Devendra v. BC CRT

As we’ve discussed before, the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal has been tasked exclusively with many matters related to ICBC claims. Significantly, this includes exclusively jurisdiction over fault for certain accidents and an injured person’s entitlement to no-fault benefits. Given the importance of the matters the CRT has been tasked to decide, you would expect that they would be competent in those matters. As the following case demonstrates, that can be asking for too much.

In Devendra v. BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, Mr. Devendra was involved in an accident with Mr. Ugre. ICBC determined that Mr. Devendra was 100% at-fault. As a result of that determination, ICBC required him to pay his collision deductible. It also raised his premiums. Unsatisfied and feeling wronged, Mr. Devendra filed a claim with the CRT asking that ICBC’s decision be reversed. He also asked that his deductible be returned and his premiums lowered to what they would be if he hadn’t been found at-fault.

Several months later, Mr. Devendra was sued by Mr. Ugre. Mr. Ugre alleged that Mr. Devendra was negligent and had caused the accident, and that he was injured as a result. That claim was filed in BC Supreme Court.

As such, fault for the accident was at-issue in both Mr. Devendra’s CRT claim and Mr. Ugre’s Supreme Court action.

The CRT came to learn of Mr. Ugre’s Supreme Court claim against Mr. Devendra. It subsequently refused to hear Mr. Devendra’s claim on the basis that fault for the accident would be determined in the Supreme Court action. Mr. Devendra then petitioned the Supreme Court to force the CRT to reverse its decision and decide the issue.

The Court reviewed the statute governing the CRT and found that it had discretion to refuse to resolve a claim or dispute if it “would be more appropriate for another legally binding process or dispute resolution process.” Given that the decision of the CRT was discretionary, the Supreme Court could only reverse it if it was patently unreasonable. A decision can be patently unreasonable if it is made arbitrarily, is based on irrelevant factors, or borders on absurd.

In reversing the CRT’s decision and forcing it to decide Mr. Devendra’s claim, the Supreme Court found that the CRT fundamentally misunderstood the nature of both claims, stating:

[24]      Given the above I find that the tribunal exercised its discretion arbitrarily and on the basis of predominantly irrelevant and/or non-existent facts. Particularly, it acted with a seemingly honest but mistaken understanding of civil procedure and insurance legislation in concluding that Mr. Devendra’s liability, as it relates to his dispute against ICBC, would be determined in the BCSC action. The tribunal had no evidence before it to reach that conclusion. At the very least, the tribunal could have made inquiries into whether the BCSC action would impact ICBC’s internal determination of Mr. Devendra’s liability.

[25]      The tribunal also failed to realize that Mr. Devendra’s claim against ICBC was not based in tort. Rather, as framed by our Court of Appeal in Innes, Mr. Devendra’s claim was based “either in contract or under statute, or both, regarding whether ICBC acted properly and reasonably in administratively assigning responsibility for the collision” to Mr. Devendra alone, which was the only issue between him and ICBC. That issue will not be decided in the BCSC action.

[26]      As such, I am satisfied that the tribunal’s refusal to resolve Mr. Devendra’s claim is patently unreasonable. No judicial deference can justify letting it stand. To hold otherwise would be to leave Mr. Devendra with no recourse to resolve his claim against ICBC, which is squarely within the monetary and subject matter jurisdiction of the CRT.

This decision casts further doubt on the intelligence of the government’s decision to give the CRT so much power over such important issues related to ICBC.