BC Lawsuit For Alberta Car Crash Dismissed for Lack of Jurisdiction

Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, dismissing a BC lawsuit on grounds that it had no jurisdiction over an Alberta based collision claim.

In today’s case (Brooks v. Leithoff) the Plaintiff was involved in a total of 5 collisions.  Four of the five occured in BC.  The third occured in Alberta.  The Plaintiff sued the Alberta motorist in BC alleging the crashes all gave rise to a single indivisible injury.

The Defendant sought to have the claim dismissed on the basis that there was no connection to BC to the crash.  The Court agreed with the Defendant and dismissed the lawsuit.  In doing so and finding the claim should have been filed in Alberta Madam Justice Power provided the following reasons:

[49]         When I consider the plaintiff’s arguments, I am not persuaded that the facts that the plaintiff points to are sufficient to displace what I view to be the clear weight of case law in British Columbia:  neither the plaintiff’s residency in British Columbia, nor the fact of indivisible injuries, nor the fact that the plaintiff is suffering ongoing damages in British Columbia, are, by themselves, sufficient to establish a clear and substantial connection to British Columbia.  When these three elements are combined, do these elements together then prove sufficient to ground jurisdiction?  I cannot conclude that they do.

[50]         During the course of argument, the plaintiff fairly conceded that some of the plaintiff’s arguments related to forums conveniens, which is not something I should take into account at this stage.  The plaintiff may have to mount two separate trials on substantially the same evidence as a result of this ruling, but again, that is not a factor I should take into when determining whether jurisdiction has been established.

[51]         During arguments, counsel for the plaintiff also suggested that if I did not accept that there was jurisdiction under s. 3(e) of the CJPTA, I could nevertheless exercise my residual discretion under s. 6 of the Act to find that this Court has jurisdiction.

[52]         In my view, this argument must fail because the exercise of discretion under s. 6 requires that either a) there is no court outside British Columbia in which the plaintiff can commence the proceeding, or b) that the commencement of the proceeding in a court outside British Columbia cannot reasonably be required.  The fact that the plaintiff has already commenced an action in Alberta leads me to conclude that it is open to the plaintiff to continue litigation of this matter in that jurisdiction.

[53]         During the arguments before me, counsel for the plaintiff also pointed to concerns relating to fairness, and the practical difficulties that Ms. Brooks would face in bringing two separate but essentially identical claims in two separate jurisdictions.  While I appreciate these practical difficulties, there are times when appeals to fairness in the law must yield to the demands for clarity and order in the law.  The words of Mr. Justice La Forest in Tolofson v. Jensen, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 1022 at 1058, although made in a somewhat different context, are nevertheless applicable here:

While, no doubt … the underlying principles of private international law are order and fairness, order comes first.  Order is a precondition to justice.

[54]         Overall, it is my view that the weight of the case law clearly establishes that the facts here are not sufficient to establish a real and substantial connection to British Columbia.

[55]         In the result, the defendant’s application to strike and dismiss the plaintiff’s claim for want of jurisdiction in British Columbia is granted.

 

BC Court of Appeal ~ “Segregated” Non-Pecuniary Awards Should be Avoided

Several years ago it was more common to see BC courts awarding damages for ‘diminished housekeeping capacity‘ as a stand alone head of damage in injury litigation.  More recently the common practice is for courts to roll these in to the general damages awarded for non-pecuniary loss without a stand alone analysis.  Last week the BC Court of Appeal published reasons indicating the latter is the preferred practice.

In the recent case (Riley v. Ritsco) the Plaintiff was injured in a vehicle collision and sued for damages.  At trial non-pecuniary damages of $65,000 were assessed.  The Plaintiff successfully appealed and in doing so the BC Court of Appeal increased this head of damage to $85,000.  The Plaintiff also argued that the judge erred in not assessing damages for loss of housekeeping capacity as a stand alone head of damage.  In finding no error occured here the BC Court of Appeal provided the following guidance:

[101]     It is now well-established that where a plaintiff’s injuries lead to a requirement that they pay for housekeeping services, or where the services are routinely performed for them gratuitously by family members or friends, a pecuniary award is appropriate. Where the situation does not meet the requirements for a pecuniary award, a judge may take the incapacity into account in assessing the award for non‑pecuniary damages.

