Plaintiff Receives Award Less Than Defendant’s Offer, However Defendant Is Denied Post Offer Costs

In Barta v. DaSilva, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident, and consequently sued for damages.

 

The Plaintiff alleged a plethora of injuries, most notably a mild traumatic brain injury, which he alleged deprived him of the ability to make sound financial decisions, leading to a substantial loss in capital and income up to and after the time of trial.

 

Prior to trial, ICBC’S lawyer made a formal offer to settle in the amount of $150,000.00, plus costs and disbursements. This was offer was rejected by counsel for the Plaintiff, who made an offer of $970,000.00, plus costs and disbursements, which was also rejected.

 

At trial, the Plaintiff was only awarded $77,750.00 in damages, as it was determined that the Plaintiff had not suffered a brain injury, and that any loss of capital and/or income were not caused by any injuries attributable to the accident. As the court award was less than the formal offer made by ICBC’S lawyer, the Court’s discretion to award legal costs against the Plaintiff was triggered.

 

Counsel for the Plaintiff argued that the Plaintiff should be awarded party and party costs throughout the entirety of the proceeding, including trial. ICBC’S lawyer argued that the Plaintiff should be entitled to costs only up the point that the Defendant’s formal offer was made, and that the Defendant should be entitled to costs after the point that the Defendant’s formal offer was made, or alternatively, that the Plaintiff be awarded costs up to the point of the Defendant’s formal offer, with each party bearing their own costs after that point in time.

 

The Court concluded that the Defendant’s offer ought reasonably to have been accepted, given the tenuous connection between the Plaintiff’s injuries, and the alleged financial losses.

 

The Court also took note of the fact that the Defendant’s formal offer was almost double that of the actual Court award, leading the Court to conclude that the Plaintiff should not be awarded costs throughout, including trial, as this would defeat the purpose of the deterrent function of the costs rule.

 

The Plaintiff was awarded costs up to the point of the Defendant’s formal offer to settle. Usually under the circumstances of the case at bar, the Plaintiff would be ordered to pay the Defendant’s post offer costs for failing to beat the Defendant’s formal offer to settle, however the Court ruled that each party would bear their own post offer costs.

 

[10]        The plaintiff submits the offer made by the defendant was not one “that ought reasonably to have been accepted”. Mr. Creighton submits that when a plaintiff experiences depression that condition may manifest itself in a variety of ways, including those that mimic a mild traumatic brain injury, and therefore the plaintiff in this case was faced with particular difficulties in assessing the reasonableness of the defendant’s offer. I do not agree. Many plaintiffs in personal injury cases have far more complex conditions than Mr. Barta but they must, nevertheless, do their best to make a realistic assessment of their claim when they receive an offer to settle.

 


[12]        The defendant’s offer of $150,000 plus costs and disbursements was a serious offer. The plaintiff ought to have known that the defendant’s legal advisers had a plausible basis for concluding that the plaintiff would be unable to prove a causal connection between his accident injuries and his financial losses. In my opinion the defendant’s offer ought reasonably to have been accepted.

 

[13]        The relative financial position of the parties is of no consequence on this application. The defence was conducted by ICBC, which obviously has much greater financial strength than the plaintiff, but unless it used that strength improperly in this litigation that is a neutral factor: See Vander Maeden v. Condon, 2014 BCSC 677.

 

[14]        When its offer to settle was not accepted the defendant had no serious option but to defend the action at trial. The result was an award of damages about one half the offer made by the defendant. In that circumstance the deterrent function of the costs rule would be nullified if I exercise my discretion by awarding costs to the plaintiff throughout as he submits I should. I declined to do so.

 

[15]        The evidence at trial indicates that the plaintiff’s assets were severely depleted by the effects of the financial downturn in 2008 and 2009. Mr. Creighton informed me that his client’s income is now meagre. I can see no utility in imposing the costs of the trial on the plaintiff.

