authorities respecting the issue raised in this application. The line of jurisprudence which holds that the court cannot make an order requiring a litigant to authorize third party production is, in my view, troubling. For the reasons that follow, I conclude that this Court can make an order requiring a litigant to authorize a third party, whether within or outside this province, to produce records relating to him or her to another litigant. The jurisdiction to do so is based on the Rules of Court

[93]         In British Columbia, relevant non-privileged documents are compellable in a civil action. Full and complete disclosure between or among litigants prior to trial is essential to the truth-seeking function of the litigation process and proper administration of justice.

[94]         This Court has the authority under the former Rules to compel production and to specify the mechanics of its production orders. Rule 26(1.1) permits the court to order a litigant to list documents in his or her power, which may include those held by foreign non-parties. Rule 26(10) empowers the court to order a litigant to produce a document for inspection and copying in the manner it thinks just. Furthermore, R. 1(12) grants the court wide discretionary powers, in the making of orders, to impose terms and conditions and give directions as its thinks just. Read collectively, a master or judge of this Court has the jurisdiction to create the mechanisms by which relevant non-privileged documents in a litigant’s “power” will be produced, including the jurisdiction to order him or her to execute the necessary documentation allowing a record-holder, whether residing in or outside British Columbia, to effect the release of those documents.

[95]         In my view, the following excerpt from para. 110 of Hood J.’s reasons in Lewis is apt:

There is also no doubt that the Court has substantive jurisdiction or power pertaining to the discovery and inspection of documents under Rule 26, particularly the compelling or ordering of production of documents. … In my opinion, the manner in which production is achieved is for the Court. The Court’s substantive jurisdiction or power to compel the production of documents includes the jurisdiction or power to create the mechanisms or the means by which production is made.

[96]         As expressed in the jurisprudence, there are, no doubt, potentially unwieldy implications of a court order compelling authorization of third party production. Given these concerns, such orders should not be granted lightly. In this respect, L. Smith J. in McKay v. Passmore, 2005 BCSC 570, [2005] B.C.J. No. 1232 (QL), offers worthwhile guidance. That was a personal injury case arising from a motor vehicle collision. An application was brought for an order that the plaintiff execute an authorization allowing the defendants to obtain records held by the Manitoba Workers Compensation Board. Her Ladyship held, at para. 36, that while the court has jurisdiction to grant such an application, there was insufficient basis on the evidence to do so. She concluded, at para. 40, that the circumstances of the case before her did not warrant the order sought in light of the R. 26(11) criteria provided by the Court of Appeal in Dufault, which she outlined at para. 38:

1.         The applicant must satisfy the court that the application is not in the nature of a “fishing expedition.”

2.         He or she must show that a person who is not a party to the action has a document or documents in his or her possession that contains information which may relate to a matter in issue.

3.         If the applicant satisfies those criteria, the court should make the order unless there is a compelling reason not to make it (i.e. because a document is privileged or because grounds exist for refusing the application in the interests of persons not parties to the action who might be affected adversely by an order for production and the adverse affect would outweigh the probative value of the document.)

[97]         Obviously these criteria, among other relevant factors, ought to be considered by a court considering an application for an order compelling a litigant to authorize production of documents held by a third party whether located within or outside British Columbia.

[98]         For two examples as to how the McKay/Dufault criteria may apply, see Distinctive Photowork Co. v. Prudential Assurance Co. of England Property and Casualty (Canada) (1994), 98 B.C.L.R. (2d) 316, [1994] B.C.J. No. 3231 (QL) (S.C. Chambers); and Tetz v. Niering, [1996] B.C.J. No. 2019 (QL), 1996 CarswellBC 1887 (S.C. Chambers).

[99]         These cases, although they raise slightly different issues, do not detract from, but rather inform, the basic proposition that where a litigant is under an obligation to make disclosure of documents, then that obligation must be honoured. Where such documents are in the hands of third parties, the usual format will entail the litigant voluntarily agreeing to provide a document authorizing the record holder to release the material, and that will resolve the matter. However, in other cases, where consent is refused, litigants are entitled to seek relief and the court has jurisdiction to enforce the disclosure obligation, specifically by making an order whereby the party whose records are being sought will “consent” to their release. While the wording is unfortunate and has engendered a regrettable state of controversy, the underlying concept is, in my view, straightforward.

