Tag: Rule 12

Corporate Plaintiff Not Allowed To Read In Discovery Evidence of Former Employee

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing limits on the use of discovery evidence at trial.
In today’s case (No Limits Sportswear Inc v. 0912139 BC Ltd) the Plaintiff sought to read in evidence at trial of their former employee who was questioned at discovery as a representative of the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff argued that Rule 12-5(47) allowed such a result.  Madam Justice Griffin disagreed and in preventing the Plaintiff from using the discovery evidence of their former employee the Court noted as follows:

[14]         The interpretation of the Rules suggested by the plaintiffs regarding the use at trial of the examination for discovery of a former employee is contrary to the underlying purposes of the procedure.

[15]         The utility of an examination for discovery would be undermined if self-serving parts of evidence of the former employee given on discovery could be read-in at trial by the party who used to employ the witness. Such a result would seriously inhibit the scope of questioning by the examining party, limiting the fact-finding nature of the discovery and its usefulness as a tool to avoid surprise at trial and to encourage settlement.

[16]         The former employer does not need to use the examination for discovery transcript in order to call helpful evidence from its former employee at trial. The former employer always has a choice of calling him as a witness at trial.

[17]         Contrary to the submissions of the plaintiffs, the fact that subrules 12-5(46), (47) and (48) are separate subrules does not lead to the conclusion that each subrule stands alone and that any party can tender the examination for discovery evidence of a former employee.

[18]         Rule 12-5(46) states that evidence given on examination for discovery may be tendered by “any party adverse in interest”. Rule 12-5(47) does not say who it may be tendered by, but instead, deals with the requirement of giving notice of the intention to tender the evidence if it is from a former employee. Subrule (47) does not say the evidence can be tendered by any party and does not supersede the requirement in R. 12-5(46) that it be tendered by a party adverse in interest.

[19]         Also relevant is the restriction on the use of the evidence as set out in R. 12‑5(46)(b). This subrule provides that the evidence is admissible only “against” the adverse party whose status as a party entitled the examining party to conduct the examination. In other words, the evidence of the former employee, if read-in at trial, is only admissible against his former employer, the plaintiff company. It cannot be read-in by one group of defendants as evidence to be used against the other defendant. The plaintiffs’ submission that the plaintiffs should be entitled to read-in portions of the evidence to be used “at large” in the trial would be contrary to these restrictions.

[20]         The purposes of subrules 12-5(47) and (48) are to deal with the situation where the former employee who was examined for discovery is hostile to his former employer, and gave evidence on discovery which the former employer does not accept and wishes to challenge. Subrule (47) requires that the party tendering the former employee’s evidence, which again by subrule (46) must be a party adverse in interest to the party who formerly employed the witness, must give 14 days’ notice before trial of the intention to tender the evidence. This then gives the party who formerly employed the witness, and any other party, the opportunity to require the witness to be produced for cross-examination at trial pursuant to subrule (48).

[21]         To deal with the possibility that the former employee may have loyalties to none of the parties at trial, subrule (48) allows all parties to cross-examine the witness if his presence is required at trial.

[22]         I find support in this interpretation in the commentary to R. 12-5(47) found in McLachlin & Taylor, British Columbia Practice, vol. 2, 3d ed. (Markham, Ont: LexisNexis, 2006) at 12-51 as follows:

Under SCR 1961, M.R. 370rr, only the examination of a person who was an officer or servant of the corporation at the time of trial could be used as evidence. This was subject to SCR 1961, M.R. 370s which effectively excluded the use of discovery of a former officer or servant who had been dismissed from employment except where such dismissal occurred after service of the appointment for examination for discovery, in which case his examination could be used with leave of the court: Seymour v. Fleetwood Logging Co., [1963] B.C.J. No. 64, 45 W.W.R. 511 (S.C.). The apparent reason for these rules was the prospect of the unfair use against a corporation of the discovery of a person no longer in its employ and possibly hostile to it.

These restrictions on the use of examination for discovery of former director, officer, employee, agent or external auditor of a party was abolished by the enactment of SCR 1976, Rule 40(24) (which became SCR 1990, Rule 40(27)): Robitaille v. Vancouver Hockey Club Ltd. (No. 2), [1979] B.C.J. No. 526, 13 B.C.L.R. 309 (S.C.), affd [1981] B.C.J. No. 555, 30 B.C.L.R. 286 (C.A.). Because a party has no choice in the selection of who is examined on his behalf under Rule 7-2(5), it is arguably unfair to burden him with such a person’s answers: see Rule 7-2(5) and comments thereunder.

Accordingly, SCR 1976, Rule 40(27) (which became SCR 1990, Rule 40(24)) was amended in 1985 to provide that the examination for discovery of a former director, officer or servant may be given at trial only if notice of the intention to do so is delivered to all parties at least 14 days before the trial. Any party may then require that the person examined attend at the trial and, if any part of the examination for discovery is given in evidence, all parties may then cross-examine the former director, officer or servant.

[23]         I conclude that the plaintiffs are not entitled to read-in passages of the examination for discovery of its former employee, Mr. Darren Hawrish.

ICBC Rate Hike Letter to PolicyHolders Does Not Taint Injury Claim Jury Pool

Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing whether ICBC should lose the right to trial by jury due to a letter they sent their policy holders blaming increased insurance rates on ‘rising injury costs’.
In today’s case (Yates v. Lee) the Plaintiff was injured in a 1998 collision.   He was 6 years old at the time.  His matter was set for trial in February, 2015 and ICBC, the insurer for the Defendant, elected to proceed via jury trial.  The Plaintiff argued that the Court should use its inherent jurisdiction to strip ICBC of their right to jury trial suggesting that the letter ICBC sent their policy holders “has tainted the jury pool by creating a real potential for bias against plaintiffs among jurors who are policy holders“.  Mr. Justice Pearlman disagreed finding there was no reason for the Court to use its inherent jurisdiction and the trial judge could deal with any suggestion of bias.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:
[12]         Shortly after November 1, 2013, ICBC began including in the insurance renewal notices sent to each of its policy holders the following statement:
          ICBC Rate Changes:
Rising injury costs mean we’re asking the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) for 4.9% increase to Basic insurance rates. The BCUC has approved an interim rate increase of 4.9% effective November 1, 2013 and will make a final decision after a public hearing process. If a final approved rate differs from the interim rate, your Basic premiums will be adjusted for the difference, subject to the BCUC’s final Order. We are also able to reduce our optional rates to lessen the impact on you.
[13]         The renewal reminder also included a statement of the insured’s estimated total premium for the year…
[53]         Here, at best, the material filed by the plaintiff goes no further than establishing a possibility for bias on the part of some prospective jurors who are  ICBC policyholders. In addition to relying on the renewal notice itself, the plaintiff referred to Norsworthy v. Green, (30 May 2009), Victoria Registry 06 2644 (B.C.S.C.).  There, Macaulay J. commented, obiter, that every potential juror knows that ICBC funds damages awards, and that this creates the risk that prospective jurors may believe the higher an award in a given case, the greater the likelihood that their own insurance premiums may rise. Macaulay J. observed that such thinking is improper, and would, if disclosed, demonstrate bias. The plaintiff also filed newspaper and Internet articles referring to Shariatamadari v. Ahmadi (4 May 2009), Vancouver Registry S061583 (B.C.S.C.), where the trial judge’s investigation into complaints of juror misconduct revealed that one of the jurors, during deliberations, had expressed concern that a high damage award would drive up their own auto insurance rates. This material falls well short of establishing that a real potential exists in the circumstances of this case that some jurors may be incapable of setting aside any prejudice they may have as a result of the renewal notice, and deciding this case impartially, after receiving appropriate instructions from the trial judge.
[54]         Even if this court had the inherent jurisdiction to strike a jury notice for juror partiality, I would decline to exercise that jurisdiction in the circumstances of this case for the following reasons:
(a) the court is asked to find that ICBC’s communication to its policy holders through the renewal notices constitutes prejudicial pre-trial misconduct in the absence of an adequate evidentiary foundation;
(b) to grant the relief sought would skirt the challenge for cause process by having the court make a determination of juror partiality without requiring the plaintiff to satisfy both branches of the well-established test for juror partiality, and without any inquiry to determine whether particular members of the juror pool selected for this case could not serve impartially; and
(c) another decision-maker, the trial judge, has all the powers necessary to ensure trial fairness…
[59]         Chester provides further support for my conclusion that the plaintiff’s assertion of juror partiality is a matter which, if pursued, must be raised before the trial judge for determination through the challenge for cause process, rather than before a chambers judge who has neither the inherent jurisdiction to grant the relief sought, nor an adequate evidentiary foundation on which to do so.

The "Acceptable Practice" For Taking Pre-Trial Witness Statements

Courts in British Columbia frown on the practice of having witnesses commit their evidence in affidavit form before trial.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing this practice and explaining the Courts concerns with it.
In this week’s case (Staaf v. ICBC) three witnesses testified on behalf of ICBC. Prior to doing so all provided sworn statements authenticating various business records.  The Plaintiff argued that less weight should be given to these witnesses evidence because of this practice.
The Court agreed that the practice is to be discouraged, however went on to note that in the circumstances of this case no lesser weight should be attached to these witnesses.  In discouraging the practice of having witnesses swear pre-trial affidavits Mr. Justice Burnyeat provided the following comments:
[6]             The question which arises is the propriety of recording statements of witnesses in sworn form before trial.  Statements in sworn form should not be taken.  The consciences of witnesses at a trial are fettered by committing them in advance to a story which is favourable to the client of the lawyer preparing the affidavit.  To obtain a sworn affidavit or a statutory declaration not only influences the evidence that a witness may give under oath at a trial but also compromises accurate and truthful evidence at trial because a previous statement may compromise the interest of the witness who wishes to testify truthfully but the truth may be in conflict with the previously sworn statement.  Before trial, the acceptable practice is to take statements from witnesses but not arrange for those witnesses to swear affidavits or to make statutory declarations.
[7]             If testimony is to be given by affidavit, an application should be made pursuant to Rule 12‑5(59) of the Rules of Court.  Subject to the order of the Court to the contrary, that affidavit must be served at least 28 days prior to such an application being heard by the Court.  No such application was made relating to the evidence of these three affiants…
[9]             Under the circumstances, it would have been appropriate for counsel for the Defendants to apply for an order pursuant to Rule 12‑5(59) and, if that order had been granted, for counsel for the Plaintiff to require those witnesses to be called for cross-examination at trial pursuant to Rule 12‑5(61).  That was not done.
[10]         When it became apparent that three Affidavits had been sworn, counsel for the Defendants was urged by me to make an application that the evidence of the three be given by affidavit and counsel for the Plaintiff was urged to make a subsequent application that the three witnesses be called to the Trial for cross-examination.  That is what occurred and those orders were made.
[11]         In the circumstances of this case, I am satisfied that the sworn testimony of the three witnesses were in no way compromised by the assumption that the truth of what they were saying was in conflict with the affidavits that they had sworn.  First, the affidavits were sworn in order to place before the Court the business records that would be relied upon by the Defendants.  Second, the affidavits were prepared and sworn on the assumption that it would then not be necessary for the three affiants to appear at the Trial.  Third, the three witnesses were merely attaching business records and were not providing direct observations that they had made relating to the accident.  Fourth, the affidavits did not concern controversial matters.
[12]         In the circumstances of this case, I attach no lesser weight to the testimony at Trial of the three witnesses by virtue of the fact that they had all sworn affidavits prior to testifying.  Because of the two Orders made and in view of the nature of what was set out in their Affidavits, I am satisfied that it is not appropriate to disregard the whole of their testimony.

NHL Player's Wage Loss Claim Not "Too Complex" For a Jury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether a Jury was capable of determining an NHL player’s wage loss claim in a personal injury lawsuit.
In today’s case (Franson v. Caldarella) the Plaintiff, Cody Franson, was injured a in 2008 collision.  At the time he “was in the second year of a three-year Entry Level two-way contract with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL), and was in training camp preparing for tryouts for the Nashville Predators.”
The lawsuit claimed that the collision related injuries delayed his entry into the NHL by one year.  He claimed damages for loss of opportunity for this year and further alleged that his subsequent NHL contracts would have been more favorable had the delay not occurred.  The Plaintiff brought an application to strike the Defendant’s jury notice arguing that the intricacies of NHL contract negotiations are too complex for a jury.  Madam Justice Fisher disagreed and dismissed the Plaintiff’s application.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[21]         The essence of the plaintiff’s position is that issues (2) and (3) will require answers to questions which rely on complex technical evidence. The main questions as I understand them are:
(a) What were the chances that the plaintiff would have played any games for Nashville in the 2008-2009 season?
(b) If his chances were good, how many games would he have played?
(c) If he had played a certain number of games in that season, would he have been able to negotiate more favourable terms in his contract in subsequent years as a Restricted Free Agent?..
[26]         The plaintiff submitted that the trier of fact will be required to understand the methodology, assess it, and determine which statistics and methodology is appropriate in order to calculate these damages. I do not disagree that the trier of fact will have to understand the methodology used by Mr. Gurney but I question whether it will be necessary to determine another appropriate methodology and apply that. These kinds of hypothetical damages in circumstances of uncertainty are not normally assessed by way of a mathematical calculation. The expert evidence is presented as a tool to assist the trier of fact in its assessment. In my view, a jury will be capable of understanding Mr. Gurney’s methodology when it is properly explained and it will also be capable of assessing the criticisms of that methodology by Prof. Weiler.
[27]         It is my view that a jury is capable of assessing this kind of evidence and determining the issues arising from it, including the use of hypotheticals and contingencies, with proper direction.
[28]         Moreover, this will not be in inordinately long trial, set for up to 14 days, a time estimate that is reasonable given the number of witnesses and issues to be addressed. In my opinion, a jury will be able to understand the evidence and retain that understanding for the length of the trial.
[29]         For all of these reasons, the plaintiff’s application is dismissed.
 

Paraplegia Claim Not Too Complex For Jury Trial

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing a jury strike application in a paraplegia injury claim.
In the recent case (Laktin v. Vancouver (City)) the Defendants “were responding to a call that the Plaintiff might be suicidal” when one of the Defendant police officers “shot the plaintiff, rendering him paraplegic“.
The Plaintiff sued for damages and elected trial by Jury.  The Defendants brought an application to strike the jury notice arguing the trial was too complex for a jury to hear.  Mr. Justice Pearlman disagreed finding that despite the severe nature of the injury the matter was appropriate for jury trial.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[35]         This is not a trial that involves multiple accidents or actions, or that raises complex issues of causation of the plaintiff’s physical injuries. The jury may have to determine the extent to which the  psychological injuries claimed by the plaintiff result from a pre-existing condition rather than the incident of January 21, 2006. That will involve the jury making findings of fact that are well within the capabilities of a modern jury.
[36]         The defendants have identified numerous issues of fact and law relating to issues of liability, the statutory and common law defences to the plaintiff’s claim of battery available to the defendants, the apportionment of fault, and damages.  It is the responsibility of the trial judge to instruct the jury concerning the legal principles that will apply to the facts as found by the jury.  The court will instruct the jury on the application and interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Police Act and the Criminal Code. 
[37]         The duties of care owed by the defendants to the plaintiff are a matter of law for determination by the trial judge rather than the jury. It will be the responsibility of the trial judge to determine whether the City of Vancouver owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, and whether, as a matter of law, there is any basis for the plaintiff’s claim against the City, other than its liability under s. 20 of the Police Act for the torts of municipal police officers.
[38]         Whether, as a matter of law, the application of the doctrine of ex turpi causa would be justified in the circumstances of this case is also a matter for the trial judge.
[39]          The defence correctly submits that the provisions of ss. 34 and 37 of the Criminal Code in force at the time of the incident that gave rise to this action add a level of complexity to this trial.   However, juries in criminal cases have been frequently called upon to apply those provisions, and with the assistance of instructions from the trial judge, have done so. I see no reason why a civil jury, properly instructed, cannot perform a similar task.
[40]         In my view, finding the facts regarding what occurred in the sequence of events that culminated in Constable Coulthard shooting the plaintiff, and determining whether the force used by the police was justified in all of the circumstances are tasks well suited to a jury composed of eight members of the community.

