Tag: Proportionality

"Proportionality" and Multiple Independent Medical Exams


One of the biggest changes in the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules is the requirement that the court secure the determination of a proceeding in ways that are “proportionate to the amount involved in the proceeding, the importance of the issues in dispute, and the complexity of the proceeding“.
Reasons for judgement were released today considering this concept in relation to ICBC’s request for multiple independent medical exams in an injury lawsuit.
In today’s case (Kim v. Lin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC collision.  She sued for damages and ICBC defended as statutory third party.  The Plaintiff gave evidence at her discovery that she suffered from pain in numerous areas in her body including “problems with her eyes, ringing in her ears, neck pain, problems with her shoulders and shoulder blades, her upper back, her hip, her lower back, bruising to her hips, leg, knee and ankle pain, as well as headaches, dizziness, hair loss, weight problems and a variety of emotional problems, including impaired memory and concentration, sleep, fatigue and decreased energy levels“.
In the course of the claim the Plaintiff attended two medical appointments arranged by ICBC, the first with a neurologist, the second with a psychiatrist.   ICBC had also secured reports from two of the Plaintiff’s treating physicians.  ICBC wished to have the Plaintiff assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon but the Plaintiff refused arguing such an application was not necessary.  Mr. Justice Voith ultimately decided that this assessment was necessary in order to ‘balance the playing field’ and ordered that the Plaintiff attend.
In reaching this decision the Court considered the role that proportionality plays when a defendant asks a plaintiff to attend multiple independent medical exams.  Mr. Justice Voith provided the following useful discussion:

[28]        Finally, I turn to the relevance of the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries and the alleged impact of those injuries on Ms. Kim. These issues are also germane to the plaintiff’s submission that “proportionality” should influence the outcome of this application. While R. 1-3(2) establishes that “proportionality” is an over-arching consideration which informs the interpretation and implementation of the Rules, its significance, however, is greater for some Rules then for others.

[29]        Thus, for example, the former R. 26, which related to document production, imposed a uniform obligation to produce documents under the well-known Peruvian Guano standard, affirmed inFraser River v. Can-Dive, 2002 BCCA 219 at 12, 100 B.C.L.R. (3d) 146. Rule 7-1(1) has modified this uniform standard. Instead, Rules 7-1(11)-(14) dictate how and when the production of additional documents may be required. Within this regime, “proportionality” will no doubt have much influence.

[30]        In other cases or for other Rules, however, the reality is that “proportionality”, though not expressed in precisely those terms, has historically and inherently already played a significant role. The former R. 30(1) is an example of this. Under R. 30(1), courts routinely considered, as one of many factors, the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries and the potential magnitude of the plaintiff’s claim in addressing the appropriateness of further independent medical examinations.

[31]        Thus, for example, in Gulamani v. Chandra, 2008 BCSC, 1601 Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey, in addressing the factors that underlay her decision said, in part, at para.34:

…Third, the nature of some of the plaintiff’s claims in this case, including a thoracic outlet syndrome and chronic pain syndrome, and the plaintiff’s claim relating to her ongoing physical and mental disability such that she is unable to practice her profession and properly care for her family, make it a case of significant size and medical complexity.

[32]        Similarly, the former R. 68, regarding expedited litigation, engaged in very similar considerations, with its reference to “proportionality” in R.68(13) and its presumptive direction of “not more than one expert” in R.68(33).

[33]        Ms. Kim is a young woman. She says she suffers severely from multiple complaints. She asserts that many of these injuries are acute in terms of their severity and the ongoing difficulty they cause her. By way of example, and without addressing each of her injuries, Ms. Kim claims that she presently suffers from both headache and neck pain which she rates on a pain scale at an 8 or 9 out of 10, where 0 equates to no pain and 10 equates to such severe pain that it would cause one to seek emergency medical treatment. She has discontinued her studies. The report of Dr. Tessler at page 3 indicates that she now only works two days a week.