[102]     I acknowledge what was said in Kroeker about segregated non-pecuniary awards “where the special facts of a case” warrant them. In my view, however, segregated non-pecuniary awards should be avoided in the absence of special circumstances. There is no reason to slice up a general damages award into individual components addressed to particular aspects of a plaintiff’s lifestyle. While such an award might give an illusion of precision, or suggest that the court has been fastidious in searching out heads of damages, it serves no real purpose. An assessment of non-pecuniary damages involves a global assessment of the pain and suffering, loss of amenities, and loss of enjoyment of life suffered by a plaintiff. By its nature, it is a rough assessment and not a mathematical exercise.

[103]     The $85,000 figure that I have proposed for non-pecuniary loss takes into account all of the general damages the plaintiff has suffered and will suffer. It should not be augmented by a segregated award for loss of housekeeping capacity.

ICBC Vehicle Theft Claim Denied With Help of Damaging Cell Phone Records

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dismissing a lawsuit seeking insurance coverage for vehicle theft.

In the recent case (Winterbottom v. ICBC) the Plaintiff owned a Ford F150 which he reported stolen.  It was located a few days later in a remote location and was destroyed by fire.

ICBC denied coverage to the Plaintiff and he sued.  In dismissing the lawsuit the Court noted that cell phone records placed the Plaintiff in the vicinity where the truck was ultimately recovered.  Mr. Justice Blok provided the following reasons highlighting the utility of these records in dismissing the claim:

[113]     Cell phone calls involving Mr. Winterbottom’s phone were the central focus of the case.  At the risk of repetition, I summarize these as follows:

a)    Six calls (three incoming, three outgoing) made between 6:08 pm and 7:21 pm, all of which utilized a cell phone tower located at Ross Road, west of Abbotsford.  This suggests that Mr. Winterbottom’s phone was located south of the Fraser River, and not at his residence, which is where he said he was located at the time;

b)    Two incoming calls, both from Mr. Waardenburg’s phone, made at 9:32 pm and 9:48 pm, which utilized a north-side Sumas Mountain cell phone tower that serviced the very area where the burned-out Truck was found;

c)     An outgoing call to “Todd” at 9:49 pm, which involved a hand-off from the north-side Sumas Mountain tower to a tower located near the Mission Bridge, indicating a movement of the cell phone from east to west.  This would be consistent, for example, with the movement of the phone along Lougheed Highway on the north side of the Fraser River;

d)    Nine calls made between 10:01 pm on October 21 and 12:25 am on October 22, which utilized a cell tower site west of Mission, a location consistent with Mr. Winterbottom being located either at the Mission Springs pub or at his home;

e)    One call to Mr. Nygaard-Peterson made at 12:25 am on October 22 that involved a hand-off from the west Mission cell phone tower to an Abbotsford-area cell phone tower, indicating southbound movement of the phone, plus a second call at 12:46 am that utilized the second tower only.  These calls suggest Mr. Winterbottom was not located at his home or at the pub; and

f)      Three calls made in the morning of October 22, beginning at 8:39 am.  The first call involved a hand-off between two Abbotsford-area cell towers, indicating either movement of the phone or a call made in an overlap area.  The second call utilized the Ross Road cell tower west of Abbotsford.  A third call utilized the Ross Road tower and then handed the call off to a cell tower near Sumas Mountain, thus indicating a west to east movement of the cell phone.  In all cases, the calls are not consistent with Mr. Winterbottom being located at his home.

