Tag: Advocacy in the Guise of Opinion

$14,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment Following "Mild to Moderate" Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for relatively modest injuries sustained in a collision.
In today’s case (Zhibawi v. Anslow) the Plaintiff was involved in a minor collision caused by the Defendant.  The Defendant acknowledged fault but argued the collision was so minor no injury could have been sustained.  The Court rejected this argument.  The court did, however, have some difficulties with the Plaintiff’s privately retained expert witness noting his opinions “did not comply with the duty” owed to the Court.  Mr. Justice Williams did conclude that the Plaintiff suffered ‘mild to moderate’ soft tissue injuries.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $14,000 the Court provided the following reasons:

40]        With all that said, I have reached certain findings concerning the injuries that were sustained by the plaintiff and the effect that they have had upon her. I conclude that she sustained a mild to moderate soft tissue injury. That resulted in some neck and back discomfort. Within approximately two weeks, she was able to return to work.

[41]        The injuries had a limiting effect upon her activities for a time, including her running and housework. I find that, within a few months, their impact on her ability to work at her job was manageable and modest.

[42]        There were complaints of headache following the accident, but it is in my view quite relevant that Ms. Zhibawi had been experiencing significant headaches as part of a long-established neurological condition that also included fainting and light-headedness. While the plaintiff sought to draw a distinction between the pre-accident headaches and those she had after, I find that the headaches that are attributable to the defendant’s negligence are modest.

[43]        I conclude the bulk of the plaintiffs discomfort resulting from the motor vehicle accident was substantially resolved within six to nine months.

[44]        I do not accept that the injuries she sustained have continued in any meaningful way to the time of trial, and I find no basis to conclude that she will suffer any effects into the future…

[50]        I conclude that a fit and appropriate award of damages to compensate the plaintiff for her pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life is $14,000.

"Careless" If Not "Deceptive" Expert Opinion Judicially Criticized

Adding to this site’s archived cases criticizing expert advocacy in the guise of opinion, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, criticizing such an opinion.
In today’s case (Hendry v. Ellis) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages.  THe Defendant hired a doctor who minimized the connection between the Plaintiff’s complaints and the collision.  At trial, through cross examination, the doctor made various admissions beyond the borders of the opinion contained in the report.  In criticizing the physician’s opinion as “careless” if not outright “deceptive” Mr. Justice Jenkins provided the following reasons:

[26]         Expert evidence tendered at trial was that the duration of soft tissue pain is considered to be 12 to 16 weeks and if pain is experienced after that time, it is due to some other mechanism. As Ms. Hendry had no back pain prior to the accident, it is clear that some other mechanism from the accident is the cause or contributing to her current pain.

[27]         I will not review in detail the medical evidence which is lengthy. However, I can safely say that I accept the opinion of Dr. Sawhney, the plaintiff’s doctor, and do not find the evidence of the defence expert, Dr. Bishop, to be particularly helpful. I have no doubt about Dr. Bishop’s qualifications, however, there were significant inconsistencies in his evidence provided in an earlier case, the transcript of which was tendered at trial. At trial he agreed the absence of an objective basis for pain does not invalidate pain but he did not say so in his report.

[28]         At trial, Dr. Bishop admitted that the plaintiff continues to suffer pain and if the motor vehicle accident did not occur, she would not have experienced the soft tissue injury caused by the motor vehicle accident that initiated acute pain, and he also stated that pain triggers a psychiatric reaction that can lead to chronic pain which is what Ms. Hendry is experiencing. However, once again he did not say so in his report. Dr. Bishop also admitted most chronic pain patients at three years after the accident will likely not make considerable progress or at least he agreed that the chances of significant progress are low.

[29]         I will just refer as well to the notes just to save time in the written submissions of the plaintiff in paras. 48 through 53 which I accept those references in the written submissions of the plaintiff regarding the evidence of Dr. Bishop. These submissions were:

48.       He [i.e. Dr. Bishop] admitted Ms. Hendry had no prior history of low back pain.

49.       He admitted that numerous medical studies have been published, put that put that 3-15% of people continue to have pain after a soft tissue injury and that by definition, Ms. Hendry is in that percentage of people.

