Tag: New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules

Rule 37B – Formal Settlement Offers and Liability Trials


It is not uncommon for personal injury lawsuits to sever the issues of quantum and liability.  What this means is that with a Court order a lawsuit can proceed on the issue of fault first and leave the issue of the value of the claim for a later date.  This often makes sense in serious injury litigation with contested liability where the cost of proving damages will be expensive and the parties wish to save the money associated with this until its clear who is at fault for an accident.
As readers of this post know Rule 37B permits the Court to reward a successful party in a lawsuit with a double costs award if that party beats a formal settlement offer.  In cases addressing quantum its easy to determine if a formal offer was beat at trial.  You simply look at the numbers.  But can Rule 37B be used in a liability only trial?  Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with this issue for what I believe is the first time.
In today’s case (McLaren v. Rice) the Plaintiff made a personal injury claim against the various defendants.   Liability and quantum were severed.  Before the liability trial proceeded the Plaintiff made the following formal settlement to the Defendants:

The plaintiff, Matthew R.J. McLaren, offers to settle the liability trial in this proceeding on the following terms: that the defendant is 99 percent responsible for the motor vehicle accident of February 26, 2005, in which the plaintiff was a passenger in the vehicle owned and operated by the defendants and costs in accordance with Rule 37B.

The plaintiff reserves the right to bring this offer to the attention of the court or consideration in relation to costs after the court has rendered judgment on all other issues in this proceeding relating to liability for the accident.

This offer was rejected.  The Plaintiff proceeded to trial and was successful with the Court finding that the defendants were jointly and severally liable for the accident.

The Plaintiff brought a motion seeking double costs under Rule 37B.  The Defendants opposed this arguing that when the plaintiff added the words “relating to liability in this proceeding” to the offer it was rendered null because it did not comply with Rule 37B(1)(c)(3) which requires a formal offer to contain the following sentence “the…[name of the party making the offer]…reserves the right to bring this offer to the attention of the court for consideration in relation to costs after the court has rendered judgement on all other issues in this proceeding“.

Mr. Justice Brooke rejected this argument and held that Rule 37B can be used in liability only trials.  The Court provided this short but helpful analysis:

[7] Despite the prescribed formulation in Rule 37B, 1(c)(3) being added to with the words “relating to liability in this proceeding”, I am satisfied that the plaintiff has complied with the definition of offer to settle contained in Rule 37B(1) and the issue is properly before me. On the trial of the quantum issue, it seems to me that Rule 37B may again be invoked. The two aspects of the trial are separate and discrete.

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 this one retain their value as precedents.

Protection of the Public – Holding a Lawyer Personally Liable for Unnecessary Court Costs


Can a lawyer be held personally liable to his client or to the opposing party for Court Costs incurred because of unreasonable steps taken in a lawsuit?  The answer is yes and today the BC Court of Appeal provided lengthy reasons addressing this important issue.
In today’s case (Nazmdeh v. Spraggs) the lawyer represented a client in a personal injury lawsuit.  A number of pre-trial applications for discovery were brought by the defence lawyer and these were resolved through Chambers Hearings.   One of the applications was for interrogatories and another demanded particulars.  The Court granted these motions and held that the lawyer for the Plaintiff “failed to comply with his independent obligations as counsel in response to the interrogatories and demand for particulars…..the lawyer had failed to take positive steps to meet his obligations“.
As a result the lawyer was ordered to personally pay costs to the Defendant.  This order was made under Rule 57(37) which holds as follows:

(37)  Where the court considers that a solicitor for a party has caused costs to be incurred without reasonable cause, or has caused costs to be wasted through delay, neglect or some other fault, the court may do any one or more of the following:

(a)        disallow any fees and disbursements between the solicitor and the solicitor’s client or, where those fees or disbursements have been paid, order that the solicitor repay some or all of them to the client;

(b)        order that the solicitor indemnify his or her client for all or part of any costs that the client has been ordered to pay to another party;

(c)        order that the solicitor be personally liable for all or part of any costs that his or her client has been ordered to pay to another party;

(d)        make any other order that the court considers appropriate.

