Follow Up Medical Reports After the Passage of Time Are Not "Extravagant" Disbursements

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the reasonableness of multiple physician reports ordered in the course of a personal injury prosecution.
In this week’s case (Zhang v. Heikkila) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle incident.  In the course of her lawsuit she obtained multiple medical reports.  The first from her GP in 2009.  This report opined on prognosis.   Following this the Plaintiff obtained a report from a physical medicine specialist and as trial neared the Plaintiff obtained an updated report from her GP.  ICBC challenged the reasonableness of these disbursements arguing they were excessive.  District Registrar Cameron disagreed finding these disbursements were properly recoverable.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:
15]         In my view, in evaluating whether or not it was necessary or proper to incur these disbursements for the medical legal reports, one must consider more broadly what should be done in the preparation of the Plaintiff’s case.
[16]         To be properly equipped to advise a client on the merits of settlement in circumstances such as existed in this case competent counsel not only has to investigate and assess the liability issue but also consider the likely range of damages.  It would be expected that competent counsel would obtain medical opinions in a timely fashion and that is what occurred in this case.
[17]         Plaintiff’s counsel obtained the first report from the general practitioner approximately two years after the accident and in my view that report was properly obtained at that time.
[18]         The report documented concerns respecting the Plaintiff’s future in terms of her employability and continuing physical limitations resulting from the injuries sustained in the accident.
[19]         After reviewing this report, Plaintiff’s counsel then decided to obtain an opinion from a specialist in physical medicine being Dr. Kiaii, who provided her report dated April 20, 2012.  That report provided an evaluation of the Plaintiff’s level of function, her symptomatic complaints and some prognosis and recommendations to follow.  Again, obtaining that report at that time was, in my view, proper for the advancement of the Plaintiff’s case.
[20]         The last report in issue was an updated report from Dr. Sun dated February 18, 2013.  While that report was obtained about sixteen months following the first report, given the Plaintiff’s ongoing symptoms and the need to have a more current assessment of those symptoms for the purposes of preparing for trial or for settlement, I do not find that it was extravagant or a sign of excessive caution that Plaintiff’s counsel obtained that report when she did.
[21]         Fundamentally, I am keeping in mind that in a situation such as this, the assessing officer ought not to second guess competent counsel doing a competent job because other counsel might have handled the matter differently.
[22]         Having found that these three disbursements were necessarily or properly incurred and as the amount for each of them is not challenged, they will be allowed as presented.

bc injury law, disbursements, District Registrar Cameron, Zhang v. Heikkila

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ERIK
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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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