With Canada Day comes a big change in the British Columbia legal landscape. The New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules are now officially in force. You can click here to read the summary I posted several months ago highlighting some of the biggest changes under the New Rules.
For those of you still getting up to speed on the New Rules, you can access them here.
For those of you that are members of The Trial Lawyers Association of BC I suggest you log in to TLABC’s website and click on the “www.tlabc.org/CourtRules” link which can be found under the heading “Recent News“.
The TLABC Rules Committe has done a great job summarizing the New Rules and highlighting the key differences between the New Rules and the old ones along with making some useful suggestions and tips for anticipated issues that lawyers and clients may face under the New Rules.
Lastly, a table of concordance can be found at the Attorney General of BC’s website.
For my part I will continue to post about BC Supreme Court judgments interpreting and applying the New Rules with a particular focus on cases dealing with Fast Track Litigation, Expert Reports and the concept of Proportionality. If anyone is aware of a case of particular interest that you’d like me to discuss on the BC Injury Law Blog feel free to contact me directly.
Tag: New BC Supreme Court Rules
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:
 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”.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
(Please note the topic discussed in this post should be reviewed keeping a subsequent October 2010 BC Court of Appeal in mind)
X-rays, CT Scans, Bone Scan and MRI’s are routinely used in the diagnosis of traumatic injury and accordingly the findings of these diagnostic tests are frequently used at trial by personal injury lawyers.
Strictly speaking, however, the findings of radiologists interpreting the raw data generated by these tests are opinions and opinion evidence needs to comply with the Rules of Court to be admissible. If an MRI shows a traumatic injury it is not good enough to show up at trial with only the radiologists consultation report in hand. If you want the Court to rely on the radiologists findings of injury the reports need to be served in compliance with Rule 40A (Rule 40A is being overhauled in July 2010 and you can click here to read my previous article discussing this) Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court showing this legal principle in action.
In today’s case (Wittich v. Bob) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 BC Car Crash near Merritt, BC. She sued for her injuries seeking up to some $800,000 in damages. She claimed various accident related injuries including a herniated disc at C5-6. In support of this claim two CT Scan Reports were entered into evidence, the first taken before the crash and the second after the crash. The later scan was “interpreted by the radiologist as showing….a c56 level …herniated disc“.
The radiologist’s consultation report did not comply with Rule 40A. Accordingly the report was only admitted for the fact that the diagnosis was made but not for the truth of the opinion. Ultimately the court did not make a finding that the herniated disc was caused by the car crash. Madam Justice Bruce summarized and applied the law to the facts of this case as follows:
 Of particular concern is the plaintiff’s failure to call any medical opinion evidence to support a finding that she suffered a herniated disc at C5-6 during the accident. As part of Dr. Grist’s clinical records, Mrs. Wittich entered two CT scan reports; one taken prior to the collision and one taken shortly thereafter. While the later scan was interpreted by the radiologist as showing a change from disc degeneration at the C5-6 level to a herniated disc that was impinging on the nerves of the spinal canal, this evidence cannot be regarded as expert medical opinion. These reports do not comply with Rule 40 and contain no indication of the radiologist’s qualifications and expertise to make these findings. Thus they are only admissible for the fact that this diagnosis was made and not for the truth of their contents.
 Moreover, even if I were to accept these reports as expert opinion evidence, there is the cogent evidence of Dr. Maloon, an orthopaedic surgeon, which supports a contrary finding as to the existence of a disc herniation. Dr. Maloon provided a detailed explanation for his conclusion that Mrs. Wittich did not suffer from a herniated disc, which included factors related to his physical examination of Mrs. Wittich and the symptoms she presented with at the time of his examination and interview. Dr. Maloon was qualified as an expert in the field of orthopaedic surgery and qualified to give opinion evidence as to the existence, cause and prognosis of spinal cord injuries. His evidence was thoroughly tested in cross examination and held up to scrutiny. In my view, it would be in the most unusual circumstances that the court would prefer the radiologist’s report to the evidence to that of Dr. Maloon and I find there are no such circumstances in this case. There is no evidence of the radiologist’s qualifications or expertise and no explanation of the reasons underlying his diagnosis.
