Tag: Stanikzai v. Bola

Defendant Ordered to Pay 25% Greater Trial Costs for "Reprihensible" Failure to Attend Examination for Discovery

Parties to a BC Supreme Court lawsuit can be forced to attend an examination for discovery set up by opposing litigants.  Failure to attend can have a variety of consequences.  Demonstrating one such consequence in action, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, punishing a non-attending part with increased costs.
In the recent case (Stanikzai v. Bola) the Defendant was found 75% at fault for a motor vehicle collision and was ordered to pay damages of just over $189,000.  Prior to trial the Defendant failed to appear at an examination for discovery.  Mr. Justice Smith found this behaviour was “reprehensible” and ordered that the defendant pay post trial costs at a level greater than they otherwise would have been.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:
[6]             Parties to civil litigation are required by R. 7-2(1) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, to make themselves available for examinations for discovery. It is not something a litigant can choose to do or not do on the basis of her own convenience. If Ms. Bola was unable to attend the examination on the day it was set, her obligation was to notify her counsel and discuss alternate dates. Instead, she simply failed to show up.
[7]             I also find it difficult to believe that she had no knowledge of the false information her husband was apparently providing to defence counsel when a second discovery was requested. Ms. Bola showed a complete and unacceptable disregard for her duties under the law. I stress this was not the fault of defence counsel, who attempted to get her cooperation…
[10]         I find that the defendant’s refusal to appear at discovery meets the definition of “reprehensible conduct” and I would not hesitate to award special costs if I thought that conduct had affected the outcome of the trial. But, in the specific circumstances of this case, I find that there is another, more proportionate rebuke available.
[11]         Under normal circumstances the plaintiff, having been found 25 per cent responsible for the accident, would recover only 75 per cent of his costs. This arises from s. 3(1) of the Negligence Act, RSBC 1996, c 333:
3 (1) Unless the court otherwise directs, the liability for costs of the parties to every action is in the same proportion as their respective liability to make good the damage or loss.
[12]         Although payment of costs in proportion to the degree of liability is the default rule, the court has discretion to depart from it. That departure must be for reasons connected with the case, with the principle consideration being whether application of the usual rule will result in an injustice: Moses v Kim, 2009 BCCA 82 at para 70.
[13]         In these circumstances, I find that the interest of justice can best be served by depriving the defendants of the reduction in costs that they would otherwise benefit from and I award the plaintiff the full costs of this action.
 

Medical Advisor Opinion a Prerequisite For Post Trial Discretionary Benefit Deduction

I have previously discussed Part 7 benefits deductions following BC motor vehicle collision injury trials.  In short, a Plaintiff’s damages are to be reduced by the Part 7 benefits (past and future) that they are entitled to.
Two sets of reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this deduction finding that before a Court can deduct damages for ‘discretionary’ Part 7 benefits there must be evidence of the corporation’s medical advisor.
In the first case (Paskall v. Scheithauer) the Plaintiff was awarded just over $65,000 by a jury for her injuries.  ICBC sought to deduct mandatory and discretionary Part 7 benefits from this amount.  In discussing the burden required for these deductions and in denying the application Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:
3]         The replacement hearing aids and related expenses are a discretionary benefit under s. 88(2). The defendant has provided an affidavit from an ICBC claims examiner who says that the corporation paid for a hearing aid on one occasion, in January 2007, and who says: “I expect ICBC will continue to re-imburse reasonable incurred hearing aid expenses”.
[14]         The examiner’s stated expectation falls far short of the evidence required. Before discretionary benefits can be paid, s. 88(2) requires an opinion from “the corporation’s medical advisor”. No evidence from any such person has been put forward. The expert who provided a care opinion for the defendant at trial is an occupational therapist. There is no evidence that ICBC accepts her in the capacity of its “medical advisor” for purposes of s. 88.
[15]         Although the opinion of a medical advisor is a precondition to the payment of discretionary benefits, the corporation is still not bound to pay them. The examiner’s expectation is no more than an opinion about what his employer will do in the future. There is no evidence that he has the authority to make that decision and no explanation of the basis on which he feels able to express an opinion on what the corporation will do for the remainder of the plaintiff’s life…
[18]         At this stage of the proceeding, I believe it is appropriate to acknowledge the fact that in cases such as this the corporation has conduct of the defence on behalf of its insured. There is certainly no evidence that the corporation now disavows the position it instructed counsel to take at trial.
[19]         Accordingly, I find that the defendant has failed to meet the onus of proving the plaintiff is entitled to the benefits for which deduction has been sought.
In the second case (Stanikzai v. Bola) the Plaintiff was awarded just over $189,000 following trial.  ICBC sought to deduct some $16,000 in Part  7 items.  In disallowing the majority of these Mr. Justice Smith echoed his earlier comments stating as follows:
[24]         In her affidavit, the adjuster says that such a fitness program is “similar to physiotherapy” and therefore a mandatory benefit under s. 88(1). I cannot accept that assertion. Section 88(1) refers to “physical therapy”, which presumably means therapy by a licensed physiotherapist. It also refers to certain other specific forms of therapy. It does not refer to services by other professionals that may be “similar” to the named therapies.
[25]         Having regard to the requirement for strict compliance with the Act and its Regulations, the training program is not a mandatory benefit under s. 88(1). I accept that it could qualify as a discretionary benefit under s. 88(2), but under that section an opinion from “the corporation’s medical advisor” is a precondition to payment. There is no evidence of any such opinion. The defendants have failed to prove a basis for that deduction.
 

