ICBC Law

BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Erik MagrakenThis Blog is authored by British Columbia ICBC injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Erik is a partner with the British Columbia personal injury law-firm MacIsaac & Company. He restricts his practice exclusively to plaintiff-only personal injury claims with a particular emphasis on ICBC injury claims involving orthopaedic injuries and complex soft tissue injuries. Please visit often for the latest developments in matters concerning BC personal injury claims and ICBC claims

Erik Magraken does not work for and is not affiliated in any way with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Please note that this blog is for information only and is not claim-specific legal advice.  Erik can only provide legal advice to clients. Please click here to arrange a free consultation.

Posts Tagged ‘Master Baker’

BC Supreme Court Discusses When Short Leave Applications Should Be Granted

December 4th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, providing a general overview of when a short-leave applications should be granted and criticizing the frequency with which such applications are brought by defence lawyers in personal injury lawsuits.

In today’s case (O’Callaghan v. Hengsbach) the plaintiff claimed physical and psychiatric injuries from a collision and sued for damages.  The Defendant had the plaintiff assessed by a neurologist.  After the time limit for delivery of expert reports the Defendant brought sought to have the Plaintiff examined by a psychiatrist and requested short leave to bring the application.  The Court dismissed the request and in doing so Master Baker provided the following reasons of the protocol that should be followed when seeking short leave –

[16]         The Masters in chambers, almost daily, are asked to give short leave under Rule 8-5(1). I have heard three of these applications in 1 ½ days of chambers; in one application, plaintiff’s counsel told the court that it was the third short leave application by the defence in that case since October 17. Interestingly, on a quick search I found no authorities to guide the court in granting or refusing applications for short leave. The rule itself offers little guidance, other than an application may be made in circumstances of “urgency”.

[17]         Such applications should be restricted to emergent circumstances and should not reward inefficiency, inattention to a particular case, or a lack of oversight. To abridge the time limits imposed by the Supreme Court Civil Rules is, presumably, to prejudice the other party who is, naturally, entitled to rely on timelines imposed by the Rules and to expect the opposing party to do likewise.

[18]         In the absence of guiding authorities, I suggest the following considerations, non-exclusive, should guide the parties and the court in considering short leave applications:

  1. a)       The application, of course, is to be made by Requisition, usually without affidavits, and may be made before a Registrar, Master, or Judge.
  2. b)       While undue formality in the application is discouraged, the application should be made in court, on the record (even if by video or telephone) and not online as an e-filed application.
  3. c)       Applicant’s counsel should notify the opposing counsel or party of an intention to apply for short leave so that counsel can appear. At the very least applicant’s counsel should canvass with his or her friend their availability on the proposed chambers date and whether he or she is opposed to the short leave.
  4. d)       The applicant should be prepared to give a full accounting of the facts, circumstances, context, and chronology leading to the application for short leave, all of which should establish that the applicant has been affected or surprised by events or developments not reasonably foreseeable.
  5. e)       If opposing counsel is not present should, as in the case of without notice applications, be prepared to give both favourable and unfavourable details.
  6. f)        If any important or pivotal fact or element is disputed by opposing counsel the applicant should be prepared to offer affidavit evidence on the point and, as always, counsel should not speak to his or her own affidavit if the matter is contested.
  7. g)       Busy schedules for the applicant counsel will usually not be sufficient reason for short leave; in that case counsel should arrange for a colleague or agent to speak to the chambers application on the usual notice required by the rules.

[19]         Ultimately, taking these points into consideration, the court will balance the prejudice both to the other party by potentially disrupting their schedules and trial preparations as well as service to other clients and to the applicant by virtue of reasonably unforeseen facts, circumstances, or developments that have inhibited the applicant’s preparation in the normal chronology that the rules contemplate and mandate.

[20]         Some areas of the law tend to offer more emergencies or crises than others; family law would likely fall in this category. Despite this, however, of late more applications for short leave seem to arise from personal injury/motor vehicle accident cases than in any other. And most of those applications for short leave seem to be on behalf of the defence, seeking short leave to bring an application for an IME close to trial. In that respect, this case is completely typical of that growing practise.