 As a consequence, I find there is really no medical evidence before the court that Mrs. Wittich suffered any injuries to her neck apart from soft tissue complaints. In this regard, it was Dr. Maloon’s evidence that she likely experienced such injuries in the accident, but he was unable to specify which tissues (muscles, ligaments, or facet joints) were damaged based on Mrs. Wittich’s subjective reporting of vague pain symptoms.
The Plaintiff’s claim was largely dismissed and damages of just over $30,000 were awarded. This case serves as a reminder that if the findings of a radiologist make up an important part of your personal injury case the evidence has to be served in compliance with the rules governing expert opinion evidence.
Further to my previous post about parties flip-flopping on their choice to have a Trial by Jury in a BC Injury Claim reasons for judgement were released today considering the issue of “whether or not a party who has taken the necessary two steps to require a trial by jury…can change that mode of election before the trial commences“.
In today’s case (Iskum v. Badali) the Plaintiff was involved in two motor vehicle collisions. The Plaintiff sued and both cases were set for trial. The defence lawyers in each lawsuit filed Jury Notices within the time frames required. The Defendants paid the Jury fees as required by the Rules of Court. Late in the litigation new defence lawyers were appointed and 10 days before trial they told the Plaintiff’s lawyer that they intended to have this matter tried before a judge without a jury. The Plaintiff objected arguing that it was too late for the defendant to change their mind.
Madam Justice Griffin agreed with the Plaintiff and reasoned as follows:
 Here, the plaintiff did not exercise any right to trial by jury. The plaintiff simply did not contest the defendants’ election of trial by jury.
 Thus, the issue before me does not have to do so much with a party’s right to a jury trial, rather, it has to do with a party’s right to know the mode of trial no later than 30 days before trial. The issue properly framed is whether or not a party who has taken the necessary two steps to require trial by jury, as set out in Rule 39(26), can later change that mode of election before the trial commences…
 I find that by taking the two steps set out in Rule 39(26), the defendants “required a jury,” and therefore the payment of the subsequent fees is mandatory pursuant to s. 17 of theJury Act.
 The defendants suggest that having paid the first set of fees, they can decide to not pay the second set of fees simply by giving notice to the sheriff that they no longer require a trial by jury. They suggest that s. 19 indicates that the trial judge has discretion to allow this.
 I find that s. 19 of the Jury Act does not give a party who has elected trial by jury the right to simply give notice that it will not pay the jury fees required on a daily basis and thereby unilaterally un-elect the mode of trial by jury. Rather, the payment of those fees is mandatory and only if they are not paid will the sheriff bring this to the attention of the court to make such order as the court considers just. This preserves the court’s inherent jurisdiction to control its own process, but does not confer a procedural right on a party to simply “un-elect” trial by jury by not paying subsequent fees.
 Here, the defendants attempted to unilaterally un-elect trial by jury within 10 days of the trial starting by simply advising the sheriff and the other side that they no longer wished to proceed by trial by jury. I conclude that the Rules of Court do not allow for such a re-election within 30 days before trial. I find that the defendants had no authority to do so under theRules of Court.
 It is clear that the Rules of Court do not allow for a party to elect trial by jury late in the process. This election must be made within strict time limits set out in Rule 39(26).
 The mode of trial is very relevant to how the parties will prepare for trial and is also relevant to settlement discussions before trial. The Rules of Court as a whole recognize that it is not efficient to conduct civil trials by ambush. Civil trials are more efficient and settlement is more likely if parties have advance notice of not just the case they have to meet, but the mode of trial. The 30-day notice period in Rule 39(26) is there to provide parties with some certainty as to the mode of trial with a goal of efficient resolution of disputes.
