Rule 68 and Expert Costs
Rule 68 of the BC Supreme Court Rules was introduced to deal with certain cases worth $25,000 – $100,000. For such cases this rule was implemented to help bring cases to trial more quickly and with less expense. In doing so certain limits were imposed on how a claim can be prosecuted. One of the most significant restrictions (as it relates to ICBC injury claims) is the restriction of Rule 68(33) which generally limits a party to only one expert witness. Specifically this subrule states that:
(33) Unless the court orders otherwise, a party to an expedited action is entitled, under Rule 40A, to tender the written statement of, or to call to give oral opinion evidence, not more than
(a) one expert of the party’s choosing, and
(b) if the expert referred to in paragraph (a) does not have the expertise necessary to respond to the other party’s expert, one expert to provide the required response.
As many ICBC injury claims lawyers know, it is often difficult to prepare a case for trial with only one expert witness. Often an injured Plaintiff has several treating physicians and it is important to hear from all of them. Similarly it is often a good idea to retain a highly qualified specialist to conduct an ‘independent medical exam’ to summarize all of the Plaintiffs injuries and provide a comprehensive opinion addressing injuries, causation prognosis and need for future treatment. All of this costs money. When a case is prosecuted under Rule 68, then, does the above subsection prevent a successful plaintiff from claiming the costs of hiring more than one expert? Reasons for judgement were released today which say no.
In this case the Plaintiff suffered various injuries in a car accident. The claim was prosecuted under Rule 68 and eventually settled for $25,000. In prosecuting the case the Plaintiff lawyer obtained reports from 5 experts. ICBC argued that Rule 68
“restricts the plaintiff to claiming disbursements relating to one expert only, unless (the Plaintiff) has obtained a court order allowing more than one expert…. as the plaintiff did not seek leave from the court to introduce more than one expert report, the plaintiff ought to be limited to claiming for only one expert’s report as part of the disbursements in this action…..based on the principles of proportionality and the express limit on the number of reports permissible in such an action, it was not reasonable or proper to engage this number of experts.“
The court rejected this argument and held that in this case it was reasonable to have the Plaintiff assessed by more than one expert. Specifically the court stated that:
in the circumstances of this particular action (where the plaintiff was clearly fragile) it was reasonable and necessary to engage a number of experts to assess the plaintiff. If that is the case, then does the application of Rule 68 still prevent the plaintiff from claiming disbursements for each of those experts? I think not. Rule 68 does not say that a party is restricted, on an assessment of costs, from claiming for the costs of more than one expert. It simply says that, without leave of the court, a party may not elicit testimony from more than one expert witness. (the Plaintiff’s lawyer) was, in my view, obliged as counsel to try and determine the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and to understand the cause(s) of them. She would not have been able to do that without resort to the opinions of the various experts engaged.