[21]         In many cases, the applicant can point to genuine circumstances giving rise to surprise or the advent of claims or circumstances the applicant could not have reasonably anticipated. This, and many similar applications, is not in that category. In too many cases, in my view, the defence, either assuming that settlement is likely or simply by applying triage or prioritizing in busy offices with large caseloads, have not given due attention and focus in a timely way to the possible claims and damages of the plaintiff. Lawyers are extremely busy professionals. They have many cases other than the one specifically before the court. Every master and judge knows that. Still, that cannot be permitted to affect the other party’s right to due process and adherence to the rules unless clearly justified; it is the court’s function to prevent that.

[22]         I have opined often, from the bench, about the template nature of pleadings in personal injury cases[3]. Often, it seems, the only change to pleadings are the names of the parties and the date and location of the accident. The damages claimed and particulars of alleged negligence are almost rote. Still, when a party specifies concussion, cognitive impairment, nightmares, sleep disruption, and driving related anxiety (which, to be fair, not all plaintiffs claim), it should be an obvious announcement to the defence that psychiatric enquiry is justified.

[23]         With the advent of standardized pleadings, an obvious problem for the defence arises: what really are the damages (if any) to this particular plaintiff?  It is my conclusion that very often the true issues in the claim are not established until expert medical (and sometimes economic) reports are delivered. And, yes, very often these reports are delivered at or very near the 84-day deadline. I do understand the defence dilemma in that, but even when faced with standardized pleadings, nothing prevents the defence from, as here, conducting the usual steps for disclosure and discovery. The chronology or timing of that is very much for the defence to decide and control.

[24]         In this particular case, Ms. Stewart is right; there were multiple indications to the defence that Ms. O’Callaghan was not only making a claim for psychiatric injuries, but that she was firm in her allegation and that in her view the damages were significant and long-lasting. Both the clinical records and her discovery evidence should have reinforced that assertion. Her denial of the facts contained in the defence notice to admit was a further obvious sign. But preceding all of those indicators was the NOCC which, despite my complaints of template pleadings in general, was clear in alleging specific psychiatric or psychological injuries and consequences of the accident.


Court Discusses “Aggregate Effects” Of Joining Multiple Fast Track Cases

April 28th, 2017

Update December 12, 2017 – Today the below decision was upheld on appeal with Madam Justice Russell providing the following reasons noting fast track cases can be aggregated –

[22]         Since the rule is clear that a fast track trial heard as a single action can exceed three days and remain under the Fast Track Rule, then it seems equally clear that where two fast track trials are heard together, the fact that they will consume seven days of trial would not exclude them from the Rule.

[23]         It appears to me that relatively simple cases that can be concluded within a short period of trial time and where the damages at least as calculated by plaintiff’s counsel, exclusive of costs, are $100,000 or less, must be conducted under the Fast Track Rule. I take this from the predecessor to Rule 15-1, Rules 66 and 68 of the former Supreme Court Rules, B.C. Reg. 221/90, as repealed by Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009: Singleton v. O’Neil, 2010 BCSC 298.

[24]         The intention of the Rule is to provide for the quick and inexpensive resolution of comparatively simple actions with proportionality a specified and general objective of the Rules. The Rule is mandatory unless otherwise ordered by the court: Singleton, supra.

[25]         As a result, here the actions were at all times appropriate for being conducted under Rule 15-1, and therefore, the jury notices were, in effect, not applicable as soon as it became clear that the criteria under the Rule were met. Even before the Notice of Fast Track was filed, the two actions were fast track actions and Rule 15-1(10) dictates that the trial must be heard by the court without a jury.

[26]         There may well be situations where the action is so advanced as an ordinary action that the exercise of such discretion would not be appropriate and would result in serious prejudice to one party. I do not intend these reasons to remove that discretion where circumstances so dictate. But I do not find this situation to exist in the circumstances of this case.

[27]         The difference of two days in time between the defendants’ Notice of Trial and the plaintiff’s Notice of Fast Track is immaterial to the nature of the two actions.

[28]         Although the Master did not deal with the issue, counsel for the defendants raised the right to a jury trial and argued that it pre-empted Rule 15-1. Rule 12-6 deals with jury trials. However, Rule 15-1(5) states that in the event of a conflict between it and another rule, Rule 15-1 applies. This subsection appears to dispose of that argument.

[29]         I did not understand counsel for the defendants to argue that the common law right to a jury trial displaces the operation of the Rules of Court. In my view, and in these circumstances, that would not be a viable argument.

[30]         The decision of the Master to permit the two actions to continue to proceed under the Fast Track Rule is fact-based and discretionary and deserves deference.

