Tag: Transfer to Provincial Court

ICBC Applications to Transfer Lawsuits to Provincial Court Discouraged


Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing an ICBC application to transfer a Plaintiff’s lawsuit to Small Claims Court.
In this recent case (Kooner v. Singh) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  He sued for damages in the BC Supreme Court.  Following examinations for discovery the Defendant applied to transfer the claim to Small Claims Court.  Mr. Justice McEwan dismissed the application.  He reiterated some concerns he voiced earlier this year and provided the following reasons generally discouraging these types of applications:

[3] I have commented on other occasions about these applications.  They amount to the Supreme Court being asked to summarily determine that damages could not possibly exceed $25,000 and also to accept that a trial in Provincial Court is the most expeditious way to deal with the action.  On the basis of the material before me, it is not possible to say that the case could not exceed $25,000.  The plaintiff wishes to have the matter heard in Supreme Court, and it would only be on the clearest basis that the court would act to deprive a person who wished to be heard in the Supreme Court of the right to do so.

[4] I am not prepared, on the basis of the material, to summarily find that there is no possibility of the trial establishing damages in excess of $25,000, nor am I in a position to assess whether or not the liability aspect of the claim would foreclose the possibility of such damages.  It seems to me that the defence must be seeking the limitation of $25,000 because there is very little else that would suggest a motivation for such claims.  It is not, as it may once have been, obvious that the Provincial Court is equipped to hear these matters more expeditiously or more cheaply, particularly given the point at which this application is brought, post-discoveries, after most of the expenses that go into a Supreme Court trial have been incurred.  My understanding of the current state of hearing day fees, as such, is that there are none for the first three days of trial.  So that is not a factor.  There was a suggestion before me that the informality of the Provincial Court is an advantage, but unless that informality is tied to reduced time in court, which is not at all clear, I fail to see how that, in itself, results in any particular economy.

[5] I think it should be clear that parties have a right to elect the court in which they bring their actions and that, in doing so, if they persist, they run certain risks.  Those risks, in the case of a plaintiff’s action brought in Supreme Court that should have been brought in Small Claims Court, include the penalty of not receiving costs in the case of success, and also include the hazard, if an offer to settle is made, of double costs in accordance with the Rules setting out those penalties.  It appears from the vantage of the bench that it is much more in the defence interest that the matter remain in Supreme Court than that this application succeed, unless, as I have said, what is really sought is a summary assessment of the case on the basis of very limited information, to bring the matter in under $25,000.  Given the hazards (which the plaintiff is aware of), I am of the view that the plaintiff is entitled to bring the matter in this Court if that is what the plaintiff wishes to do.

[6] I have said as much on the previous occasion of Chang v. Wren in oral reasons given June 10, 2011.  I see no reason to stray from the outcome in that case which was to the effect that unless the court were persuaded that damages could not possibly exceed $25,000 the plaintiff should not be deprived of the opportunity to convince a court that their damages exceed that amount.  I considered it most unsafe to summarily decide a case on the basis of descriptions that do not include the actual evidence of the parties.  Courts certainly have the experience of being persuaded that cases that did not appear to be worth a great deal turn out to be worth much more once they have been heard.  I will also say, as I said in Chang v. Wren, that I am absolutely not persuaded by any efficiency or cost-saving argument, particularly where, as here, the application is brought at a point post-discovery.  There is very little process to avoid at this point and, for the reasons I have already indicated, it is not at all clear that there are cost savings to be realized.

[7] Accordingly, I dismiss this application.

ICBC Application to Move Lawsuit to Small Claims Denied, Court Finds it "Most Unsafe" to do so


As previously discussed, Section 15 of the Supreme Court Act allows the Court to transfer a lawsuit to the Provincial Court (Small Claims) in certain circumstances.  Reasons for judgement were released today making it clear that such applications will rarely succeed in personal injury lawsuits.
In today’s case (Chang v. Wren) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages in Supreme Court.  ICBC brought an application to move the case to Small Claims Court.  Mr. Justice McEwan expressed “difficulty appreciating the motivation for the application” and dismissed it.  In doing so the Court noted the well-known delay in getting trial dates for personal injury lawsuits in Provincial Court and further the difficulty in predicting that any given case would be worth less than $25,000 in a summary hearing.  The following useful reasons were provided:


[3] I must say I find it unusual that a defendant brings such an application and had some difficulty appreciating the motivation for the application, given that the sanction in costs and in depriving the plaintiff of costs following a Supreme Court hearing would appear, in my view, to be more advantageous than the inevitable result of putting the matter down to Provincial Court, which would be a trial some eight months from when the trial is presently set in August of 2011 in Provincial Court, and a further proceeding by way of mandatory mediation in the Provincial Court.

[4] Whatever the merits of the respective parties’ positions as to the ultimate quantum of damages in this matter, it seems to me that the appropriate disposition is to see that it gets to trial before a competent tribunal as quickly as possible, and with as little procedural clutter as possible.  That militates strongly in favour of the Supreme Court retaining this matter within its precincts, where there is a far greater likelihood, in the present circumstances, of a trial being held when it is scheduled, than there is in the Provincial Court.

[5] Circumstances might be different if it could be reliably assumed that Provincial Court would get the matter on quickly and be done with it faster than a Supreme Court, but while I am not prepared to go so far as to say I take judicial notice of anything in particular, I certainly will observe that I do not think I can behave on the basis of that particular fiction.

[6] What this application amounts to is a request to the court to summarily assess the evidence without hearing from any witnesses or without hearing from the plaintiff herself and determine that the matter would come in under $25,000.  That would depend on the court reading the medical reports, essentially as the defence suggests I should, and I do not think it is something that a responsible court could really do.

[7] The plaintiff has chosen the Supreme Court of British Columbia.  She will have been advised of the hazards of bringing a Small Claim jurisdiction matter in this court, but if she is determined to proceed and to have a determination in Supreme Court, I think it would have to be established very, very firmly that the damages she claims could not exceed $25,000, before the court would entertain such an application.

[8] Counsel have provided some case law reflecting what the test is for bringing the matter down to Provincial Court.  My own view is that in a case where the liquidated damages could not possibly exceed $25,000, it might be clear, but in a case of this kind where the nuances of personal experience may have a significant bearing on the court’s assessment, perhaps even notwithstanding the medical evidence, it would be most unsafe to summarily decide that the case could not exceed the limits of the Small Claims jurisdiction.

[9] So on the basis that, first of all, it appears to be more efficient to continue in Supreme Court, and secondly, on the basis that it is, in any event, the plaintiff’s right to choose the forum, where there is any doubt about the appropriate jurisdiction, I think it better at this stage of this proceeding, post-discovery and a few months to trial, for the matter to remain in Supreme Court.

[10] I dismiss the application.


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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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