Defendant Stripped of Costs For Expert Witness Advocacy

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, stripping Defendants of significant trial costs they otherwise would have been entitled to as a result of relying on an expert witness who crossed the line into advocacy.
In this week’s case (Jampolsky v. Shattler) the Plaintiff was involved in 4 collisions.  He alleged he sustained a traumatic brain injury and sought damages exceeding one million dollars at trial.  The Court rejected the brain injury claim and found that the Plaintiff sustained modest injuries awarding $15,000 in total damages.  Prior to trial ICBC made a formal offer of settlement of $125,000.   ICBC sought costs from the time of the offer onward. Mr. Justice Harvey held that normally such an order was appropriate but because of the Defendant’s expert witness’ evidence at trial which crossed into advocacy and further due to the Defendant lawyer’s conduct in the course of a mid-trial application, the Defendant should be stripped of their post offer costs.  In coming to this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[72]         As  earlier observed, but for the matter of the conduct of defendants’ counsel in the application for withdrawal of the admission and my findings concerning the evidence of Dr. Rees, I would have made an order under Rule 9-5(d) awarding the defendants costs in respect of the proceeding after the date of delivery of the offer to settle.
[73]         The degree to which the evidence of Dr. Rees crossed the boundary from expert opinion into advocacy is a matter which rests at the feet of the defendants. He was their witness and the defendants assume responsibility for his conduct. The Rules require experts to certify that they will prepare their reports and provide testimony in accordance with their duty to assist the court and not assume the role of advocate:Jayetileke, supra.
[74]         In LeClair v. Mibrella Inc., 2011 BCSC 533, Voith J. reduced the amount of costs payable to a successful defendant by 50% to make clear to the defendant that its conduct, in certain respects, was improper. The rebuke in costs was to signal the court’s expectation that parties will expect in a manner that is consistent with the Rules of Court.
[75]         Here, similar to LeClair, I find that the conduct of the defendants, both through the actions of their counsel, Mr. Robinson, and in an expert called on their behalf, Dr. Rees, was sufficiently outside the boundaries of expected behaviour to warrant rebuke via a denial of costs to which the defendants would otherwise be entitled.
[76]         In the circumstances, despite the September Offer and the defendants’ success on the issue of whether the plaintiff suffered an MTBI as a result of any of the four accidents, it is appropriate to deny the defendants the costs of trial leaving intact the plaintiff’s entitlement to costs up to and including the date of the offer to settle but no costs thereafter.

Advocacy in the Guise of Opinion, Jampolsky v. Shattler, Mr. Justice Harvey, Rule 9, Rule 9-1, Rule 9-1(5), Rule 9-1(6), Rule 9-1(6)(d)

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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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