[114]     Neither Mr. Winterbottom nor Mr. Nygaard-Peterson had any explanation why they would have been phoning one another during the time they had said both of them were located at the Mission Spring pub, although Mr. Nygaard-Peterson speculated that he might have lost his phone or stepped outside.  Mr. Waardenburg had no recollection of the calls and had no idea why he would have been in phone contact with Mr. Winterbottom so often during the relevant time frame.  Both Mr. Winterbottom and Mr. Nygaard-Peterson denied being anywhere other than the Mission Springs pub or the Winterbottom home that night.

[115]     I conclude that the cell phone and cell tower evidence given by Mr. Funk is reasonably reliable and accurate.  His evidence was not undermined in cross-examination.  The plaintiff’s assertion that all cell towers utilized by Mr. Winterbottom’s cell phone were within their standard 35 km range in relation to the pub or the Winterbottom residence ignores Mr. Funk’s evidence that the 35 km figure is merely the licenced range and does not reflect the actual range or coverage.  Mr. Funk’s extensive field testing of actual coverages satisfies me that his evidence can be reasonably relied upon to determine general areas where a cell phone was located or where a cell phone was not located.  While there may be room for occasional aberrations due to topology or physical barriers, etc., for the large number of calls involved in this case to be inaccurate would mean that there would have to be aberrations in almost every instance.  I am satisfied from Mr. Funk’s evidence that this is unlikely in the extreme.

[116]     I agree with the observation of plaintiff’s counsel that the plaintiff appeared to give his evidence in a forthright manner.  So did his witnesses, although their evidence was generally to the effect that they were too drunk to remember much.  There were, however, problems with their evidence.  For example, there was no consistency between the plaintiff and his witnesses about how he got home from the pub.  I agree that those particular inconsistencies might be explained by extreme drunkenness, but the cell phone calls are not so easily explained away.  There is no explanation why the plaintiff and Mr. Nygaard-Peterson were phoning one another when, according to their evidence, they were both at the pub or, later, at the Winterbottom residence.  Mr. Winterbottom agreed he woke up at 10 am the next morning, but he could not explain how that testimony reconciled with the five cell phone calls made from his phone between 8:39 am and 9:43 am that morning other than to say he did not remember them.  Critically, his testimony about where he was located contradicted with the evidence of his cell phone location at various points that night and the next morning.  None of this evidence adds up.

[117]     The cell phone evidence is reliable and cogent, and it persuades me that Mr. Winterbottom was not where he said he was that night.  It also indicates that at one point in the evening Mr. Winterbottom’s cell phone utilized a cell tower that serviced the same rural area where the burned-out Truck was found.  Perhaps most importantly, the cell phone and cell tower evidence persuades me that Mr. Winterbottom’s evidence cannot be relied upon.

[118]      In a case such as this, the burden is first on the insured to show a loss falling within the scope of the insurance coverage, which here is theft.  The only evidence of theft comes from Mr. Winterbottom.  I conclude that there are so many difficulties with the evidence of Mr. Winterbottom, centred on the discrepancies between his testimony about where he was compared to the cell phone location evidence, that I cannot rely on his evidence to prove that a theft occurred.

Plaintiff Ordered to Pay Double Costs After Jury Dismisses Injury Claim

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, ordering a Plaintiff to pay double costs to a Defendant after a jury dismissed her injury claim.

In the recent case (Brar v. Ismail) the Plaintiff alleged injury following a collision and sued for damages.   Prior to trial the Defendants offered to settle for $50,000.  A further offer of $65,000 was tabled.  Neither side compromised and the Plaintiff proceeded to trial where damages of over $500,000 were sought.  The Defendants attacked the Plaintiff’s credibility and introduced surveillance evidence which the court called “compelling”.

The Jury ultimately dismissed the claim.  In ordering that the Defendants were entitled to pre offer costs and post offer double costs Mr. Justice Myers provided the following reasons:

[23]     The issue of whether an offer to settle ought reasonably to have been accepted is determined by the factors existing at the time of the offer and not with the hindsight of a judgment or jury verdict.