[31]         The issue of whether the Rule permits aggregation follows from the nature of the actions that Rule 15-1 allows.

[32]         Particularly where two actions have been ordered to be heard together and both meet the criteria for the Fast Track Rule, it seems only sensible that they could both be dealt with under the Rule with the benefits of aggregating the time for trial and discovery and costs limits set out in the Rule.

[33]         This is consistent with the Object of the Rules and Proportionality.

__________________________________________

Helpful reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing how matters such as trial length, the quantum cap and discovery timelines are aggregated when multiple fast track cases are joined.

In the recent case (De Jesus v. Doe) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions and sued for damages.  The cases were scheduled for trial at the same time.  The Defendants brought an application to remove them from Rule 15 arguing that with a total of 7 days for trial these cases were no longer fast track appropriate.

The court disagreed and in doing so Master Baker provided the following helpful reasons about “aggregate effects” of joining fast track cases together:

De Jesus screenshot 1

 

De Jesus Screenshot 2

 

 


“Cut and Paste Affidavit” Derails Defence Medical Exam Application

September 20th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a defence request for an independent medical assessment of a Plaintiff in part due to the use of a “cut and paste affidavit”.

In the recent case (Mirzai-Sheshjavani v. Ho) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages.  As trial neared the Plaintiff served expert reports and the Defendant applied to compel the Plaintiff to attend an independent medical exam to obtain a responsive report.  The request was denied with the Court criticizing the supporting materials.  In dismissing the application Master Baker provided the following reasons:

[3]             The global response addressed the — I think the term used in some of the email was the “institutional litigant” approach of the defence. I agree in large measure with that. I agree just from the materials before me. Mr. Jiwa says there are too many of these applications, “these applications” being applications for defence medical examinations brought very proximate to the trial, often with short leave. He is correct.  There is no utility in my getting into an anecdotal review, but it has become quite common in chambers to have that application. Yes, short leave is typically given. Yes, the applications are heard, and I guess, yes, sometimes the applications are successful, perhaps often, I do not know, but it is becoming the case where a fair proportion of the short-leave applications that we hear on a daily basis relate to just this subject. His conclusion and his assertion is that this represents an institutional litigant who is, as he termed it, sitting on their hands until the trial date approaches. I do not know. I do not know whether that is the case or not. I suspect it may be because litigation is being driven by adjustors and not by counsel. I believe it may be the case that counsel are not being given enough latitude to exercise their professional judgment. I do not know.

[4]             It is not for me to tell them how to do their job, but that might explain a few things, but in the particular case before me, the affidavit in support — one of the affidavits in support — is by Dr. Hummel indicating why he needs to do a physical examination of the plaintiff and there is just absolutely no question that this is a cut-and-paste affidavit. It is taken literally verbatim from the affidavit of — I think it is — Dr. Reebye in one of the other cases cited to me – down to the punctuation.

[5]             The interesting paragraph, paragraph 9(d), where he says, “I understand that the plaintiff has been assessed by Dr. Heran and Dr. Kazemi…” — well, that was not verbatim, different doctors — “…whose reports I have not reviewed extensively, but sufficiently to determine that they noted the plaintiff’s complaints of neck, back, and shoulders causing headaches,” et cetera, on down to, “To properly assess his claimed injuries, I need to review the plaintiff’s history, accident information provided, and conduct a physical examination.”  These are all conclusions. He does not say, “Well, I notice that Dr. Heran did this or did not do this, performed this test which I think as a professional is inappropriate for the symptoms suggested”; no, nothing, he just simply says, “I need to look at this person,” and when he says that, he essentially, in my respectful view, says, “I need to do the same things Dr. Heran did,” but he just says that without giving us any reasons and, without reasons, there is no evidence, there is no requirement proven, and the application fails, but I also agree with Mr. Jiwa’s submissions that there is not a surprise here.

[6]             Yes, I can see the defence’s point, but I can also see the other elements and aspects of Dr. Kazemi’s report which, as Mr. Jiwa points out, says, among other things, he needs to be assessed for neurosurgery. Well, maybe you can say that is different than being assessed by an orthopedic surgeon, I do not know, but it is obvious that Dr. Kazemi certainly considered that a full understanding of the plaintiff’s circumstances would require further inquiry by another specialist and, in fact, the very specialist or physician of the same specialty that he considered who happens to be Dr. Heran. So no surprise there.