50.       In a previous case he had admitted that there is a leading medical theory that explains why people have pain after 12-16 weeks: central nervous system hypersensitivity theory, but in the case at bar he denied it was a leading theory, even though he accepted it.

51.       He admitted that he did not advise the court in either of his report that 3-15% of people continue to have pain after a soft tissue injury even though he knew he was writing his second report specifically for the purpose of an imminent trial.

52.       It is respectfully submitted that Dr. Bishop did not meet the requirement of an expert in their duty to assist the court and to candidly disclose alternate theories that could account for the plaintiff’s pain. At best, it was careless, at worst, it was deceptive by omission.

53.       He finally admitted that MVA injuries were the only reason that started the plaintiff down the path of chronic pain. When asked if the car accident initiated the process, he finally admitted that yes it had. He said that he did not put this in his report because “I’m bound by the questions I was asked”. With respect, this is an irresponsible attitude for an expert to hold.

[30]         Dr. Bishop also stated many times he does not know the objective cause of her pain as no bone scans have been performed and she has not seen a psychiatrist for testing. I find that the cause of the pain has been the soft tissue injuries and other injuries, some of which may not now be identified as per Dr. Bishop and that her pain is chronic in nature and most likely to continue.

Court Rejects "Perplexing" Defence Doctor Evidence Minimizing Plaintiff Disability

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing damages following a rear-end collision.
In today’s case (Sirak v. Noonward) the Plaintiff suffered “very significant and progressively worsening debilitating pain and neurological symptoms” as a result of a 2005 collision that the Defendant was responsible for.  In the course of the litigation the Defendant had the Plaintiff assessed by two physicians who provided the Court with an opinion that the Plaintiff “is not disabled” as a result of the collision related injuries.  In rejecting these opinions Madam Justice Warren provided the following critical comments:
[140]     In their reports, Dr. Dommisse and Dr. Turnbull both expressed the opinion that Mr. Sirak is not disabled. These opinions are perplexing because it is apparent from their reports that Dr. Dommisse and Dr. Turnbull were aware that Mr. Sirak was limited in his ability to work. Dr. Dommisse noted that Mr. Sirak had stopped bricklaying after the accident, and that his pain was aggravated by working overhead and working on a ladder. Dr. Turnbull noted, in his report, that Mr. Sirak was working “on and off as a painter”, on average four hours a day, and only three or four days a week. Both Dr. Dommisse and Dr. Turnbull agreed, in cross-examination, that if Mr. Sirak was limited in his ability to work in the manner and to the extent he had worked before the accident, then it would be appropriate to characterize him as disabled. Further, their opinions were based on their interviews and examinations of Mr. Sirak, which took place over the course of about an hour and-a-half for Dr. Dommisse and about an hour for Dr. Turnbull. The nature and extent of their inquiries pales in comparison to the work-capacity evaluations conducted by Mr. Kerr, who expressed the view that Mr. Sirak was significantly disabled. For these reasons, I do not accept the opinions of Dr. Dommisse and Dr. Turnbull as to Mr. Sirak’s disability.
In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $160,000 for the Plaintiff’s prolonged injuries the Court noted as follows:

[159]     Mr. Sirak is a middle aged man. He was 45 years old when the accident occurred and is now 55 years old. Prior to the accident, he was healthy, energetic and physically active. It is apparent from the lay witnesses, who testified on his behalf, that he was a cheerful, happy, outgoing person who enjoyed life and had many friends. His family was important to him and he enjoyed spending time with them. He enjoyed participating in a wide range of recreational activities. He worked long hours in a physically-demanding career, and had earned the respect of those in the construction industry in the Squamish and Whistler area.