 As noted by Mr. Justice Taylor of our Court of Appeal in Hoare v. Firestone Canada Inc. (1989), 42 B.C.L.R. (2d) 237 at 241:
The learned judge very properly emphasized the importance of the right to elect for jury trial. But on a broad consideration of the rules and authorities which has been possible in these appeal proceedings I have concluded that the election is intended to be made once only, at a particular stage, and for good reason. If the trial may be before judge and jury, rather than judge alone, that is generally an important consideration for both parties in preparation of the case and perhaps, indeed, in the selection of counsel. It is, I think, for these reasons that the rules require the election to be made, once for all, soon after the action is set down, instead of leaving the parties free to elect thereafter on the basis of later developments.
 As a matter of common sense and in light of the clear purpose of the Rules of Court to avoid trial by ambush, the time limits imposed on the mode of selection of trial apply whether the mode of trial is by jury or is by judge alone. I conclude that were it intended to be otherwise, there would be an express provision in the Rules of Court, pursuant to which a party could unilaterally elect to proceed by judge alone, despite having elected trial by jury by meeting the requirements of Rule 39(26) at least 30 days before trial. There is no such provision.
 Rather, once the election has been made and has crystallized by the taking of the two steps set out in Rule 39(26) at least 30 days prior to trial, the only basis for a party to set aside the election of trial by jury is pursuant to Rule 39(27) on the basis that the case is unsuitable for trial by jury.
 On its face, Rule 39(27) would seem to apply only to the party who has received the jury notice. However Rule 35(4) provides that the court, on its own motion or on the motion of any party, may order that the trial proceed without a jury on any of the grounds set out in Rule 39(27). In this regard, see Robitaille v. Vancouver Hockey Club Ltd. (1979), 12 B.C.L.R. 335 (S.C.), aff’d 14 B.C.L.R. 377 (C.A.).
 This brings me back to the B.C. Court of Appeal decision in Molnar. I conclude that having elected trial by jury, the defendants must proceed with a jury unless they can discharge the onus of proving that this matter is not suitable for a jury on the grounds set out in Rule 39(27).
 Here, the defendants did not apply at this pre-trial conference to set aside the jury notice, and advanced no argument based on the grounds set out in Rule 39(27). It is clear that the defendants simply asserted that they had a right to re-elect trial by judge alone at any time prior to the start of trial. I have found that the Rules of Court do not permit this.
This is the first case that I am aware of dealing with these specific facts making this case a useful precedent. Now the question is will this precedent continue to be useful once the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules come into force?
The answer appears to be yes. This case turned on the Court’s interpretation and application of Rule 39(26). This rule is replaced in the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules at Rule 12-6(3) which is almost identical to the current rule in its language and requirements (there are some minor changes in the timelines involved but otherwise the rules appear identical). If a party wants to change their minds after filing a Jury Notice they better do so before paying the Jury Fees otherwise it appears to be too late.
To read my other posts cross referencing the current Rules with the New BC Supreme Court Rules simply click here or on the New BC Supreme Court Rules tag below.
If you are involved in 2 separate car accidents and start 2 separate Injury Claims in the BC Supreme Court is it possible to have the trials heard at the same time?
The answer is yes and such applications are governed by BC Supreme Court Rule 5(8) which states that “proceedings may be consolidated at any time by order of the court or may be ordered to be tried at the same time or on the same day“.
Today reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court (Miclash v. Yan) considering an application under Rule 5(8). In granting the Plaintiff’s request to have multiple claims heard at the same time Master Keighley concisely set out the principles to be considered in these applications. The Court summarized the law as follows:
 The application is brought pursuant to Rule 5(8) of the Rules of Court…
 The order sought is discretionary.
 Exercise of this discretion is governed by the principles set out in the decision of Master Kirkpatrick, as she then was, in the case of Merritt v. Imasco Enterprises Inc. (1992), 2 C.P.C. (3d) 275 at para. 18 and 19:
18. None of the submissions of counsel address the real issue to be determined. That is, are the issues raised by the pleadings sufficiently similar to warrant the order sought and will the order make sense in the circumstances? An application to have actions tried at the same time thus requires an examination of circumstances which may be of a more general nature than is made under R. 27 or 19.