The Plaintiff’s lawyer challenged this finding and the case was brought before the BC Court of Appeal.  He argued that a lawyer should only face such punishment if his/her conduct was “reprehensible“.
The case was argued before a 5 member panel of the BC High Court and even the Law Society of BC intervened arguing that the Chambers Judge was wrong in making such an order and that it would have a “chilling effect on litigation and on advocacy…and ultimately undermine collegiality“.
The Court of Appeal rejected these arguments and dismissed the appeal.  In doing so the BC High Court provided the following instructive reasons on when a lawyer can be personally responsible for Court Costs under Rule 57(37) for steps taken in a BC Supreme Court Lawsuit:

[101] Prior to the enactment of the Rules, the Supreme Court of British Columbia had power to make orders against lawyers to pay costs personally under the court’s inherent jurisdiction.  Such orders were generally made only in cases of “serious misconduct”. The Rules, particularly Rule 57(30) and its successor Rule 57(37), have, however, expanded the scope of conduct which might support costs orders against lawyers. The Court now has a discretion to order a lawyer to pay costs where he has “caused costs to be incurred without reasonable cause, or has caused costs to be wasted through delay, neglect or some other fault”.

[102] Under Rule 57(37), mere delay and mere neglect may, in some circumstances, be sufficient for such an order against a lawyer. Under the Rule there is no requirement for “serious misconduct”, the standard required under the court’s inherent jurisdiction. The requirement in Young and in Kent of “reprehensible” conduct applies only in cases of orders against a lawyer for special costs. Young and Kent are not authority for requiring such a standard when making an order for party and party costs against a lawyer. In such circumstances, the lower standard mandated by the Rule is sufficient.

[103] The power to make an order for costs against a lawyer personally is discretionary. As the plain meaning of the Rule and the case law indicate, the power can be exercised on the judge’s own volition, at the instigation of the client, or at the instigation of the opposing party. However, while the discretion is broad, it is, as it has always been, a power to be exercised with restraint. All cases are consistent in holding that the power, whatever its source, is to be used sparingly and only in rare or exceptional cases.

[104] The restraint required in the exercise of the court’s discretion is not to be confused with the standard of conduct which may support its use. Care and restraint are called for because whether the unsuccessful party or his lawyer caused the costs to be wasted may not always be clear, and lawyer and client privilege is always deserving of a high degree of protection.

[105] Nothing in these reasons is a comment upon the immunity of barristers for their conduct in court. This case is not about contempt, abuse of process or similar egregious conduct. It concerns only what a lawyer did or did not do in response to interrogatories and a demand for particulars.

[106] In my respectful view, the learned chambers judge did not err in interpreting the rule according to the plain meaning of its words.

Now to Cross-Reference:  Do the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules which come into force change this judgment?  Probably not.  Rule 57(37) is reproduced with almost identical language and can be found at Rule 14-1(33) of the New Rules.

The ability of parties to use interrogatories as a means of pre-trial discovery has been restricted under the New Rules so this triggering event is unlikely to give rise to costs consequences however the test set out by the BC Court of Appeal will likely remain good law after the new Rules come into force.

Can a Defendant Force a Case Into Rule 68?


Interesting reasons were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with a unique issue; can a Defendant force a case into Rule 68 against the Plaintiff’s wishes?
By way of brief background Rule 68 is the ‘proportionality‘ rule and is mandatory for all injury cases under $100,000.
In British Columbia Plaintiff’s don’t need to plead the value of their claim.  Ultimately only the Plaintiff knows what final number they will be seeking at trial and this information does not have to be shared with the Defendant ahead of time.  Appreciating this, can a Plaintiff simply defeat a Defence application to put a case into Rule 68 by claiming he will seek more than $100,000 in total damages at trial?
In today’s case (Singleton v. O’Neil) this issue was dealt with.  The Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of an alleged assault which occurred on July 11, 2009.  He prosecuted his claim in the usual course (outside of Rule 68) and set the matter for a 5 day Jury Trial.   The Defendant’s opposed this and brought a motion to force the case into Rule 68 saying it was clearly worth less than $100,000 and that the rule was mandatory in these circumstances.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that he is claiming in excess of $100,000.
Madam Justice Gerow granted the motion finding that the case was likely worth less than $100,000 and cannot “justify the expense of a five day jury trial“.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[13] Mr. Singleton did not provide any authorities which support his position that an award for the types of injuries he suffered and his treatment by the defendants will exceed $100,000. As well, he has not presented any authority for his position that it is the plaintiff who determines whether the claim should be brought under Rule 68. I note that there appears to be no such limitation in the rules. Rule 68(7) provides that on the application of any party, or as result of the court’s own application, an order may be made that the rule does not apply to an action. In other words, it is not up to only one of the parties to determine whether or not Rule 68 applies.

[14] The rule is mandatory in nature and applies to all claims which fall into subrule (2). In my view, the evidence to date and the case law to which I have been referred, supports the defendants’ position that the claim being advanced by Mr. Singleton is one which falls within Rule 68. Most of the pre-trial procedure has been completed, and the examinations for discovery which have been conducted have fallen within the time limits set out in Rule 68. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendants are suggesting they will require experts in addition to those allowed under the rule.