Defendant 75% at Fault for Crash Despite Being Rear Ended

Although not common, motorists can be found partly or even wholly at fault after being involved in a rear-end collision.  Such a result was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In the recent case (Stanikzai v. Bola) the Plaintiff rear-ended the Defendant’s vehicle.  The Court was presented with competing versions of how the collision occurred but ultimately accepted the evidence of an independent witness who confirmed the Defendant “quickly” moved into the Plaintiff’s lane as we was attempting a U-turn in front the the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  In finding the Defendant 75% at fault for the resulting impact Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

] The only independent witness called was Mr. Tiwana, a truck driver who was behind the plaintiff in the left lane. Like the plaintiff, he described the defendant’s van moving into the right lane, then quickly attempting a u-turn in front of the plaintiff’s vehicle, leaving the plaintiff no time to react. However, one significant difference between the plaintiff’s evidence and that of Mr. Tiwana is that Mr. Tiwana said he saw the left turn signal on the defendant’s vehicle before what he described as the attempted u-turn.

[7] There is no doubt that when one vehicle hits another from behind, the onus is on the driver of the rear vehicle to show that the collision was not caused by his or her fault: Barrie v Marshall, 2010 BCSC 981. A driver following other vehicles is expected to keep his vehicle under sufficient control to be able to deal with sudden stopping or slowing of the vehicle in front: Pryndik v. Manju, 2001 BCSC 502.

[8] But while liability for a rear end collision usually rests entirely with the following driver, that is not an invariable result. For example, in Saffari v Lopez, 2009 BCSC 699, both drivers were found to be equally at fault for a rear end collision. In that case, the front driver stopped or slowed suddenly, ostensibly to retrieve a fallen cigarette, but the court found that the rear driver was travelling either too fast or too close behind to stop when confronted with the hazard.

[9] The plaintiff and the defendant in this case give conflicting evidence that cannot be reconciled. In attempting to determine what happened, on the balance of probabilities, I prefer the evidence of the only independent witness, Mr. Tiwana. He describes the defendant moving suddenly into the plaintiff’s lane in circumstances where the plaintiff did not have time to stop. That is not consistent with the defendant’s evidence of the lapse of time between her lane change and the collision and I do not accept her evidence on that point. I do accept her evidence that she had no reason to be making a u-turn and was not attempting one, but I find that her turn to the left on impact likely created the mistaken impression of a u-turn.

[10] Based on Mr. Tiwana’s description of the accident, I find that the defendant, in changing lanes, failed to notice or properly assess the position of other vehicles and failed to ensure that she had sufficient room to change lanes safely. Section 151(a) of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 reads:

151 A driver who is driving a vehicle on a laned roadway

(a) must not drive from one lane to another when a broken line only exists between the lanes, unless the driver has ascertained that movement can be made with safety and will in no way affect the travel of another vehicle,

[11] I therefore find that the accident was caused or contributed to by the negligence of the defendant. However, on the basis of Mr. Tiwana’s evidence, the plaintiff must also bear some responsibility because he failed to see the defendant’s turn signal. Although the defendant’s move was a sudden one, seeing her turn signal would likely have given the plaintiff an earlier opportunity to either apply his brakes or to at least use his horn to warn the defendant of his presence.

[12] Because it was the defendant who created the dangerous situation, I find that she must bear the greater share of blame and apportion liability 75 per cent to the defendant and 25 per cent to the plaintiff.

