The Civil Resolutions Tribunal (or CRT) is an administrative tribunal established by the BC government in 2012 to handle disputes between strata councils and property owners. In 2017, the tribunal’s jurisdiction was expanded to allow them to hear small claims disputes of $5,000 or less. The current BC government drastically expanded the tribunal’s jurisdiction to decide several matters related to ICBC and motor vehicle accidents. Specifically, as of April 1, 2019, the CRT now has exclusive jurisdiction to decide:
- whether a person injured in a car accident is entitled to ICBC no-fault or Part 7 benefits;
- whether a person’s injuries are “minor” as defined by the BC government; and
- claims of $50,000 or less.
Considering the dramatic increase in jurisdiction it is important to know the type of evidence that can be presented and relied upon by the CRT.
Unlike our courts, the CRT is not bound by traditional rules of evidence that have been carefully developed over the decades. Rather, evidence of questionable relevance or probity is perfectly capable of being admitted and relied upon by the CRT. Due to this laxity, many have likened the CRT to the “Wild West” or a “Kangaroo Court”.
Bajracharya v. Rahul, 2020 BCCRT 564 is an example of the CRT basing its decision on evidence that would arguably have been rejected in our courts. In that case, the CRT was called upon to determine fault for an accident. Both drivers gave differing accounts as to the circumstances of the accident, and there were no independent witnesses. The claimant was self-represented while the respondent was represented by an ICBC adjuster.
The first problem was that the CRT made reference to the fact that ICBC had internally found the claimant to be 100% at-fault for the purposes of repairing his vehicle. That evidence would almost always be objectionable in court as it offends what is called the “ultimate issue” rule. This rule prevents the introduction of opinions on the exact issue the court is to decide upon.
The second problem was that the CRT relied on a brief statement made by an ICBC manager to the effect that the claimant’s vehicle was moving as opposed to stopped when it was hit, which, if true, would negate his claim. The ICBC manager didn’t witness the accident. The CRT found his statement didn’t qualify as expert evidence. The ICBC manager’s qualifications were not before the CRT. However, the CRT accepted that it was his “job to assess the condition of post-accident vehicles and that he is competent in that role”. Needless to say, that doesn’t mean that he was qualified to say whether a vehicle was moving or not on impact, but that didn’t matter to the CRT. They accepted his unqualified “opinion” anyways and ruled against the claimant.
This case demonstrates how the CRT’s slack approach to evidence can work against people injured in accidents.