Tag: notice to admit

Double Costs Ordered For Unreasonable Response to "Notice to Admit"

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry finding defendants at fault for a vehicle collision and further ordering double costs to be paid following an ‘unreasonable’ refusal to admit facts set out in a notice to admit.
In today’s case (Ceperkovic v. MacDonald) the Defendants were sued for a three vehicle collision that they were ultimately found liable for.  Prior to trial they were served with a Notice to Admit seeking admission of various facts regarding the circumstances of the crash.  The Defendants did not admit all of these facts requiring ultimate proof at trial.
In finding the refusal was unreasonable and ordering double costs Madam Justice Dillon set out the following test to be utilized in these circumstances along with the following reasons:

[38]         In summary, the failure to admit the truth of a fact may be unreasonable within the meaning of Rule 7-7(4) if:

(a)      the truth of the fact is subsequently proved;

(b)      the fact was relevant to a material issue in the case;

(c)      the fact was not subject to privilege;

(d)      the notice to admit was not otherwise improper;

(e)      the notice to admit was reasonably capable of evaluation within the time required for response; and

(f)       the refusing party had no reasonable grounds for believing that it would prevail on the matter.

[43]         While the cost consequences of an unreasonable failure to admit are usually confined to the costs of proving the truth of facts or the authenticity of documents, the power conferred by Rule 7-7(4) to penalize a party by awarding additional costs or depriving a party of costs “as the court considers appropriate” suggests that in an appropriate case the court could go further. At the least, it is not outside of contemplation that if the entire trial could have been avoided had reasonable admissions been made (for example, if the originating party could have applied for judgment on admissions under Rule 7-7(6)), the party who unreasonably failed to admit the facts could be penalized by an award of additional costs for all steps taken following delivery of the notice to admit.

[44]         Here, the plaintiff bus driver would not have had to lead any evidence and would not have had to cross-examine other parties or witnesses if the facts had not been unreasonably denied. Other than perhaps being called as a witness in the Ceperkovic action, Patriquin would not have had to appear. An award of double costs against the defendants, MacDonald and Janet MacDonald, for trial preparation, attendance at trial and written argument and an award of ordinary costs for time spent in preparing Patriquin for testimony is very reasonable. The plaintiff, Patriquin, is awarded those costs pursuant to Rule 7-7(4).

More on the New Rules of Court and Proportionality: Withdrawing Deemed Admissions


As previously discussed, the BC Supreme Court Rules permit parties to a lawsuit to ask the opposing side to make binding admissions through a “Notice to Admit”.  If the opposing side fails to respond to the Notice in the time lines required they are deemed to have made the sought admissions.  Once the admission is made it cannot be withdrawn except by consent of the parties or with the Court’s permission.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, considering the Court’s discretion to withdraw deemed admissions.
In today’s case (Piso v. Thompson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2003 collision.  She sued for damages alleging longstanding injuries as a result of this crash.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC’s lawyer served the Plaintiff with a Notice to Admit claiming that the Plaintiff was fully recovered within two years, that there was no claim for past wage loss nor a claim for diminished earning capacity.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer neglected to respond to the Notice in the timelines required resulting in the admissions being inadvertently made.  ICBC then brought an application for summary judgement.
The Plaintiff brought an application asking for permission to withdraw the admissions.  ICBC opposed arguing there would be no prejudice to the Plaintiff if she was faced with these admissions as she could sue her own lawyer in negligence to make up for any damages the unwanted admissions caused.  Master Caldwell rejected this argument and permitted the Plaintiff to withdraw the admissions.  The Court cited the principle of ‘proportionality‘ in reaching judgement.  Master Caldwell provided the following useful reasons:

[20]         Rule 7-7 provides a mechanism to streamline and make more efficient the litigation process. It rewards efficiency and encourages a focus on issues which matter and which are truly in dispute. It provides penalties and disincentives for failure to admit that which should properly be admitted by way of cost sanctions. It certainly provides for much more extreme outcomes in appropriate circumstances but it also provides for judicial discretion in excusing or relieving from such extreme outcomes in appropriate circumstances.