19. I accept that the foundation of an application under R. 5(8) is, indeed, disclosed by the pleadings. The examination of the pleadings will answer the first question to be addressed: do common claims, disputes and relationships exist between the parties? But the next question which one must ask is: are they “so interwoven as to make separate trials at different times before different judges undesirable and fraught with problems and economic expense”? Webster v. Webster (1979), 12 B.C.L.R. 172 at 182, 10 R.F.L. (2d) 148, 101 D.L.R. (3d) 248 (C.A.). That second question cannot, in my respectful view, be determined solely by reference to the pleadings. Reference must also be made to matters disclosed outside the pleadings:
(1) Will the order sought create a saving in pre-trial procedures, (in particular, pre-trial conferences)?;
(2) Will there be a real reduction in the number of trial days taken up by the trials being heard at the same time?;
(3) What is the potential for a party to be seriously inconvenienced by being required to attend a trial in which that party may have only a marginal interest?; and
(4) Will there be a real saving in experts’ time and witness fees?
This is in no way intended to be an exhaustive list. It merely sets out some of the factors which, it seems to me, ought to be weighed before making an order under R. 5(8).
 To these considerations, Master Joyce, as he then was, added two more in the case of Shah v. Bakken,  B.C.J. No. 2836, 20 B.C.L.R. (3d) 393, at para. 15:
Other factors which in my view can be added to the foregoing list are:
(5) Is one of the actions at a more advanced stage than the other? See: Forestral Automation Ltd. v. RMS Industrial Controls Inc. et al. (No.2), unreported, March 6, 1978, No. C765633/76, Vancouver (B.C.S.C.).
(6) Will the order result a delay of the trial of one of the actions and, if so, does any prejudice which a party may suffer as a result of that delay outweigh the potential benefits which a combined trial might otherwise have?
In my continued effort to cross reference civil procedure cases with the new BC Supreme Court Rules which will take effect on July 1, 2010 Rule 5(8) is replicated in full under the New Rules and can be found at Rule 22-5(8). Accordingly, the principles set out above will likely continue to be useful in considering similar applications once the new rules come into force.
If you are advancing an ICBC or other BC Personal Injury Claim you have the right to hire whatever lawyer you want. What if you live in a smaller community in BC and don’t have access to a lawyer who can take on your case? What if you live in a larger centre in BC but want to be represented by a specific lawyer from another community? Is it convenient or cost effective for a lawyer from another city to advance a personal injury claim on a contingency basis in these circumstances?
The answer is often yes because in British Columbia a lawyer can file a claim in a BC Supreme Court registry which is convenient for them and set down the trial in a registry that is convenient for you. Practically speaking this provides personal injury victims meaningful and Province-wide access to their top choice of lawyers regardless of where that lawyer primarily resides.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court discussing this practice of lawsuits being launched out of one registry for the convenience of the lawyer and set for trial in anther registry for the convenience of the parties/witnesses involved.
In today’s case (Cooper v. Lynch) the Plaintiff was involved in a Vernon, BC Car Crash. She lived in Salmon Arm. In advancing her personal injury claim she hired a lawyer who practices in Victoria.
The Lawyer launched a lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court. As a matter of convenience the lawyer started the lawsuit in the Victoria Registry and set the place of trial at a location convenient for his client (Kelowna, BC).
The Defence lawyer brought an application to have the case moved to Kelowna for all purposes. The Defendant relied on Rule 64(13) which holds that:
At any time after a proceeding is commenced, the court may on application order it to be transferred from the registry in which it was commenced to any other registry of the court for any or all purposes.
