Can You Record an "Independent Medical Exam" In an ICBC Injury Claim?

When ICBC sends you to an ‘independent’ medical exam for the purposes of litigation in the BC Supreme Court are you permitted to record the examination?
This issue was dealt with by the BC Court of Appeal in a 2006 decision (Wong v. Wong) in which the Court held that BC Courts do have the authority to permit audio recording as part of an order for an independent medical exam but that this discretion should be exercises sparingly.  Specifically the BC Court of Appeal said the following about the courts ability to permit audio recording as a term of an independent medical exam:

[44]           One would think that if the tape recording of a medical or psychiatric examination was thought likely to enhance the quality of such an examination, the medical profession would long since have adopted the use of audio tapes as a general practice.  The material before us shows that use of an audio tape recorder is not only not considered to be an advantage, but rather can be an impediment to a proper, independent examination.  Dr. Smith says that use of an audio tape recorder will alter the nature of a psychiatric exam, and may make the examinee reluctant to answer some questions.  These observations have the ring of simple common sense.  In fact, hundreds if not thousands of psychiatric examinations of both infant and adult plaintiffs have been conducted in this province under Rule 30, or its predecessors, without any suggestion that they might have been of better quality if tape recorded.

[45]           It may well be that the recollection of a plaintiff as to what was said on an examination will differ from the doctor’s notes or recollection.  As Brooke J.A. observes, “the rules proceed on the basis that there may be some disparity” in recollections.  But these differences can be tested in the usual way, as they have been for years.  As in the Bellamy case “… there is no suggestion on the record that any injustice has occurred.”

[46]           It was argued before us that an audio tape recording would provide the “best evidence” at trial of what was said in the examination, in the event of a conflict between the examinee and the doctor, and that the courts should endorse the use of technologies available to provide the best evidence.  The oral history and other information provided by the person being examined is often an important part of the foundation on which the examiner’s opinion is based.  However, any advantage to be gained by tape recording the interview must be weighed against the extent to which it would impede or impair a full and proper examination.  Absent unusual circumstances, I am not persuaded that the presumed advantage would outweigh the disadvantages.

[47]           Apart from any impairment of the examination itself, there are other concerns related to the audio taping of medical examinations.  No matter how good the technology, there will be failures.  A tape recording will no doubt be transcribed and there will be issues before and at trial over the transcription.  The transcript will add an unwarranted level of importance to the oral portion of examination, and another layer of adversarial complexity to the trial process.  None of these difficulties need be encountered.

[48]           While I am of the view that a master or judge has a discretion under Rule 30 to permit the use by a plaintiff of an audio tape recorder on an independent medical examination, it is in my opinion a discretion that should be exercised rarely and with restraint, and only in circumstances where there is cogent evidence that the use of an audio tape recording will advance the interests of justice.

Today, reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court further dealing with this issue.  In today’s case (Kelly v. Sanmugathas) the Defendants sought to have a plaintiff examined by a psychiatrist.  The Plaintiff wished to have the examination recorded.  In permitting the recording Master Donaldson summarized and applied the law as follows:

[2] A number of authorities were cited specifically referring to Dr. Davis.  The decision of the Court of Appeal in Wong stands for the current state of law in British Columbia, namely, that if there is to be a recording it would be only in very limited situations.  Counsel on behalf of the plaintiff referred me to a number of decisions where it was concluded that Dr. Davis was an advocate for the defence and matters of that nature.  Those decisions do not concern me in this instance and do not lead me any closer to reaching the conclusion that the plaintiff should be able to record her visit with Dr. Davis.  What does give me concern are two references, Sinclair, Mr. Justice Hood in 2002, and McGowan, a 1992 decision of Madison, J. in the Yukon, both of which make reference to mistakes having been made.  Fraser, J. in the Edmonds case where he stated: “if [sic] mistakes, likely they were those of Dr. Davis”.  In the McGowan decision, Mr. Justice Madison stated “his opinion was thus based on an erroneous view of the facts.”

[3] Clearly it will be easy enough for a judge in this action to conclude how he or she should assess the opinion of Dr. Davis, but of concern to me, is whether or not Dr. Davis takes an accurate history.  Clearly the recollection of the plaintiff as to the history taken and the reliance on clinical records and the like, will assist the court in determining whether or not Dr. Davis in fact has misapprehension of the facts or he in fact was accurate so far as the facts given are concerned.

[4] I have concluded that recording is the least invasive way of ensuring that Ms. Kelly’s recollection of the facts which have been elicited from her and Dr. Davis’ recollection of the facts elicited from her are accurate.  Her evidence, by way of affidavit, interestingly enough, seems to indicate, if you will, self generated concern about Dr. Davis once she had discussions with her counsel about Dr. Davis.  It is also interesting to note that apparently her concerns only arose after she was ill and could not attend the 28 of May medical examination which had been arranged with Dr. Davis.

[5] Notwithstanding this state of affairs, I am satisfied there should be a recording.  It will be a dual recording:  one tape will be given to Dr. Davis and the other can be retained by Ms. Kelly.

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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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