[34]        If it can be established that Ms. Kim’s present circumstances were caused by the Accident, the “amount involved” in her claim has the prospect of being quite significant, a relevant consideration under R.1-3(2)(a). Similarly, the “issues in dispute”, a relevant consideration under R.1-3(2)(b), are important for both parties.

[35]        Accordingly, I am satisfied that considerations of “proportionality” do not militate against the third party’s application but rather support the appropriateness of the medical examination before Dr. Kendall that it seeks. Further, I do not consider that the purpose of the report of Dr. Kendall can properly be said to either bolster the report of Dr. Tessler or to undermine its findings. Instead, I am satisfied that a further examination of Ms. Kim by Dr. Kendall is necessary to have the plaintiff’s concerns properly addressed by a physician with the requisite or appropriate expertise.

"Proportionality" Given First Judicial Interpretation, Severance of Liability and Quantum Considered


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, interpreting two topics under the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules, the test of “proportionality” and the circumstances permitting a Court to sever liability (the issue of fault) from quantum (the value of a personal injury claim).
In today’s case (Cayou v. Cayou) the Plaintiff was injured in an intersection collision in 2006.  The Plaintiff was the front seat passenger in a vehicle being driven by her daughter.  The Plaintiff sued the drivers of both vehicles.  ICBC alleged that the Plaintiff was in breach of her policy of insurance and intervened as a statutory Third Party.  The Plaintiff’s claim was set for trial in November to be heard by Judge and Jury.  The Plaintiff applied for an order seperating quantum from liability seeking to have the issue of fault determined by Judge alone.
Mr. Justice Wilson dismissed the application and in doing so found that the New Rules of Court dealing with severance of issues are identical to the old rules therefore old precedents should retain their value as guiding authorities.  Specifically Mr. Justice Wilson held as follows:

[22]         The plaintiff’s application is said to be made pursuant to Rule 1-3 and 12-1(9), of the Rules of Court.

[23]         Rule 1-3 directs the court on the object of the rules, including the notion of “proportionality”.

[24]         Rule 12-1(9) confers upon the court a power to adjourn a trial.

[25]         Although not stated, the plaintiff also, presumably, finds authority for her application in Rule 12-5(67) and (68).

[26]         Rule 12-5(67) confers a power on the court in these words:

(67)      The court may order that one or more questions of fact or law arising in an action be tried and determined before the others.

[27]         Rule 12-5(68) confers a power on the court in these words:

(68)      The court may order that different questions of fact arising in an action be tried by different modes of trial.

[28]         There is a change in the wording between Rule 12-5(67) and the former rule, Rule 39(29).

[29]         I conclude that the power to sever issues is the same in substance between the former rule and the current rule.

[30]         The governing principles established for the exercise of the power conferred under the previous rules have been established. Since I find that the power conferred under the new rule is the same as the old rule, I conclude that the principles defined under the former rule must be considered.

The Court went on to note that while the law of severance of issues remains the same the Court now must consider the overarching purpose of ‘proportionality’ when applying the Rules of Court.  This is the first case I’m aware of addressing this principle.  Mr. Justice Wilson provided the following comments:

[48]         To the framework of analysis under the pre-existing rule, must be added a consideration of the objective of “proportionality” mandated by Rule 1-3(2):

(2)        Securing the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of a proceeding on its merits includes, so far as is practicable, conducting the proceeding in ways that are proportionate to

(a)        the amount involved in the proceeding,

(b)        the importance of the issues in dispute, and

(c)        the complexity of the proceeding.

[49]         Expense was the sole factor urged by the plaintiff in support of severance. In the event of a review, however, I will set out my findings on the factors prescribed in the rule.

[50]         First, I take the “amount involved” to mean the quantum of monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff as the result of a successful prosecution of her lawsuit.

[51]         This factor was not argued. But, seemingly, the method of trial currently extant is proportionate to, that is to say, “duly related” to, the amount involved. I find this factor to be neutral.

[52]         Second, the issue of credibility is important to the issue of fault, and, I am told, to the issue of quantum.