At the initial hearing the Master who presided agreed with the defence lawyer and transferred the entire file to Kelowna holding that since the place of trial was to be Kelowna, BC the entire matter should proceed out of the Kelowna registry.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer appealed the Master’s decision and succeeded. In overturning the Master’s decision Mr. Justice Barrow held that there was nothing wrong with a lawyer in a BC Personal Injury Claim filing out of one registry for the convenience of pre-trial applications and to have the trial itself in a different registry for the convenience of the parties and witnesses who will testify. Specifically Mr. Justice Barrow summarized and applied the law as follows:
 It is appropriate first to identify the practical significance of the master’s decision. It is that, by operation of Rule 44(10), interlocutory and pre-trial applications will generally be heard in Kelowna. There are exceptions to this rule. Rule 44(14) permits a registrar, in some situations including to accommodate the convenience of the parties, to allow a chambers application to be heard elsewhere than in the location that Rule 44(10) would otherwise require. In the proceeding at hand, the effect of moving the file to Kelowna for all purposes will be that, absent agreement or an order under Rule 44(14), interlocutory and pre-trial applications will be heard in Kelowna, where neither counsel practice.
 The test to be applied to an application to transfer a file for all purposes under Rule 64(13) is the same as the test that governs an application to change the place of trial under 39(7) (see Nicholls v. McLean,  B.C.J. No. 1160 (S.C.) and Roberston v. Zimmer, 2001 BCSC 1067, 12 C.P.C. (5th) 131 (B.C. Master)). An early and often cited expression of the test is found in Armstrong v. Revelstoke (City) (1927), 38 B.C.R. 253,  2 W.W.R. 245 (C.A.). In Armstrong, the chambers judge dismissed an application to move the place of trial. The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from that decision. McDonald C.J.A. wrote at p. 256:
…There is a preponderance of convenience in favour of a change of venue, but nothing short of a great or considerable preponderance of convenience and expense would justify the taking from a respondent the right which the law has given him to select his own place of trial.
In McPhatter v. Thorimbert (1966), 56 W.W.R. 497, Kirke Smith L.J.S.C. (as he then was) adopted this statement of the law. He also adopted the rationale for it as set out inMcDonald v. Dawson (1904), 8 O.L.R. 72, namely that the plaintiff, as the dominant litigant, has the right to control the course of the litigation. Controlling the course of the litigation extends to choosing the place of trial and choosing the registry out of which proceedings are taken. The right is not absolute, however, as the Rules of Court make plain but overriding the plaintiff’s decisions as to the course of the litigation by, for example, changing the place of trial or moving the proceeding from one registry to another, is only to be done where the “great preponderance” of convenience supports doing so.
 Although the test is the same whether considering moving the place of trial or changing the registry out of which proceedings are taken, the application of the test in these two contexts will not always yield the same result. That is so because circumstances which may prove inconvenient or greatly inconvenient for purposes of trial may be inconsequential for purposes of pre-trial applications. The most obvious example involves witnesses. The degree to which one place or another is convenient for purposes of trial will be affected by where the bulk of the witnesses reside. On the other hand, where the witnesses reside will usually have little bearing on whether it is appropriate to move a proceeding. That is so because generally witnesses are not required and rarely attend pre-trial or interlocutory applications.
 In Okayasu v. Poulsen, 2001 BCSC 729, Cullen J. heard an application by the defendants to transfer a file from the Vancouver registry to the Kamloops registry for all purposes, including trial. He ordered that the trial take place in Kamloops but declined to order that the file be transferred to the Kamloops for other purposes. He reached that conclusion, at least in part, because the circumstances that warranted a change in the place of trial were less significant in the assessment of the preponderance of convenience of pre-trial and interlocutory matters.
 In Smith v. Shabutura, the master observed that most pre-trial proceedings involve only lawyers. He concluded that the action was entirely connected to Kelowna (save for the fact that plaintiff’s counsel practiced in Victoria) and concluded that the circumstances that favoured holding the trial in Kelowna also militated in favour of the file being transferred to the Kelowna registry for all purposes. In so concluding, it seems to me that he conflated the effect on the trial of the various circumstances to be weighed in the balance with the effect of those same circumstances on pre-trial and interlocutory matters.
