"Nonsensical" Objection to Statistical Evidence Rejected

Statistics have their place in trial.  When proving average earnings of certain occupations the shortcut of referencing statistical data can be of great value and save time and money.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing this.
In last week’s case (Smith v. Fremlin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  She was a recent law school graduate at the time just entering her career in law.  It was found that, as a result of the injury, she likely could not compete in private practice and would have lifelong limitations in her working capacity.  The Plaintiff introduced statistical evidence of the present day value of a lifetime of earnings for legal professionals.  The Defendant objected to this arguing witnesses of fact instead should be called to address this.  In rejecting this “fundamentally flawed” objection Mr. Justice Groves provided the following reasons:
[43]         Counsel for the defendants took significant objection to the report of Robert Wickson.  At trial, I rejected their argument that the report should not be admitted as evidence.  The substance of that argument is worth considering in these Reasons. 
[44]         It was the position of the defendants that any report which attempts to provide evidence to the court as to average income of persons within certain employment designations is fundamentally flawed.  It was the position of the defendants that the court should require the plaintiff to produce evidence of persons, working as practicing lawyers, who could testify as to what they earn.  The suggestion was further made that these witnesses should be women practicing law in British Columbia. 
[45]         One must keep in mind that all parties appear to have agreed to this matter being litigated under the Fast Track model in three to four days.  It is nonsensical to require a party to prove a claim by calling a potentially large number of witnesses, in this case, female lawyers in British Columbia of the same age, to testify.  It is folly not only as to the time and cost, but also as to the possibility of finding this information in advance.  It would require people to willingly disclose their income.  Additionally, it is folly when one considers the number of persons that would have to be called to create any level of statistical reliability. 
[46]         What this Discovery Economic Consulting report shows is that for persons who fall within the NOC classification of ”Lawyers and Quebec Notaries”, the potential earning capacity is approximately $1.94 million over the course of their career.  Importantly, the persons that fall within this classification are a much larger body of persons then simply practicing lawyers.  Although numerous types of lawyers and notaries are included in this classification, it also includes judicial assistants, advisory counsel, articling students, advisors of law and corporate affairs, and a number of other job classifications which may not require law degrees, such as legal officers and legislative advisors. 
[47]         I accept that this report is evidence of lifetime capacity for someone with the career path that Ms. Smith was undertaking.  In fairness, however, the number should be increased as a number of persons falling within the classification are not lawyers and employed in occupations, likely to be earning less, such as articling students.  I find that working to age 69 is not unreasonable.  As such, I would find that a reasonable dollar figure for lifetime earnings for a lawyer is $2,000,000.

bc injury law, economists evidence, Mr. Justice Groves, Smith v. Fremlin, Statistical Evidence

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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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