[15] As set out in subrule (13), the overarching consideration in determining applications under Rule 68 is proportionality. The court must consider what is reasonable in relation to the amount at issue in the action.

[16] As in Berenjian and Uribe v. Magnus, 2009 BCSC 1230, a jury trial is being sought by the party opposing the application for an order that the matter falls within Rule 68. Based on the affidavit material, I have concluded that the claim being advanced by Mr. Singleton is relatively simple and straightforward, and is not one that can justify the expense of a five day jury trial.

[17] For the forgoing reasons, I have determined it is appropriate to make the order sought by the defendants. Accordingly, I am making an order that this matter proceed under Rule 68, and the trial be before a judge alone.

This is an interesting judgement because it seems to require that a Plaintiff adduce evidence of the likely value of their claim to defeat such a motion.

As readers of this blog know the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules come into force on July 1, 2010.  Rule 68 is repealed under the new rules but parts of it survive in Rule 15.  I’ve previously written about this and you can find my analysis here.  In short, Rule 15 incorporates the mandatory language of Rule 68 for personal injury claims under $100,000 so this case will likely retain its value as a precedent after the new rules take effect.

BC Injury Claims and Document Disclosure – Can a Court Order a Plaintiff to "Consent"?

Important reasons for judgement came to my attention today dealing with discovery of documents in BC Injury Litigation.
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”.
When a Defendant requests Third Party Records Plaintiff’s often consent, obtain the documents, and then exchange a copy of the relevant records.  When the parties don’t consent a Court Motion can be brought.
With this background in mind today’s case dealt with an important topic; when a motion for Third Party Records is brought can the Court order that the Plaintiff sign authorizations to allow the Defendant to get the records directly?  Mr. Justice Hinkson held that such a shortcut is not allowed under the Rules of Court.
In today’s case (Stead v. Brown) the Defendant “brought an application to require the plaintiff to execute consent forms for the production of the records of some ten doctors, three hospitals, two groups of physiotherapists, WorkSafeBC, the Ministry of Housing, and Service Canada“.
The Plaintiff opposed the application on the basis that the Court lacked the power to make such an order.  Mr. Justice Hinkson agreed and held that even if the requests were relevant a Court could not compel disclosure in this fashion, instead the Defendant would have to follow the procedure set out in Rule 26(11) of the BC Supreme Court Rules.
In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Hinkson was referred to the BC Court of Appeal decision Peel Financial Holdings Ltd. v. Western Delta Lands where the BC High Court held that “The Supreme Court judge cited no authority fo rhis power to compel a party to consent, and no authority for such a power was provided to us.  As I jhave said, a consent given pursuant to an order is a contradiciton in terms“.
Mr. Justice Hinkson went on to find that while there was another case (Lewis v. Frye) which held that a Supreme Court judge could compel a party to sign an authorization, that decision was wrong.  Specifically Mr. Justice Hinkson held as follows:
Regrettably the decision of the Court of Appeal in Peel Financial Holdings Ltd. was not considered which Hood J. and I am persuaded that the binding nature of that authority if considered would have altered the conclusion reached by him had the authority been brought to his attention.
I conclude that the plaintiff in this case cannot be ordered to execute authorizations for the release of records in the (hands) of third parties.  The mechanism that must be pursued in order to obtain the hospital and doctors’ records is pursuant to Rule 26(11) of the Rules of Court.
This decision is important because it clarifies the procedures that must be used when Defendants in Injury Lawsuits wish to obtain the records in the hands of Third Parties and the Plaintiff does not consent.  Time will tell whether the New Rules of Court which soon come into force will effect this reasoning.

More on Rule 37B – The Conduct of the Parties as a Factor

Further to my numerous posts revieiwng BC Supreme Court cases interpreting and applying Rule 37B following an injury claims trial, reasons for judgement were released today dealing with a unique issue; in exercising discretion under the Rule can the Court consider the conduct of the successful litigant?
In today’s case (Lakhani v. Elliott) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 car crash.  Before trial the Plaintiff made a formal offer to settle her case under Rule 37B for $95,000 plus costs and disbursements.
While the Plaintiff did not obtain all the compensation she sought at trial she fared well enough to beat her formal offer.  Specifically, after an 11 day trial Mr. Justice Voith awarded the Plaintiff just over $105,000 in total damages (You can click here to read my post summarizing the trial findings).
Despite the Plaintiff’s relative success at trial all did not go smoothly.  Mr. Justice Voith made some damaging findings with respect to her credibility.  Some of the highlights of these findings were as follows:

