"Careless" If Not "Deceptive" Expert Opinion Judicially Criticized

Adding to this site’s archived cases criticizing expert advocacy in the guise of opinion, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, criticizing such an opinion.
In today’s case (Hendry v. Ellis) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages.  THe Defendant hired a doctor who minimized the connection between the Plaintiff’s complaints and the collision.  At trial, through cross examination, the doctor made various admissions beyond the borders of the opinion contained in the report.  In criticizing the physician’s opinion as “careless” if not outright “deceptive” Mr. Justice Jenkins provided the following reasons:

[26]         Expert evidence tendered at trial was that the duration of soft tissue pain is considered to be 12 to 16 weeks and if pain is experienced after that time, it is due to some other mechanism. As Ms. Hendry had no back pain prior to the accident, it is clear that some other mechanism from the accident is the cause or contributing to her current pain.

[27]         I will not review in detail the medical evidence which is lengthy. However, I can safely say that I accept the opinion of Dr. Sawhney, the plaintiff’s doctor, and do not find the evidence of the defence expert, Dr. Bishop, to be particularly helpful. I have no doubt about Dr. Bishop’s qualifications, however, there were significant inconsistencies in his evidence provided in an earlier case, the transcript of which was tendered at trial. At trial he agreed the absence of an objective basis for pain does not invalidate pain but he did not say so in his report.

[28]         At trial, Dr. Bishop admitted that the plaintiff continues to suffer pain and if the motor vehicle accident did not occur, she would not have experienced the soft tissue injury caused by the motor vehicle accident that initiated acute pain, and he also stated that pain triggers a psychiatric reaction that can lead to chronic pain which is what Ms. Hendry is experiencing. However, once again he did not say so in his report. Dr. Bishop also admitted most chronic pain patients at three years after the accident will likely not make considerable progress or at least he agreed that the chances of significant progress are low.

[29]         I will just refer as well to the notes just to save time in the written submissions of the plaintiff in paras. 48 through 53 which I accept those references in the written submissions of the plaintiff regarding the evidence of Dr. Bishop. These submissions were:

48.       He [i.e. Dr. Bishop] admitted Ms. Hendry had no prior history of low back pain.

49.       He admitted that numerous medical studies have been published, put that put that 3-15% of people continue to have pain after a soft tissue injury and that by definition, Ms. Hendry is in that percentage of people.

50.       In a previous case he had admitted that there is a leading medical theory that explains why people have pain after 12-16 weeks: central nervous system hypersensitivity theory, but in the case at bar he denied it was a leading theory, even though he accepted it.

51.       He admitted that he did not advise the court in either of his report that 3-15% of people continue to have pain after a soft tissue injury even though he knew he was writing his second report specifically for the purpose of an imminent trial.

52.       It is respectfully submitted that Dr. Bishop did not meet the requirement of an expert in their duty to assist the court and to candidly disclose alternate theories that could account for the plaintiff’s pain. At best, it was careless, at worst, it was deceptive by omission.

53.       He finally admitted that MVA injuries were the only reason that started the plaintiff down the path of chronic pain. When asked if the car accident initiated the process, he finally admitted that yes it had. He said that he did not put this in his report because “I’m bound by the questions I was asked”. With respect, this is an irresponsible attitude for an expert to hold.

[30]         Dr. Bishop also stated many times he does not know the objective cause of her pain as no bone scans have been performed and she has not seen a psychiatrist for testing. I find that the cause of the pain has been the soft tissue injuries and other injuries, some of which may not now be identified as per Dr. Bishop and that her pain is chronic in nature and most likely to continue.

Advocacy in the Guise of Opinion, bc injury law, Hendry v. Ellis, Mr. Justice Jenkins

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ERIK
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Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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