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Plaintiff Independent Medical Exams and Litigation Privilege Discussed

Useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing the scope of litigation privilege when a Plaintiff attends an independent medical exam arranged on their behalf in the course of a personal injury lawsuit.
In this week’s case (Lanteigne v. Brkopac) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff’s lawyer had her assessed by a neuropsychologist to explore the possibility of organic brain injury.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer chose not to order a report from the neuropsychologist following the assessment.
ICBC brought an application to compel the neuropsychologist to produce a copy of his clinical records of the assessment.  Master Taylor dismissed the application finding that the notes generated during Plaintiff arranged independent medical exams are subject to litigation privilege.  In addition to canvassing several cases addressing this area of law Master Taylor provided the following useful comments:

[15] On the other hand, the plaintiff says this is not a case where Rule 7-6(1) is applicable because the court did not make an order under this subrule for the plaintiff to attend to be examined by Dr. Coen. Rather, the plaintiff attended upon Dr. Coen by referral from her own counsel. Accordingly, says the plaintiff, what actually applies is the law of privilege, not Stainer v. Plaza.

[16] Thus, the issue is framed – can a defendant or third party who has not obtained a doctor’s report by compulsion of a court order, and prior to disclosure of any medical-legal reports by the plaintiff or in the absence of any reports, obtain access to the non-treating doctor’s notes and clinical findings, or are said notes and clinical records privileged as forming part of the brief of the plaintiff’s solicitor until the time when the plaintiff chooses to rely on the non-treating doctor as a witness at trial and the doctor’s notes must be disclosed…

[21] In my view it is improper to categorize the non-treating doctor or any other third party consultant retained on behalf of the plaintiff as a witness in which there is no property. The very fact that the plaintiff consulted with that physician or other individual during the course of litigation removes that individual from the “witness” category until such time as the plaintiff and counsel make a determination about whether or not that physician will be used as a witness at the trial, and preserves the right of privilege. The fact that the consulted doctor or other consultant never gives evidence preserves the privilege for all time unless waived by the plaintiff.

[22] While the defendant and third party submit they could have the plaintiff examined by their own doctor or proceed with an examination of the doctor pursuant to Rule 7-5, they complain that those alternatives are costly, and, accordingly, the court should assist them by ordering the records of Dr. Coen be produced and thus save them the cost of proceeding with the other alternatives. The defendant also submits that Rule 1-3 provides the court with sufficient justification to order Dr. Coen to provide his notes of the plaintiff’s examination.

[23] In my view, the defendant and third party have not shown any meritorious reason for abrogating the plaintiff’s litigation privilege related to the information obtained by Dr. Coen from the plaintiff as a result of the referral to Dr. Coen by the plaintiff’s solicitor. Nor, in my opinion, does Rule 1-3 provide justification for abrogating the privilege.

bc injury law, Lanteigne v. Brkopac, litigation privilege, master taylor, privilege, Rule 1, Rule 1-3