[33]      The defendants asserted that Mrs. Lakhani’s credibility was suspect. I agree in significant measure. I believe there are a number of distinct factors that have caused me to question, in some cases reject, and in other cases to significantly discount her evidence. In the main, I find that Mrs. Lakhani has overstated her symptoms resulting from the Accident; downplayed the significance of her 2001 workplace injury; and has been untruthful regarding the Accident’s effect on her graduation from nursing school. I will discuss these concerns in turn…

[40]      I believe that Mrs. Lakhani has tended to considerably overstate the severity of the symptoms that she suffers from as a result of the Accident….

[46]      For the plaintiff to assert that she has routinely and consistently suffered from pain, from the date of the Accident to the trial, which approaches the worst pain possible is not tenable. For her to describe her pain in terms which would be comparable to that of patients who are heavily medicated to assist with their pain management or who are inextremis goes beyond mere subjectivity or imprecision. It is instead either so inaccurate a description as to be of no value or it is a description intended to overstate. In either case it is not a description that can be relied upon….

[51]      The second significant concern with the plaintiff’s evidence was a tendency to downplay the significance of her 2001 workplace injury or to suggest some improvement in her symptoms in relation to that injury prior to the Accident…

[54]      Indeed Mrs. Lakhani sought broadly to suggest that in late 2004 she reclaimed or reassumed control of her life. She said this was so with respect to spending time with her sister, with respect to gardening and even with respect to her household activities. This too is all inconsistent with the objective record of what she told others she could do, with the medical assessment that her condition had plateaued or with her admission that things had become “as good as they were going to get”…

[59]      Quite simply the overall picture which the plaintiff sought to paint with her evidence was one where the very significant “life altering changes” brought on by her low back injury occupied little or no space. This absence of balance in her evidence had the affect of considerably detracting from its weight.

[60]      A third concern with Mrs. Lakhani’s evidence arises from having testified that the Accident caused her to graduate two terms later than she otherwise would have. Specifically, Mrs. Lakhani said that the pain and difficulty associated with the Accident caused her to skip the May to August 2005, as well as the January to April 2007 academic terms. This is not credible on an objective basis…

[66]      Plaintiff’s counsel sought to persuade me that an eight month delay in Mrs. Lakhani’s graduation was a very modest component of the plaintiff’s claim and not one that would cause the plaintiff to be less than forthright. In my view, however, the focus of the plaintiff’s evidence was not designed to obtain the modest financial benefit that receiving her degree earlier would have generated, but rather to impress upon the court the ongoing severity of her injuries. Quite apart from her motivation, the documents I’ve referred to as well as the admissions she made in cross examination, simply do not accord with the evidence she first gave.

With this background at hand the Plaintiff brought an application for double costs under Rule 37B.  The Defendants opposed and argued that given the Plaintiff’s “failure to be forthright at trial” the Court should not exercise its discretion to award the Plaintiff double costs.  Mr. Justice Voith agreed and provided the following analysis:

0] While the dominant objective of Rule 37B, found under the heading “Offers of Settlement”, is likely to promote early or reasonable settlement, additional factors, and in particular the conduct or honesty of one of the parties, can be relevant in considering whether to make an order of double costs under 37B(5)(b). This is apparent from numerous sources…
[13] Second, both the permissive nature of Rule 37B(5), which establishes that the new rule does not purport to create any automatic double cost consequences, and the non-exhaustive list of factors in Rule 37B(6) acknowledge the flexibility inherent in Rule 37B and the prospect that the Rule is amenable to furthering legitimate policy objectives apart from settlement…

[15] It is important to emphasize that in this case there is no issue of depriving the plaintiff of the ordinary costs to which she is entitled or of any award of special costs being made against her. Instead, the only issue is whether she should be entitled to double costs in light of various findings that I made in my Reasons for Judgment.

[16] Having regard to the foregoing authorities, and the underlying rationale that drives them, I can see no principled reason why a lack of candour or probity on the part of a party who gives evidence at trial should not constitute an “other factor the court considers appropriate” under Rule 37B(6)(d) in any potential award of double costs. An award of double costs, or a refusal to award such costs, is one of the means available to a court of signalling to litigants the types of conduct or behaviour it considers as either worthy of promotion or, conversely, as worthy of rebuke…

[20]        The same considerations apply to a party whose evidence is found by a court to be dishonest or designed to exaggerate or inflate a claim. Such a party should understand the seriousness with which that conduct will be regarded. It should similarly understand the potential consequences of that conduct, including its relevance to an award of double costs that the party might otherwise be entitled to.

