One of the B.C. government’s financial reforms for vehicle accident cases has been rejected by the B.C. Supreme Court, a setback that could cost the Insurance Corp. of B.C. as much as $400 million a year.
Attorney General David Eby said Thursday the ruling comes as an unpleasant surprise, since his decision to restrict expert witnesses in vehicle injury cases doesn’t go as far as similar rulings in Australia and the United Kingdom. The rejected change limited expert witnesses and reports to one for “fast-tracked” claims of less than $100,000, and up to three for other cases.
“Given that other jurisdictions, the United Kingdom, Australia, have either outright banned adversarial witnesses or limited them to just one on a matter, why British Columbia couldn’t do three is difficult to understand,” Eby told reporters at the legislature Thursday. “But in any event, we’ll study the decision, we’ll certainly respect the decision of the court, and we’ll either appeal or legislate, or do what we can to make sure that we address this issue, which doesn’t go away just because of this decision.”
With its cap on “pain and suffering” awards, an alternative dispute system to keep smaller cases out of court and an overhaul of rates to charge higher-risk drivers more, Eby said ICBC was on track to break even or have a small deficit this year after two years of billion-dollar losses.
In a challenge brought by the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled that the restriction on expert witnesses “infringes on the court’s jurisdiction to control its process, because it restricts a core function of the court to decide a case fairly upon the evidence adduced by the parties.”
Hinkson also rejected the idea that the court could appoint experts, within the same limit of three per side. He described the whole concept of restricting witnesses as unconstitutional.
In question period at the B.C. legislature, B.C. Liberal MLA Mike de Jong demanded to know whether the decision means even higher ICBC insurance rates.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said Eby’s performance on ICBC merits his replacement as minister responsible.
“David Eby’s tinkering with ICBC has not only cost British Columbians more for auto insurance, but it also just blew a $400 million hole in John Horgan’s budget.”