 It remains to be determined whether the master was clearly wrong in concluding that the great preponderance of convenience favoured moving this proceeding to the Kelowna registry for all purposes. In my view, and with the greatest of respect, I think he was. There is nothing in the record to suggest that the defendant, or the plaintiff for that matter, would be so interested in pre-trial or interlocutory matters as to wish to attend the hearing of them. Moreover, should that prove to be the case with respect to any particular application, it is open to counsel to apply to have that application heard elsewhere than in Victoria. There is no doubt some administrative convenience to having the file located where the trial will take place. Further, transferring the file to Kelowna has the effect of distributing or dividing the burden of travel as between counsel, given that neither resides nor practices in Kelowna. These circumstances whether taken individually or in combination do not support the conclusion that the great preponderance of convenience favours moving the proceeding or file from Victoria.
The practical consequence of this decision is that it makes it easier for British Columbians to hire their choice of lawyer in personal injury claims. This is a great result advancing consumer rights by making it easier for all British Columbians to hire a lawyer that best suits their needs whether or not that lawyer resides in their community.
As readers of this blog may know, whenever possible I am referencing the current BC Supreme Court Rules with the New Rules which will take effect on July 1, 2010. I am doing this to get a head start in determining which BC Supreme Court cases ought to retain their value as precedents under the soon to be in force overhauled Rules.
The rule relied on and interpreted in today’s case (Rule 64(13)) remains largely intact under the new Rules. The rule can be found at section 23-1(13) of the New Civil Rules and reads almost identically to the current rule. Specifically the new rule reads as follows:
(13) At any time after a proceeding is started, the court may on application order the proceeding to be transferred from the registry in which it is being conducted to any other registry of the court for any or all purposes.
Given the minor changes between the current rule and the new rule today’s case will likely retain its value as a guiding precedent after July 1, 2010.
Further to my previous postings on Rule 68 in ICBC and other Injury Claims, the Rules mandatory nature was further developed by the BC Supreme Court today.
First a brief background. Rule 68 is a ‘proportionality’ based rule which limits and alters the types of pre-trial procedures available to litigants in the BC Supreme Court for certain types of cases. Rule 68 also takes away the right to trial by jury for cases where the rule applies.
Subsection 2 of Rule 68 sets out when the Rule applies. One type of action subject to Rule 68 is where a Plaintiff claims for pecuniary and non-pecuniary loss for less than $100,000. This includes many ICBC and other Injury Claims.
Recent Court Decisions have interpreted Rule 68 as being mandatory when the factors in Rule 68(2) apply. In the case of Foster v. Westfair Properties (Pacific) Ltd. Master McCallum of the BC Supreme Court held that:
Rule 68 is mandatory and requires that actions qualifying as expedited actions proceed under the provisions of the rule. The absence of the required endorsement is an irregularity that may be remedied by amendment. The commencement of a proceeding without the Rule 68 endorsement does not change the character of the proceeding to permit process outside the limits of the rule.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court illustrating just how far our Courts can go in applying the mandatory nature of this rule.
In today’s case (Uribe v. Magnus) the Plaintiff was allegedly injured in 2007 BC Car Crash. The Plaintiff started a lawsuit but did not make the Claim subject to Rule 68. As the lawsuit progressed the Defendant took advantage of the pre-trial steps available for lawsuits filed outside of Rule 68 including examinations for discovery. Furthermore none of the Rule 68 pre trial requirements were adhered to.
The Defendant took out a Jury Notice and even paid the necessary Jury Fees. The Plaintiff then valued his claim below $100,000 and as the trial neared brought an application for an order that the lawsuit was ‘subject to rule 68’. The defendant opposed this motion arguing that the motion was brought too late in the lawsuit and that it would result in significant prejudice including the loss of right of trial by jury.