[160]     For the past ten years, Mr. Sirak has suffered from severe, disabling, and progressively worsening pain and neurological symptoms. These symptoms have very significantly affected all aspects of his life. Even if he undergoes surgery, he is unlikely to experience any substantial improvement. His condition is most likely permanent. He faces many years of ongoing pain and compromised lifestyle. His personality has been affected. He has gained weight. His sleep has been affected. His appearance has changed. He has become sloppy and unkempt. He can no longer participate in most of the recreational activities he previously enjoyed. He cannot play with his grandchildren in the physical, rambunctious way that was his pre-accident nature. This, in particular, has caused emotional suffering. He has become quiet and socially withdrawn. He now spends most of his time alone.

[161]     It has become increasingly difficult for Mr. Sirak to continue to work as a painter or in any physical job. He has suffered financial consequences as a result, which will be addressed in the next section of this judgment, but this has affected his enjoyment of life in other ways as well. First, he has had to force himself to continue to work on a part-time basis so that he is able to support himself and his son, but this has further compromised his health and exacerbated his pain. Second, he has had to live with the prospect that his injuries will eventually preclude him from working in any physical job. Given his limited formal education, and now limited functionality, his options for more sedentary work are few. It is apparent, from a consideration of the whole of his evidence, that this reality, together with his poor prognosis, has weighed heavily on him, and has had an adverse effect on his overall emotional well-being…

[167]     Awards of damages in other cases provide a guideline only. Ultimately, each case turns on its own facts. Having considered the extent of Mr. Sirak’s injuries, and all of the cases presented by counsel, I am of the view that an award of $160,000 for non-pecuniary damages is appropriate in this case.

Court Finds High Billing ICBC Expert "Strayed Into Advocacy"

Adding to this site’s archived case summaries addressing advocacy by expert witnesses, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding a high billing ICBC expert witness’ evidence should be afforded “very little weight” in part based on advocacy.
In today’s case (Redmond v. Krider) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 collision that the Defendant was found solely at fault for.  The Plaintiff suffered various physical injuries along with an accompanying psychiatric condition.  The Defendant retained a psychiatrist who gave evidence “that the plaintiff did not develop a new major psychiatric condition due to this motor vehicle accident”.  The Court rejected this evidence and in doing so Madam Justice Maisonville provided the following critical comments:

[115]     Dr. Levin obtained his initial medical qualifications in the then Soviet Union.  There was much questioning of the nature of certain patient treatment at one of the institutes from where he had received his training. 

[116]     Dr. Levin was also cross-examined on the amount of income he received in 2013 from ICBC, and from the Medical Services Plan. .  Suffice it to say that 91% of his income for 2013 was derived from ICBC reports.  In 2012, it was 87%, in 2011, 78% and in 2010, the year of the accident, 60%.  Plaintiff’s counsel therefore argued that Dr. Levin’s report was not in keeping with the Supreme Court Civil Rules, in that it was biased and so not a neutral opinion rendered by an expert for the benefit of the Court…

[120]     Overall, Dr. Levin testified that the plaintiff did not develop a new major psychiatric condition due to this motor vehicle accident, and he found that her level of functioning was inconsistent with the diagnosis of a pain disorder found in her family physician’s clinical records.  He submitted the fact that she had travelled to Las Vegas and participated in boating with her partner went against the conclusion that she was suffering from a psychiatric condition.

[121]     While I have accepted that Dr. Levin is an expert, I find that his report is to be afforded very little weight given his testimony at trial, and given the extent to which his report strayed into advocacy.  It is difficult to ignore the percentage of yearly income gained by the doctor as an expert for one particular party, ICBC, although this alone is not determinative in my finding that Dr. Levin’s report should be afforded little weight. 

