The Court of Appeal has ruled that admitting liability and settling a lawsuit but also denying liability in another lawsuit for the same car accident is not an abuse of process. (Glover v. Leakey,2018 BCCA 56)
This case involved a car accident in which two lawsuits were commenced by different occupants. In one lawsuit ICBC admitted their insured was at fault and settled the injury claim before going to trial. The other claim could not be settled and proceeded to trial before a jury. See my case review of the trial judge decision.
Our highest court sets new legal precedent with these comments:

[45]     The appellant says the approach he urges upon the Court is not only consistent with the authorities but consistent with good practice insofar as it encourages parties to make admissions and to settle claims where they should be settled, leaving them to determine where and when they wish to litigate liability. The rule binding a litigant to admissions is intended to prevent relitigation and underline the finality of judgments; the appellant says it is not offended by his approach. I agree.

[46]   In my opinion, the trial judge erred in finding that the defendant had abused the process of the court simply by denying his negligence in the action at bar after admitting liability and settling another action arising out of the accident in question.

This changes the landscape for personal injury lawyers as it relates to concurrent actions. The Court of Appeal gave no weight to the argument of  non‑disclosure of the admission to the claimant’s lawyer.  A plaintiff lawyer in a car accident  lawsuit needs to be aware of the status of the pleadings in other lawsuits arising from the same accident – including the status of the claim brought by another passenger.  Other claims should now be addressed in the discovery process.
The Court of Appeal did however agree with the trial judge that a mistrial was appropriate,

It cannot be said with certainty that a properly instructed jury acting reasonably would necessarily have reached the same result if the appellant had been cross-examined on the prior admission. That is the test described in Anderson v. Maple Ridge (District) (1992), 71 B.C.L.R. (2d) 68 (C.A.); Jennings Estate v. Gibson (1994), 96 B.C.L.R. (2d) 342 at para. 25 (C.A.); and Tsoukas v. Segura, 2001 BCCA 664 at para. 73. ( para 52)

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal from the order declaring a mistrial and setting aside the jury verdict.  The Court allowed the appeal from the judgment on the liability issue in favour of the claimant. The case was remitted to the Supreme Court for a new trial where the appellant will be entitled to contest his liability.
Posted by Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.

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