Often times when a BC Supreme Court trial date approaches in an ICBC Injury Claim there are reasons why one party would like to adjourn the trial. Key witnesses can be unavailable, perhaps the case is not quantifiable due to ongoing medical investigations or maybe one side is simply not prepared.
Whatever the reason if the parties don’t consent an application can be brought to a Supreme Court Judge or Master requesting an adjournment pursuant to Rule 39(9) which holds that “The court may order the adjournment of a trial or fix the date of trial of an action or issue, or order that a trial shall take precedence over another trial“.
The legal test for adjournment applications has long been established and it is clear that courts have the discretion to adjourn a trial. In exercising this discretion the Court must take into account the “interests of justice”. The interests of justice are determined by ‘balancing the interests of the parties, which is a difficult and delicate matter requiring a careful consideration of all the elements of the case‘.
With this introduction out of the way that brings me to the topic of today’s post. What if a trial needs to be adjourned for very clear and obvious reasons but the opposing side does not consent? Unreported reasons for judgement came to my attention today dealing with such a scenario.
In this case (Davis v. Clark, BCSC Chilliwack Registry, June 8, 2009) the Plaintiff’s personal injury claim was set for trial. Fault was admitted leaving the court to only deal with the issue of damages (value of the personal injury claim). The trial date, unfortunately, was set on the same date that the Plaintiff’s lawyers daughter was being married. The Plaintiff was content to have the trial adjourned but the Defendant refused to consent. A motion was brought asking for an adjournment and it was granted. The Court went further, however, and ordered that the Defendants pay the Plaintiff $703 in costs ‘forthwith‘ for their unreasonable refusal to consent.
Master Baker had the following to say:
“Anyway, in the case before me, liability is not in issue. It is admitted. I just do not see there is any prejudice to the defence, but, with respect, it strikes me as just an eminently reasonable request on the part of the plaintiff to adjourn this. I wonder where litigation is going when someone says, “Look, my child is getting married and I want an adjournment,” and it is refused. I find that unacceptable. It frustrates and angers me, frankly. I just wonder where it is going…The order will go. Costs in any event payable forthwith.”
Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for an adjournment and sometimes there are not. This case, however, demonstrates that where there is a very reasonable request for an adjournment and it is unreasonably refused the Court can punish the unreasonable party with costs payable forthwith.
Note: Rule 39(9) will be kept intact when the New BC Supreme Court Rules come into force on July 1, 2010 and can be found at Rule 12-1(9).