Tag: Rule 22-7

Plaintiff Fined $25,000 For Not Complying With Document Production Orders

Update April 1, 2015I am advised that the below decision is presently under appeal
Update July 3, 2015– the below decision was overturned on appeal with the Court noting a Master has no jurisdiction to make such an order.
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Reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, leveling sanctions against a Plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit for not complying with Court document production orders.
In the recent case (Badreldin v. Swatridge) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 collision.  The Plaintiff was a physiotherapist and claimed diminished earning capacity.  The Defendant obtained Court orders for production of records relating to the Plaintiff’s business losses and these were not wholly complied with.  The Defendant asked that the Plaintiff’s action be dismissed but the Court noted this was too harsh of a remedy.  In ordering a $25,000 fine to be paid Master Harper provided the following reasons:

[46]         The defendant has been put through too much extra time, trouble, and expense in its efforts to limit the order just to compel the plaintiff to produce the documents and information. There has been a persistent pattern of non-compliance. The plaintiff has downplayed his responsibility for the non-compliance with the two court orders. As he has had legal counsel throughout, there is no excuse for his not understanding his responsibilities.

[47]         The production of the documents and information that did occur at the last minute and over a short period of time shows that it was possible to produce the documents and information in a timely fashion.

[48]         I find, therefore, that there has been no lawful excuse for the plaintiff’s non-compliance with the two court orders. I must now consider the sanction…

[53]         In my view, the sanction has to be sufficient to bring home to the plaintiff the point that court orders must be obeyed. In addition, the defendant is entitled to be compensated for the time, trouble, and expense of dealing with this issue, as well as the prejudice caused by the late production of documents and information, and the uncertainty with respect to how the work calendars are going to be used. There is a looming trial date of March 16, 2015. It is uncertain at this point as to whether the trial will go ahead. The loss of a trial date because of this late production is an additional prejudice to the defendant.

[54]         So balancing all of those factors, in my view, a sanction of $25,000 would be appropriate. I therefore order that the plaintiff pay to the defendant the sum of $25,000. The $25,000 will be used to offset against any settlement or judgment the plaintiff receives in this action.

Claim Dismissal For Failure To Comply With Rules A "Particularly Draconian" Remedy

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating that having a Plaintiff’s claim dismissed for failing to discharge obligations under the BC Supreme Court Rules is a ‘draconian remedy‘ which will not lightly be granted in a personal injury action where liability is admitted.
In the recent case (Breberin v. Santos) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff failed to provide “very basic information” to the Defendants, “refused to obey court rules” and had “been found in contempt of court“.
The Defendants applied to strike the Plaintiff’s claim.  Mr. Justice Willcock noted that, although this was a borderline case and a remedial costs order was appropriate to emphasise “the Court’s concern with respect to the conduct of the Plaintiff” outright dismissal of the claim was too harsh a result in the circumstances.  In dismissing the Defendant’s application the Court provided the following reasons:

[36] The Rules of Court are designed to permit parties to obtain full disclosure of relevant materials far in advance of trial so as to avoid unnecessary litigation, to make or seek admissions, and to settle claims that ought to be settled.  Despite numerous case planning conferences and previous orders in this case, the plaintiff at the most recent case planning conference appeared to appreciate for the first time that she is not entitled to hold medical information in her hands and to refuse to disclose it until she is satisfied with her diagnosis.  She appeared to understand for the first time that it is not open to her to produce only that portion of her medical file that corresponds with her own diagnosis or that which she prefers.

[37] It is difficult to determine whether the plaintiff’s suggestion at the most recent case planning conference that she only now appreciates the nature of her obligations is genuine.  On previous occasions when this Court directed Dr. Breberin to attend in Vancouver for an independent medical examination, gave explicit reasons for doing so, and noted that there was insufficient medical evidence to permit the Court to accede to her argument that she was unable to travel, Dr. Breberin later continued to question the Court’s jurisdiction to make such an order.  She continues to resist attempts to have her attend here for a medical examination. That resistance speaks of an unwillingness to accept the Court’s jurisdiction and authority.

[38] Having said that, I am of the view that dismissal of the claim would not be proportional to the nature of the ongoing default.  Dr. Breberin has now, finally, produced the authorizations for production of medical records and provided them to defence counsel.  She advised me during the course of submissions on May 22, 2012 that she was prepared to permit defence counsel to use the authorizations without attaching any conditions to their use.  She should be satisfied with the implied undertakings as to the confidentiality of evidence obtained on discovery. Defence counsel may now use those authorizations unimpeded by any undertaking or condition other than that implied by law.

[39] The Plaintiff is prepared to attend at a continuation of her examinations for discovery.  She should promptly make arrangements to attend at such an examination once the defendants have obtained the medical records they seek.

