The prophecy has been fulfilled — insurance coverage law is, indeed, the new rock and roll: a collision, an apparently phantom third car, a pro se plaintiff named May Ocean, a seven-year case that was bifurcated and then trifurcated, a five-day case that lasted 25, allegations of insurance threats and monopolistic and "conglomerate" activity. Hey, with the fifth season of Mad Men on hold, AMC might want to round up a posse of footloose writers and get this sucker into production to fill the dramatic void.
Actually, to be honest, most of the case has little to do with insurance coverage law. But you know what, if coverage law isn’t exactly the Mick Jagger of this story, it’s at least the Ronnie Wood. If you can find the time, I particularly recommend the opinion by Nova Scotia judge Deborah Smith, not only for the details, but for the calm tone in which she handled the matter, a tone that likely was not always easy to achieve or maintain.
Readers of this decision will likely have difficulty understanding why the Plaintiff (a self-represented litigant) would attempt to undermine the credibility of her own expert witness – particularly when that witness’ conclusions are overwhelmingly in favour of the Plaintiff. I must admit that I have difficulty with the concept myself. Nevertheless – that is the position that the Plaintiff took at trial.
. . .
Counsel for both of the Defendants have expressed concern about the length of time that it took to hear this trial and the significant costs that have been incurred as a result. A trial which, in my view, would have taken no more than 5 days to hear with experienced counsel ended up being heard over approximately 25 days.
As a self-represented litigant, Ms. Ocean cannot be expected to conduct her case as effectively as an experienced lawyer. The difficulty in this case, however, went far beyond inexperience. Ms. Ocean appeared to be unable or unwilling to focus effectively on the matters that were in issue and seemed intent on subpoenaing witnesses and introducing evidence that was not relevant to this proceeding. In addition, she made serious allegations against both of the Defendants (such as allegations of threats) that were not supported by the evidence.
In my view, this issue is best dealt with at the conclusion of the entire action when considering the issue of costs.
The gold standard for even-handed treatment of controversial and incomplete evidence is Donald Kagan’s four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War, in which he is relentlessly fair even when it means taking issue with the main source of information on the war, and one of the greatest minds the world has ever produced, Thucydides. I’m not suggesting I’d put Justice Smith’s opinion up next to Kagan’s scholarship for importance, but the tone is similarly commendable.