ICBC Law

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Is An Expert Report Admissible If Your Expert Dies Before Trial?

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with this issue.  In short the Court held that certain factual observations contained in the report were admissible as they met the ‘necessary and reliable‘ exceptions to the hearsay rule.  The opinion evidence, however, was excluded.

In today’s case (Andrews v. Mainster) the Plaintiff had cognitive limitations and these were tested by a neurupsychologiest one year following the collision.  The expert died before trial.  In admitting the factual portions of the report but excluding the opinion evidence Mr. Justice Pearlman provided the following reasons:

[25]         I return now to Dr. Kay’s report.  Dr. Kay’s report provides the only evidence of a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation of the plaintiff’s cognitive functioning one year post accident.  The necessity requirement is met with respect to those portions of Dr. Kay’s report that deal with his testing and evaluation of the plaintiff’s level of cognitive functioning.  I also find that those parts of Dr. Kay’s report that record the history he took from Ms. Andrews, discuss the tests he administered and set out his opinions on the results of his testing of the plaintiff’s cognitive functioning meet the threshold of reliability required for their admission into evidence.  Dr. Kay was a neuropsychologist trained and experienced in the use of the standardized tests he administered to the plaintiff.  Those tests provide a largely objective measure of the plaintiff’s cognitive functioning.  These factors, combined with Dr. Kay’s certification of the duties he owed to the court as an expert provide sufficient circumstantial guarantees of the trustworthiness of this evidence to satisfy threshold reliability.

[26]         Different considerations apply respecting Dr. Kay’s opinion or diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, his prognosis, and his opinion on the motor vehicle accident as a cause of the plaintiff’s emotional and psychological disorders.  Those opinions have a significant subjective component.  They are not predicated upon the objective results of his testing of the plaintiff’s cognitive capacity.  The nature, extent and sources of the plaintiff’s psychological difficulties both before and after the motor vehicle accident are all in issue in this litigation.  There is also a live issue about whether the plaintiff fully disclosed relevant information concerning her psychological condition and the various stressors that affected her from time to time to the counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists who have treated or examined her.

[27]         Defence counsel requested production of Dr. Kay’s file, including his interview notes, in order to determine whether it might shed any additional light on the plaintiff’s complex psychological history.  The file has not been produced and apparently is not available.  Dr. Kay’s report also refers to a diary kept by the plaintiff following the motor vehicle accident, which has not been produced, and to the plaintiff having seen Ms. Tracy Good for counselling for family and relationship issues for 11 years.  Ms. Good informed counsel that she has shredded all of her records.  If true, that effectively precludes exploration of a potentially valuable source of information concerning the causes of the plaintiff’s emotional and psychological disorders before and after the motor vehicle accident. 

[28]         In light of the subjective nature of the evidence concerning the causes and nature of the plaintiff’s emotional and psychological disorders, and the gaps in the documentary record that I have discussed briefly, I am not satisfied that Dr. Kay’s professional training as a psychologist and the certifications contained in his report provide an adequate guarantee of the trustworthiness of his opinions on these matters to meet the threshold of reliability for their admission into evidence.  In the circumstances of this case, there is no adequate substitute for cross-examination of the expert.

[29]         Further, the test of necessity is not met for Dr. Kay’s diagnosis of and prognosis for the plaintiff’s emotional and psychological disorders.  Relevant direct evidence is available from another source.  The plaintiff has a comprehensive opinion from Dr. O’Shaughnessy on the nature and causes of the plaintiff’s disorders, their relationship to the motor vehicle accident and their treatment.

[30]         Accordingly, I conclude that those portions of Dr. Kay’s report beginning at page 20 under the heading “Psychological Explanations” and continuing with the prognosis, opinion and recommendations at pages 21 through 23 do not satisfy the tests of necessity and reliability and are therefore inadmissible.  The balance of Dr. Kay’s report, with those redactions, will be admitted into evidence.

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