 

[16]        My order is that the plaintiff is entitled to his costs and disbursements to and including May 15, 2014, and that thereafter the parties will each bear their own costs and disbursements. I recognize that the usual order would be to impose the costs following the defendant’s offer on the plaintiff. The defendant, however, has proposed the disposition which I have made, which I consider to be generous to the plaintiff in the circumstances.

 

Court Rules That Adverse Costs Insurance Is Not A Compensable Disbursement

In Wynia v. Soviskov, the Court considered the issue of whether or not the premium for adverse costs insurance was compensable as a disbursement.

 

Adverse costs insurance, also known as “after the event” insurance, is a form of insurance policy purchased by a Plaintiff to provide financial protection in the event that the Court makes a judgment for costs against the Plaintiff after a trial should the Plaintiff be unsuccessful. It can also apply to a successful Plaintiff who is granted an award at trial that is less than the amount of the Defendant’s formal offer to settle. A benefit of purchasing the policy is that it can help level the playing field in that Plaintiffs, who may be hesitant to proceed to trial out of fear of a crushing costs award, can have access to justice.

 

In the case at bar, counsel for the Plaintiff sought to recover the cost of premiums for an adverse costs insurance policy purchased by the Plaintiff to insure against the Plaintiffs’ own disbursements, as well as the Defendant’s costs and disbursements.

 

There appeared to be no British Columbia case authority directly on point. Counsel for the Defendant relied on the Ontario case of Markovic v. Richards et al. for the proposition that the cost of premiums for an adverse costs insurance was not a compensable disbursement.

 

Rule 14-1(5)(a) of the British Columbia Supreme Court Civil Rules states that a registrar must determine which disbursements have been necessarily or properly incurred in the conduct of the proceeding. In the case at bar, the Court cited the well known British Columbia Court of Appeal case of MacKenzie v. Rogalasky for judicial consideration of the meaning of necessarily or properly incurred in the conduct of the proceeding.

 

In ruling that the premiums for an adverse costs policy are not recoverable as a disbursement, the Court commented :

 

[6] In British Columbia, to be recoverable as a disbursement SCCR 14-1(5) provides that the disbursement must have been necessarily or properly incurred in the conduct of the proceeding. The phrase “necessarily or properly incurred in the conduct of the proceeding” was recently addressed by the Court of Appeal in MacKenzie v. Rogalasky, 2014 BCCA 446. The Court of Appeal states …

 

[79] The rule, in its current form, permits the recovery of “disbursements … incurred in the conduct of the proceeding”. In my view, quite apart from the language “incurred in the conduct of the proceeding” the term “disbursement”, when used in the context of a costs rule that relates to the taxation of costs in particular litigation, does contain limits that narrow its potential broad applicability. It appears to me that the purpose of permitting the recovery of disbursements in the context of a costs regime is to permit the recovery of those expenses that arise inherently and directly from the issues in the case which relate, as the appellants suggest, to the direction, management, or control of litigation and which pay for materials and services used to prove a claim or defence. These expenses arise directly from the nature and conduct of the allegations in a proceeding.

 

[7] In my view, applying the reasons of the BCCA in MacKenzie v. Rogalasky, supra, the cost of insurance coverage is not a proper or necessary disbursement incurred in the conduct of the proceeding. No doubt it provides a measure of financial comfort to the plaintiff, however, it does not arise from the exigencies of the proceeding and relate directly to the direction, management, or control of the litigation used to prove a claim against the defendants. Accordingly, the cost of the insurance coverage is disallowed.

Plaintiff Ordered To Pay Double Costs After Claim Dismissed At Trial

In Ross v. Andrews, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident, and consequently sued for damages. Prior to trial, ICBC’S lawyer had made two formal offers to settle, both of which were rejected by counsel for the Plaintiff.

 

The trial lasted for 15 days, and was by judge and jury. At the conclusion of counsel’s submissions, and the court’s instructions, the jury after deliberations determined that the Plaintiff had not been injured in the accident. The Plaintiff’s case was dismissed, with the costs issue being adjourned until a later point in time.

