The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) was required to defend a  car accident personal injury claim which occurred near Merritt, British Columbia(Wittich v. Bob,2011 BCSC 1471).The claimant retained a Coquitlam law firm to act for her and that firm commenced the civil lawsuit  in the New Westminster Registry.  After the lawsuit was  filed that provided for the place of trial to be New Westminster, ICBC hired an Abbotsford law firm as legal counsel for the Defendants.
The  injury claimant resided in Hedley, two of her treating physicians were from Princeton and Penticton,two of the Defendants resided in Merritt and the third resided in Hedley, one of the witnesses was from Princeton, and two other treating medical practitioners were located in Maple Ridge.  Two of the expert witnesses were located in Vancouver and Surrey. 
The Court was  not persuaded that it was reasonable or necessary for ICBC to hire an out of town lawyer to conduct the defence of the personal injury claim.

“[13]  While in the circumstances the Plaintiff may have set the trial for hearing at another location and this may have resulted in less travel for some of the witnesses and other parties she selected New Westminster as the place for trial. She was entitled to make that choice and it made some economic sense as her lawyer practised near the New Westminster courthouse.

[14]         Once that choice was made ICBC had to select defence counsel. It was conceded that a pool of competent and suitably experienced defence counsel were available to ICBC and those counsel practised within 40 kilometres of the New Westminster courthouse.

[15]         While it may have been that even if counsel appointed for the Defendants had practised within a 40 kilometre radius of the New Westminster Courthouse, he or she still might have incurred some additional expense to travel to interview witnesses or conduct Examinations for Discovery those costs if otherwise reasonable and necessary would have been properly claimed under tariff Item #36.

[16]         The claim put forward by the Defendants is of a much greater magnitude as it encompasses both pre trial attendances and fifteen days of trial in New Westminster. Inclusive of the 40 units claimed for tariff item # 36, travel disbursements and lodging the claim amounts to approximately $12,000.

[17]         The onus is on the Defendants to show that it was reasonable and necessary to retain “out of town” counsel and I am not persuaded that the onus has been met. ICBC made a strategic decision to retain a law firm that was thought to be “ right ”for this case. In my view it is not reasonable to visit the additional cost flowing from that choice upon the Plaintiff.

[18]         As I have disallowed the claim for 40 units under tariff item #36 it follows that I also disallow the related travel expenses for mileage, parking and lodging expenses.” Posted by Mr. Renn A. Holness


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