Tag: Rule 12

Jury Election Must Be Made With First Notice of Trial Under New BCSC Rules


Unreported reasons for judgement recently came to my attention addressing, for what I believe is the first time since the New Rules came into force, the issue of whether a party can elect trial by jury when a new Notice of Trial is issued if they failed to so elect in the fist instance.  In short the Court held this is not permitted.
In the recent case (Hung v. Sellars, BC Supreme Court Duncan Registry) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  The case was set for trial and neither party filed a notice requiring trial by jury.  The trial was adjourned by consent.   The Plaintiff filed a new notice of trial (as is required by BC Supreme Court Practice Direction 25).  The Defendant then filed a notice requiring trial by jury.
The Plaintiff brought an application to strike the Jury Notice.  Mr. Justice Bracken granted the application noting that the Rules only allow a jury notice to by filed with the initial notice of trial.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[13]  As noted, the authorities have held the election whether the trial be by judge alone or by judge sitting with a jury contemplates that the election will be made promptly after the first notice of trial.  Some latitude is possible where a party seeks to make an election outside the tie limited by the rules in certain restricted circumstances.
[14]  In some cases, such as removal from the fast track process where there is no right of jury trial, the parties can make the eelction upon a new notice of tiral being filed…
[15] In this case, a jury notice, in accordance with the principle in Hoare v. Firestone and Pelech v. Pelech, could have been filed and served after the first notice of trial that was issued in this action.  The jury notice should have been filed and delivered within the rules after the date of the first notice of trial…Therefore the notice requiring trial by jury in this case…is struck as being filed outside the tine allowed by Rule 12-6.
As of today’s date this decision is not publicly available but, as always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.

Court Refuses To Sever Liability From Quantum Where Damages Disputed

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, (Hou v. McMath) refusing to sever liability from quantum in a personal injury trial where the Defendant not only disputed fault but also took the position that “no compensable injury” occurred.
Interestingly the Court did go on to proceed on the issue of ‘fault’ without making a formal negligence finding.  In doing so Madam Justice Kloegman provided the following reasons:
[2] Both parties desired to sever the issue of liability from damages and proceed on the question of liability alone. However, due to the defendant’s position that this accident caused no damage or compensable injury to the plaintiff, I refused to make an order severing liability from quantum. It is basic tort law that without damages there can be no finding of negligence or liability. I suggested instead that we proceed to hear viva voce evidence on the sole issue of “fault” for the accident; that is, who breached the standard of care of the reasonable, prudent driver in the circumstances?
The trial focused on the colour of the light in an intersection collision ultimately finding that the Defendant drove through a red light finding him at fault for the crash.

Quantum Before Liability?


Rule 12-5(67) allows the BC Supreme Court to order that one issue “be tried and determined before the others“.
In the personal injury context, where fault is contested, it is not unusual for a Court to agree to determine the issue of fault before valuing the case.  The reason being that if a Defendant is found faultless splitting the issues can save both parties the substantial costs associated with proving the value of the claim.
Interestingly, reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing the value of a claim before determining the issue of fault.
In yesterday’s case (Simmavong v. Haddock) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 head on collision.  The Plaintiff suffered various injuries and the value of her claim was assessed at just over $332,000 in global damages.  In what must be a very rare set of circumstances, the Court did so prior to the issue of fault being addressed.  The parties apparently consented to this turn of events and unfortunately the judgement does not provide any discussion addressing when such an approach is warranted but does provide the following introductory comments:

[1] This trial concerns the plaintiff’s claim for damages arising from a motor vehicle accident, which occurred on June 24, 2007.

[2] Liability for the accident is denied as there is an action yet to be commenced relating to the plaintiff’s daughter.  The parties have agreed to litigate the claim for the plaintiff’s damages only at this time.