 

ICBC’S lawyer brought a costs application, seeking double costs from the date of service of either the first or last formal offer of the Defendant, to the date of trial, arguing that given the Plaintiff’s credibility problems prior to trial, that the offers were reasonable, and ought to have been accepted.

 

Counsel for the Plaintiff submitted that there was sufficient medical evidence upon which the Plaintiff could rely on to advance his case, and further that an award of double costs would be financial hardship to the Plaintiff.

 

The Court awarded double costs to the Defendant from a period of time of seven days after the delivery of the second formal offer to settle, to the date of trial, ruling that the offer ought reasonably to have been accepted, in light of how the credibility problems may be perceived by the jury.

 

[21]         Based on a review of the evidence at trial, described in part above, and the cases cited, as well as a review of the submissions of counsel, I find that the offer to settle in the amount of $75,000 ought reasonably to have been accepted by the plaintiff having given consideration to the foreseeable credibility problems and the negative verdict of the jury. The offers to settle both included positive returns whereas at trial the plaintiff’s action was dismissed. The relative financial circumstances of the parties do not preclude an order for double costs in this situation. As a result, applying Rule 9-1 of the Supreme Court Rules, the defendants are entitled to the costs of this action generally and double costs of this action commencing on May 26, 2016. This date is seven days after the second offer to settle was delivered to the plaintiff; a reasonable period of time for the plaintiff to consider the offer. Double costs are awarded from May 26, 2016 until the end of the trial and will include the costs of the application to fix costs. The defendants are also entitled to disbursements but not doubled.

 

[22]         The evidence aforesaid created significant areas where the credibility of the plaintiff was subject to negative findings by a jury. When those areas are added together the plaintiff ought to have actively considered any offer which offered a positive return without the risks of a trial.

 

Plaintiff Awarded Double Costs For Nearly Doubling Formal Offer to Settle

In Risling v. Riches-Glazema, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident when the Defendant turned left across the path of her vehicle. The Plaintiff commenced legal proceedings, seeking non-pecuniary damages, past diminished earning capacity, special damages, diminished earning capacity into the future, and the cost of future care. Liability was admitted by ICBC’S lawyer.

 

Prior to trial, counsel for the Plaintiff had made a formal offer to settle in the amount of $315,000.00, plus costs and disbursements, which was rejected by ICBC’S lawyer. The trial judge awarded the Plaintiff $622,500.00, almost double the amount of the Plaintiff’s formal offer to settle. At a costs application, counsel for the Plaintiff sought costs of the trial, plus double costs from the date of the offer to the time of trial.

 

Of the many considerations available to a Court when deciding on whether or not to award double costs, the Court focused on whether or not the Plaintiff’s formal offer to settle was one that “ought reasonably to have been accepted”, and cited the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision in Hartshorne v. Hartshorne.

 

In awarding the Plaintiff double costs from the date of the offer to the time of trial, the Court commented :

 

[7]             In my view:

 

a)              The plaintiff’s case was well known to the defendants at the time of the offer. The plaintiff had been examined for discovery on two occasions; had attended two medical examinations at the request of the defendants, and a mediation had taken place in June 2016;

 

b)              the offer was made one week before the trial began which gave the defendants a full opportunity to consider it;

 

c)               the offer had a relationship to the claim and could not be characterized as a “nuisance offer”; and

 

d)              the offer was expressed in plain language and thus easily evaluated.

 

[10]         The defendants submit their limited understanding of the case made it difficult to quantify the claim and that, while the rationale for the rule for double costs is acknowledged, the defendants ought not to have been deterred from defending the claim for fear of a “punishing costs award”. Currie v. McKinnon, 2012 BCSC 1165 is relied on in support of that argument.

 

[11]         The defendants also submit that “no rationale for the offer was provided” in the plaintiff’s letter of August 15, 2016.

 

[12]         I do not agree that no rationale was provided. The plaintiff described the heads of damages she would advance at the trial and advised that the offer took into account “Part 7 Benefits paid or payable pursuant to Section 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act”. Furthermore, the defendants had an opportunity on the mediation to canvas fully with the plaintiff’s legal advisers the extent of the plaintiff’s claim and the evidence at trial which would be advanced to support the claim.