[7]             The application is dismissed.


“Overly-Frequent Interventions, Inappropriate Objections, and an Under-Prepared Witness” Leads To Further Discovery

August 13th, 2013

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a further examination for discovery of a party due to “overly-frequent interventions, inappropriate objections, and an under-prepared witness“.

In this week’s case (CP v. RBC Life Insurance Company) the Plaintiff was suing for disability insurance coverage she had in place with the Defendant.  In the course of the lawsuit the plaintiff examined a representative of the Defendant and the discovery was “at times disruptive, or event fractious“.  The Plaintiff adjourned the discovery before using her full 7 hours.  The Plaintiff sought an order allowing her to reschedule the examination and seeking to exceed the 7 hour cap.  In finding this was appropriate Master Baker provided the following sensible comments addressing the conduct of discoveries under the new rules of court:

[14]         Ms. Hayman adjourned in part due, she says, to the frequent interruptions and interventions by Ms. Carmichael. She argues that many of the interruptions were in and of themselves improper and that, for example, questions that were objected to should be answered by court direction. But perhaps more concerning to Ms. Hayman is that, she says, it was practically impossible to establish “a flow” to the examination which is, after all, in the nature of a cross-examination.

[15]         I have reviewed the 170 pages of the transcript of the two examination intervals. There are comments, objections, interventions, questions, or the like by Ms. Carmichael on 116 of the pages. It must be said that many are typical of an examination and benign; advice to Ms. Edizel, for example, to speak up, or confirmation to Ms. Hayman that the defense does have the proffered document. But the sheer number of recorded comments and interventions lend support to Ms. Hayman’s submission…

[18]         I worry that there is a trend to more oppositional examinations for discovery and that more and more will, inevitably, result in applications such as this. While the court is always available to apply the Rules of Court and decide on procedural issues, the process for examinations for discovery never intended this level of supervision. I agree with N. Smith J. that the court should generally discourage a question by question approach that, essentially, subsidizes counsel’s fundamental duty to conduct an appropriate discovery, on the one hand, or to permit one (including its broad and wide-ranging nature, often), on the other.

[19]         Rule 7-2(1)(a) inevitably increases the responsibilities in that regard. With a seven-hour limitation, examining counsel is obviously required to be efficient, focussed, and effective in conducting his or her examination. Opposing counsel, on the other hand, is obliged to restrict his or her objections and not consume that valuable time with unnecessary objections or interventions. Quite the contrary: if one thinks strategically, why not allow one’s opponent to use the examining time with irrelevant or non-productive questions? Tedious as they may seem, they would offer an excellent response to any application for increased examination time.

[20]         But that choice would be entirely left to the examinee’s counsel. In the main, it is for him or her to avoid intruding on the examiner’s time unless clearly justified.

[21]         There is a parallel obligation on the actual examinee; with the restriction on examination time comes a heightened responsibility to inform oneself in advance of the examination, so that the time can be used fruitfully and the discovery process serve its purpose. In this case Ms. Edizel had a particularly clear obligation in that regard. She was not the case manager or supervisor during the operative times of C.P.’s claim management; both of those individuals, as I’ve said, have left RBC. It was therefore incumbent on Ms. Edizel to redouble her efforts to examine the file and its history and to inform herself as much as possible. Both Ms. Wadhwani and Ms. Rhodes were apparently unwilling to talk to anyone about C.P.’s claim. The best source of information (other than the file entries themselves, one supposes) were therefore denied Ms. Edizel. I can understand, then, her inability to answer some (perhaps many) questions, but on the whole I am not satisfied that she met her obligation to inform herself as much as reasonably possible in advance of her examination. As a consequence, Rule 7-2(22) applies:

In order to comply with subrule (18) or (19), a person being examined for discovery may be required to inform himself or herself and the examination may be adjourned for that purpose.

[22]         The combination, then, of overly-frequent interventions, inappropriate objections, and an under-prepared witness requires that Ms. Edizel be further examined. I will not restrict that examination to outstanding requests. Moreover, her attendance for further examination in British Columbia will be at the expense of the defendant (subject, obviously, to any future rulings on costs). Ms. Hayman will be permitted a further four hours for examination as requested.


You Can't Be Forced to Show Your Hand: Litigation Privilege and Expert Reports

October 12th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with the limits of the Court’s power to order litigants to reveal which experts they may rely on at trial.

In the recent case (Amezcua v. Norlander) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate collisions.  The first took place some 14 years ago.  Commenting on the pace of litigation the Court noted that “the wheels of justice have ground so slowly that at times they stopped“.

The Defendant was apparently not aware of the nature of the injuries the Plaintiff was advancing.  An application was brought at a Case Planning Conference seeking the Plaintiff to “confirm which experts and expert reports it plans to rely on at trial“.  The Defendant argued that the Court can make such an order under Rule 5-3(1).

Master Baker noted that such an order would infringe on litigation privilege.  The Court did, however, order an accelerated date for the Plaintiff to serve his expert reports noting the slow pace of litigation.  Master Baker provided the following reasons:

[7]As I said above, the defendant Taylor asks for an order that the plaintiff “…confirm which experts and expert reports it plans to rely on at trial”.  In Galvon v. Hopkins, Kloegman J. declined to order that a party name a neurologist consulted by the party, along with the date of the appointment, or to advise of the names of subsequent experts or the dates of their appointments.  After considering several authorities, she concluded:

I do not see anything in Rule 5?3 governing case planning conferences that clearly, expressly, and specifically allows the presider to compel a party to provide another party with the details of any potential expert witnesses before that party has even consulted with the expert or made an election whether to call the witnesses’ evidence at trial.

Rule 5-3 does have clear and express provisions respecting experts: Rule 5-3(1)(k) permits the Court to direct the appointment of joint experts, to order that they consult, to limit the number of experts, to set dates for service of experts’ report (i.e. other than those set by Rules 11-6(3) and (4)), or to direct what issues upon which they may be called.  But none of these (other than by advancing the service date for reports) requires that a party disclose either the expert’s identity, or the area of his or her expertise before serving the report.

[8]Rule 5-3(1)(k) is not inconsistent, in my view, with the reasoning in Galvon.  The disclosure aspects of that Rule assume that evidence has been gathered, assessed, and considered essential to a party’s case.  The only question remaining then is when it will be disclosed, thus Rule 5-3(1)(k)(iv), permitting service dates other than those provided by Rule 11-6.  It is important and instructive to note the court’s reference to “potential” expert witnesses; it seems to me that Kloegman J. was concerned with protecting litigation privilege during the evidence-gathering phase, so that the party assembling his or her case is free to do so without the requirement of disclosing experts (or, I conclude, directions) that may prove fruitless and avoid adverse inferences.

[9]The defendant Taylor’s request, however, comes within Rule 5-3(1)(k) and does not ask the name or expertise of potential witnesses, but rather the details of the experts it will rely on at trial.

[10]This case, as I have mentioned, has an extraordinary aspect.  The first accident occurred approximately 13 years ago.  Such delays sometimes occur when, for example, the plaintiff is an infant.  That is not the case in this situation.  The defence is justified in its frustration and perplexity in not knowing, in any reliable way and after 13 years, the nature or extent of medical injuries suffered by the plaintiff.  That being the case, the plaintiff is ordered to deliver the reports of experts upon which she intends to rely at trial, no later than November 1, 2012.


Court Orders Particulars of Special Damages to Be Disclosed at Case Planning Conference

May 17th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a Plaintiff to provide particulars of claimed special damages.

In this week’s case (Amezcua v. Norlander) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions.  The Defendants applied, at a Case Planning Conference, that the Plaintiff produce particulars of special damages.  In agreeing that this was an appropriate order Master Baker provided the following reasons:

[5] …In particular leading authorities on pleading confirm that it is appropriate to expect a party to plead details of special damages and, if they are not given, to demand particulars.  The author of Odgers On High Court Pleading and Practice cites, as an illustration, Hayward v. Pullinger & Partners Ltd.:

But when any special damage is claimed, without sufficient detail, particulars will be ordered of the alleged damage…

More recently and locally the authors of Conduct of Civil Litigation in British Columbia comment:

Special damages must explicitly be claimed and proved.

And further, in relation to past wage loss:

…but the weight of the authority treats these as special damages which therefore must be specifically pleaded; the defendant is also entitled to particulars.

I cite this latter quote not in respect of wage losses per se, but for the implicit assumption that a defendant is entitled to particulars of special damages.

[6] I cannot see, then, why a party should not be required to particularize his or her special damages to date.  The same, of course, cannot be said for general damages, but the defence is not asking for that.  The plaintiff will therefore give particulars of her special damages to date.