[122]     I note that the doctor was argumentative with counsel.  The Court was often required to direct him to answer, as he would not clearly give his evidence in response to simple questions asked.  On cross-examination, he agreed he was not a practicing physical medicine doctor and that he did not assess the plaintiff’s physical injuries, and would defer instead to the plaintiff’s physical medicine doctors, and yet he commented that the plaintiff’s pain and limitations were inconsistent with her stated injuries.  It was difficult to accept his evidence, for the further reason that Dr. Levin stated that if the DSM-5 criteria were applied as a checklist, everyone in the courtroom would have a number of psychiatric diagnoses.  I do not accept that evidence…

[125]     In his report, Dr. Levin said that the plaintiff does not suffer from somatic symptom disorder, as the requirements of that diagnosis are a catastrophic perception of injuries, pervasive preoccupation with pain, and time-consuming, excessive activities.  However, that is not the criteria set out in the DSM-5 which was put to Dr. Levin.  That criteria requires only that there be “[o]ne or more somatic symptoms that are distressing or result in significant disruption of daily life”.  Somatic symptom disorder is a spectrum disorder, and Dr. Levin agreed with that proposition, and yet in his report, he was clearly evaluating the diagnosis as existing only if symptoms fall at the severe end of the spectrum.

[126]     Most difficult for the Court, however, was the aspect of Dr. Levin’s evidence discussing the somatic symptom disorder as it applies to the plaintiff.  As mentioned, he discussed commentary from the DSM-5 about those symptoms that may occur with severe cases of somatic symptom disorder, rather than the specific criteria.  When cross-examined on the actual diagnostic criteria, it became clear that he had not asked the plaintiff questions to determine if she met the diagnosis set out in the DSM-5.

[127]     I do not accept Dr. Levin’s evidence.  I prefer Dr. Anderson’s evidence over that of Dr. Levin.  Dr. Anderson candidly conceded matters, such as that the plaintiff would have a better prognosis if the physical component of her pain disorder was removed, and Dr. Anderson deferred to the physical medicine doctors respecting the plaintiff’s physical pain.  In contrast, Dr. Levin assumed this responsibility and asserted that, as a consequence, the plaintiff did not suffer from any a new psychiatric condition.

[131]     I do not accept Dr. Levin’s opinion and give it no weight.

Defence Doctor's "Bald Proposition" Minimizing Collision Related Injuries Rejected

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, rejecting defense expert evidence minimizing the connection of chronic pain issues to a motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Worobetz v. Fooks) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 collision and continued to experience symptoms at the time of trial.  The defendant admitted fault but denied the extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries.  In support of his case the Defendant retained a physician who gave evidence that the Plaintiff’s lingering symptoms were likely related to deconditioning and being overweight. In rejecting this evidence Mr. Justice Joyce provided the following critical comments:

[91]         Dr. Grypma’s opinion appears to be based substantially on two things: first, the lack of evidence of any structural injury; and second, her lack of conditioning and mild obesity. Dr. Grypma suggests that if Ms. Worobetz had suffered an injury other than a mild soft tissue injury, she would have experienced immediate pain of such intensity that she would have sought out immediate attention at an emergency room. I am not persuaded, however, that a person need sustain a serious structural injury in order to develop serious and chronic pain following a trauma such as an Accident. There are simply too many cases where persons have been found to have developed chronic back pain following a motor vehicle accident in the absence of objective evidence of structural damage to accept Dr. Grypma’s bald proposition.

[92]         Dr. Grypma’s opinion that Ms. Worobetz suffered only a mild injury that would have healed completely within a few months is contradicted by the evidence of Ms. Worobetz concerning her symptoms and how they affected her functioning, which is supported by the evidence of a number of other specialists who have treated Ms. Worobetz and followed her progress over a long period of time.

[93]         In my opinion, it is a relevant factor that Ms. Worobetz developed her pain complaints very soon after the Accident and that they progressed, with little change, until the present time. I accept that a mere temporal connection between an accident and the development of pain is not determinative by itself that the Accident caused the pain, but it is, nonetheless, a relevant factor. I also accept that the court must be cautious in relying on the subjective complaints of a patient, where there is no other objective evidence to support those complaints.