The Court granted the motion and noted that “there is no timiing limitation in (rule 68)“. Master Caldwell went on to make the following comments:
The concept of proportionality is now formally ingrained in our law by the terms of Rule 68. It is hard to imagine that a simple claim which the plaintiff’s counsel himself admits will not exceed $50,000 and which more likely falls in the $30,000 to $40,000 range can justify the overall expense of a three day jury trial. While I accept the submissions of defendant’s counsel that the defendant has been prejudiced by the late date of the plaintiff’s application, the denial of a jury trial, the fact that they have prepared for a jury trial and the fact that they have had to undertake various steps and procedures which would not have been necessary had the matter been commenced subject to Rule 68 or placed into that rule at an earlier date I am satisfied that these issues can be compensated for by the appropriate order of costs to the defendant while at the same time maintaining and protecting the purpose and mandatory nature of Rule 68.
The Court went on to balance some the Defence concerns by ordering that the Plaintiff be responsible for the costs for ‘all procedures undertaken to date which would not have been required or allowed under Rule 68“. This case is worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in the development of the concept of ‘proportionality’ in BC Supreme Court Injury Litigation.
As readers of this blog may know, the current BC Supreme Court rules are being repealed and replaced with new Rules next summer. Rule 68 will be repealed and replaced with Rule 15. Rule 15 also utilizes the concept of proportionality and today’s case may be telling in the direction BC Courts will take under the new Rules when applying this concept to injury litigation.
As I posted yesterday, the BC Government has announced a full overhaul of the current BC Supreme Court Rules to take effect on July 1, 2010. You can click here to read a full copy of the new Rules. These new rules will apply to all BC Personal Injury and ICBC Claims prosecuted in the Supreme Court after they come into force.
I’ve now had a chance to review these new Rules in their entirety. The first thing I noticed is that most of the new Rules are similar if not identical to the current ones in their wording. This is very important as the countless precedents built up over the years interpreting the current rules should still be of significant assistance when applied to the new rules.
More than anything else, the new Rules are organized in a far better fashion than the current BC Supreme Court Rules. This improvement is more coherent and logical and should make them easier to get through for people unfamiliar with Supreme Court Procedure.
In addition to improved organization, there are some significant changes made to the substance of these Rules. None of these changes jumped out at me as particularly concerning for personal injury litigation and surprisinly the overall changes seem to be for the better.
For today’s post I’ll illustrate one example. The current BC Supeme Court Rules have 2 competing ‘fast track litigation’ rules. Rule 66 and Rule 68. These rules both have some significant advantages and significant shortcomings for litigants. These rules overlap and litigants wishing to take advantage of fast track litigation procedures are forced to choose between the 2 rules relative strengths and weaknesses. Under the New Civil Rules these have been replaced with one “fast track litigation” rule. This can be found in Part 15 of the new rules.
Rule 15, in my opinion, takes the best aspects of Rule 66 and 68 and leaves out most of their shortcomings. Rule 15, like Rule 68, applies to cases below $100,000. It also applies to cases that can be completed in 3 days or less and this appears to be independent of the claims value. This rule does away with the cumbersome ‘will say’ requirement of Rule 68 and allows 2 hour examinations for discovery. This rule also increases the minimal costs allowable under Rule 66 and permits costs awards more reflective of conventional litigation in the BC Supreme Court. The Rule also does away with the ‘one expert’ limit of Rule 68 which to date has kept most BC personal injury lawyers from using the rule.
Below I reproduce the new Rule 15 in full. I’d be interested in the thoughts of other BC Injury Lawyers about the apparent improvements in this rule over our current fast track rules 66 and 68.
