Case Summary by Erik Magrakan
http://bc-injury-law.com/blog

Re: Part 5 and Rule 12-2(9)
Case: Jurczak v. Mauro

New Rules Caselaw Update: More on Contested Applications at TMC’s and CPC’s

Late last year reasons for judgment were released by the BC Supreme Court finding that Trial Management Conferences and Case Planning Conferences “are not generally the forum to determine contested applications.” . Reasons for judgement were released this week by Mr. Justice Smith taking a less restrictive view of this issue.

In today’s case (Jurczak v. Mauro) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  As trial neared the Plaintiff brought an application for an adjournment and this was granted in order to give the Plaintiff time to gather appropriate medico-legal evidence.  The Court was specifically asked whether it was permissible for contested applications to be heard at TMC’s.  Mr. Justice Smith held that such practice was permitted under the Rules.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[1] At a Trial Management Conference (TMC) on March 31, 2011, I made an order adjourning the trial in this matter, which had been set for May, 2, 2010.  I indicated that I would provide written reasons because the application raised a procedural question about the circumstances under which a judge at a TMC may hear and rule upon a contested adjournment application.

[2] The TMC was created by the new Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009 that came into effect on July 1, 2010.  Rule 12-2 (9) sets out a broad range of orders that can be made by the presiding judge at a TMC “whether or not on the application of a party.”  These include, at subparagraph (l), an order adjourning the trial.  However, Rule 12-2 (11) prohibits a TMC judge from hearing an application for which affidavit evidence is required…

[7] I do not understand Vernon to be suggesting that a judge at a TMC can never order an adjournment if one party objects.  No such restriction appears in Rule 12-2.  The Rule prohibits hearing applications that require affidavit evidence.  It is for the judge to decide whether a particular application requires affidavit evidence and whether any affidavits that have been tendered are relevant.

[8] The orders permitted by Rule 12-2 (9) are, broadly speaking, procedural in that they deal with the conduct of the trial, including how certain evidence is to be presented, the length of the trial and, in subparagraph (q), “any other matter that may assist in making the trial more efficient.”

[9] Rule 12-2 (3) requires the parties to file trial briefs in Form 41 identifying the issues in dispute (which, by that stage, may not be all of the issues raised in the pleadings), listing the witnesses, including experts, to be called and estimating the time necessary for the evidence of each witness.  The trial brief is an unsworn statement of counsel or the self-represented party.  The Rule clearly contemplates that the judge will make orders based on the information contained in the trial briefs, as supplemented by what is said at the TMC.  That is the only basis on which the orders permitted by the Rule could be made.

[10] In some cases where an adjournment, or any other order is sought, a judge may decide that supporting information is not adequate.  That was the situation in Vernon, where Goepel J. was presented with an affidavit of the plaintiff setting out the prejudice that would flow from an adjournment.  That evidence had to be weighed against any evidence of prejudice to the defendant if the adjournment was not granted.  Once the plaintiff’s affidavit was found to be relevant, evidence in proper form was required from the defendant and counsel’s statements, standing alone, were not acceptable.

[11] However, there are situations where the need for an adjournment can be clearly assessed on the basis of information provided at the TMC and affidavit evidence would be of no assistance.  For example, a judge may be able to determine simply from the trial briefs that the trial cannot possibly be completed in anything close to the estimated time, or that the number of pre-trial matters still to be dealt with shows that the case is not ready for trial.  If the judge could not order an adjournment in those circumstances, a large part of Rule 12-2’s purpose would be defeated….