 

Plaintiff’s Hit And Run Claim Dismissed For Not Providing Proper Section 24(2) Notice Under Insurance (Vehicle) Act

In Parmar Estate v. British Columbia, the Plaintiffs were killed in a hit and run accident, with the estate consequently suing for damages. Although the Notice of Civil Claim was served and filed within the appropriate limitation periods, the Plaintiffs did not notify ICBC within six months of the accident of their intention to bring a hit and run claim, which is a requirement under Section 24(2) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.

 

By way of a Rule 9-6 Summary Judgment application, ICBC’S sought to have the Plaintiffs’ claims dismissed for not complying with the Section 24(2) notice requirement, nor the “reasonable efforts” obligation under Section 24(5) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.

 

Counsel for the Plaintiffs argued that Section 24(2) is not absolute, and must be read in conjunction with Section 24(3), which provides that after an action referred to in Section 24(1) has been commenced, it is alleged that injury, death, or property damage was caused or contributed to by an unknown motorist, the court can add ICBC as a nominal defendant.

 

ICBC’S lawyer argued that, as the proper notice under Section 24(2) was not given, there was no genuine issue to be tried. As a result, the Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed.

 

The Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ claims for failing to comply with the Section 24(2) notice requirement, commenting that :

 

[15] I do not accept the plaintiffs’ interpretation of s. 24 of the Act. Their reliance on the Jamt decision is misplaced, particularly, as noted in that decision, ICBC was named as a nominal defendant at the commencement of this action.

 

[16] Here, it is clear that ICBC did not receive notice of the allegations against an unknown driver within six months of the accident. The notice of civil claim can serve as notice to ICBC under s. 24(2). Even so, the notice of civil claim was not filed until two years after the accident and was not served until three years after the accident.

 

[17] The plaintiffs provide no explanation for the lack of notice or for the failure to serve the notice of claim for a year following its filing. As noted in the chronology, the accident was not reported to ICBC until March or April 2014. There is no basis upon which I can conclude that the notice was given to ICBC “as soon as reasonably practicable”. The lack of notice is fatal to the plaintiffs’ claim.

 

[18] I am satisfied that the action against ICBC raises no genuine triable issue and must be dismissed.

Court Awards Full Fast Track Costs To Plaintiff In Case Settled 7 Months Prior To Trial

In Yuan v. Fan, the Plaintiff was injured in a head on collision, and consequently sued for damages. Liability was admitted by ICBC’S lawyer on behalf of the Defendant.

 

Prior to trial, there was an Examination for Discovery of the Plaintiff, as well as an exchange of documentation between the parties. The Plaintiff produced two expert reports, one from her family doctor, and one from a psychiatrist. Settlement proposals were exchanged between the parties, with the matter finally settling approximately seven months before the scheduled trial date.

 

Some ICBC injury claims proceed through fast track litigation, which is a faster way to have a case proceed through the litigation process. The fast track process applies to ICBC injury claims that can be completed in three days or less, or to those ICBC injury claims where the amount of damages sought by the Plaintiff is less than $100,000.00. Subject to a Court’s discretion, there is usually a set sum of costs awarded to the successful party in a fast track matter. Counsel for the Plaintiff in the case at bar proceeded by way of fast track litigation.

 

Counsel for the Plaintiff sought the full fast track costs amount of $6,500.00, arguing that there had been “significant preparation for trial”. ICBC’S lawyer argued that there had not been significant preparation for trial.

 

The Court, in noting that whether or not significant preparation for trial had occurred depends on the circumstances of each case, awarded the Plaintiff full costs.

 

[8] Whether the successful party’s case was significantly ready for trial is a case‑specific inquiry. In Noori v. Pochman, 2016 BCSC 1329, at paragraph 6, the court states:

 

Different cases involving different parties, different injuries, and different issues will be ready for trial at different times depending on the circumstances.