[21]        In making these comments I am mindful that there are a great many cases where a party’s evidence is not accepted by the court for a variety of reasons. In many cases a party’s best recollection may simply not accord with other objective evidence. A party’s candid evidence may not, in light of the expert evidence, be accepted. Indeed it is not remarkable or unusual for a party to place a somewhat positive slant on given events. The mere fact that a party’s evidence is not accepted by the court, without more, does not engage the considerations I have identified. There is nothing in the conduct of such a party that warrants any reproach or criticism. It is, instead, the natural result of all cases where competing memories or competing versions of given events require resolution…

[24] In this case, the specific findings I referred to go beyond the “normal trial process” and do extend to a finding that the plaintiff sought to mislead the court and to significantly exaggerate the claim being advanced. Such conduct is worthy of censure and, in the circumstances of this case, disentitles the plaintiff to the award of double costs that she seeks.

This case serves as an important reminder of the crucial role that Plaintiff credibility plays in injury litigation.
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 this one retain their value as precedents.

ICBC Injury Claims, Trials and Adjournments – Let's Be Reasonable

Often times when a BC Supreme Court trial date approaches in an ICBC Injury Claim there are reasons why one party would like to adjourn the trial.  Key witnesses can be unavailable, perhaps the case is not quantifiable due to ongoing medical investigations or maybe one side is simply not prepared.
Whatever the reason if the parties don’t consent an application can be brought to a Supreme Court Judge or Master requesting an adjournment pursuant to Rule 39(9) which holds that “The court may order the adjournment of a trial or fix the date of trial of an action or issue, or order that a trial shall take precedence over another trial“.
The legal test for adjournment applications has long been established and it is clear that courts have the discretion to adjourn a trial.  In exercising this discretion the Court must take into account the “interests of justice”. The interests of justice are determined by ‘balancing the interests of the parties, which is a difficult and delicate matter requiring a careful consideration of all the elements of the case‘.
With this introduction out of the way that brings me to the topic of today’s post.  What if a trial needs to be adjourned for very clear and obvious reasons but the opposing side does not consent?  Unreported reasons for judgement came to my attention today dealing with such a scenario.
In this case (Davis v. Clark, BCSC Chilliwack Registry, June 8, 2009) the Plaintiff’s personal injury claim was set for trial.  Fault was admitted leaving the court to only deal with the issue of damages (value of the personal injury claim).  The trial date, unfortunately, was set on the same date that the Plaintiff’s lawyers daughter was being married.  The Plaintiff was content to have the trial adjourned but the Defendant refused to consent.  A motion was brought asking for an adjournment and it was granted.  The Court went further, however, and ordered that the Defendants pay the Plaintiff $703 in costs ‘forthwith‘ for their unreasonable refusal to consent.
Master Baker had the following to say:
Anyway, in the case before me, liability is not in issue.  It is admitted.  I just do not see there is any prejudice to the defence, but, with respect, it strikes me as just an eminently reasonable request on the part of the plaintiff to adjourn this.  I wonder where litigation is going when someone says, “Look, my child is getting married and I want an adjournment,” and it is refused.  I find that unacceptable.  It frustrates and angers me, frankly.  I just wonder where it is going…The order will go.  Costs in any event payable forthwith.”
Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for an adjournment and sometimes there are not.  This case, however, demonstrates that where there is a very reasonable request for an adjournment and it is unreasonably refused the Court can punish the unreasonable party with costs payable forthwith.
Note:  Rule 39(9) will be kept intact when the New BC Supreme Court Rules come into force on July 1, 2010 and can be found at Rule 12-1(9).

Slip and Fall Accidents in BC – What Does it Take For a Successful Lawsuit?


When you slip and fall and get injured on someone else’s property are you entitled to compensation?  The answer is not necessarily.
Injury in a slip and fall accident is only half of the equation.   The other half is fault.  The ‘occupier‘ of the property (or another defendant who owes you a duty of care) needs to be at fault for the slip and fall otherwise no successful claim for compensation can be brought.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this area of the law.
In today’s case (Schray v. Jim Pattison Industries Ltd.) the Plaintiff fell (apparently on water) at a Save on Foods Grocery Store which was owned and operated by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sued for her injuries alleging that the Defendant was at fault.  The Defendant brought a motion under Rule 18-A of the BC Supreme Court Rules to dismiss the case.  Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey denied the Defendant’s motion finding that the case was not suitable for summary dismissal.  Before reaching this conclusion, however, the Court summarized some of the legal principles behind a successful slip and fall lawsuit.   I reproduce these here for your convenience:

[21]        I agree that the prior summary trial judge set out the correct law in the previous application at paras. 5-10, as follows:

[5]        The duties of an occupier are set out in s. 3 of the Occupier’s Liability Act:

3(1)      An occupier of premises owes a duty to take that care that in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that a person, and the person’s property, on the premises, and property on the premises of a person, whether or not that person personally enters on the premises, will be reasonably safe in using the premises.