The "Shoehorn" Prohibition To Responsive Defence Medical Exam Requests

February 29th, 2012

(Image via wikipedia)

One rule that has perhaps received more attention than other in recent years is Rule 11-6(4) in the context of Responsive Medical Exams.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this topic and coining the “shoehorn” prohibition to responsive independent medical exams.

In this weeks’ case (Turnbull v. Tarnohammadi) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff was assessed by Dr. Salvian who expressed concern that the Plaintiff suffered from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  His records were exchanged in the litigation process.  As the expert evidence deadline neared the Plaintiff served a proper expert report setting out Dr. Salvian’s findings.

The Defendant then brought an application for the Plaintiff to attend a physician to obtain a ‘responsive‘ report.  Master Baker dismissed the application noting it should have been brought sooner and parties are not allowed to “shoehorn” a late request for a medical exam into the responsive evidence rule.  In dismissing the application Master Baker provided the following reasons:

[13] Dr. Salvian was consulted and gave a report which became part of the clinical records of the family doctor, Dr. Murphy.  The clinical records, including that report, were made known to the defence long ago.  In fact, Dr. Salvian’s, I will call it report number one, which was dated 2010, was listed in the plaintiff’s list of documents in April of 2011.

[14] In that report it is clear that Dr. Salvian, if he did not very specifically diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome or thoracic outlet syndrome — and I do not decide at this point whether he did or he did not — made it absolutely clear, at least to me, that that was a significant factor in his mind.

[15] On the last page of his report, page 20, he says:

In any event, it is my opinion that the carpal tunnel syndrome and the post-traumatic thoracic outlet syndrome and the soft tissue injury of the neck are directly caused by the flexion extension injury, …

He then talks a little more about spontaneous carpal tunnel syndrome.

[16] I also agree with Mr. Parsons that his latter report does not add significantly to that, not in such a fresh way that would justify surprise on the part of the defence.

[17] That being the case, I take Mr. Parsons at his word, and I agree it would have been perfectly appropriate had at some point before the 84-day deadline the defence requested an IME to deal with Dr. Salvian’s perspectives;  that would have been appropriate.

[18] To wait after that point is to — as I think one authority, perhaps Mr. Justice Macaulay used the phrase — “shoehorn” the opinion into a compacted, truncated chronology, i.e., the 42-day limit for a responsive report, when, in fact, it should have been anticipated well in advance of that and it should have been subject to the same 84-day rule.

[19] Again, nothing in this precludes the defence from delivering a responsive medical report.  It is just as in the Gregorich case, I do not see that it is necessary to do that to direct the independent medical examination.


Plaintiff's Lawyer Allowed to "Charge" ICBC For Records Reimbursement Under Legal Profession Act

February 1st, 2012

Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, finding that a Plaintiff’s lawyer could use the Legal Profession Act to resolve a dispute for failure of the Defendant’s insurer to reimburse the cost of providing clinical records in the course of litigation.

In today’s case (Garth A. Wright Law Corporation v. ICBC) the Lawyer represented a Plaintiff in a personal injury action.  In the course of the claim ICBC requested various records from the lawyer and indicated that “We confirm that once we are in receipt of the records, our office will forward a cheque reimbursing your firm for costs incurred in obtaining same“.

The lawyer provided the records to ICBC and issued an account for their production.  ICBC did not pay the account.  The lawyer took the unusual turn to force payment of the Account using the mechanisms available under the Legal Profession Act.

ICBC argued that the Legal Profession Act could not be used as ICBC was not the Plaintiff’s lawyer’s client.  Master Baker disagreed and found that the Court did have jurisdiction to resolve this dispute.  In dismissing ICBC’s challenge to the Court’s jurisdiction Master Baker provided the following reasons:

[9] Mr. Wright submits a narrow point, that this court has jurisdiction under ss. 69(1) and 70(3)of the LPA to consider the account.  Those sections read:

69  (1) A lawyer must deliver a bill to the person charged.

and

70 (3) Subject to subsection (11), a lawyer may obtain an appointment to have a bill reviewed 30 days or more after the bill was delivered under section 69.