 

[10] In the present case liability was admitted, therefore work in that regard wasn’t needed. The plaintiff abandoned her claim for wage loss, and therefore, no pre-trial work was necessary in that regard. Discoveries had been completed, document exchanges had been completed, and medicolegal reports had been obtained. Detailed settlement offers had been exchanged. All that remained to be done was the filing of a trial brief, attending a trial management conference, and immediate trial preparation. Immediate trial preparation is required in each and every case whether settlement occurs two weeks, or two months prior to trial.

 

[11] This was not a complex case. It was a simple case of assessing damages where there wasn’t a wage loss claim. Simple cases require less work to be ready for trial. The plaintiff’s case has met the threshold of being significantly prepared for trial in all the circumstances. I award the full fast track cap.

Court Awards $4.5 Million For Cost Of Future Care In Paraplegia Case

In Warick v. Diwell, the Plaintiff was seriously injured in a head on collision in which other occupants of the vehicle were killed. The Plaintiff commenced legal proceedings, seeking compensation for numerous types of damages, all of which were settled with the exception of the cost of future care.

 

The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries, however the specific ones that the Court noted would have the greatest impact with respect to her care were the spinal cord injury which paralyzed her from the waist done; the numerous surgeries on her intestines and bladder ; and a hand and wrist fracture.

 

A variety of future cost of care items were in dispute, with the most significant one being the cost of home care of the Plaintiff, with the Court awarding over $3 Million as a present value of the ongoing cost. Other notable items included awards for medications, travel, housekeeping, and mobility aids.

 

In total, the Court would award slightly over $4.5 Million in future care costs to the Plaintiff, commenting :

 

[203]     Claims made for future care must be both medically justified and reasonable. An award “should reflect what the evidence establishes is reasonably necessary to preserve the plaintiff’s health”:  Milina v. Bartsch (1985), 49 B.C.L.R. (2d) 33 (S.C.) at paras. 199 and 201; aff’d (1987), 49 B.C.L.R (2d) 99 (C.A.).

 

[204]     This requirement of medical justification, as opposed to medical necessity “requires only some evidence that the expense claimed is directly related to the disability arising out of the accident, and is incurred with a view toward ameliorating its impact”:  Harrington v. Sangha, 2011 BCSC 1035, at para. 151.

 

[207]     Damages for the cost of future care are assessed, not mathematically calculated:  Uhrovic v. Masjhuri, 2008 BCCA 462 at paras. 28-31. There is an inherent degree of uncertainty and discretion in making such awards. Because awards are made “once and for all” at the time of trial, judges must “peer into the future” and fix the damages “as best they can”. This includes allowing contingencies for the possibility that the future may differ from what the evidence at trial indicates:  Krangle (Guardian ad litem of) v. Brisco, 2002 SCC 9, at para. 21.

ICBC’S “Checkered Record” Of Funding Past Treatments Affects Court’s Ruling On Section 83 Deduction Application

In Olson v. Farran, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident, and subsequently advanced an ICBC claim for non-pecuniary damages, as well as various other types of damages, including special damages and the cost of future care.

 

At trial, the Court awarded the Plaintiff damages under numerous categories, including special damages and the cost of future care.

 

ICBC’S lawyer took issue with the amounts awarded under these categories, and sought a deduction pursuant to Section 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, which allows the Court to reduce the awards if a claimant has received or is entitled to receive benefits from ICBC. For example, if a claimant is awarded a sum of money for future treatment, however ICBC would pay this anyways in the future under Part 7 benefits, then this amount can be deducted from the court award. However, there is not always a guarantee that ICBC will make such payments in the future, which is an important factor for a Court to consider when hearing applications pursuant to Section 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. Certain benefits can be mandatory, however certain benefits are only discretionary. When benefits are only discretionary in nature, this means that ICBC does not have to pay such benefits in the future. This uncertainly is typically the key issue in Section 83 applications for deductions of trial awards.

