Tag: Norris v. Burgess

ICBC's "Casual Disregard" of Court Order Results in Steep Costs Punishment

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, hitting ICBC with a steep costs award for the “casual disregard” of a Court disclosure order.
In today’s case (Norris v. Burgess) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 collision and sued for damages.  Prior to trial ICBC offered to settle the claim for $678,500.  The Plaintiff rejected this offer and proceeded to trial where a jury awarded $462,374.  After statutory Part 7 deductions the amount was reduced by $70,196.
Normally where a Plaintiff is awarded less than a defence formal settlement offer they are stripped of some of their costs and sometimes ordered to pay some of the Defendant’s costs.  ICBC sought such a result but the Court refused.  Mr. Justice Funt instead ordered that ICBC pay the Plaintiff an additional $155,340.86 in ‘special costs’ because the insurer disregarded a Court order to produce surveillance evidence.  In reaching this decision Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:
[65] As noted, at the October 20, 2015 trial management conference, Justice Koenigsberg ordered the listing and description of any surveillance or video to occur on or before October 23, 2015. The existence of the 2015 Video was not disclosed until the start of the fourth week of trial and was, as Mr. Miller stated, harmful to the defence.
[66] ICBC is a public insurance company and an agent of our provincial government. It is a sophisticated litigant which assumes conduct of trials on behalf of many insureds in our province.
[67] A simple “pilot check” by ICBC, possibly in the form of an email or call to Mr. Levy, a review of its paid surveillance video invoices, or a review of its file notes, would have revealed the existence of the 2015 Video. The Court finds that ICBC showed a casual disregard for the October 20, 2015 Court Order; an order designed to ensure that the scheduled jury trial was heard without surprises or ambush.
[68] Mr. Miller stated that an ICBC adjuster often handles a large number of files and that this may explain the late disclosure of the 2015 Video. If ICBC adjusters are overworked and therefore prone to make mistakes, then it was incumbent on ICBC, on being told by its counsel of the October 20, 2015 Court Order, to ensure that a mistake had not been made.
[69] The late disclosure affected the efficient administration of justice. It required plaintiff’s counsel to consider the plaintiff’s options, and likely discuss and receive instructions on a significant matter just as the plaintiff’s case was about to close, rather than be focused on the conduct of the plaintiff’s case..

[75]         When a jury trial is disrupted and affected by the actions of a party, the court’s rebuke or reproof is more likely warranted.

[76]         The reputation of the court was also affected. Especially with a jury trial, a reasonable member of the public would have questioned the efficient workings of the trial and, more generally, the efficient administration of justice. He or she would question the significance and respect ICBC gives a court order designed to avoid surprise and trial unfairness.

[77]         Finally, the video surveillance for all three years was central to the trial generally. Of course, the actual weight given to this evidence remains in the jury room, as it properly must.

[78]         In sum, ICBC’s casual disregard for the disclosure rules, especially when reinforced by the October 20, 2015 Court Order, warrants rebuke in the form of an award of special costs.

 
 

Plaintiff Allowed To Tell Jury About Defence Medical Exam That Resulted in no Report

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming it is fair game for a plaintiff to testify they attended a defence medical exam where no report was produced and the Defence is not relying on opinion evidence from their expert.
In the recent case (Norris v. Burgess) the Plaintiff alleged injury as a result of two collisions.  The Defendants denied any injury occurred.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff attended a defence medical appointment with a psychiatrist.  The Defendants “chose not to obtain a medical opinion from the psychiatrist” and did not call him as a witness.  In the course of trial the Defendants objected to the Plaintiff testifying “as to her attendance and surrounding circumstances of the independent medical examination“.
In ruling that such testimony is fair game Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:

[12]        The Court will rule in the plaintiff’s favour.

[13]        As Rule 7-6 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules contemplates, an individual medical examination may be ordered where the “physical or mental condition of a person is in issue”. In this case, the independent medical examination was not pursuant to a court order. The Rule, however, illustrates that an independent medical examination will usually occur only where there is a physical or mental condition in issue.

[14]        The plaintiff’s medical condition is clearly in issue. Where the defence asserts that the plaintiff may have exaggerated her injuries, steps taken by the plaintiff at the request of the defence may be relevant.

[15]        Even if there were for closing argument an agreed stipulation of the plaintiff’s attendance at the independent medical examination, I would prefer that the evidence be led as part of the plaintiff’s case. I would be concerned that the jury could be confused. Evidence and argument should be kept separate.

[16]        Civil litigation is adversarial and litigant-driven. Where one party asks that the other party attend an interview or examination with a third person (whether or not that person is an expert) and the other party so attends, the requesting party should not be surprised that the interview or examination may be relevant with evidentiary consequences, including the possibility of an adverse inference. An unwanted but foreseeable consequence does not give rise to unfair prejudice.

[17]        In short, plaintiff’s counsel may lead evidence as to the plaintiff’s attendance, and surrounding circumstances, regarding the independent medical examination requested by the defendants.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer