R V. Bacchus: A victory for the little guy

We’re calling it a real victory for the little guy.

In November 2013, Findlay Personal Injury Lawyers represented the plaintiff, Bryan Ross, in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Hamilton. We were successful in securing a total award—including costs and pre-judgment interest—of $504,606.60. The defendant’s insurance company, Certas, had offered Bryan $1 to settle his case.

Bryan had been seriously injured in 2009 when his motorcycle—which was stopped at a red light—was rear-ended by a car driven by Mr. Bacchus. The injuries seriously affected not only Bryan’s quality of life, but his ability to work as a sheet metal technician.

Hoping to resolve the issue without a costly and lengthy court case, we had originally requested mediation with the insurance company. We were informed in writing that Certas was not interested in settling. The brief mediation that eventually took place was described by Justice Ramsay, the judge who presided over the trial, as “a sham.”

Bryan had no option but to go to court for his motorcycle accident. And we were ready.

During the six day trial, we presented a strong case explaining how the collision had impacted Bryan’s life, as well as the unwillingness of the insurance company to comply with the provisions of the Insurance Act.

We called on many people to testify: family members, a friend, colleagues, Bryan’s family doc, an expert orthopaedic surgeon and a chiropractor who had originally been hired by Bryan’s insurance company to determine if he could go back to work (it was determined at that time that Bryan couldn’t return to his former job). We also discredited the only witness called by the insurance company, an orthopaedic surgeon who is routinely hired by insurance companies to give evidence.

Justice Ramsay increased the damages Mr. Bacchus’s insurance company would have to pay by $60,000 as a penalty for intimidating Bryan in the hopes of deterring him—and other innocent accident victims—from going to court. Insurance companies have deep pockets and can easily afford to go to court, said Ramsay, but going to trial is very risky for an individual. Justice Ramsay also stated that Certas didn’t try to settle the issue with Bryan quickly, as required by the Insurance Act.

“It’s the highest amount an Ontario court has awarded against an insurance company in augmented costs for not attempting to fairly resolve the issue outside of court,” says Robert Findlay, the senior lawyer on the case. “The insurance company tried to hold our client hostage. At the end of the day, the judge awarded Bryan three times what he originally asked for.”

Findlay sees this as an important case for seriously injured people. “It shows that when push comes to shove, the courts will stand up for people who have experienced real losses. It’s always a risk to go to court. Bryan showed great courage to go forward, and I’m glad that despite all the advantages that the provincial government has given insurance companies, it isn’t always a slam dunk for them.”

You can read Justice Ramsay’s full endorsement on CanLII (the Canadian Legal Information Institute). The case was also written up in the January issue of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Update.

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