"Only The First Notice of Trial Matters" When Excercising Right to a Jury Trial

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether parties to an action joining a matter already set for trial can elect the mode of trial.
In this week’s case (Catalano v. Ogloff) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions.  The Plaintiff started an action for the first collision, set the matter for trial and filed a jury notice.  The Defendant did not.  A separate action was started for the second collision and all parties filed a consent order providing that the cases be head together on the date already scheduled.  The Defendants in the second action then filed a jury notice.  The Court found this was a nullity.  In striking the Defendant’s jury notice Master MacNaughton provided the following reasons:
[11]         For the following reasons, I have concluded that the defendant’s jury notice is a nullity.
[12]         First, under Rule 12-6(3) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules it is clear that the election of a jury trial is a two-step process. The right is preserved by serving a jury notice but the matter will not be heard by a jury unless and until the jury fees are paid.  A jury trial occurs only if both steps are completed. Thus, the defendant to the second action could not presume that the first action was proceeding to a jury trial.  It is for that reason that all parties to an action independently preserve their election of a jury trial by serving their own jury notice.
[13]         Second, the early cases which established the principal that it is only the first notice of trial which matters, with respect to the election of a jury, arose in the context of trial adjournments. However, that principal has been expanded. I agree with the conclusion of Master Groves (as he then was) in Bumen v. BC Transit, 2001 BCSC 443:
… when a notice of trial has previously been given in one action, without a jury notice being filed, a subsequent consent by the parties to having other actions tried at the same time ought to be treated as an election to have a trial by judge alone in all the actions. In other words, when parties consent to the consolidation of multiple actions they are bound by the mode of trial specified in the notice of trial filed with respect to the first action. …(para. 20)
Master Groves’ reasoning mirrors that of Master Barber in Wright v. Rose (1995), 32 C.P.C. (3d) 319 where he said:
…there is no valid jury notice issued in the first action…it could be argued that the jury notice is valid for the second and third action.  Of course, when actions are tried at the same time they should either be all heard with a jury, or herd by a judge alone.  In my opinion, when the defendants consented…to all three actions being tried at the same time, that was an election to have trial by judge alone. … (para 17)
[14]         In my view, the fact that the plaintiff had delivered a jury notice in the first action does not change the result.  The defendant in the second action could not rely on the plaintiff’s jury notice as that was merely the first stage of the election process and did not guarantee a jury trial (I note that it has since been withdrawn). The defendants to the first action had not delivered such a notice. To ensure his right to a jury trial, the defendant in the second action should have made it a term of his consent to having the matters tried together or, if no consent was forthcoming, he could have delivered a jury notice and then applied in chambers to have the matters heard together with a jury.
[15]         By proceeding the way he did, the defendant to the second action was not at liberty to deliver the jury notice. It is a nullity.

TMC Judge Has Power To Address Admissibility of Expert Reports

Rule 12-2(9) provides the Court with broad jurisdiction to make orders at a Trial Management Conference.  Reasons for judgment were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, confirming this power includes the ability to determine the admissibility of expert reports ahead of trial.
In the recent case (Tran v. Cordero ) the Defendant raised an admissibility concern regarding the Plaintiff’s expert report alleging bias.  The Defendant argued that ultimately the trial judge will need to decide the admissibility issue.  Mr. Justice Savage disagreed and found the Rules allow this to be dealt with by the presiding judge or master at a Trial Management Conference.  The Court provided the following reasons:
[2]             The second matter concerns an objection to admissibility of the plaintiff’s treating physician’s expert report.  The defendants say that one of their objections to admissibility of this report is the relation, which is described as a familial one, between counsel and the plaintiff’s treating physician.  That relation it is said may give rise to the issue of bias which would prevent the admission of the report.  Counsel for the plaintiff says this has been known and not until today, at the Trial Management Conference, raised as a factor regarding admissibility of the report.  The defendants say this is not a matter I can deal with, but must be left to the trial judge.
[3]             I am advised that this is a ten day jury trial.  In my view this objection is of such a fundamental nature to the ability of the trial proceeding fairly that it must be raised and determined prior to trial. In my view, the Court is clothed with the requisite jurisdiction under Rule 12-2(9).  In the circumstances it would further the object of these rules, particularly the ability to justly, fairly, and efficiently determine the issues on the merits at trial, that if the defendants intend to rely on this objection, that the application must be made and set down for hearing prior to trial and within two weeks of today’s date.  I so order.   

