BC Supreme Court Gives Scathing Reasons Rejecting ICBC Doctor as "Advocate"
Adding to this site’s archived judgments of judicial criticism of expert witness ‘advocacy’, reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, holding a defence expert witness report as inadmissible due to advocacy.
In today’s case (Tathgur v. Dobson) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate vehicle collisions. Fault was admitted for both by the Defendants. In the course of the lawsuit the Defendants had the Plaintiff assessed by a physician who provided an opinion minimizing the Plaintiff’s injuries and their connection to the collisions. In finding the opinion inadmissible and worth no weight Madam Justice Warren provided the following harsh reasons calling the doctor an “advocate” for the defence:
 The question then is whether Dr. Grypma was in fact biased, impartial, or acting as an advocate for the defence. If I find he was, he is clearly unwilling or unable to fulfill his duty, and his evidence is inadmissible as not meeting the threshold requirement of “qualified expert”.
 Dr. Grypma included the certification required by Rule 11-2(2) in each of his reports, but that is not the end of the matter: see White at para. 48. The concern is that notwithstanding the inclusion of this certification in his reports, Dr. Grypma assumed the role of advocate for the defence. For the following reasons, I have determined that Dr. Grypma was acting as an advocate for the defence and, as a result, was not able and willing to provide fair, objective and non-partisan evidence.
 As noted, Dr. Grypma’s opinions rested on five primary footings. The second and third footings concerning Dr. Grypma’s rear-end accident theories are themselves opinions for which no foundation was expressed in the reports. The failure to expressly note the foundation for those opinions would not, on its own, be sufficient to exclude the reports at the initial stage on grounds of bias or advocacy. However, it became apparent that Dr. Grypma is not actually aware of an adequate foundation for these views. When asked, in cross-examination, to explain the foundation for the opinion that a rear-end accident rarely causes injury to the lower back, Dr. Grypma testified that he had attended courses with others who agreed that an injury to the lower back is rare in a rear-end accident. He did not say when he attended these courses. He did not identify the entities or institutions that offered the courses or even their subject matters. He did not identify who these others were who agreed with him. He also said that he relied on the conclusions of two professors. He did not say when those conclusions had been relayed to him or in what form, and he was able to name only one of these professors, having forgotten the name of the other. He acknowledged not having referred to any scientific publication supportive of this opinion.
 In the circumstances, it is not possible to evaluate the soundness Dr. Grypma’s rear-end accident theories or even determine whether they fall within the scope of his expertise. More fundamentally, however, Dr. Grypma relied so heavily on opinions for which he had no proper foundation strongly suggests that he had taken up the role of advocate for the defence. Any doubt about that was removed by Dr. Grypma’s response to being provided with a more complete set of Mr. Tathgur’s clinical records, which undermined another of the foundational footings for Dr. Grypma’s opinion.
 It is not clear to me why Dr. Grypma did not have all of Mr. Tathgur’s medical records, including Dr. Manga’s clinical records and the 2009 MRI, before he wrote his first report in 2011. It is apparent from his May 31, 2011 summary of the history provided by Mr. Tathgur that Dr. Grypma was aware that Mr. Tathgur had been treated by his family doctor, and that x-rays and an MRI had been performed. In other words, he knew that relevant records existed. While he is not required to conduct an investigation (Edmondson at para. 77) it would have been more helpful had he obtained access to these before offering an opinion, particularly before challenging the credibility of Mr. Tathgur’s complaints.
 Nevertheless, irrespective of what Mr. Tathgur told Dr. Grypma about the initial onset of pain following the first accident, it is beyond dispute that Mr. Tathgur did report pain to Dr. Manga the day after the accident and, by the time Dr. Grypma wrote his August 21, 2015 report, he must have been aware of this. Dr. Manga’s handwritten clinical records are not easy to read but the words “pain neck, low back” are legible in the clinical record for May 27, 2008, and there is also a hand-drawn sketch of Mr. Tathgur’s back with diagonal lines on it at the left side of the neck and the left low back, which is obviously intended to record the specific locations of reported symptoms. In his August 21, 2015 report, Dr. Grypma complained that Dr. Manga’s records were not legible and he said he had to “go on Mr. Tathgur’s memory as [he found] the family physician’s records were not helpful”, yet he went on to specifically note that the family physician’s records indicated normal range of motion on May 27, 2008, the day after the first accident and the same day that the words “pain neck, low back” and the sketch appear. He also referred to notations in the clinical records for September 5, 2009 and December 18, 2011 that support his theory, but made no mention of other references that did not support his theory, such as the references to spasm.
 Again, Dr. Manga’s records are not easy to read. It would have been understandable if Dr. Grypma had refused to comment on the clinical records at all unless they were transcribed. However, he clearly could read some of the entries and he relied on those that were consistent with his previously stated views. He cannot overcome the inescapable conclusion that he cherry-picked entries, ignoring those that undermined his opinion.
 Similarly, in his December 3, 2015 report, he noted that the history given to Dr. Hershler concerning symptoms the day after the first accident was materially different from that which he said Mr. Tathgur gave him such that clarification was required, but then he went on to reiterate the same opinion (that significant injury from the first accident was unlikely) based largely on the fact that Mr. Tathgur experienced little or no pain after that accident. Again, by this time he also had Dr. Manga’s clinical records, which clearly indicated complaints of pain on the day after the first accident.
 For the foregoing reasons, I find that Dr. Grypma lost sight of his duty to the court and instead became an advocate for the defence. His evidence is inadmissible as a result. Even if I was not prepared to exclude the evidence, for the same reasons I would give it no weight. Further and in any event, as discussed below, I accept Mr. Tathgur’s evidence that he did have significant pain the day after the first accident. Leaving aside concerns of bias, partiality and lack of independence, this finding is incompatible with a key footing for Dr. Grypma’s core opinion and, for that reason alone, I would give his opinion no weight.
Advocacy in the Guise of Opinion, bc injury law, Madam Justice Warren, Tathgur v. Dobson