[100]     The Olsons have a legitimate interest in obtaining the requested records and I am satisfied that their application is not in the nature of a fishing expedition. I also find that the third parties named by the defendants in their application possess the requested records which relate to a matter or matters in this case. By way of obiter dicta, I note that the common law test for relevance under the former Rules is broader than what seems to be provided by the wording of the current Rules. There are, furthermore, no compelling reasons why the order sought should not be made.

[101]     Accordingly, I order the respondent/plaintiff, Mr. Nikolic, to provide signed authorizations allowing the applicants/defendants, Josiah Olson and Joel Olson, to obtain from the third parties named the records listed in clauses (c), (d), (e) and (f) of the proposed order reproduced at para. 3 of these reasons.

More on the Two Roles of ICBC – Adjusters and Admissions Against Interest

As a monopoly insurer ICBC usually fulfills 2 roles in BC auto injury claims.  First ICBC is responsible for processing claims for Part 7 Benefits.  Second ICBC is usually behind the defence of tort claims against at fault motorist in British Columbia.   For anyone involved in a BC vehicle collision it’s important to appreciate this dual role before contacting ICBC to discuss your claim.  I discussed this earlier this year in the below video:

Since ICBC is in the business of defending tort claims you need to be aware that statements you make to your adjuster can be used against you in your personal injury trial as ‘admissions against interest‘.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Cross v. Cross) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision.   Both the Plaintiff and Defendant were insured with ICBC.   The Plaintiff was disabled from work for several months following the collision.  He dealt with ICBC directly following the crash and discussed his injuries and disability.
At trial ICBC’s adjuster testified about these discussions in support of an argument that the Plaintiff’s wage loss was not entirely due to the collision but also due to other factors.  Mr. Justice Williams rejected this submission and awarded the Plaintiff damages for his wage loss claim.
Despite the lack of success behind the adjusters evidence, this case demonstrates that ICBC adjusters can and do use statements made by individuals against them in the course of a personal injury lawsuit.  The Court provided the following reasons addressing the Plaintiff’s wage loss claim and the adjuster’s evidence:

[27]         There was another point raised by Ms. Chiasson that is relevant to the issue at hand. She reports that, at or near the conclusion of the program, she “discussed return to work plans with Russell and he stated at the present time he does not have transportation to his pre-injury employment and therefore has not contacted his employer regarding a return to work.”

[28]         This is something of a recurring theme for the defence. The insurance adjuster who had conduct of the file testified as to a conversation that she had with the plaintiff, enquiring about his status and his return to work. She says he told her he was not back at work and when she asked why, part of his answer was to the effect that he didn’t have transportation to get there. He also made reference to his doctor’s advice…

[40] Finally, there is the matter of the plaintiff having told Ms. Chiasson and the adjuster that getting to work would be a problem. I accept that there were conversations of that general tenor. However, I also accept the evidence of the plaintiff that he had the means available to him to get to work. The reason he didn’t go back was because his injuries were still active to an extent that they rendered him unable to do the physical work his job required…

[48]         In view of the findings I have made, it follows that the plaintiff is entitled to recover his wage loss from the date of the accident through to the point in time that he returned to work, June 1, 2009.

[49]         Counsel have agreed that the quantum of that loss is $35,767.

More on Formal Settlement Offers – Relevance of Insurance and a Novel Use of Rule 37B


In my continued efforts to write about the development of Rule 37B (the rule that deals with costs consequences after a party beats a formal settlement offer at trial) two cases were released this week further interpreting this rule.
The first case (Ostiguy v. Hui) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2003 BC car crash.  She ultimately represented herself.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC made a formal settlement offer under the old Rule 37 for $30,000.  The Plaintiff did not accept this offer and went to trial.  The Jury awarded the Plaintiff $10,000.   The Defendants brought a motion for costs.
After addressing a technical issue about the offer’s general compliance with the old Rule 37 Mr. Justice Williams decided that the offer was capable of triggering costs consequences under the new Rule 37B.  The Court went on to award the Defendant 60% of their costs from the time that liability was admitted onward.  In reaching this decision the Court held that whether the Defendant was insured with ICBC was not to be considered (an issue the BC Supreme Court cannot agree on and needs to be addressed by the Court of Appeal).
The Court made the following notable comments:
[68] I have no knowledge as to the circumstances of the defendants; I will proceed on the basis that they are ordinary people of ordinary means. I should note parenthetically that, although they were represented by an insurer, it is their circumstances and not those of the insurer which are to be considered…