RULE 15-1 – FAST TRACK LITIGATION
When rule applies
(1) Subject to subrule (4) and unless the court otherwise orders, this rule applies to an action if
(a) the only claims in the action are for one or more of money, real property, a builder’s lien and personal property and the total of the following amounts is $100,000 or less, exclusive of interest and costs:
(i) the amount of any money claimed in the action by the plaintiff for pecuniary loss;
(ii) the amount of any money to be claimed in the action by the plaintiff for non-pecuniary loss;
(iii) the fair market value, as at the date the action is commenced, of
(A) all real property and all interests in real property, and
(B) all personal property and all interests in personal property claimed in the action by the plaintiff,
(b) the trial of the action can be completed within 3 days,
(c) the parties to the action consent, or
(d) the court, on its own motion or on the application of any party, so orders.
(2) If this rule applies to an action,
(a) any party may file a notice of fast track action in Form 61, and
(b) the words “Subject to Rule 15-1” must be added to the style of proceeding, immediately below the listed parties, for all documents filed after the notice of fast track action is filed under paragraph (a) or the court order is made under subrule (1) (d), as the case may be.
Damages not limited
(3) Nothing in this rule prevents a court from awarding damages to a plaintiff in a fast track action for an amount in excess of $100,000.
Rule does not apply to class proceedings
(4) This rule does not apply to a class proceeding within the meaning of the Class Proceedings Act.
(5) These Supreme Court Civil Rules apply to a fast track action but in the event of a conflict between this rule and another rule, this rule applies.
When rule ceases to apply
(6) This rule ceases to apply to a fast track action if the court, on its own motion or on the application of any party, so orders.
Case planning conference required
(7) Subject to subrule (8), a party to a fast track action must not serve on another party a notice of application or an affidavit in support of an application unless a case planning conference or a trial management conference has been conducted in relation to the action.
(8) Subrule (7) does not apply to an application made
(a) for an order under subrule (6) that this rule cease to apply to the action,
(b) to obtain leave to bring an application referred to in subrule (9),
(c) under Rule 9-5, 9-6 or 9-7,
(d) to add, remove or substitute a party, or
(e) by consent.
Court may relieve
(9) On application by a party, a judge or master may relieve a party from the requirements of subrule (7) if
(a) it is impracticable or unfair to require the party to comply with the requirements of subrule (7), or
(b) the application referred to in subrule (7) is urgent.
Trial to be without jury
(10) A trial of a fast track action must be heard by the court without a jury.
(11) Unless the court otherwise orders, in a fast track action the examinations for discovery of a party of record, including any person referred to in Rule 7-2 (1) (b) who is examined in relation to that party of record, by all parties of record who are adverse in interest must not, in total, exceed in duration
(a) 2 hours, or
(b) any greater period to which the person to be examined consents.
When discoveries must be completed
(12) Unless the court otherwise orders or the parties to the examination consent, all examinations for discovery in a fast track action must be completed at least 14 days before the scheduled trial date.
Setting of trial date
(13) If a party to a fast track action applies for a trial date within 4 months after the date on which this rule becomes applicable to the action, the registrar must set a date for the trial that is not later than 4 months after the application for the trial date.
If trial will require more than 3 days
(14) If, as a result of the trial management conference in a fast track action, the trial management conference judge considers that the trial will likely require more than 3 days, the trial management conference judge
(a) may adjourn the trial to a date to be fixed as if the action were not subject to this rule, and
(b) is not seized of the action.
(15) Unless the court otherwise orders or the parties consent, and subject to Rule 14-1 (10), the amount of costs, exclusive of disbursements, to which a party to a fast track action is entitled is as follows:
(a) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is one day or less, $8,000;
(b) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is 2 days or less but more than one day, $9,500;
(c) if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is more than 2 days, $11,000.
(16) In exercising its discretion under subrule (15), the court may consider an offer to settle as defined in Rule 9-1.
Taxes to be added to costs
(17) If tax is payable by a party to a fast track action in respect of legal services, an additional amount to compensate for that tax must be added to the costs to which the party is entitled under subrule (15), which additional amount must be determined by multiplying the amount of costs to which the party is entitled under subrule (15) by the percentage rate of the tax.