The Flexibility of the 7 Day Rule for Jury Strike Applications


Rule 12-6(5) imposes a 7 day deadline in which to dispute a jury notice. As previously discussed, the former rules of Court permitted parties to get away from this time limit by applying to strike a jury at a pre-trial conference.  With the overhaul of the civil rules does this exception still apply?  Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding that it does.
In yesterday’s case (Cliff v. Dahl) the Plaintiff was ‘severely injured‘ in a 2007 collision.   The Plaintiff’s claim was set for trial and the Plaintiff filed a jury notice.  The Defendant brought an application to strike the jury notice but failed to do so within the timelines required by Rule 12-6(5).
The Defendant’s application was ultimately dismissed on the merits but prior to doing so Madam Justice Bruce provided the following reasons confirming the 7 day jury strike deadline is not strictly applied under the current rules:
[12] Under the old Rule 35(4)(a), a pre-trial conference judge, the trial judge or a master could make an order that a trial be heard without a jury. The court interpreted this provision broadly; it permitted the application to be made outside the seven day time limit imposed in old Rule 39(27), which is for the most part identical to the new Rule 12-6(5). While the old Rule 35(4)(a) does not appear to have found its way into the new rules, the rationale behind permitting applications outside the strict seven day time limit remains consistent with the intent and purpose of the new rules. The ability to apply to strike the jury notice outside the strict time limit was necessary to ensure a fair trial and the court’s ability to respond to a change in circumstances surrounding the conduct of a trial. Further, it is apparent that a trial management judge has authority to grant the relief claimed by Ms. Dahl without any reference to the seven day time limit: Rule 12-2(9)(b). Lastly, the court has a discretion to extend time limits in appropriate circumstances without the necessity of a separate application: Rule 22-4(2).

$50,000 Damage Advance Ordered As Term of Adjournment of Personal Injury Claim


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the Court’s power to order a damage advance to a Plaintiff as a term of an adjournment order.
In last week’s case (Wood Atkinson v. Murphy) the Plaintiff suffered bilateral wrist fractures in a 2006 collision.  The Defendant admitted full fault for the crash.  The matter was set for trial but ultimately had to be adjourned due to difficulties in obtaining the Plaintiff’s employment records.  As a term of adjournment the Court ordered that the Defendant pay the Plaintiff a $50,000 advance.  In doing so Associate Chief Justice MacKenzie provided the following reasons:

[42] Serban v. Casselman (1995), 2 B.C.L.R. (3d) 316 (C.A.) confirmed the jurisdiction of this Court to order advance payments on damages under former Rule 1(12) (now Rule 13-1(19)) as a term of an adjournment of a trial. The advance must be just in all of the circumstances, and the judge making the order must be completely satisfied that there is no possibility the final assessment of damages would be less than the amount of the advance payments. There is no requirement that the cause of the adjournment be the fault of one party, see Serban, at paras. 9-11.

[43] Further guidance is found in the following excerpt from Master Barber’s decision in Tieu v. Jaeger et al., 2003 BCSC 906, at para. 17:

With liability not being in issue, the plaintiff should be put in funds at the earliest possible time. That is a reasonable thing for the plaintiff to ask for. The only thing that is stopping her from getting this money is not a determination of whether she is entitled to it, but as to how much. When it has been conceded that the sum of $20,000 is probably going to be less than or at least one-half of what the future amount she will obtain of $40,000 plus is, I can see no reason not to give her at least $20,000 at this time. To keep her out of pocket means that, especially when need is shown, as it has been in her affidavit, would be a refusal of justice.

[44] In this case, liability has been admitted, and it will be almost seven years from the date of the accident to the conclusion of the trial. The plaintiff is employed, but has problems with chronic pain in her wrists. Counsel are in agreement that an advance is justified in these circumstances.  The remaining issue is the amount that would be just in the circumstances, ensuring that it not be in excess of the potential award for damages at trial.

[45] In my view, an advance of $50,000 is appropriate in all the circumstances.

Examination For Discovery Transcripts and the Adverse Party Limitation

Although examination for discovery transcripts can be read into evidence at trial, the Rules of Court limit the evidence to being used against “the adverse party who was examined“.  In other words, a litigant can’t use their own transcript to bolster their own case.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this limitation.
In last week’s case (Haughian v. Jiwa) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant brought a summary trial application seeking to dismiss the claim.  The Plaintiff produced an affidavit which stated that “in my examination for discovery I described precisely how the accident occurred”  and went on to attach “as an exhibit 29 pages for her examination for discovery conducted by counsel for the defendants“.
The Defendant objected to this evidence arguing it was inadmissible.  Mr. Justice Punnett agreed and provided the following reasons explaining the limitation of discovery evidence at trial:

[8] The plaintiff’s affidavit appends portions of her examination for discovery by counsel for the defendants.  The defendants object to the tendering of discovery evidence in this way.

[9] Summary applications are based on affidavit evidence.  However, they are still trials and as such are governed by the rules and evidentiary requirements of a regular trial.  The followingSupreme Court Civil Rules (the “Rules”) are relevant:

9-7(5)  Unless the court otherwise orders, on a summary trial application, the applicant and each other party of record may tender evidence by any or all of the following:

(a)        an affidavit;

(c)        any part of the evidence taken on an examination for discovery;

[10] However, the breadth of the statement in part (c) above is restricted by Rule 12-5(46) which provides:

(46)      If otherwise admissible, the evidence given on an examination for discovery by a party … may be tendered in evidence at trial by any party adverse in interest, unless the court otherwise orders, but the evidence is admissible against the following persons only:

(a)        the adverse party who was examined;

[12] The defendants’ objection is that only the defendants can tender the plaintiff’s examination for discovery evidence.  They rely on the rules cited above as well as Tesscourt Capital Ltd. v. FG Nutraceutical Inc., 2011 BCSC 814; Mikhail v. Northern Health Authority (Prince George Regional Hospital), 2010 BCSC 1817; Schwartz v. Selkirk Financial, 2004 BCSC 313; Pete v. Terrace Regional Health Care Society, 2003 BCCA 226; Great Canadian Oil Change v. Dynamic Ventures et al, 2002 BCSC 1295, and Shiels v. Shiels (1997), 29 B.C.L.R. (3d) 193 (S.C.).

[13] I am satisfied that the discovery evidence sought to be introduced by the plaintiff cannot be relied upon by the plaintiff for the truth of its contents.

Opening Statement Visual Aid Admissibility Should Be Canvassed At Trial Management Conferences


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, disallowing the use of a PowerPoint presentation in an opening statement before a jury.
In last week’s case (Moore v. Kyba) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  Shortly prior to trial the Plaintiff advised the Defendant that he was going to use a PowerPoint presentation in his opening statement.  The Defendant objected arguing this ought to have been canvassed at a Trial Management Conference.  Madam Justice Brown agreed and refused the presentation from being presented to the Jury.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[4] In Brophy v. Hutchinson, 2003 BCCA 21, the British Columbia Court of Appeal sets out the principles which apply to an opening statement.

[24]      The opening’s purpose is to outline the case the party bearing the onus of proof (usually the plaintiff) intends to present.  Counsel’s goal in opening is, or should be, to assist the jury in understanding what his or her witnesses will say, and to present a sort of “overview” of the case so that the jury will be able to relate various parts of the evidence to be presented to the whole picture counsel will attempt to present.

[5] The court continues:

[41]      In an opening statement, counsel may not give his own personal opinion of the case.  Before any evidence is given he may not mention facts which require proof, which cannot be proven by evidence from his own witnesses, or which he expects to elicit only on cross-examination.  He may not mention matters that are irrelevant to the case.  He must not make prejudicial remarks tending to arouse hostility, or statements that appeal to the jurors’ emotions, rather than their reason.  It is improper to comment directly on the credibility of witnesses.  The opening is not argument, so the use of rhetoric, sarcasm, derision and the like is impermissible: see Halsbury, supra, at para.103; Williston and Rolls, The Conduct of An Action (Vancouver: Butterworths, 1982); Olah, The Art and Science of Advocacy (Toronto: Carswell, 1990) at 8-8; Lubet, Block and Tape, Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame: National Institute for Trial Advocacy, 2000).  Against this general background, I will consider the objections the plaintiff now makes to the defendant’s opening address.

[6] I was also provided with Schram v. Austin, 2004 BCSC 1789 and Ramcharitar v. Gill, 2007 Oral Ruling, Docket 01-2332, a decision of Mr. Justice Macaulay.

[7] In Ramcharitar, the defendant did not object to the use of the presentation but to the form and some of the specific content.

[8] At para. 9, Mr. Justice Macaulay said:

Counsel should not expect to use a presentation as an aid during an opening unless he or she has first shown it to opposing counsel and the court, so that any issues about form and content can be addressed in the absence of a jury.

As pointed out in Schram, and as was done here, the proposed use should be raised at a pre-trial conference.  The risk of a mistrial arising otherwise from the improper use of a presentation is simply too great, and any counsel who seeks to rely on the use of a presentation at the last minute, without seeking consent or permission beforehand, may find that the proposed use is not permitted.

[9] Here, there are problems with the content of the Power Point, which include references to the contents of opinions not yet in evidence.  The Power Point would need to be modified before it could be used before the jury.  However, the Power Point was delivered too late to the defendant and to the court to permit this to be done.  As Mr. Justice Macaulay indicated, the Power Point presentation should be dealt with at a trial management conference, it should not be left to the morning of trial to be addressed.  In this case, there was simply no time available to deal with this problem.