(2)        The duty of care referred to in subsection (1) applies in relation to the

(a)      condition of the premises,

(b)      activities on the premises, or

(c)      conduct of third parties on the premises.

[6]        The Act does not create a presumption of negligence against an occupier whenever a person is injured on the premises.  To establish liability, a plaintiff must point to “some act (or some failure to act) on the part of the occupier which caused the [plaintiff’s] injury”: Bauman v. Stein (1991), 78 D.L.R. (4th) 118 at 127 (B.C.C.A.).

[7]        A similar test applies under the common law.

[8]        An occupier’s duty of care does not require the occupier to remove every possibility of danger.  The test is one of reasonableness, not perfection.  Thus, an occupier may avoid liability if it establishes that it had in place a reasonable system of inspection:  Carlson v. Canada Safeway Ltd. (1983), 47 B.C.L.R. 252 (C.A.).

[9]        The plaintiff also bears the burden of proving that the hazard in question caused the injury: Keraiff v. Grunerud (1990), 43 B.C.L.R. (2d) 228, 67 D.L.R. (4th) 475 (C.A.).

[10]      An occupier’s duty under the Act in relation to slips and falls in grocery stores was described as follows by Trainor J. in Rees v. B.C. Place (25 November 1986), Vancouver C850843 (B.C.S.C.) (quoted with approval by Hutcheon J.A. in Coulson v. Canada Safeway Ltd. (1988), 32 B.C.L.R. (2d) 212 at 214, [1989] 2 W.W.R. 264 (C.A.)):

The proceedings are brought under the Occupier’s Liability Act and that Act provides that an occupier has a duty to take that care that is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to see that a person, in using the premises, will be reasonably safe.

The first requirement to satisfy that obligation is to take the kind of steps that were taken by the Defendants here to put into place a system to safeguard against dangerous substances being allowed to remain on the surface of the concourse. And then secondly to be sure that there was compliance by the people who were carrying out that responsibility with the system in place.

The bottom line is that the issue of fault is key.  When considering whether to sue for a slip and fall injury thought should be put to the issue of what the defendant did wrong to cause the incident or should have done to prevent it.

In my continued efforts to cross-reference the current BC Rules of Court with the soon to be in force New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules I will point out that Rule 18-A is kept intact under the new Rules and is reproduced almost identically at Rule 9-7 “Summary Trial“.

Removing a Claim from Rule 68 – Criteria To Be Considered


As readers of this blog know Rule 68 is a ‘proportionality‘ based rule which was brought in a few years ago and was intended to be mandatory to certain claims worth $100,000 or less in the BC Supreme Court.
Rule 68 has not been particularly successful and many injury lawyers have avoided this rule whenever possible due to its perceived shortcomings.  This rule is going to be wiped from the books when the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules take effect on July 1, 2010.  Rule 68 will be blended with the New Rule 15 which really combines the best of our current alternative litigation rules.
Despite Rule 68’s mandatory nature, Rule 68(7) permits parties to get out of Rule 68 if a Court “so orders“.
So what factors will a court considering in removing a case from the rule?  Reasons for judgement were published today on the BC Supreme Court website dealing with this issue for what I believe is the first time.
In today’s case (The Board of Trustees of School District No. 41 v. Crane Canada Co.) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of allegedly faulty bathroom fixtures.  The case was worth less than $100,000 but the Defendant’s wanted it removed from Rule 68.  They applied for an order under Rule 68(7) and were successful.  In removing the case from Rule 68 Mr. Justice Groves provided a list of non-exhaustive factors that could be considered on such applications, specifically the Court held as follows:

14] Unfortunately, the criteria to apply to an application to remove a case from Rule 68 has not been effectively resolved by the case law as of yet.

[15] On these facts, a number of considerations are appropriately applied to the consideration of whether or not a case should be removed from Rule 68.

[16] The following discussion is not meant to be exclusive.  It is somewhat factual driven, as must all the cases be.  It is not the final word on or is it intended to be a definitive word on when Rule 68 is not appropriate to litigation.

