Multiple Actions Heard At The Same Time

Li v Liang 2021 BCSC 1856 dealt with the legal procedural issue of whether two family cases involving the same parties should be tried together .

The court reviewed the seven criteria discussed in Merritt v Imasco Enterprises Inc (1992) BCJ 160 and Beazley v ICBC 2004 BCSC 1094 and held that the two claims did not have common claims or disputes that would require them to be either consolidated or tried at the same time. The two actions were not so interwoven as to make separate trials undesirable. There would also be prejudice to the plaintiff that would outweigh any potential benefit.

These applications are common in multi motor vehicle claims for example but I opine could be used in estate litigation situation such as the law as set out in Johnston v Johnston that claims involving both the validity of the will and the wills variation claims should not be heard together as the validity of the will should firstly be determined .

For example It would make procedural sense to have the wills variation claim tried right after the validity claim if the will is found to be valid as it is the same parties and the same evidence. I am not aware if this has been done to date.

THE LAW ( Rule 22-5(8) 

The application seeks to have a civil action consolidated with or tried at the same time as a family law case. It must be considered under Rule 22-5(8) of the Supreme Court Rules.

That rule applies to proceedings, which include a Supreme Court civil action and any other suit, cause or matter.

It provides:

(8) Proceedings may be consolidated at any time by order of the court or may be ordered to be tried at the same time or on the same day.

The matters the court is to consider on an application pursuant to Rule 22-5(8) are set out in cases that considered the previous rule (Rule 5(8)),
which was identical to the present rule. In Merritt v. lmasco Enterprises Inc.,[1992] B.C.J. No. 160

“ I accept that the foundation of an application under R. 5(8) is, indeed, disclosed by the pleadings. The examination of the pleadings will answer the first
question to be addressed: do common claims, disputes and relationships exist between the parties?

But the next question which one must ask is: are they “so interwoven as to make separate trials at different times before different judges
undesirable and fraught with problems and economic expense”? Webster v.Webster (1979), 12 B.C.L.R. 172 at 182, 10 R.F.L. (2d0 148, 101 D.L.R. (3d) 248(C.A.).

That second question cannot, in my respectful view, be determined solely by reference to the pleadings. Reference must also be made to matters disclosed
outside the pleadings:

(1) Will the order sought create a saving in pre-trial procedures, (in particular, pre-trial conferences)?

(2) Will there be a real reduction in the number of trial days taken up by trials being heard at the same time?

(3) What is the potential for a party to be seriously inconvenienced bybeing required to attend a trial in which that party may have only amarginal interest?

(4) Will there be a real saving in experts’ time and witness fees?

In Beazley v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, 2004 BCSC 1091, at paras. 12-13, Madam Justice Kirkpatrick, then a Judge of the Supreme Court
of British Columbia, added the following three factors to the four factors set out Merritt

(5) Is one of the actions at a more advanced stage than the other? . .

(6) Will the order result in a delay of the trial of one of the actions and, if so, does any prejudice which a party may suffer as a result of that delay
outweigh the potential benefits which a combined trial might otherwise have?

(7) Is there a substantial risk that separate trials will result in inconsistent
findings on identical issues?

In both Merritt (at para. 19) and Beaziey (at para. 12) the Court indicated that the factors listed above are not intended to be an exhaustivelist, but are to be regarded as some matters to be considered before making an order under the rule. The order should make sense in the overall circumstances of the litigation.

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