He argues that a party need only conform to the very narrow definition of “person charged” to be subject to the provisions and process of the LPA, and need not be the solicitor’s client per se.  He likens the whole issue to a simple contract; Ms. Reynolds requested/offered, he accepted, and thereby a contract, of sorts, arose.  He does not specifically claim a contractual right in this transaction but simply uses the analogy and submits that “the person charged” need not be a client, but need only be a party that has agreed to pay for whatever service has been requested. ..

[17] First, there is no question that a conventional solicitor/client relationship need not be established to bring a matter within ss. 69(1) and 70(3)…

[21] Even so, and notwithstanding Mr. Wright’s argument that he does not have to prove that complying with Ms. Reynolds’ request was giving a legal service, I think it was.  There is absolutely no doubt that the process of obtaining and forwarding medical records includes purely clerical acts, but it would be a mistake to ignore other aspects that include legal expertise and judgment.  Ms. Aviss’ evidence is that Mr. Wright routinely reviews the records on receipt and prior to forwarding copies.  It is the responsibility of all litigation counsel to review documents for relevance, privilege, and, occasionally, privacy.  Medical records, in particular, routinely cause disputes as to the proper form of production; should they be produced unedited (in British Columbia the so-called Jones format), or should they be redacted (the Halliday format)?  The only way for that to proceed is for counsel to exercise legal skills and judgment.  That’s a legal service.

[22] I do not consider the court constrained in this proceeding by the definitions contained in the Social Service Tax Act.  The definitions and exclusions in that Act are for specific application of the purpose of that Act; i.e. the taxation of various goods and services.  They cannot have such a broad application that they trench on or restrict another statute.

[23] There is no doubt that there was an agreement between ICBC and Mr. Wright but, as in Walker and Wilson, I have the same question to answer as did Master Horn.  What did the parties agree to?  I have concluded that the parties agreed that ICBC would pay Mr. Wright’s reasonable costs of the process, and that the costs were not restricted either solely to indemnifying the doctor’s charges for the copies, nor to eventual party and party tariff costs/disbursements.  As with Walker and Wilson, if there was misunderstanding it was on Ms. Reynolds’ part.  I conclude that all elements in the context of this transaction lead to the conclusion that what was reasonably intended was reimbursement of both payment to the medical office and a photocopying charge by Mr. Wright’s office…

[26] Mr. Wright’s account to ICBC for obtaining, photocopying, and forwarding the records of a non-party is a charge properly brought by appointment under the LPA.


More on the DME Prohibition of Bolstering Previous Opinions

November 1st, 2011

While Plaintiff’s in personal injury lawsuits sometimes have to be subjected to multiple defence medical exams (DME) one well-settled principle is that subsequent exams to bolster a previous defence opinion are not permitted.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, demonstrating this principle in action.

In last week’s case (Dillon v. Montgomery) the Plaintiff was involved in two motor vehicle collisions.  He sued for damages with both claims set for trial at the same time.   In the course of the lawsuit he agreed to attend a defence medical exam with an orthopaedic surgeon.  The examination included a neurological assessment.

The Defendant then applied for a second exam, this time with a neurologist, arguing this was necessary “to ensure reasonable equality between the parties in the preparation of a case for trial“.  Master Bouck disagreed finding a further exam was not necessary in the circumstances and amounted to an effort to “bolster” the previous opinion.  In dismissing the application the Court provided the following reasons:

[17] Dr. McGraw reviews the findings contained in the neurological consult report in his own report. In additon, Dr. McGraw conducted a neurological examination.

[18] This expert’s opinion is that the plaintiff’s “back pain is of muscular origin and not related to intervertebral disc disease, arthritis of the apophyseal joints, or nerve root irritation”…

[28] In the case at bar, I determined that an examination by Dr. Moll is not necessary to put the parties on equal footing.

[29] First, there was nothing new in the medical evidence since the examination by Dr. McGraw that might justify an examination by a neurologist. The only alleged new information is the plaintiff’s ongoing complaints of tingling in his arms and legs. These complaints are of long standing and even pre-date the accidents.

[30] Second, a neurological opinion has been obtained [by the plaintiff] which negates any correlation between the plaintiff’s symptoms and the motor vehicle accidents. Indeed, Dr. Shtybel’s resident made no findings of neurological impairment whatsoever. In other words, the only purpose of an independent medical examination by a neurologist would be to prove a negative, or, perhaps bolster Dr. McGraw’s opinion. This circumstance is different than the one considered in Kim v. Lin where there had yet to be any medical opinions proferred to explain ongoing (and even worsening) accident related complaints.