[24]     The main point this question hinges on is whether the credibility issues were obvious and significant enough to the plaintiff so that she ought to have accepted one of the offers.

[25]     From at least the time the video surveillance was delivered, it was obvious that the plaintiff’s credibility would be front and center.  There were inconsistencies between what it showed and what she relayed to her experts.  It was also obvious these inconsistencies would have a significant impact on her case.  I do not agree with the plaintiff that what was seen in the video was not far off what she had had told her experts or said in evidence.  Often video surveillance is not compelling; here it was.

[26]     Moreover, as argued by the defendants, the plaintiff also had further credibility difficulties that ought to have been apparent to her counsel:

·        The plaintiff’s evidence was that she hit her head in the accident and had immediate dizziness and nausea including vomiting at the accident scene; however, these complaints were not documented in her GP’s records during her initial visit, which was only hours after the accident.  Her GP testified that he would have made a note of these complaints if they were made to him.

·        The plaintiff’s evidence that she was disoriented and vomited at the accident scene was contradicted by Mr. Ismail’s evidence and that of his brother;

·        In her discovery, the plaintiff said she had not done any form of work, whether paid or voluntary.  She had also stated during her examination for discovery that she never helped her husband in his business (even though she was president and 100% shareholder).  However, at the trial she acknowledged she had in fact done work for her husband’s business since the accident.  Further the surveillance video showed the plaintiff working at an elections voting station.

·        At examination for discovery the plaintiff stated she did not have any other sources of income other than what she received from her employer, Swissport.  She also said she did not own any other properties other than her primary residence.  However, her income tax records showed significant amounts of rental income, and she later admitted at trial that she and her husband received rental income from a property she was on title for.  Her reported rental income was more than she had ever earned from Swissport before the accident.

[37]     I said I would return to the timing of the second offer  There was nothing to prevent the defendants from providing the surveillance far sooner, given its importance; as noted above, it was completed in January 2018.  The fact that it was disclosed in compliance with the rules does not mean that its timing cannot be a consideration with respect to the discretion to award double costs.  As well the $65,000 offer, which was not delivered until five days before trial, could have been delivered sooner.  This would have given the plaintiff more time to consider her position, without prejudicing the defendants.  Therefore, in my view, the defendants should receive ordinary costs up to and including the first five days of trial and double costs after that.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Soft Tissue Injuries Resulting in Chronic Pain

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for Judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries.

In the recent case (Kagrimanyan v. Weir) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end collision caused by the Defendants.  Liability was admitted.  The crash caused various soft tissue injuries which led to chronic pain.  Full resolution of the Plaintiff’s symptoms was not expected.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Riley provided the following reasons:

[54]         I must consider the nature of Ms. Kagrimanyan’s injuries, and the impact of those injuries on Ms. Kagrimanyan’s quality of life. In terms of the immediate or short term effects of the accident, Ms. Kagrimanyan suffered a neck sprain and soft tissue injuries causing intermittent headaches, neck and upper back pain, and lower back pain extending into her leg. The headaches, neck and upper back pain have largely resolved over time. However, Ms. Kagrimanyan continues to suffer from lower back pain which has become chronic. There is a consensus amongst the medical experts who testified at trial that Ms. Kagrimanyan has plateaued in her recovery, and that she is likely to have some degree of continuing pain, made worse by fatigue or prolonged physical effort, including standing or even sitting in one position for an extended period of time.

[55]         In assessing the extent of Ms. Kagrimanyan’s loss, I must take into account that at the time of the accident she was 35 years old, and she is now 40. According to the evidence, she will continue to suffer from some degree of pain, at least on an intermittent basis, for the balance of her life. Ms. Kagrimanyan may be able to better manage or cope with her limitations through improved physical conditioning, but I find based on all of the expert medical testimony that Ms. Kagrimanyan is not likely to achieve full recovery. This is a significant factor when determining a damage award that will fairly and reasonably compensate Ms. Kagrimanyan for the injuries she has suffered and the resulting impact on her life.