[94]         However, in this case, there is more evidence than simply subjective complaints and a temporal connection between those complaints and the Accident. I accept that Ms. Worobetz’s symptoms of pain are real and honestly felt. The manner in which they have impacted her functioning is supported by evidence of her husband, mother, co-worker and the woman for whom Ms. Worobetz acts as a support teacher. There is a strong body of expert opinion evidence in this case from specialists in a number of fields to support a finding that Ms. Worobetz’s ongoing pain was caused by the Accident. Those specialists have spent a great deal of time examining Ms. Worobetz, investigating her complaints and providing treatment. In my respectful view, their evidence is to be preferred over that of Dr. Grypma, who conducted a single, rather brief examination and a review of her medical records.

[95]         Dr. MacInnes, in particular, puts forward an explanation as to how Ms. Worobetz could have developed the pain at various sites in her body as a result of a rather modest soft tissue injury that one would ordinarily think would resolve quite quickly: central sensitization. Dr. Grypma admits that he is not qualified to comment on that topic, so he is not able to agree or disagree that it is a reasonable explanation for Ms. Worobetz’s continuing symptoms.

[96]         In summary, I find that but for the Accident, Ms. Worobetz would not be suffering the ongoing symptoms that she feels and her daily activities of life and ability to work would not be affected the way they are. She is less able to enjoy the social and recreational pursuits that she used to enjoy. She is less able to carry out the functions of a mother and wife, compared to her life before the Accident. She no longer has the same ability to work at her chosen career as a teacher because of the Accident.

Court Criticizes Doctor As Being "An Advocate For ICBC"

Adding to this site’s archives of judicial criticism of ‘advocate’ expert witnesses, reasons for judgement were released today  by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry rejecting the evidence of a defence expert on the basis of advocacy.
In today’s case (Davidge v. Fairholm) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 rear end collision.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered a chronic back injury which interfered with both his vocational and recreational abilities.  ICBC had the Plaintiff assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon who largely discounted the crash as playing a role in the Plaintiff’s chronic symptoms.  In criticizing this evidence as ‘advocacy’ Madam Justice Griffin provided the following reasons:

[124]     ICBC called expert evidence from Dr. Olie Sovio, an orthopaedic surgeon, who at ICBC’s request conducted an independent medical examination of the plaintiff on June 27, 2013 and produced a report dated July 2, 2013, admitted at trial.  Dr. Sovio’s opinion seemed to accept that the plaintiff had low back pain and neck stiffness when he saw him.  He characterized the symptoms as subjective but did not offer a reason to believe they were not real.  He recommended that the plaintiff undertake a regular activity, or exercise, program.

[125]     Dr. Sovio’s opinion did not address what caused the plaintiff’s low back pain.

[126]     However, in cross-examination Dr. Sovio made an effort to state his opinion that because there was no abnormality in the plaintiff’s low back for seven months, it did not make sense to attribute that pain to the car accident.  This opinion was offered even though it was not responsive to the question being asked, and was not in his report.  I got the sense from his eagerness to state this that he was being an advocate for ICBC rather than a neutral expert.

[127]     Dr. Sovio’s off-hand opinion in relation to causation was not well explained.  From the context of his evidence, it appeared to be based on his view that the patient had new onset of low back pain that was not there before, seven months after the accident (i.e. it was new when first noted in Dr. Rebeyka’s April 9, 2010 clinical record).  This was despite the plaintiff telling Dr. Sovio that he had low back pain almost immediately after the accident. In other words, Dr. Sovio chose to not believe the plaintiff because Dr. Sovio did not see low back pain documented in the clinical records until later. 

[128]     Just as with the other experts, it is up to this Court to determine whether or not the plaintiff can be believed when he says he had low back problems after the accident that grew in intensity over time. 