Sexual Assault and Vicarious Liability Claims are not "Too Complex" For a Jury

Useful reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing a jury strike application in a personal injury lawsuit for damages from sexual abuse.
In the recent case (JG v. Kolesar) the Plaintiff was sexually abused by her teacher.  He was criminally convicted for his acts.  The Plaintiff sued him and his employer for damages alleging negligence and vicarious liability on the part of the School District.  The matter was set for trial by jury.  The School District opposed this and brought an application to strike the Jury Notice under Rule 12-6(5) arguing that  “the law on the questions of causation (the concept of indivisible injury), vicarious liability, and assessment of damages is all too complex for a jury to understand
Master Bouck disagreed and dismissed the School District’s jury strike application.  In doing so the Court provided the following helpful reasons:
[31]  On the question of causation, damages and the concept of indivisible injury, some authorities cited by (the School Board’s lawyer) have since been refined by the court of appeal’s decision in Bradley v. Groves, 2010 BCCA 361.  Notably, the appellate court has refined the method by which a finder of fact can determine causation and apportion damages where there are multiple tortfeasors contributing to the plaintiff’s injury and loss.
[32]  In my view, the step-by-step analysis set out in Bradley v. Groves can be nicely imported into a set of instruction and questions for the jury.
[33]  Accordingly, I am not at all pessimistic about the jury’s ability to decide the questions which the defence says are too complex in this litigation.  A trial judge will be perfectly capable of instructing a jury on the relevant legal concepts of causation, apportionment of damages, and vicarious liability…
[35]   Once properly instructed, the assessment of the plaintiff’s damages is most certainly not a question beyond the capability of a modern jury.  In my observation and experience, juries are often called upon to assess damages where there are multiple tort-feasors and pre-existing conditions.
Today’s case is unpublished however, as always, I’m happy to share a copy of the reasons for judgement with anyone who contacts me and requests a copy.

Defendant Called During Plaintiff's Case in Traumatic Brain Injury Claim

In most BC Supreme Court lawsuits Plaintiff’s obtain evidence from the opposing side prior to trial by way of examination for discovery.   Helpful portions of the discovery transcript are then read into the trial record in support of the Plaintiff’s claim.   This is a controlled way to lead helpful evidence from a potentially damaging source.
There is, however, another way (albeit a riskier way) to use the Defendant in support of a Plaintiff’s claim.  The Rules of Court allow one party to call an “adverse party” as part of their case in chief with delivery of a subpoena and witness fees.   Rule 12-5(22) goes further and allows a Plaintiff to put the Defendant on the witness stand without notice if the Defendant is “in attendance at the trial“.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, demonstrating this seldom used option in action.
In last week’s case (Rintoul v. Gabriele) the Plaintiff pedestrian was struck while in a cross-walk.   The Plaintiff was born without upper limbs and after being struck “would have been unable to break her fall.  In landing on the pavement, she hit her head and was briefly unconscious“.
Both liability and quantum (fault and value of the case) were at issue with the Defendant arguing the Plaintiff was to blame at least in part for the collision and that her on-going issues were not related to the brain trauma suffered in the collision.  Mr. Justice Saunders disagreed and found the Defendant fully at fault for the impact.  In the course of the trial the Plaintiff’s lawyer took advantage of Rule 12-5(22) and put the Defendant on the stand as their first witness.  Damaging admissions were extracted which could not be remedied when the Defendant was re-called as a witness in the Defence case.  In highlighting this interesting turn of events Mr. Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:
[7] The defendant, Ms. Gabriele, was in attendance on the first day of trial. She was called to the witness stand as the first witness for the plaintiff’s case, and cross-examined…























[14] Ms. Gabriele testified that she was turning her vehicle and had just started to enter the pedestrian crosswalk, going perhaps 10 or 15 km/h, when she felt a bump, and saw a flash of a face in her headlights. She stopped and got out, and ran to the front of her vehicle. The plaintiff was lying unconscious in the crosswalk.

[15] Ms. Gabriele was not challenged on her estimate of her speed.

[16] Ms. Gabriele was asked why she did not, after looking to the right, look to the left again before making her turn, to see if any of the pedestrians she had previously seen on the southeast corner were walking in the crosswalk. She replied, “I made a mistake”….
























[24] There was a break in the trial of just over two months. During that time period, Ms. Gabriele walked through the accident scene with her counsel. After the trial resumed, Ms. Gabriele was called to give evidence as part of the defence case. Testifying in chief, she gave a slightly different version of events. She said in her evidence in chief that after looking at the southwest corner, she looked back in front of her, did not see anything, and then proceeded to make her turn.

[25] I do not accept this second version of events…

The Court went on to conclude that the Plaintiff did suffer from long term consequences as a result of her injuries and assessed global damages at just over $950,000 including non-pecuniary damages of $175,000.  In addition to the above point of civil procedure, this case is worth reviewing in full for Mr. Justice Saunders lengthy discussion of the expert evidence called to address the issue of the Plaintiff’s traumatic brain injury.

