Severing Liability and Quantum Trials

Plaintiff argued to sever trials of liability and quantum of damages due to the economic benefit that such a severance would create

In the case CAYOU V. CAYOU, 2010 BCSC 1224 (“CAYOU”), released August 30, 2010, the Plaintiff argued that it was appropriate to sever the trials of liability and quantum of damages due to the economic benefit that such a severance would create for her. Because the Plaintiff was impecunious, the ability to first determine the issue of liability before incurring the expenses associated with acquiring medical opinions and the other evidence required to determine the appropriate level of damages was potentially of great value to her.

The Court acknowledged that the Plaintiff had much to gain by first dealing with the issue of fault before moving on to consider damages, but ultimately agreed with past case law which had held that such economic considerations were not relevant, even where a plaintiff had little or no monetary resources. In particular, the Court referred to BIGGS V. I.C.B.C., 2008 BCSC 1343, a case in which the Court pointed out that “the financial advantage to [the Plaintiff] that would flow from separate trials of liability and damages would flow equally to most, if not all, plaintiffs in personal injury actions”.

Although the Court in CAYOU affirmed that potential financial benefit to a plaintiff is generally not a relevant consideration when considering the severance of issues, it also considered this concept in light of the newSUPREME COURT CIVIL RULES.

Specifically, the Court referred to the objectives outlined in Rule 1-3(2) at paragraph 48:

Securing the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of a proceeding on its merits includes, so far as is practicable, conducting the proceeding in ways that are proportionate to:

(a)        the amount involved in the proceeding,

(b)        the importance of the issues in dispute, and

(c)        the complexity of the proceeding.

The Court concluded at paragraph 54 that “[s]everance, for the economic reasons advanced in this case, by denying the trier of fact all of the evidence on the issue of credibility, would be disproportionate to the twin objectives of a just and speedy determination of the action, on its merits”. It was this lack of proportionality to the desired “just and speedy determination” which caused the Court in CAYOU to affirm that economic considerations alone cannot justify the segmentation of a personal injury proceeding.

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