[71] In this case, the costs which the plaintiff is liable to pay are substantial. That is attributable in significant part to the fact that this litigation dragged on considerably. The plaintiff hired and subsequently discharged two different lawyers before proceeding to act for herself. There were a number of delays. Costs have mounted.

[72] The law is clear that sympathy is not a basis to determine the outcome of matters such as this. Nevertheless, it is quite disconcerting to see the plaintiff’s award of damages for her injury completely obliterated and overshadowed by a costs obligation, and for the consequences in fact to go further, to leave the plaintiff with a huge bill to pay as well.

[73] At the same time, the Court must be cautious that the sound and basic principles that underlie the costs regime are not simply disregarded because the plaintiff chose to represent herself and chose to proceed as she did.

[74] In the final result, the matter requires a balancing of a number of considerations and a significant application of judgment to try and fashion an outcome that is fair in the circumstances. Approaching the task in that fashion, I have decided as follows:

(a)      The effective date of the Offer will be July 14, 2008, when the defendants advised the plaintiff that liability was being admitted.

(b)      Up to July 14, 2008, the plaintiff is entitled to recover from the defendants her costs and disbursements.

(c)      For the time period following July 14, 2008, the defendants are entitled to recover from the plaintiff their disbursements and 60% of their costs.

For my readers not familiar with the potential extent of cost consequences I should point out that on these findings there is a good chance that the Plaintiff, despite being awarded $10,000 by the Jury, would end up owing ICBC money.  When preparing for trial it is imperative that parties consider the potential consequences of formal settlement offers.

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The second case released this week was interesting because the Defendant made what appears to be a novel use of Rule 37B.  Usually parties restrict formal settlement offers to the issues to be addressed at trial.  In this week’s case (Moro v. El Mantari) the Defendant used Rule 37B in a Chambers application.

The parties could not agree on a lot of issues in the lawsuit.  Prior to trial the Parties brought cross motions to be decided in Chambers.  Prior to this pre-trial hearing the Defendant made a formal settlement offer under Rule 37B asking that the Plaintiff consent to various aspects of their motion.

The Defendant was largely successful in Chambers.  The Court was asked to award the Defendant double costs for Chambers because of the formal offer.  In the first case that I’m aware of using Rule 37B in this fashion Mr. Justice Chamberlist agreed that it was a permitted use of the Rule.  Specifically the Court held as follows:

[18] The defendant submits that it should be entitled to double costs on the basis of its offer to settle to the plaintiff made on June 26, 2009.  At that time the defendant asked the plaintiff to consent to items 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 10 of her notice of motion.

[19] The fact is that R. 37 has since 2008 been amended by deleting the subrules that an offer to settle did not apply to interlocutory proceedings.  The overriding fact is that there must be substantial success.  ..

22] Thus R. 37B(4) permits the court to consider an offer to settle when exercising the court’s discretion in relation to costs.

[23] As a result, the fact that the defendant has failed to meet the terms of the offer to settle will no longer necessarily mean that she would be deprived of her double costs.  In various decisions of this court it would appear that an issue which has been discussed in many cases is whether the offer to settle is one that ought reasonably to have been accepted (R. 37B(6)(a))….

[26] The enactment of R. 37B so that it now applies to interlocutory applications as well as trial, demonstrates the purpose of the new rule is to allow an offer to settle to be made, and if I were to follow the plaintiff’s position it would completely ignore the important deterrent function of the rule…

[32] In this case the offer to settle was made on June 26, 2009, and I find that the defendant was substantially successful.  The defendant shall have her costs of her attendance before me on August 27 and 28, 2009, as calculated in accordance with R. 37B, namely double costs.

In my continued efforts to get us all prepared for the New BC Supreme Court Civil 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 these retain their value as precedents.

Contact

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

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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