[40] She is right to say that there has been no previous order that she attend at an independent medical examination by an orthopedic surgeon.  Given the evidence she herself has filed with respect to the nature of her ongoing complaints, it is my view that it is appropriate for the defendants to seek that she be examined by an orthopedic surgeon, and there will be an order that she attend at an examination by an orthopedic surgeon in Vancouver, at a date to be selected by defence counsel.  If Dr. Breberin is unable to attend on the date selected by defence counsel, she should promptly notify defence counsel, and may apply, within seven days of receipt of the appointment, for an order adjourning the date of her examination to another date available to her.

[41] Once these measures are taken, the defendants will be in a position to more adequately assess the plaintiff’s claim.  The dismissal of an action where there has been an admission of liability, as in in this case, would be a particularly draconian remedy for the contempt that has delayed the defendants acquisition of evidence to which they are entitled. In my view, although this is a borderline case, such a measure would, now be disproportionate to the plaintiff’s conduct.

Court Criticizes Unilateral Discovery Scheduling Practices


Unilaterally scheduled discoveries, while technically permissible, are a frowned upon practice.  Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, critically commenting on such a tactic.
In this week’s case (Morgan v. BC Transit) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of a motor vehicle incident.  In the course of the litigation issues arose with respect to scheduling the discovery of the Plaintiff.  The Defendant unilaterally set a discovery date which the Plaintiff indicated he could not attend.  After non-attendance the Defendant brought a motion seeking to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claim but eventually backed away from this harsh request and instead sought an order that the Plaintiff attend discovery on another date and further seeking costs.
The court directed the parties to get on with the discovery and reserved dealing with costs consequences until this took place.  Ultimately Mr. Justice Betton dismissed the Defendants application and ordered that costs be paid to the Plaintiff.  In doing so the Court provided the following comments regarding unilaterally set examinations for discovery:
[14]         Obviously, the system would be challenged if appointments were routinely taken out without consultation with opposing parties and applications for dismissal followed non-attendance at such appointments. There is a balance that requires considered utilization of Rule 22-7(5). Circumstances must justify the application. Those who have an obligation to submit to an examination for discovery must cooperate reasonably in allowing the examinations for discovery to occur. Indeed it is a relatively unusual application and quite rare that such a severe remedy is granted. The reasons for this are numerous and most are self-evident. Most parties are represented and counsel are well aware of their own and their clients’ obligations. They make accommodations appropriately and reasonably to assist in achieving the objectives of the Rules. Even those who are not represented understand that procedural rules exist, and are to be followed, and there are consequences for failing to do so.

[15]I note in this case, there is no evidence before me indicating that there was any particular urgency to having the examination for discovery of the plaintiff concluded by the end of December. The trial date, as I noted, is set for December of 2012. When the December 1 date was adjourned on November 8, there was some discussion, but nothing done to formally set the examination for discovery until November 28, approximately three weeks later, when the issues quite quickly emerged. In this case, it is of significance that plaintiff’s counsel advised on December 18, approximately one month before this application was filed, that he had become available to have the examination for discovery of the plaintiff concluded in early January 2012. That is now some two months ago.

[16]There are cases when parties with or without counsel either use the Rules or ignore them to frustrate another’s legitimate efforts to prepare their case. In my view, this is not one of those cases. There are also cases where the Rules are used in ways which serve to defeat the broader objectives as described in the Rules of having cases proceed in an efficient and fair way. In all of the circumstances, it is my conclusion that the defence in these circumstances was overly aggressive in its utilization of this Rule and making an application to have the action dismissed with costs to the defendants; pressing to set the date on December 15 without consultation or without agreement was not necessary. Of most significance is the fact that before this application was set, plaintiff’s counsel had advised that they were now available to accommodate the examination for discovery occurring in early January. That discovery would have long since been concluded, rather than now being set in March and this application having had to proceed.

[17]In all of the circumstances, I decline to grant any costs thrown away to the defence for the examination for discovery of December 15, 2011.

[18]With respect to the costs of this application, in the circumstances, the defence will not have its costs of this application. The plaintiff will have its costs.

The Perils of Ignoring the Rules of Court


Failing to follow the obligations set out in the BC Supreme Court Rules can not only result in financial penalties, it can result in having your lawsuit outright dismissed before trial.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, demonstrating this.
In last week’s case (Balaj v. Xiaogang) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2003 collision.  She sued for damages.  The Defendant admitted being at fault for the crash.  At times the Plaintiff had a lawyer, at others she was self represented.  In the course of the lawsuit plaintiff failed to discharge her disclosure obligations under the Rules of Court and further failed to obey court orders.
ICBC ultimately applied to have the claim dismissed before trial.  In granting the order and in further ordering that the Plaintiff pay costs Mr. Justice Brown provided the following reasons:

[34] Given the factual background in the case at bar, it is abundantly clear, beyond any doubt, that the defendants are entitled to an order dismissing the plaintiff’s action. The plaintiff has failed to comply with court orders on several occasions, has failed to produce relevant documentation upon numerous and repeated requests by the defendants, has failed to participate in examinations for discovery in good faith, and has failed to attend court appearances, such as the recent trial management conference. Moreover, it now appears the plaintiff will seek another adjournment in these proceedings after the date of September 30, 2011, in direct contravention of my Order dated August 11, 2011.

