Unrepresented litigant’s tort claims, numerous appeal grounds against two BC hospitals denied

BC Court of Appeal upholds dismissal of defamation, malicious prosecution, other allegations

Unrepresented litigant’s tort claims, numerous appeal grounds against two BC hospitals denied

The BC Court of Appeal has recently rejected a self-represented litigant’s 68 appeal grounds in one docket and 56 in another docket, many of which were the same or substantially overlapping.

In Universe v. Fraser Health Authority, 2022 BCCA 201, the plaintiff arrived at the emergency department of Burnaby General Hospital, the first defendant hospital, with complaints of pain and numbness arising from sciatica in July 2017. Upset about the wait time, he engaged in interactions with healthcare professionals and security officers, for which he was later criminally charged for uttering threats of death and bodily harm.

Security officers escorted him out, at which point Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers detained him. The next day, the Royal Columbian Hospital – the second defendant hospital – admitted him and its physicians examined him.

The plaintiff sued the two hospitals, Fraser Health Authority, an ambulance paramedic, and a licenced practical nurse with whom he had interacted at the first hospital. He alleged defamation, malicious prosecution, negligence, battery, and breach of privacy.

At a summary trial, the judge dismissed his allegations regarding these torts and refused to recuse herself based on alleged bias. She found that summary disposition was appropriate for the plaintiff’s claims despite conflicting evidence from the plaintiff and from the defendants’ witnesses.

The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal and rejected all his grounds of appeal. The appellate court addressed seven issues in its reasons.

First, the summary trial judge did not follow any wrong principles, did not fail to consider a required factor, and did not weigh any irrelevant factors when she refused to adjourn the summary trial hearing, the appellate court held. It was time for these proceedings, which were subject to many orders and adjournments, to move forward.

Second, the judge did not make an error when she refrained from recusing herself for bias. She also did not violate s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which deals with the rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. The appellate court noted that, while the RCMP officers may have conceivably breached these rights, they were not defendants in this case.

Third, the judge did not fail to accommodate the hearing difficulties of the plaintiff, who used hearing aids, the appellate court ruled. The plaintiff did not tell the judge that he required such an accommodation and did not allege that he could not hear or understand any part of the proceedings, the defendants said.

Fourth, the judge appropriately dismissed the plaintiff’s claim of breach of confidentiality of his medical records, which were relevant and properly obtained for use at trial in line with the applicable legal principles, the appellate court determined.

Fifth, the judge properly dismissed the negligence claim against the defendant nurse, the appellate court said. Although the plaintiff alleged that the nurse refused to administer any painkiller for the severe pain that he was suffering, the appellate court found no evidence to support that she had the authority to prescribe or to give painkillers to him.

Sixth, the plaintiff’s claim of intentional infliction of harm or mental suffering should also fail, according to the appellate court. There was doubt regarding whether the defendants could reasonably have foreseen the psychological reaction that the plaintiff claimed to be experiencing.

Seventh, the judge was in the best position to decide whether the plaintiff’s claims were suitable for summary determination. She was entitled to consider the factors of cost and court time. Providing the plaintiff with a full, 11-day trial would be excessive and it was unlikely to lead to a different result, the appellate court said.

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