One of the tools in a BC Trial Lawyers arsenal is BC Supreme Court Rule 18-A.
Rule 18-A permits claims to proceed to court via ‘summary trial’. In summary trials no live witnesses are called, instead the evidence is put before the Judge by way of affidavit evidence. From there the lawyers make their submissions and a ruling is made. By this method the time, and therefore the cost, of trial can be cut down significantly.
Rule 18-A is, however, not without its shortcomings. Without live witnesses taking the stand and getting faced down by a judge or jury it is difficult to weigh credibility. Where there are 2 different sides to the story and credibility plays a central role Rule 18-A is usually not an appropriate way to proceed to trial.
In personal injury litigation the credibility of the Plaintiff is usually a key issue at trial and for this reason Rule 18-A is rarely used. That said, this rule can be effective for certain ICBC and other personal injury claims and reasons for judgement were released today by the New Westminster Registry of the BC Supreme Court illustrating this fact.
In today’s case (Smith v. Bhangu) the Plaintiff was injured when she was 14 years old in a BC Car Crash. The issue of fault was admitted. This left the issue of quantum of damages (value of the ICBC case) to be decided by the trial judge.
Both lawyers agreed that Rule 18-A was appropriate for this case. The Plaintiff;s MRI showed a herniated lumbosacral disc injury. There was no dispute that the Plaintiff suffered from this condition, rather the key issue was whether the Plaintiff’s herniated lumbrosacral disc was related to the car accident. In agreeing that it was, Mr. Justice Grist made the following findings:
 I am satisfied that the evidence provides, on a balance of probabilities, a causal link between the motor vehicle collision and the lower back condition. I accept the Plaintiff’s evidence that the lower back complaints presented after a period of weeks or months from the motor vehicle collision and that there were no prior or subsequent events causing or contributing to the condition. Further, I accept that following the initial visit to the doctor, she did not present these continuing complaints for medical treatment until lower back spasms developed in 2004 and 2005. I also note Dr. Hershler’s comment that, based on the history and his physical examination, both the neck and lower back symptoms were referable to the motor vehicle collision.
 The upper back condition continues to be symptomatic from time to time, but as in many cases, has shown improvement, and the overall effect of the assessments in the medical reports is an expectation of further progress.
 The lower back condition, however, is more of a problem. The MRI shows a herniated lumbrosacral disk which continues to cause episodes of back pain, sometimes debilitating to the point of prompting attendance at an Emergency Ward. I accept that at age 14, this was not likely a degenerative condition and, as I have previously indicated, on the evidence, is most likely attributable to the collision.
General damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) were assessed at $65,000 and a further $80,000 was awarded for the Plaintiff’s diminished earning capacity to reflect the fact that her chronic condition will likely effect her vocationally over her lifetime.
What is remarkable about this case is that the trial took only one day. Often times when ICBC Claims with serious injuries proceed to trial the process takes numerous days or even weeks. Rule 18-A permitted this case to be adjudicated with one day of court time with costs savings to both parties.
While Rule 18-A is inaproppriate for many personal injury claims, this case shows that it can be used effectively in certain circumstances. When prosecuting an ICBC injury claim this rule should not be automatically brushed aside and should be considered in appropriate circumstances.