Trial Management Conferences and the Attendance Requirement


The first published reasons for judgement addressing Trial Management Conference attendance requirements pursuant to Rule 12-2(4) were released this week on the BC Supreme Court website.
In this week’s case (Luis v. Haw) the Plaintiff was involved in 4 separate motor vehicle collisions.   A lawsuit was started following each collision and these were set for trial at the same time.  All the Defendants were apparently insured with ICBC.
As the Trial Management Conference neared ICBC made an application requesting that “(the personal) defendants are exempt from attending the trial management conference; secondly, that Mr. Kevin Munt, who appears to be an adjuster at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, “represent” the defendants at the trial management conference, and that Kevin Munt be allowed to attend the trial management conference by telephone“.
The Court largely dismissed the application and in doing so Mr. Justice Groves provided the following useful comments about the attendance requirement for Trial Management Conferences:

[19] The first concern raised by the letter and the requisition is the request that Kevin Munt “represent” the defendants at the trial management conference. That is the language in the requisition.

[20] If this is a request for Kevin Munt, who is an adjuster, to appear and that counsel not appear, that is completely inappropriate. Trial management conferences are significant and they are a significant change to the rules. They are mandatory and no trial certificate is issued without the parties attending. Though interlocutory, trial management conferences cannot be done by Masters, who do not hear trials. In my view, this suggests the drafters of the rules have placed significant emphasis on the requirement of trial management conferences.

[21] Noting that, I also then note that there are a number of matters that can be discussed at trial management conferences, as set out in subrule 12?2(9), that require legal analysis and are clearly not within the knowledge of an adjuster representing an insurance company. These include:  (a) a plan as to how the trial was to be conducted; (c) amendments to pleadings within a fixed time; (d) admissions of fact at trial; (e) admission of documents at trial; (i) respecting experts’ reports and issues dealing with experts’ reports; (l) an adjournment of trial; and (m) directing the number of days reserved for trial to be changed.

[22] Without even considering the clear requirement that people are represented in court by counsel or by themselves, it is, from my reading of what is to transpire at a trial management conference, completely inappropriate to suggest that when a defendant has counsel, that someone else, in this case an adjuster, appear essentially as counsel at a trial management conference. It is impossible to imagine how the requirements of a trial management conference can be accomplished by an adjuster appearing on behalf of the defendants, as may be the request in this requisition.

[23] If, however, this is a request that the adjuster attend in substitution of the mandatory requirement of the defendants’ attendance, that is governed by Rule 12?2(5).

[24] Rule 12?2(5) clearly contemplates a circumstance, which may be present here, which is that an individual who has full authority to make decisions for a party in the action or an individual who has ready access to the person or group of persons who collectively have full authority to make decisions for a party to an action can attend in place of a party. It appears from the evidence before me that Kevin Munt may fall into this category. I will say, however, that it is not appropriate for an adjuster to attend on behalf of defendants, unless he or she has the real authority to make decisions for the defendants. It is not good enough to say, as has been said before me, “That exceeds my current authority”, “I have to go back to the committee and they won’t be meeting for another week”.

[25] That, in my view, defeats the whole purpose of Rule 12?2(5). Ready access, the words in the rule, means really that the adjuster has to have either authority to make decisions or the ability, while the court stands down, to make a phone call to get the instructions he requires to properly speak for the defendant at the trial management conference.

[26] This lack of authority cannot be used as an excuse that prohibits the proper conduct of court actions at trial management conferences, when it is such a representation that allows the representative of the defendant to attend in the first place. Clearly the rule contemplates letting those who represent defendants, such as insurance adjusters, attend in the place of defendants. Insurers may wish to not require their defendants to personally attend. I do note however that there appears to be an increasingly internal requirement that defendants attend at trial, even when liability is not at issue. The adjuster who does attend must have the ability to deal with all matters or have ready, immediate access to those who can so instruct…



[33] In conclusion, if the suggestion in this requisition is that Kevin Munt attend on behalf of the defendants, he is not counsel, he cannot attend without counsel.

[34] If this is a request that Kevin Munt attend in the place of the defendants themselves, which is permissible under the trial management conference rule, then I am satisfied, if Kevin Munt has the real authority or has ready access, and by that, immediate access to those who have authority, then he can attend pursuant to Rule 12?2(5).



This decision is also worth reviewing for Mr. Justice Groves discussion of Rule 23-5 and the circumstances when the Court should allow a party to attend a Court Proceeding via telephone.

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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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