[31] Finally, the fact that the plaintiff has ongoing complaints that may be considered neurological symptoms does not warrant this second examination. The defence is “not entitled to pursue every potential medical possibility” to address the plaintiff’s subjective complaints: Lowry v. Spencer, (10 December, 1990) Vancouver Registry No. B883909 as cited in Trahan v. West Coast Amusements Ltd., 2000 BCSC 691 at para. 49.

For more on this topic you can click here to access my archived posts summarizing the judicial application of Rule 7-6(2).


Defendant Denied Second Medical Exam Despite Potential "Concerns" Of First Expert's Opinion

August 22nd, 2011

(Update:  The below decision was upheld on Appeal by Mr. Justice Smith on September 29, 2011)

Although Rule 7-6(2) of the BC Supreme Court Civil Rules permits multiple court ordered medical examinations, there is a general prohibition of multiple exams to comment on the same topic.  Useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this in the context of a psychiatric condition which developed following a motor vehicle collision.

In this week’s case (De Sousa v. Bradaric and Borthwick) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2003 collision which allegedly caused physical and psychiatric consequences.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendants had the Plaintiff assessed by a psychiatrist of their choosing.  This psychiatrist (Dr. Davis) concluded that there was “no psychosis“.

Shortly after this the Plaintiff was admitted in hospital on multiple occasions.  She was ultimately diagnosed with “chronic paranoid schizophrenia” by her treating physicians.  These records were shared with Dr. Davis but despite the diagnosis from treating specialists he “rigidly and categorically rejected any diagnosis of a psychotic conditions“.

In the face of this clear diagnosis from the treating physicians a second Defence Medical Exam was sought, this time with a different psychiatrist.  The Court rejected the application despite potential “concerns….with the quality or reliability” of Dr. Davis’ opinion.  In rejecting the application Master Baker provided the following helpful reasons:

[13] I am not satisfied at all that in these circumstances, with these facts and history, that a second IME is justified. It is easily as consistent in my mind that the defence now disagrees or is concerned about issues with Dr. Davis’ position and report. It is easily consistent, in my view, that the application aims to mediate or improve upon Dr. Davis’ opinions.

[14] Yes, Mr. McIvor is absolutely correct that the psychosis, if any, was at a fairly nascent stage in 2007 when Dr. Davis saw her and that it has apparently, if one takes the evidence of the plaintiff, become full-blown. Well, so be it. In my respectful view, Dr. Davis is a psychiatrist. He is an expert in psychiatric matters. He has been consulted on, I am told, many occasions. That is not denied. I would expect him to be alive to the issue. He certainly inquired of Ms. De Sousa and very soon after was advised of the psychotic overlay or potential for it and has absolutely rejected that.

[15] In all the circumstances, I just cannot see a basis for the second opinion. It is a multi-stage test, of course. There are aspects of this both counsel have properly put before the court, starting with as Mr. McIvor has pointed out the Chief Justice in Wildemann (1990), 50 B.C.L.R. (2d) 244 (C.A.). It must be an exceptional case that justifies the second IME or one that is required to place the parties on equal footing. I cannot see that in this particular case. What is, I think, concerning the defence, I infer, is concerns they have with the quality or reliability of a report obtained in this specific area of expertise.

[16] The court should be concerned according to McKay v. Passmore, 2005 BCSC 570, that the matter is something that could not reasonably be seen or anticipated or dealt with at the time. Well, again, I do not see that that applies in this case. There was a previous committal for psychotic reasons. Counsel called and advised that she had been to the hospital, possibly not for psychotic reasons, possibly as I said earlier for cognitive reasons; possibly he did not have in hand the medical records. He probably did not. It sounds to me like it was on an emergency basis, but surely that should have given rise to real concerns on the part of any inquiring professional such as Dr. Davis.

[17] The passage of time alone does not justify a second IME. That is true. However, that may be qualified, I suppose, when the passage of time allows for the development of a whole new area of concern or symptomology. Certainly, as I have said already a couple of times, her psychosis has really developed and become much more obvious, apparently. However, I do not think this aspect applies because it should have been evident to a reasonable inquiry at the time that there was a real issue about this…

[21] Yes, this may be developing into a major claim, but that does not change all of the other considerations that I have applied and taken from the cases, all of which lead me to conclude that the application should be dismissed, and it is.