 

In the case at bar, ICBC had actually paid out the entire amount of the judgement to counsel for the Plaintiff, who deposited the funds into a trust account. Shortly thereafter, however, ICBC’S lawyer gave notice of an intention to apply for a deduction in the awards for special damages and the cost of future care. Plaintiff’s counsel then filed and delivered an acknowledgment of payment of the judgment in full, and then paid out the judgment funds to the Plaintiff.

 

In addition to invoking the doctrines of mootness, estoppel, and abuse of process, counsel for the Plaintiff argued that the benefits that ICBC’S lawyer sought to deduct were discretionary, and that there was some uncertainty as to whether or not ICBC would even pay any future benefits.

 

The Court did not allow for any deductions from the special damages trial award on the basis of mootness, but did allow for a partial deduction from the cost of care award at trial. The Court was concerned with ICBC’S history of actually paying for the Plaintiff’s treatment, leading to serious concerns as to whether future benefits would be paid by ICBC.

 

[71] The onus of showing that a deduction should be made is on the defendant. I must estimate the amount to which Ms. Olson is entitled, exercising caution and taking into account any uncertainty concerning whether the benefits will be paid. Any such uncertainty must be resolved in favour of the plaintiff.

 

[72] Based on the Dr. Garbuz’s opinion, and the defendant’s position at trial that Ms. Olson would benefit from a three to six-month exercise program under the supervision of a physiotherapist, I am satisfied that a portion of the physiotherapy will be paid. I estimate that amount to be $500 and order that the amount to be deducted with respect to the physiotherapy is $500.

 

[73] In light of the Corporation’s past partial and disrupted payment for kinesiology, there is no certainty that the Corporation will pay for any further kinesiology treatments. I therefore decline to deduct any portion of the $800 sought by the defendant for kinesiology sessions.

 

[74] Similarly, there is no certainty that the insurer will pay for future massage therapy treatments, particularly where such treatments may only provide temporary relief to Ms. Olson, rather than a lasting improvement in her condition. Again, I decline to deduct any portion of the $920 sought by the defendant for massage therapy.

 

[75] The defendant also seeks a deduction of $870 for psychological services. Psychological therapy is a benefit payable in the Corporation’s sole discretion under s. 88(2)(f) of the Regulation.

 

[76] The defendant submits the Court should conclude from ICBC’s past funding for physiotherapy and active rehabilitation that there is no uncertainty about whether the Corporation will fund psychological therapy for the plaintiff.

 

[77] I disagree. The Corporation’s checkered record of funding the plaintiff’s treatment before trial raises significant uncertainty about whether this benefit will be paid. Further, Mr. Phan, the Corporation’s representative, offers no assurance in his affidavit that ICBC will pay for psychological therapy for Ms. Olson. Nor is there any opinion from the Corporation’s medical advisor, as required under s. 88(2), that the psychological services are likely to promote the rehabilitation of the insured. The uncertainty concerning whether this benefit will be paid must be resolved in favour of the plaintiff. I am not satisfied the Corporation will pay any portion of this benefit. Accordingly, there will be no deduction for psychological therapy.

Court of Appeal Rules That ICBC Part 7 Benefits Are Excluded From Repayment Under Subrogated Claims

In Brugger v. The Trustees of The IWA, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident. Pursuant to a subrogation agreement, he received long term disability benefits through the Forest Industry LTD Trust. Under the provisions of the subrogation agreement, the Plaintiff agreed to repay the Trustees the amount of repayable LTD benefits. The Plaintiff also received Part 7 interim wage loss benefits through ICBC.

 

At one point, the Trustees demanded repayment of the repayable LTD benefits, however the Plaintiff refused, necessitating the cessation of the LTD benefits. The Plaintiff then commenced proceedings seeking damages for the wrongful termination of the LTD benefits. The Trustees counterclaimed for reimbursement.

 

At a Summary Trial application, the chambers judge ordered the Plaintiff to pay back a certain amount of the benefits, which also factored in Part 7 benefits from ICBC.

 

The Plaintiff appealed, arguing that Part 7 benefits did not apply to amounts owed pursuant to the subrogation agreement.