Coughing Rib Injury Case Not "Too Complex" For Jury Trial

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, addressing whether a unique causation issue in a personal injury claim was too complex for a jury.
In today’s case (Jackson v. Yusishen) the Plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant’s truck in 2009.  The Plaintiff sustained some injuries and sued for damages.   Some 6 months following the crash the plaintiff “coughed and the pain in his chest and back suddenly increased in intensity“.  He was ultimately diagnosed with “one or two fractured ribs…hernias of the intercostal area and of the diaphragm“.  He had multiple surgeries to correct these complications that had not been successful.  The biggest issue for trial was for the jury to decide whether the ribs were compromised in the collision and whether the collision caused or contributed to the ultimate complications the Plaintiff was diagnosed with.
The Defendant elected trial by Jury.  The Plaintiff argued the matter was too complex for a jury to decide.  Mr. Justice Rogers disagreed and held that a jury could address this issue.  In upholding the jury election the Court provided the following reasons:
[23]         It is possible that the jury may find that the accident weakened the plaintiff’s ribs such that the later coughing episode caused them to fracture. In that event, the standard language of an Athey instruction will suffice to guide the jury’s deliberations. Again, juries are regularly instructed on similar Athey issues – this case would not present any greater complication on that issue than any other.
[24]         Once the jury has determined whether the accident caused rib fractures or a weakening of the ribs that later turned into fractures, the rest of the jury’s duties will be relatively straight forward. If their answer to that question is yes, then they will have to assess the degree to which the injuries have impaired the plaintiff’s function and award damages accordingly. For that task, they will have the assistance of expert reports of the type that are conventionally adduced in personal injury cases. Those reports include a functional capacity evaluation, a vocational assessment, a cost of future care report, and an economist’s assessment of the present value of various loss scenarios. Again, in serious personal injury cases, juries are routinely asked to consider such reports. There is nothing about the content of the reports in this case that suggest that a jury would not be able to conveniently consider their content and render a verdict accordingly.
[25]         If the jury’s answer to the causation question is no, then their task will become very nearly trivial.
[26]         Although there are a number of expert reports that will go into evidence in this case, the reality is that the jury will likely not be required to scour each and every word in each and every report. For example, the plaintiff’s economist’s reports may be useful to the jury should it wish to award future losses to the plaintiff, but it is unlikely that the jury will need to go beyond picking what appears to it to be the appropriate multiplier for a given loss and a given set of positive and negative contingencies.
[27]         In my opinion, the jury’s task of hearing, examining, and considering the evidence in this case will not exceed the bounds of convenience. The jury will be asked to conduct a scientific inquiry into what the radiographs could and did show of the plaintiff’s rib structure, but that will be a relatively narrow and focused inquiry. The jury will be guided by the opinions of qualified medical practitioners and by counsel’s submissions. It is not every contest of medical opinion that will disqualify a jury from trying a personal injury claim, and in my view, the scientific inquiry that the jury will make on this issue will be within its capacity.
[28]         Once the jury gets past the issue of causation, this case will become a relatively straightforward assessment of personal injury damages. The evidence on quantum issues is entirely conventional and is of the sort that juries are often asked to consider and assess. The jury may have to make some difficult decisions, but the path to those decisions will not, in my view, be so intricate or complex as to overwhelm the jury’s capacity to arrive at a just and proper judgment.
[29]         For these reasons, I have concluded that the plaintiff’s application to strike the jury notice must be dismissed.
 

BC Court of Appeal Upholds Jury Strike Applicaiton in "Prolonged" Personal Injury Case