[21]         In my respectful view Rule 7-7 does not, nor was it intended to, create a trap or add an inescapable obstacle to ensnare or trip up sloppy or inattentive counsel to the detriment of the parties to the litigation.

[22]         The current Rule 1-3(a) continues the long-standing object of the rules:

The object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules is to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits.

[23]         There is no question in my mind that the failure in this case was a sloppy, inadvertent and possibly even negligent failure on the part of former counsel for the plaintiff. I am satisfied that the plaintiff himself cannot be faulted in any way for the oversight; he had neither actual notice of the document in question from his lawyer nor an opportunity to provide a reasoned and considered response.

[24]         The refusal of leave to withdraw these admissions will deny the plaintiff his opportunity to have his claim heard on the merits. The argument that the plaintiff can have his relief by way of a professional negligence claim against his former counsel fails to recognize the further delay and expense of such a claim. In the context of proportionality such an option does not seem appropriate from a financial or court resource prospective.

[25]         In my view this is precisely the type of situation which warrants an order allowing the withdrawal of a deemed admission while providing for the other party in costs and other accommodations.

[26]         The plaintiff is granted leave to withdraw the admissions.

Withdrawing Deemed Admissions: Rule 7-7(5) Given First Judicial Consideration


Under both the old and the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules parties to a lawsuit could ask the opposing side to make binding admissions through a “Notice to Admit”.  If the opposing side fails to respond to the Notice in the time lines required they are deemed to have made the sought admissions.  Once the admission is made it cannot be withdrawn except by consent of the parties or with the Court’s permission.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, considering when deemed admissions could be withdrawn under the New Rules.
In today’s case (Weiss v. Koenig) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.  He claimed he sustained various injuries including bilateral hearing impairment.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC asked the Plaintiff to make various admissions including an admission that his hearing was not affected as a result of the collision.  The Plaintiff failed to respond to the Notice to Admit in time thus was deemed to make the admissions.  The Plaintiff brought a motion to set these admissions aside and ICBC opposed.
Master Keighley granted the motion and set aside the admissions.  In doing so the Court noted that the admissions were made by inadvertence and that there was little prejudice to ICBC if these admissions were set aside.
This is the first decision I’m aware of applying Rule 7-7(5) of the new Rules of Court.  The Court noted that the new rule is almost identical as the old rule and implies that the precedents developed under the old Rule 31 remain good law.  Master Keighley set out and applied the following test in addressing the application:

Is there a triable issue which in the interests of justice should be resolved on the merits and not disposed of by deemed admission? In applying the test, all of the circumstances should be taken into account including:

1.         That the admission has been made inadvertently, hastily, or without knowledge of the facts.

2.         That the fact admitted was not within the knowledge of the party making the admission.

3.         That the fact admitted is not true.

4.         That the fact admitted is one of mixed fact and law.

5.         That the withdrawal of the admission would not prejudice a party.

6.         That there has been no delay in applying to withdraw the admission.

ICBC Claims and Formal Admissions

ICBC personal injury claims lawyers know all too well that the true issues in an ICBC injury claim are not always narrowed down at the beginning of a claim.
Typically, after a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim are filed, rather boiler-plate Statements of Defence are filed.  Oftentimes not only is the issue of fault not admitted but allegations are made that the Plaintiff was not injured, if injured the Plaintiff is at fault for such injuries, if injured the injuries are not connected to the trauma and on and on.  Such defences can significantly broaden the scope of a lawuit.  As the lawsuit progresses the true focus of the claim often times becomes narrower.  
One of the tools in a litigants arsenal in the BC Supreme Court to help narrow the focus of a lawsuit is the Notice to Admit.  Rule 31 permits either side in a BC Supreme Court lawsuit to ask the other side to make formal admissions.  This tool can be effective in helping narrow the scope of an ICBC injury claim.  If a side fails to make reasonable admissions in a BC lawsuit the court can penalize that party with a costs order pursuant to Rule 31(4).
Rule 31 reads as follows:

Rule 31 — Admissions

Notice to admit

(1)   In a proceeding in which a statement of defence, answer or answer and counter petition has been filed, a party may, by delivery of a notice to admit in Form 23, request any party of record to admit, for the purposes of the proceeding only, the truth of a fact or the authenticity of a document specified in the notice.

[en. B.C. Reg. 143/94, s. 6.]

Effect of notice to admit

(2)   Unless the court otherwise orders, the truth of a fact or the authenticity of a document specified in the notice to admit shall be deemed to be admitted, for the purposes of the proceeding only, unless, within 14 days, the party receiving the notice delivers to the party giving the notice a written statement that

(a) specifically denies the truth of that fact or the authenticity of that document,

(b) sets forth in detail the reasons why the party cannot make the admission, or

(c) states that the refusal to admit the truth of that fact or the authenticity of that document is made on the grounds of privilege or irrelevancy or that the request is otherwise improper, and sets forth in detail the reasons for the refusal.

Copy of document to be attached

(3)   Unless the court otherwise orders, a copy of a document specified in a notice to admit shall be attached to the notice when it is delivered.

Unreasonable refusal to admit

(4)   Where a party unreasonably denies or refuses to admit the truth of a fact or the authenticity of a document, the court may order the party to pay the costs of proving the truth of the fact or the authenticity of the document and may award as a penalty additional costs, or deprive a party of costs, as the court thinks just.

Withdrawal of admission

(5)   A party is not entitled to withdraw

(a) an admission made in response to a notice to admit,

(b) a deemed admission under subrule (2), or

(c) an admission made in a pleading

except by consent or with leave of the court.

Application for order on admissions

(6)   An application for judgment or any other application may be made to the court using as evidence

(a) admissions of the truth of a fact or the authenticity of a document made

(i)  in an affidavit or pleading filed by a party,

(ii)  in an examination for discovery of a party or a person examined for discovery on behalf of a party, or

(iii)  in response to a notice to admit, or

(b) admissions of the truth of a fact or the authenticity of a document deemed to be made under subrule (2)

and the court may, without waiting for the determination of any other question between the parties, make any order it thinks just.

Repealed

(7) to (9)   Repealed. [B.C. Reg. 95/96, s. 14.]

 
The reason why I author this blog post is because interesting reasons for judgement were released today dealing with the issue of when ‘deemed’ admissions can be set aside.
In this case the Plaintiff delivered a Notice to Admit.  The Defendant failed to deliver a response as required by Rule 31thus deeming that the facts noted in the Notice to Admit being admitted by the Defendant.
The Defendant brought a motion asking that the deemed admissions be set aside.  The court granted the motion noting that ‘the interests of justice require that the Defendants be at liberty to withdraw (their admissions)
In doing so the court summarized the following factors which can be considered when considering whether deemed admissions should be judicially set aside:

1)         That the test is whether there is a triable issue which, in the interests of justice, should be determined on the merits and not disposed of by an admission of fact.

2)         That in applying that test, all the circumstances should be taken into account including the following:

3)         That the admission has been made inadvertently, hastily, or without knowledge of the facts.

4)         That the fact admitted was not within the knowledge of the party making the admission.

5)         That the fact admitted is not true.

6)         That the fact admitted is one of mixed fact and law.

7)         That the withdrawal of the admission would not prejudice a party.

8)         That there has been no delay in applying to withdraw the admission.

If you are involved in an ICBC injury claim in the BC Supreme Court and beleive the focus of your lawsuit can be narrowed you may wish to consider delivering a Notice to Admit under Rule 31.

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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