Expert Report Excluded for Tardiness and Credibility Comments

A short but useful analysis was set out in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the admissibility of a tardy expert report.
In the recent case (Stanikzai v. Bola) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  In the course of the claim the Defendant served a medical report but did so out of the time required by Rule 11-6(3).  Mr. Justice Smith declined to exercise his discretion to admit the report under Rule 11-7(6) finding that the report “would not be of assistance in any event” noting the expert’s opinion improperly delves into credibility.  Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[28] The opinions of Dr. Caillier and Dr. Yu are not contradicted by any other medical opinion. At trial, the defendant sought to enter a medical report from an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ponsford, that had not been served within the 84 day notice period required by Rule 11-6(3). I declined to exercise my discretion to shorten the required notice period and admit the report, largely because I found it would not be of assistance in any event.

[29] The essence of Dr. Ponsford’s opinion was that he was unable to provide a firm medical opinion because of what he regarded as inconsistencies and contradictions within the plaintiff’s history. Credibility is, of course, a matter for the court, not the expert witness.

$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For S1 and Sciatic Nerve Irritation

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic pain caused by low back nerve root irritation.
In this week’s case (Stanikzai v. Bola) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff sustained various soft tissue injuries and in addition the crash caused persistent low back pain involving the Plaintiff’s S1 and sciatic nerves.  The Plaintiff’s symptoms were expected to continue with the prognosis being “quite guarded“.

Mr. Justice Smith assessed non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 although reduced this amount by 15% to account for a “measurable risk” that the Plaintiff would have experienced similar symptoms even without the collision due to pre-existing factors.  In arriving at this assessment Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:
[24] Dr. Yu also believes the accident caused a low back injury that resulted in left sided sciatic pain with “obvious clinical signs of an S1 nerve root irritation.” Like Dr. Caillier, he said the plaintiff had pre-existing degenerative disc disease, but that is a very common condition and does not necessarily cause pain or other symptoms. However, Dr. Yu agreed on cross-examination that the plaintiff’s disc degeneration is severe for a person his age. Dr. Yu and Dr. Caillier also agreed that the disc degeneration put the plaintiff at increased risk for back pain and sciatica and that disc herniation and resulting pain can occur without any significant trauma…

[26] Dr. Caillier said that given the chronic nature of the plaintiff’s symptoms, he is likely to have ongoing low back and radiating leg pain as well as sensory disturbance and weakness in the left leg. Although she says some improvement may be possible with medication and a physical reconditioning program, his prognosis “remains quite guarded.” She said his ability to work will be effected by his low back symptoms and resulting limitations in “sitting, standing, lifting, carrying, bending, twisting, crouching, as well as any other impact activities.” She concludes:

It is my opinion that Mr. Stanikzia’s injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident of August 25, 2007 have had a significant negative impact upon his future employability as well as lifestyle, and in this regard I am in agreement with Dr. Yu. I am also in agreement that there will be some longterm disability associated with his symptoms, whether he chooses to go forward with surgical or nonsurgical options.

[27] Dr. Yu said the plaintiff’s symptoms will likely “persist for the foreseeable future.” Although surgery could be performed to remove the bulging disc, Dr. Yu said even that is unlikely to provide complete relief.

[28] The opinions of Dr. Caillier and Dr. Yu are not contradicted by any other medical opinion…

[31] The Defendants agree that the plaintiff suffered some injury, but say his spine was already in a severely degenerated condition and the accident only aggravated or accelerated that pre-existing condition. They also say there was a significant risk that condition would have detrimentally affected the plaintiff in the future even without the accident. Those are issues to be considered on assessment of damages. Based on the only medical evidence that is before me, I find that the plaintiff has a low back injury, with associated nerve root involvement, that was caused or contributed to by the accident.

[32] I also find that the plaintiff has experienced and will continue to experience low back pain. Based on his evidence and that of other witnesses, I find that he remains able to do a variety of day-to-day tasks, but is restricted from more strenuous activities, including his former recreational activities, and that the pain significantly interferes with his quality of life…

[42] Apart from what I have found to be a real possibility of future back problems in any event, I find Majer and Crane to be the most comparable. Both cases involved ongoing and likely permanent back pain that, while not completely disabling, severely limited the plaintiff’s work and recreational activities. Both involved pre-existing conditions that were asymptomatic at the time of the accident, although the plaintiff in Crane had, like this plaintiff, a previous history of back pain. The court awarded non-pecuniary damages of $95,000 in Majer and $100,000 in Crane.

[43] If I had not found the plaintiff to have been at significant risk for back problems, I would have assessed non-pecuniary damages of $100,000. In recognition of that risk, I apply 15 per cent reduction and assess non-pecuniary damages at $85,000.

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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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