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October 31, 2012

Restricting Summary Judgment

Are courts beginning to restrict the use of summary judgment?

Justice Brown took the opportunity to comment on summary judgment in a decision encompassing two cases, George Weston Limited v. Domtar Inc and 1318214 Ontario Limited v. Sobeys Capital Inc., 2012 ONSC 5001 (S.C.J.).  These were two cases from the Commerical List in Toronto where counsel sought to schedule summary judgment motions.  In George Weston, the plaintiff sought to schedule a summary judgment motion prior to examinations for discovery.  In 1318214 Ontario, discoveries were mostly complete and when the plaintiff sought to set the matter down for trial, the defendant advised it intended to bring a motion for partial summary judgment to limit the issues for trial.

Justice Brown laments the motion culture in Toronto and what he sees as a reluctance of counsel, especially counsel who have practiced for less than 15 years, to bring cases to trial.  He suggests that instead of bringing summary judgment motions, counsel should take more cases to trial and that courts should facilitate the process by approving innovative ways of proceeding to trial; for example, evidence could be a hybrid of written and viva voce evidence.

It will be interesting to see if other judges share Justice Brown's concerns and if courts will start restricting the use of summary judgment motions.  Defence counsel and insurers will need to carefully assess each case to determine whether the appropriate way is to proceed by way of summary judgment or whether it might be more beneficial to simply proceed to trial. 

October 24, 2012

Second Independent Medical Examination - Evidence

What evidence is necessary on a motion to compel the plaintiff to attend a second independent medical examination?

In Nasir v. Kochmanski, 2012 ONSC 4088 (S.C.J.), the plaintiff was a minor who was injured in a motor vehicle accident.  The claim alleged the plaintiff was struck while a pedestrian and sustained a head injury and various psychological impairments.  He had been assessed by a number of medical doctors and psychologists, both treating and arranged by plaintiff`s counsel.  He had been assessed by a paediatric neurologist on behalf of the defendant, although no report had been prepared.  The defendant sought to have the plaintiff assessed by a psychologist.  The proposed assessor wrote a letter to defence counsel outlining the assessment, its length, information she would require from the plaintiff`s parents, and test results from other assessments she required.

Justice Daley permitted the assessment.  The proposed assessment was outside the scope of expertise of the neurologist, according to the psychologist`s letter.  There was no evidence the assessment would delay trial or prejudice the plaintiff.  Since the plaintiff was very young, his evidence would be of limited evidentiary value, and the most probative and reliable evidence would have to come from experts.  Trial fairness favoured the second examination.

It should be noted that the evidence in support of the motion appears to come from a letter from the proposed assessor.  Justice Daley stated that it would have been preferable to have an affidavit or report from the neurologist outlining the need for a further examination, but accepted that there was enough evidence to support the motion.  There is some inconsistency in the case law as to the form of evidence needed on a motion for a further examination, and counsel should carefully consider whether it would be beneficial to have affidavit evidence. 


October 17, 2012

Catastrophic Impairment: Aviva v. Pastore

The Court of Appeal has released an important decision relating to catastrophic impairment:

Aviva Canada Inc. v. Pastore, 2012 ONCA 642 (C.A.)

The insured was injured in a 2002 motor vehicle accident as a pedestrian and sustained an ankle injury. She alleged her gait had been altered and was diagnosed with a pain disorder.  A DAC found her to be catastrophically impaired in 2005 due to a marked mental or behavioural impairment under s. 2(1.1)(g) of the SABS.  An assessment under s. 2(1.1)(g) is carried out with reference to the AMA Guides, which provide for an assessment of function in four categories:

(1)              Activities of daily living (ADL);
(2)              Social functioning;
(3)              Concentration, persistence and pace; and
(4)              Deterioration or decompensation in work or work-like settings.

Pastore was diagnosed with a number of psychological disorders and the DAC concluded that she had a class 4 marked impairment in activities of daily living.  The DAC concluded she was catastrophically impaired on the basis of the one class 4 impairment.  The insurer did not agree with the assessment and the matter proceeded to mediation then arbitration.

At arbitration, the arbitrator agreed with the DAC assessors and held that one marked impairment was enough to comply with the Guides approach to impairment.  In addition, it was appropriate to consider physical pain in assessing mental disorder, as it was not possible to factor out all physically based pain since it was intertwined with mentally based pain. The Director's Delegate upheld the decision, but the Divisional Court overturned the arbitrator.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and reinstated the arbitrator`s decision.  The conclusion that only one marked impairment is sufficient to meet the definition of catastrophic impairment was a reasonable one. In addition, it was not an error for the DAC assessors to consider both physical and mental pain.

Pastore appears to have lowered the bar for catastrophic impairment based on a mental disorder and more claimants may be able to fit themselves into a catastrophic designation than prior to this decision.

October 10, 2012

Motion to Add Municipal Defendant Dismissed

A motion to add a municipality as a defendant was recently dismissed.

In Temporin v. DiVincenzo, 2012 ONSC 5213 (S.C.J.), the plaintiff was injured in a 2007 motor vehicle accident. Although the City of Burlington had been named as a third party, the plaintiff did not move to add it as a defendant until 2012. The plaintiff ordered the police report in 2007, but did not receive officer's notes as counsel had inadvertently neglected to send payment.  The notes were ultimately received in 2010 when a follow up request was made.  They referred to road conditions consisting of "fierce" black ice. The plaintiff argued that the two year limitation period for adding the municipality began in 2010.

Parayeski J. dismissed the motion. The failure to follow up for police notes until 2010 did not give rise to a discoverability issue. The plaintiff had not exercised reasonable diligence and even though there was no prejudice to the municipality, this did not justify it being added as a defendant post-limitation.

This decision is a good example of the maxim that limitation periods are not enacted to be ignored.  The burden is on plaintiffs to act diligently to identify defendants within the appropriate limitation period.

October 3, 2012

Election of Arbitration or Court Proceeding

Gordyukova v. Certas Direct Insurance Company, 2012 ONCA 563 (C.A.)

The subject of this appeal is s. 281.1(1) of the Insurance Act, which provides that an insured shall commence a court proceeding or arbitration within two years of the insurer's refusal to pay benefits.

The plaintiff was in a motor vehicle accident in 2001.  She applied for accident benefits and a dispute arose over certain medical benefits.  After mediation failed, she issued a Statement of Claim in 2002. In 2005, the insurer advised her she had exhausted her non-catastrophic limits for medical and rehabilitation benefits.  Her application for a catastrophic designation was rejected so she commenced an arbitration at FSCO in 2008.  Certas brought a motion to stay the arbitration on the grounds that the CAT dispute should be added to the court action. The arbitrator ruled the plaintiff could not proceed with both the court action and the arbitration, but could proceed with arbitration if she discontinued the court action.  The arbitrator ruled he was not ruling on the limitation issue.  The plaintiff gave notice of her intention to discontinue the court action and proceed with arbitration, and the insurer brought a motion seeking a ruling on the limitation issue.  The arbitrator ruled the plaintiff could add all of the matters pending before the Superior Court to the arbitration.

Certas appealed, arguing that the plaintiff could not re-elect the method of proceeding eight years after the court action was commenced. The matter was appealed to the Director 's Delegate then the Divisional Court.

The Court of Appeal held that the arbitration should be stayed.  Section 281.1(1) of the Insurance Act requires an election between a court action and an arbitration. It provides that a proceeding shall be brought within two years. The insured has the choice of forum, but cannot switch forums after the expiry of the limitation period.  Since the court proceeding included a claim for "continued accident benefits", it would necessarily include a determination of the CAT issue.