[17] Of note first is that Rule 68 has the $100,000 cap.  That does not mean all case under $100,000 are appropriately litigated under Rule 68.  There are many types of cases which fall within the $100,000 cap and based on a simple analysis of complexity it may be inappropriate to allow a case to continue under Rule 68.

[18] Here is an example.  A motor vehicle case which is under $100,000 which involves only an assessment of non-pecuniary damages is clearly a case in which Rule 68 should apply.  That, I am probably going out on a limb here to say, is the type of case that Rule 68 was clearly designed to manage.  A straightforward piece of litigation.

[19] However, sticking within the $100,000 criteria and the motor vehicle scenario, there are cases in which a claim for damages from a motor vehicle accident might be under $100,000 but it would not be appropriate for them to continue under Rule 68.  That would be a case perhaps where both liability and damages are in dispute and expert evidence is required on both those issues.  Additionally, the damages may be under $100,000 but may involve non-pecuniary damages, past wage loss, cost of future care and future lost opportunity.  Though all those heads of damages may still work out to a grand total of damages of less than $100,000, that type of case with a liability and damage component is clearly one which is in my view too complex and requiring too many potential streams of evidence and expert evidence for it to logically continue under a Rule 68 model.

[20] A second consideration that the courts should take in determining whether or not Rule 68 still should apply is whether or not the issues between the parties are of interest only to them or whether or not there is some legal or juristic significance to the litigation.  Clearly a dispute between two people about a contract, a property dispute between two neighbours, a simple motor vehicle case, are cases in which the issues between the parties are of interest only to those parties and likely do not have any long-term legal or juristic significance.  Case which have long term consequences to litigants or far reaching juristic significance may not.

[21] Thirdly, a consideration about removal should be whether or not moving the case to the regular stream would have the effect of putting an end to the litigation because of cost and not allowing the parties to actually pursue their litigation because Rule 68 is not open to them.

[22] With those non-exclusive approach, I now turn to an analysis of this case…

While Rule 68 is being abolished soon this case may still retain some value as a precedent under the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules as Rule 15-1(6) the ‘fast track’ rule contains a similar subrule about removing a case from fast track litigation if a Court ‘so orders

More on BC Injury Claims and Multiple Defence Medical Exams


Further to my recent post on this topic it is well settled that the BC Supreme Court can order that a Plaintiff undergo multiple defence medical exams in a Personal Injury Claim depending on the circumstances of any particular case.
There are some limitations on this and one such restriction relates to having the same injury reassessed when nothing has changed since an initial defence examination.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, demonstrating this.
In this week’s case (Bidgood v. Kostman) the Plaintiff was involved in a personal injury lawsuit.   The Plaintiff consented to being examined by an orthopaedic surgeon at the request of the Defendant.  This surgeon provided a report commenting on the Plaintiff’s injuries.   As the lawsuit progressed the Plaintiff exchanged the medical reports that she wished to rely on to the Defendants as required by the Rules of Court.  These reports commented on the Plaintiff’s chronic myofascial pain.  This prompted the Defence to seek a second medical exam, this time with a physiatrist.  The Plaintiff did not consent to this and a Court motion was brought to compel attendance.
The Defence argued that they needed the additional exam to assess the allegation of chronic myofascial pain.    Master McCallum of the BC Supreme Court rejected the motion finding that the Defendant had a proper opportunity to assess this alleged injury when they had their first defence medical exam.  Specifically Master McCallum noted the following:



[7] The authorities are clear, and there is no real dispute between counsel here. The court can order any number of reports by nominees of a party, but in this case, in order to have an additional report on this issue of myofascial or soft tissue pain, there has to be some evidence that something has changed. There is no such evidence. The diagnosis and findings of Dr. Wahl in his report are remarkably similar to the reports that he had when he saw the plaintiff. They are remarkably similar to the reports that have been delivered later, and particularly Filbey’s report. It is clear that nothing has changed in the plaintiff’s symptomology. There is no suggestion here that Dr. Wahl made a comment that she should be seen by someone else as he was unable to make findings of fact with respect to what was troubling her or could not make a diagnosis. None of that is found in Wahl’s report. It is simply the case that the defendants now wish to have the matching specialist, as Lofgren says in her affidavit, because the defendants believe that Dr. Wahl’s report may somehow not stand up to Dr. Filbey’s report.  There is no evidence of that. There is no evidence that an orthopedic surgeon could not make findings in the way he did. There is no evidence that Dr. Filbey is somehow better off to report on the findings that he made. That is simply not the case.