[53]         For the reasons given above, for deciding against severance on the ground of interconnected issues, I find that one trial of all issues is proportionate to the expense to be incurred, to conduct one trial.

[54]         Severance, for the economic reasons advanced in this case, by denying the trier of fact all of the evidence on the issue of credibility, would be disproportionate to the twin objectives of a just and speedy determination of the action, on its merits.

[55]         Third, I would not characterize this action as one of complexity.

[56]         Mr. Shumka is probably right. This action arises out of a routine intersection collision, involving a vehicle turning left in the path of an oncoming vehicle, with its attendant personal injuries. In the event, there is nothing on the record to suggest that complexity was a factor contributing to the notion of proportionality.

[57]         No other factors (other than economical) were identified.

[58]         In result, the plaintiff’s application is dismissed. Costs of the application will be in the cause, pursuant to Rule 14-1(12).

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 Supreme Court Confirms Mandatory Nature of Rule 68

Further to my previous posts on this topic reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry discussing the mandatory nature of Rule 68,
Although previous cases have addressed this point, today’s case is important because it is the first such case that I am aware of from a BC Supreme Court Judge (the previous cases were decisions of Masters).
In today’s case (Berenjian v. Primus) the Plaintiff sued for injuries as a  result of a BC Car Crash.  The claim was set for trial in December, 2009.  The Defendants set the matter for Jury Trial.  The Plaintiff then brought a m motion to move the case into Rule 68 which would have the effect, amongst others, of eliminating the possibility of trial by Jury.
The Plaintiff pointed to the fact that this case was worth less than $100,000 and argued that Rule 68 was mandatory.  The Defendants opposed the motion.  After hearing submissions Mr. Justice Punnett agreed with the Plaintiff and held as follows:
[22] Subrule (9) contemplates an action becoming an expedited action after it has been commenced…

[35] I do not agree that Rule 68 cannot be invoked once the pleadings are closed. If the rule is mandatory then the logic of Rule 68(7) is consistent. That is, the rule is a mandatory rule and, as such, no provision is required for the court to order that the rule does apply to a particular action. However, because it is mandatory, a provision was needed to remove actions from the rule.  The absence of the endorsement is simply an irregularity in actions which meet the criteria of Rule 68(2).

[36]         In my view Rule 68 places no time limit for it to be brought into play…

[45]         As noted above the principal of proportionality pervades Rule 68. Rule 68(13) requires that “[i]n considering any application under this rule, the court must consider what is reasonable in relation to the amount at issue in the action” (emphasis added).

[46]         As in Uribe, a jury trial is pending. Given the amount involved (and the defendants do not allege that the claim is worth an amount over $100,000), I am of the opinion that the matter should proceed under Rule 68. It is not reasonable that a claim in the range of $25,000 should proceed to a jury trial for the reasons noted earlier in Uribe. To do so would defeat the purpose of Rule 68.

[47]         Neither party has brought an application under Rule 68(7) for an order that Rule 68 does not apply. The plaintiff seeks an order transferring the proceeding to Rule 68. The defendants oppose that application. Given the mandatory nature of Rule 68, the question of whose obligation it is to bring the action formally under the rule raises an interesting issue that may well have relevance to any claim for costs arising from the late date of this application.

[48]         The plaintiff’s application is granted. There will be an order allowing for the the style of cause to be amended to read “Subject to Rule 68”. The trial currently set for December 7, 2009, shall proceed under Rule 68 without a jury. The plaintiff has tendered two expert reports pursuant to Rule 40A and the defendants one expert report. The parties have leave to call a total of three expert witnesses, namely  Dr. Wright, Dr. Mamacos and Dr. Leith.

This interpretation will likely remain good law under the New BC Supreme Court Rule 15 (the fast track rule which comes into force on July 1, 2010) as it also incorporates principles of proportionality, has the same mandatory tone of language and contemplates actions commenced outside of the fast track be brought into the fast track by filing :”a notice of fast track action” as contemplated by Rule 15-1(2).

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ERIK
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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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