The Debate Goes On… Independent Medical Exams and "Responsive" Expert Evidence


Rule 11-6(3) of the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules requires expert reports to be served 84 days prior to trial.  Rule 11-6(4) requires “responding” reports to be served at least 42 days prior to trial.  The issue of whether a Defendant is able to force a plaintiff to attend an “independent medical exam” for the purpose of obtaining a responding report is currently being worked out by the BC Supreme Court.  Reasons for judgement were released last week demonstrating this matter remains a live issue.
Earlier this year, Mr. Justice Savage declined a defence motion to compel a Plaintiff to attend a doctor’s examination to obtain a responding report finding that an independent examination of a Plaintiff is not necessarily required since responding reports are to be strictly limited to “a critical analysis of the methodology of the opposing expert”
In a case released last week the Court reached a seemingly opposite result with a finding that an independent medical exam can be compelled to allow a Defendant to obtain a responding report in a personal injury claim.
In last week’s case (Luedecke v. Hillman) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC motor vehicle collision.  He served his expert reports in the timelines required by the Rules of Court.  The Defendant sought an order for an independent medical exam to obtain a responding opinion.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that a medical examination is not necessary to obtain a truly responding opinion.  Mr. Justice Cullen disagreed and upheld a Master’s order compelling the Plaintiff to see the Defendant’s doctor.  In doing so the Court noted as follows:

[49]        Although the plaintiff submits that Dr. Reebye should be limited in his report to “criticizing the methodology or the research or pointing out facts apparent from the records which the other examiners may have overlooked” based on Justice Savage’s apparent reliance on C.N. Rail, supra, I do not take from Savage J.’s judgment that responsive opinions are invariably limited to “a critical analysis of the methodology of the opposing expert.”

[50]        In C.N. Rail, supra, Henderson J. was dealing with rebuttal evidence in the classic sense described by Southin J.A. in Sterritt v. McLeod, supra, as simply evidence responsive to some point in the oral evidence of the witness called by the defendant.

[51]        What is at issue in the present case is a different form of responsive evidence, recognized in Stainer v. Plaza, supra, as distinct in paragraph 15, where Finch J.A. ( as he then was) noted:

The third condition in the order is directed to the third party calling an independent medical examiner “for rebuttal evidence” I understand from counsel that this refers not to rebuttal evidence as generally understood, but to evidence that is purely responsive to medical evidence which the plaintiff has led as part of her case.  It would not apply to opinion evidence offered by the third party on subject matters not adduced in the medical evidence adduced by the plaintiff. [underlining added]

[52]        I thus conclude that what is referred to in Rule 11-6(4) is not akin to rebuttal evidence such as that called by a plaintiff in response to a defendant’s case, with its consequent limitations.  Nor is it akin to expert evidence that responds generally to the subject matter of the plaintiff’s case.  Rather, it refers to evidence that is “purely responsive” to the medical evidence which the other party has called.

[53]        As such, it has inherent limitations, but not necessarily the same limitations that Henderson J imposed on the true rebuttal evidence he was dealing with in C.N. Rail, supra.

[54]        I agree with the conclusion of Mr. Justice Savage in Wright v. Brauer, supra, to the effect that there is an evidentiary threshold to be met before an order under Rule 7-6(1) should be made in contemplation of an expert’s report under Rule 11-6(4).  That threshold is different from that for ordering an expert’s report under Rule 11-6(3).  To reach the requisite threshold under Rule 11-6(4) the applicant must establish a basis of necessity for the examination to properly respond to the expert witness whose report is served under subrule (3) by the other party.  It is not simply a matter of demonstrating a need to respond to the subject matter of the plaintiff’s case.

[55]        Clearly, that threshold was not met in the case before Savage J.  In the case before me there is an affidavit from Dr. Reebye setting forth a basis for the examination sought, although ultimately what Dr. Reebye may regard as purely responsive may be different from that which the trial judge eventually concludes to be so.  That issue must await another day.  Here I am dealing with a more limited issue, and I am satisfied that on the basis of Dr. Reebye’s affidavit the evidentiary threshold is met and the order of Master Scarth should be upheld.

[56]        I am alive to the concern expressed by the plaintiff’s counsel that Rule 11-6(4) may be seen as a means for defendants to circumvent the more onerous notice provisions of 11-6(3) and routinely seek to obtain reports that more properly should be sought under that latter rule.  I conclude, however, that such a concern can be met as it was with the practice of having opinion evidence without notice under the old Rule 40A.  In that regard, the words of Williamson J. in Kelley v. Kelley (1995), 20 B.C.L.R. (3d) 232 (S.C.) are apt:

I would restrict, of course, as courts I think must, the practice of having opinion evidence without notice strictly to truly responsive rebuttal evidence, and I think if that rule is carefully observed, there should be no difficulties.

As with judicial precedents developed under the former rules, I expect there will be some seemingly inconsistent judgements dealing with the issue of independent medical exams under the current rules and eventually the BC Court of Appeal will likely weigh in on the issue to bring some clarity to the law.

bc injury law, expert reports, independent medical exams, Luedecke v. Hillman, Mr. Justice Cullen, rebuttal evidence, responding reports, responsive evidence, Rule 11, Rule 11-6(4), Rule 7-6(1)

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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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