[8] The plaintiff may be right when she says that the defendants have an expert whose report does not favour the defendants’ case particularly, and that a further report may aid them more than Dr. Wahl’s report. This is not a case where the defendants are in a position of inequality or the defendants are prejudiced by whatever the plaintiff has done in the time between Dr. Wahl’s report and the 40A deadline. None of that occurred. The prejudice will occur if the examination by Dr. Hirsch, the further report, goes ahead because that will be, as the plaintiff says, fresh evidence on this issue to which they will feel obliged to respond. If the defendants want a rebuttal report, then the defendants are entitled to obtain one. They do not need to have the plaintiff examined to accomplish that.

[9] The application for the examination by Hirsch is dismissed. In the circumstances ?? we do not have a liability problem here, do we, so the plaintiff will get her costs in any event.

As readers of this blog know the BC Supreme Court Rules are being overhauled in July 2010.  The Court will continue to have the power to order multiple medical exams in particular circumstances but one thing that will change is that the concept of ‘proportionality’ will be introduced into the analysis.  It will be interesting to see how this principle affects the law of multiple defence medical exams in ICBC and other BC Personal Injury Litigation.

Defence Medical Exams – BCSC More Than Just A "Rubber Stamp"


As readers of this blog know when people sue for damages in the BC Supreme Court as a result of an Injury Claim they give up certain privacy rights.  Documents need to be disclosed to opposing counsel, examinations for discovery can be compelled, even ‘independent‘ medical exams can be ordered.
In the course of an Injury Claim Rule 30 of the BC Supreme Court Rules permits a Court to order that a Plaintiff undergo a Defence Medical Exam(DME) in order to “level the playing field“.   It is generally accepted that at least one DME will be ordered by the Court if requested in a typical personal injury claim.  Such an order, however, is not an automatic right and reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Chapman v. Magee) the Plaintiff was injured in “a reasonably nasty motor vehicle accident involving…a car and a motorcycle“.  The Injuries included a flailed chest and a broken ankle.
The Defence lawyer asked that the Plaintiff attend a defence medical exam with a respirologist and an orthopaedic surgeon.   The Plaintiff’s lawyer did not consent and a court motion was brought to compel attendance.  Master Caldwell dismissed the application finding that the materials in support were “significantly wanting“.    The Court noted that while the evidentiary burden on these applications is not high the Court is not a ‘rubber stamp‘ and some evidence needs to be tendered.  Specifically Master Caldwell stated:

There is nothing in the material where counsel opines as to the need for these reports or these examinations to be done, which, as I see the case authority, and in particular, Astels, para. 23, where the court says:

In addition to the paralegal’s affidavit, there was also in evidence a letter from counsel for the defendants to counsel for the plaintiff concerning the proposed medical examination in which counsel for the defendant said:

You will be asking the court to retrospectively decide whether or not the plaintiff was totally disabled the date the action was commenced.  Clearly medical opinion in that regard is relevant.

[5] He is opining there as counsel as to the importance and purpose of the Rule 30 examinations.  In my view, that sets out a bare minimum, and I do not want to be overly technical because it may or may not be efficient to go on that basis, but in my view there is not a scintilla of evidence here from counsel or otherwise as to the use that this information would be put to.  I can certainly speculate and it would appear from the pleadings that I could speculate as to what use it might be made, but far and away from what the minimum level is, it would be nice on these applications to have letters or some kind of material from a doctor opining as to why they need to see the person.  That certainly goes beyond what would be needed, but in my view, Astels puts down a bare minimum.

[6] And as I say, I may be being overly technical, but I do not think so.  These are not rubber-stamp applications and they cannot become rubber-stamp applications.  There must be some substance relating to what this information is going to be used for and what the focus is going to be.  And, frankly, having gone over the lunch hour and again read the letters, I can find no such supporting evidence in the material filed by the defendant.

[7] On that basis, this application for today by the defendants is dismissed.  It is dismissed without prejudice to their right to re-bring the application on proper material because I think there may be something out there and I think Rule 1(5) does say “on the merits” and it should not be just simply a technical slam-dunk there.  But the application on the basis of the material before me has to be dismissed in my respectful view.  It has to be dismissed on the basis that costs will be to the plaintiff in any event of the cause on this because the material brought by the defence simply is not adequate.  The issue of costs in subsequent application, should the defence seek to bring such an application, can be dealt with by the court that hears that application.

As with all civil procedure cases I will cross reference this with the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules.  Rule 30 is replaced with Rule 7-6 and the wording is almost identical under the new rules making precedents such as this one useful under the soon to be in place new system.

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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