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May 28, 2014

Action Dismissed for Failing to Provide Municipal Notice

A recent decision dismissed a plaintiff's claim against a municipality for failing to give notice within 10 days, as required by the Municipal Act.

In Seif v. City of Toronto, 2014 ONSC 2983 (S.C.J.), the plaintiff tripped and fell on a sidewalk.  She did not provide notice to the City for four months.  She stated she was unaware of the Municipal Act notice requirement. She was on painkillers for 3 days, was mobile within a week of the accident and was able to focus on a job search in the weeks after the accident.  The Court found that the delay in giving notice was as a result of her indecision as to whether to bring an action.

Justice Morgan dismissed the action.  Even though the notice requirement is "very unfair", it is a specific statutory requirement that can only be changed by the legislative.  The exception to the notice requirement is to accommodate plaintiffs whose delay is as a result of their injuries.  The plaintiff had no reasonable excuse for the failure to comply with the notice requirement.  Whether or not the City was prejudice was not relevant.

This is a useful decision for those dealing with a notice issue.

May 21, 2014

Lawyer Swearing Affidavit for Motion does not Waive Solicitor-Client Privilege

Solicitor-client privilege is an important right, as seen in a recent appeal of a Master's decision.

In Elgner v. Freedman Estate, 2014 ONSC 1989 (S.C.J.), the defendant brought a motion for particulars.  A lawyer from the firm representing the defendant swore an affidavit in support of the motion.  Plaintiff's counsel cross-examined on the affidavit and a number of refusals were given.  On a motion for the refusals, the issue was whether the tendering of litigation counsel's affidavit in support of a motion amounts to "a total waiver of privilege over a lawyer's file."  The Master held it did not and Justice Morgan upheld the decision on appeal.

The refusals were extremely broad, including things such as accounts, letter of advice, dockets, and the initial retainer.  The plaintiff argued that since defence counsel swore they had no information (and therefore needed particulars), the only way to test their assertion was to ask to see everything.  Plaintiff's counsel also argued they needed to see everything in order to test the assertion the affidavit was made for "no improper purpose".  Justice Morgan disagreed, holding that the onus is on the party asserting the affirmative, not the party stating a negative.  If a statement that an affidavit is sworn "for no improper purpose" requires cross-examination, it would "burden all affiants with limitless cross-examination".  The plaintiff's motion was a fishing expedition aimed at undermining their ability to conduct the litigation.  The appeal was dismissed.

May 14, 2014

Court of Appeal Rejects Discoverability Argument

A recent example shows that the new summary judgment rule may be used in cases where plaintiffs claim they did not discover they had a claim within the limitation period.

In Yelda v. Vu, [2014] ONSC 2168 (C.A.), the plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2002.  She did not commence an action until 2011.  She alleged that she did not discover her injuries met the threshold for a claim until she had an x-ray of her back in 2009.  A motions judge disagreed, and granted summary judgment dismissing the action.  The plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.  The plaintiff's own evidence was that she had "really bad" back pain "half the time" each month following the accident.  She was never really pain free at any time, and at all times she attributed the pain to the accident.  Apart from occasional visits to hospital emergency departments, the plaintiff took no active steps to investigate the back pain from 2002 to 2009.  The motions judge held that it was implausible that a reasonable person would consistently take over the counter medication, have "really bad" pain, be unable to function a couple of days each month, and would find pain so bad as to need to attend the emergency department, yet fail to do anything to investigate the cause.  The Court of Appeal held there was no error in the motion judge's finding.

May 7, 2014

Plaintiffs Denied Costs of Jury Trial

A London judge recently denied costs to plaintiffs following a jury trial which saw them recover less than 10% of their claim.

In Mayer v. 1474479 Ontario Ltd., 2014 ONSC 2622 (S.C.J.), the defendant admitted liability for a 2008 motor vehicle accident.  The action proceeded to a jury trial on damages.  The Statement of Claim sought damages of $1.1 million, and mid-trial the prayer for relief was amended to $2 million.  The jury awarded the primary plaintiff $137,000 (reduced to $116,000 after the deductible and collateral benefits), her daughter $3,300 (reduced to $0 after the deductible) and her husband $0, for a total recover of $119,300.  The plaintiffs sought costs of $422,000.

Justice Leach went through the factors in r. 57.01.  Some of the factors considered were:

1.  The plaintiffs fell "drastically short" of the amounts claimed;
2.  The time and resources devoted by the plaintiffs were disproportionate to what the case was worth, as determined by the jury; 
3.  There were disbursements for experts who either did not add much to the proceeding or overlapped with other experts;
4.  The case was scheduled for 2 weeks and ran to 4 weeks, for which the plaintiffs were largely responsible; and
5.  Various disbursements were not permissible in any event, such as a "day in the life" video which was not used, the cost of a trial that was adjourned by the plaintiffs, and the cost of a voluntary mediation.

The defendants made several offers; however, they were not r. 49 offers as they failed to separate interest from damages, did not make it clear whether the offer was global for all plaintiffs or severable, and were not clear as to whether the plaintiffs could retain future collateral benefits.  But for the deficiencies in the offers, the defendants would have been entitled to partial indemnity costs in the amount of $181,000.  Even though they were not r. 49 offers, the defendants' offers were taken into account in exercising the Court's discretion.  Justice Leach held that each party should bear their own costs.

Mayer should be reviewed by counsel as guidance in making offers, as well as in deciding what resources should be put into a particular file.