 

The Court of Appeal ruled that the chambers judge had erred when he ruled that Part 7 benefits were to be included as “compensation from … a person whose acts have caused or are alleged to have caused the Disability“. The rationale for the Court of Appeal’s decision is that Part 7 benefits are no fault, first party insurance benefits.

 

[48]         In my view, Part 7 benefits should not be included in Gross Compensation or calculation of the reimbursement obligation. Such benefits are not paid by or on behalf of a person whose acts or omissions have caused or are alleged to have caused the disability. They are not paid pursuant to Part 6 of the Regulation, which describes third-party liability insurance coverage; they are paid, rather, by the Disabled Employee’s insurer as first-party benefits. Pursuant to s. 79 of the Regulation, they are paid “to an insured in respect of death or injury caused by an accident that arises out of the use or operation of a vehicle” regardless of fault.

 

[51]         While the Trustees are given authority to set the terms upon which Plan Members are entitled to benefits, and have broad discretion to determine what portion of Gross Compensation represents compensation for wage loss, they have established a Plan and must abide by its terms. Without amending the Plan, they do not have discretion to include in Gross Compensation amounts received by the member that are not paid by or on behalf of a tortfeasor.

 

[65]         In my view, the Trustees and the chambers judge erred in determining the appellant’s obligation to repay benefits to the Trustees by considering Part 7 no-fault benefits to be compensation paid by or on behalf of a person who caused the appellant’s disability …

Plaintiffs’ Claims Dismissed For Not Commencing Litigation Within Two Year Limitation Period

In DeWolfe v. Jones, a driver and passenger were injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2005. The husband and wife elected to deal directly with ICBC on their own, and did not retain counsel. More than four years later, both Plaintiffs commenced legal proceedings. Almost two years later, both Plaintiffs filed Amended Notices of Civil Claims.

 

ICBC’S lawyer filed Responses to both claims, alleging that both claims were statute barred, as the Plaintiffs did not commence legal proceedings within the two year period of time from the date of the accident. A Summary Trial application pursuant to Rule 9-7 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules was brought to dismiss both of the Plaintiffs’ claims.

 

Counsel for the Plaintiffs sought to rely on the doctrine of promissory estoppel. To succeed in such an argument, it would need to be shown that the other party, by words or conduct, made a promise or assurance that was intended to affect the legal relationship between the parties, and to be acted on ; and, in reliance on the representation, the Plaintiffs acted on it or in some way changed their position. In order for promissory estoppel to apply, the Court would also need to be of the view that it would be unconscionable to allow the Defendant to resile from its’ position.

 

Counsel for the Plaintiffs relied on a statement made by the adjuster, however the Court was not of the opinion that the Defendants would be estopped from relying on the limitation defence available to them.

 

In dismissing the Plaintiffs’ claims, the Court commented :

 

[31]         The plaintiffs in the present case suggest that the main concern is not that Ms. Johal was silent as to any applicable limitation period, but that she made an “affirmative statement denying the existence or application of any limitation period.”

 

[35]         In these circumstances, the plaintiffs submit it should be inferred that a promise was made that the limitation period would not be enforced.

 

[49]         Finally, even if the plaintiffs were able to establish that liability had been admitted and a promise made, I am of the view that they are unable to demonstrate they relied on such an assurance to waive the limitation period. In her examination for discovery, Mrs. DeWolfe admits that the main reasons why she did not commence her legal action earlier was that she simply did not realize there was a time frame in which she had to do so, and that “life just got busy”.

 

[51]         In my opinion, although the parties had discussed the possibility of settling the plaintiffs’ claims, there were no serious negotiations towards that end. At no point did ICBC concede to the plaintiffs that the defendants were responsible for the Accident and in my view there is no persuasive evidentiary foundation to infer that only the quantum of damages remained as an issue to be settled between them.

 

[52]         Finally, I am not convinced that the plaintiffs relied to their detriment on any assurances made by Ms. Johal or any other representative of ICBC.