[35] With respect to want of prosecution, I find the length of the delay in these proceedings is inordinate. Nearly nine years have passed since the accident. I also find the delay, virtually all of which has been caused by the plaintiff, is inexcusable. I find the defendants have suffered serious prejudice due to the delay in these proceedings and, on balance, justice requires dismissal of the action.

[36] With respect to the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the Civil Rules, the onus is on the plaintiff to present a lawful excuse for her non-compliance. I find she has failed to present a lawful excuse that is worthy of acceptance.

[37] Finally, with respect to the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the direction of this Court, I also find the plaintiff has failed to present a lawful excuse for her repeated failure, either by refusal or through neglect, to comply with court orders, the most recent being my Order after the trial management conference on August 11, 2011.

[38] For these reasons, the plaintiff’s action will be dismissed under Rule 22-7 for want of prosecution, failure to comply with the Civil Rules, and failure to comply with the Order of this Court dated August 11, 2011. Although the dismissal of an action is a blunt tool that is to be used sparingly, I find the circumstances of the case at bar are such that this tool should be used. In my view, the application of Rule 22-7 in the circumstances furthers the object of the Civil Rules to “secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits.”

Want of Prosecution, Proportionality and the New Rules of Court

One of the overarching changes in the current Suprene Court Rules is the introduction of the principle of ‘proportionality’.  When any applicaiton is brought before the Court the presiding Judge or Master must consider this concept in applying the Supreme Court Rules.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, discussing this in the context of a dismissal application.
In last week’s case (Ellis v. Wiebe) the Plaintiff sued various Defendants for alleged misrepresentation in the course of a purchase and sale agreement relating to property.   The lawsuit started in 2004 and by 2011 still had not been resolved.
The Defendant Wiebe brought an application to dismiss the lawsuit for want of prosecution (failure to prosecute in a timely fashion).  Madam Justice Bruce held that while the delay in the prosecution was inordenate and inexcusable there was no prejudice and did not dismiss the claim for this reason.  The Court did, however, go on to dismiss the claim on it’s merits.  Prior to doing so the Court made the following findings with respect to the application of the proporitonality principle in want of prosecution applications:
[8] The parties do not dispute the test to be applied by the court in determining whether an action should be dismissed for want of prosecution. The test is concisely summarized in Shields v. Nishin Kanko Investments Ltd., 2008 BCSC 36 at para. 25, wherein Mr. Justice Parrett cites the comments of Scarth J. at para. 3 of March v. Tam, 2002 BCSC 1125:

… I conclude that the principles of law which govern the exercise of the Court’s discretion in the circumstances of this case may in summary form be stated as follows: The defendants must establish that there has been inordinate delay and that this delay is inexcusable. If those two factors are established a rebuttable presumption of prejudice arises and the onus shifts to the plaintiff to prove on a balance of probabilities that the defendants have not suffered prejudice or that on balance justice demands that the action not be dismissed.

[9] The authorities also consistently hold that the court must look to the objects of the Supreme Court Rules as these relate to the particular circumstances of the case to determine whether an action should be dismissed for want of prosecution….

[10] When the Supreme Court Rules were amended in July 2010, a new subsection was added to Rule 1-3 to further refine the meaning of “just, speedy and inexpensive determination”. Rule 1-3 (2) provides as follows:

(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.

[11] In my view, Rule 1-3 (2), in part, reflects the approach adopted by our Court of Appeal to the issue of dismissal for inordinate delay; that is, the facts of each case have a significant impact on the outcome of any particular application for dismissal based on want of prosecution. While the principles of law are relatively straightforward, it is the application of these principles to widely varied fact situations that is critical. As noted in Rhyolite Resources Inc. v. CanQuest Resource Corp., 1999 BCCA 36, at para. 16:

Cases vary so infinitely that it is not always easy to apply to one factual situation the decision in another very different factual situation. However, it is the task of the court to seek to apply in a rational fashion the principles that have been laid down in the decided cases, always bearing in mind that the facts in each case are going to have a significant influence on the actual outcome of the individual application. I believe, with respect, that this approach or principle can be found well expressed in a case that was cited to us, Lebon Construction Ltd. v. Wiebe (1995), 10 B.C.L.R. (3d) 102 (C.A.), a recent decision of this court. That was a builder’s lien case and in that class of case, one would expect a swifter pace to the action than might be the case of say a personal injury case where a very serious injury and the course of recovery of a plaintiff must be assessed over time. Although it is always desirable to move on promptly with litigation, the simple fact is that in certain cases the interests of justice demand a rather more stately and measured pace than would be proper with regard to another class of action. Although it is desirable that all cases proceed with reasonable promptitude, the key word is reasonable and the ultimate consideration must always be: what are the interests of justice?

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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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