Reasons for judgement were release this week by the BC Court of Appeal upholding a judges decision to strike a jury notice in a complex and prolonged personal injury trial.
In this week’s case (Wallman v. Gill) the Plaintiff alleged that “he suffered serious injuries” in a rear end collision.   The trial was scheduled with “at least 23 experts…as well as some 31 civilian witnesses” and was expected to last 7 weeks.  The Defendants wished to have the trial judge proceed before a jury but a chambers judge struck the jury notice finding the trial was too prolonged and complex for a jury.  In upholding this decision the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:
[7]           The decision to strike a jury notice is a discretionary one that relates to the management of a trial and may not be interfered with lightly on appellate review: MacPherson v. Czaban, 2002 BCCA 518. Absent an error of principle, or failure to give sufficient weight to all relevant considerations, deference must be accorded to such an order.
[8]           The legal test to be applied on review of a discretionary order is whether the judge “has given weight to all relevant considerations”: Mining Watch Canada v. Canada (Minister of Fisheries & Oceans), 2010 SCC 2, [2010] 1 S.C.R. 6 at para. 43. The appellants contend that the chambers judge acted on irrelevant considerations or alternatively failed to apply established legal criteria. With respect, I do not agree.
[9]           In this case, the chambers judge found that the issues for trial will require a scientific investigation. This is a factual determination for which deference must be accorded absent palpable and overriding error, which is not alleged. In the exercise of his discretion, he found that the scientific investigation into the proposed evidence could not conveniently be undertaken by a jury. In reaching that conclusion, the judge was satisfied that a proper review of the evidence and the legal issues could not be ensured by a jury that would be required to understand and retain opinion evidence from a large number of expert witnesses over a protracted period of time…
[13]        These decisions, in addition to many others, demonstrate the type of considerations that must be weighed when faced with an application to strike a jury notice. The management of a proposed civil jury trial requires the judge to ensure, as best as he or she can, that all who are involved, including the parties, their counsel, the potential jurors and the trial judge are able to satisfactorily perform their respective duties and responsibilities in order to meet the common objective of a fair trial.
[14]        In this case, the chambers judge applied the correct legal test under R. 12-6(5) for the striking of a jury notice and in my view cannot be said to have erred in the exercise of his discretion in striking the jury notice in order to ensure the proper conduct and management of the trial of this action. Accordingly, I find no basis upon which this Court might interfere with the order and therefore I would dismiss the appeal.

Advance Payment Order Used to Remedy "Harsh" Reality of Trial Adjournment

A common occurrence at Trial Management Conferences is adjournment in circumstances where it is clear the time available for trial is insufficient.   Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, recognizing that this is a “serious penalty” and that in cases where the trial estimate when set was “not unreasonable” an advance payment order may be an appropriate remedy.
In this week’s case (Van Gils v. Grandmaison) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision. Liability was admitted.  The Plaintiff alleged he suffered from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  The Defendant disputed the severity of the claimed injuries.  The matter was set for an eight day trial but by the time of the Trial Management Conference it became clear this was insufficient.  Mr. Justice Schultes adjourned the trial and ordered an advance of damages. In finding this was an appropriate use of the Court’s discretion Mr. Justice Schultes provided the following comments:
[5]             It is common ground that the governing the authority is the decision of Mr. Justice Macfarlane in Serban v. Casselman (1995), 2 B.C.L.R. (3d) 316 (C.A.) leave to appeal ref’d [1995] S.C.C.A. No. 120.
[6]             The often-cited passage is at para. 11:
While such orders are often made when the adjournment was brought about through the fault of one party or where the conduct of the litigation demands such an order, the rule is not restricted to matters of that kind. It is obvious that an order for advance payments should only be made in special circumstances. Obviously such an order should not be made unless the judge who makes it is completely satisfied that there is no possibility that the assessment will be less than the amount of the advance payments.
[7]              I think that the current situation meets the requirement of “special circumstances”. This trial was adjourned at the direction of the Court, pursuant to the Supreme Court Civil Rules, because it would exceed the original estimate and the trial schedule could not absorb that excess.
[8]             Based on the material that I had at the trial management conference, I would not have been able to attribute any lack of care or diligence to either counsel for the increase in trial length since it was originally set. Mr. Van Gils’ counsel advised that he had set it for eight days in the specific anticipation that, if his estimate were to be exceeded slightly, the schedule can usually still accommodate a trial of up to ten days.
[9]             When the estimate grew to potentially exceed that upper limit, he was still engaged in pruning his witness list when the defendants concluded that it was appropriate to add further witnesses. Neither approach is unusual in the course of trial preparation and neither is deserving of criticism.
[10]         The penalty for an incorrect estimate is an extremely serious one: a court-compelled adjournment at the trial management conference if the schedule cannot accommodate the new time estimate.
[11]         While this might be an appropriate deterrent for counsel who give their original estimates carelessly or who grossly underestimate the time required, it falls harshly on litigants and counsel whose original estimate was not unreasonable and whose requirement for additional time is based on changing circumstances as the trial grows closer.

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

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