[56]         I also accept that Ms. Kagrimanyan has become deconditioned over time, and that with improved physical fitness she may be better able to manage her discomfort and limitations. On this point, I accept the testimony of Dr. Gray that while enhanced conditioning may improve Ms. Kagrimanyan’s ability to cope with pain, it is unlikely to eliminate the pain itself.

[57]         In terms of the overall effect of the accident on Ms. Kagrimanyan’s quality of life, I find that the injuries and resulting chronic pain have impacted and will continue to impact her recreational, social, and domestic activities. She is unable to engage in some of the recreational pursuits she used to enjoy. She is still able to socialize and do housework, but finds these things more difficult than they used to be. She has also experienced and will continue to experience pain and fatigue at work. As Dr. Gray put it, Ms. Kagrimanyan’s injuries have left her with a mild form of disability. While able to remain “durably employed”, Ms. Kagrimanyan experiences increasing discomfort over the course of the work day, and as the work week progresses.

[58]         I conclude that Ms. Kagrimanyan should be awarded non-pecuniary damages of $75,000. This quantum of damages takes into account all of the non-pecuniary impacts of the accident, including added difficulty in performing household tasks. Although Ms. Kagrimanyan has made a discrete claim for housekeeping as a cost of future care, the particular nature of Ms. Kagrimanyan’s injuries and their impact on her ability to do housework is, in my view, properly addressed under the rubric of non-pecuniary damages. The only exception is with respect to heavy duty or seasonal housework, a discrete category of housework that can be dealt with by way of a pecuniary damage award as explained below.

Occupier’s Liability Claim Dismissed Where Plaintiff Did Not Know Why He Fell Down Stairs

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing an occupier’s liability lawsuit involving a plaintiff who was injured after falling down stairs.

In the recent case (Goddard v. Bayside Property Services Ltd.) the plaintiff “fell on a wooden exterior staircase outside a fire exit” at the rear of a property owned by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff did not know why he fell and did not produce any evidence documenting the stairs being a hazard at the time of the fall.  In dismissing the claim via a summary trial application Mr. Justice Ball provided the following reasons:

[17]         In this case, the plaintiff advanced a theory about what caused his fall, but the Court cannot speculate in respect to a theory; the cause of the fall has not been established on the evidence called by the plaintiff.

[18]         The standard of care under the Act and at common law for negligence is the same: it is to protect others from an objectively unreasonable risk of harm. Whether a risk is reasonable or unreasonable is a question of fact and must be determined based on the circumstances of the case: Agar v. Weber, 2014 BCCA 297 at para. 30.

[19]         The existence of stairs by itself is not an unreasonable risk of harm, but a risk that persons in our society face on a daily basis. The existence of stairs is not therefore something from which the defendants needed to protect the plaintiff: Trinetti v. Hunter, 2005 BCCA 549 at para. 11; Delgado v. Wong, 2004 BCSC 1199 at para. 25.

[20]         The fact of the plaintiff’s fall does not establish that the occupier failed to take reasonable care to ensure the plaintiff was reasonably safe. The plaintiff’s uncontroverted evidence, which was accepted by the defendants, is that he does not know what caused him to fall. If that is the case, he cannot establish the defendants caused the fall and he fails then to establish either negligence or breach of a duty under the Act.

[21]         Further, given the detailed description of the inspection and maintenance of the staircase involved by the staff and owners of the strata, the defendants have met the requisite standard of care under both the Act and common law negligence.

[22]         While the Court heard argument concerning allegations the plaintiff was negligent and submissions relating to quantum of damages, I do not regard those matters as necessary for the purpose of giving judgment.

[23]         In the circumstances of this case, the plaintiff has clearly not met the onus which he bears, and as a result the action falls to be dismissed.

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