[129]     Dr. Sovio did not provide any explanation as to what was the cause of the plaintiff’s low back pain.  According to his evidence, the degenerative changes in the plaintiff’s back should not have prevented him from returning to work in the oil fields.  If that is so, his opinion does not support any conclusion that the degenerative changes limited the plaintiff’s ability to do heavy work and led to the low back pain after the return to work.    

[130]     In the last paragraph of p. 6 of Dr. Sovio’s report, he acknowledged that he was unclear on why the plaintiff took time off work from the oil fields and ultimately attended retraining even though after the WHP he was considered fit to return to work.  Dr. Sovio concluded that the patient chose to retrain rather than return to his drilling occupation, “but this does not seem to be on a physical basis, at least, judging from the medical records”.  In stating this, Dr. Sovio either ignored the plaintiff’s history or did not ask him questions about his experiences after returning to work.

[131]     Dr. Sovio’s report leads me to conclude that he did not understand the plaintiff’s medical history leading up to his attendance at BCIT, including the fact that the plaintiff found work in the oilfields to be too painful and thus too physically difficult after the accident.  It seems somewhat careless for Dr. Sovio to opine that retraining was simply a personal choice and not due to the patient experiencing physical limitations at his work.  

[132]     Dr. Sovio performs many assessments for the Workers’ Compensation Board, and he made it clear in his evidence that he thinks many workers injured at work simply would prefer not to return to work even though they do not have a good reason for not returning.  He offered this as his explanation for discounting the opinion of the plaintiff’s general physician. Unfortunately I felt that Dr. Sovio was unduly cynical and had a bias in this regard and so viewed the plaintiff’s own reports of back pain as not worthy of any weight, which is not an objective approach.

[133]     Dr. Sovio’s approach as to the plaintiff’s ability to work also seemed very superficial.  He did not apparently know the exact nature of the physical tasks the plaintiff must perform in his work and other physical stresses of his job.  When questioned what the job involved, he rather arrogantly said, “I think I know what it’s all about”, when clearly he had little idea and had not asked the plaintiff sufficient questions to gain an understanding. 

[134]     In short, I did not find Dr. Sovio’s evidence to be helpful on the issues of causation or the plaintiff’s ability to work.  

ICBC Doctor Found to be "More of An Advocate Than An Independent Professional"

Adding to this site’s archives of judicial criticism of ‘advocate’ expert witnesses, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, with critical comments of an orthopaedic surgeon frequently hired by ICBC.
In today’s case (Hay v. Benzer) the Plaintiff was involved in a pedestrian/vehicle collision in 2008.  ICBC had the Plaintiff assessed by a orthopaedic surgeon who largely limited the connection between the collision and the Plaintiff’s symptoms.  The Court placed  “very little weight” on this evidence and in doing so Mr. Justice Cole provided the following comments:
[13]         At the request of ICBC she saw Dr. O’Farrell on July 28, 2009. He is an orthopaedic surgeon. He does a significant amount of work for ICBC and appeared to me to be more of an advocate than an independent professional. He found that the plaintiff would not have any long-term effects from the motor vehicle accident. He had documents only from a physiotherapist dated June 16, 2009. Dr. O’Farrell did admit that if pain was still present two and a half years after the accident that it would most likely be a long-term or permanent pain. Dr. O’Farrell did not produce any notes of his assessment claiming they were most likely in another file. I give Dr. O’Farrell’s evidence very little weight.
 

Defence Expert Witness Found Biased After Presenting "a Distorted Recording of his Interview" With Plaintiff

Adding to this site’s archived cases criticizing expert witnesses for advocacy, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, criticizing the evidence of a defense hired psychiatrist.
In today’s case (Yang v. Engen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 intersection collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.
The Plaintiff suffered moderate soft tissue injuries but her recovery was complicated by “ever-increasing emotional difficulties and mood disorders“.
The Defendant retained a psychiatrist who minimized the connection between the collision and these psychological difficulties.  In finding the expert witness crossed the line into advocacy Mr. Justice Davies provided the following comments:
[53]         After hearing those submissions and reviewing Dr. Levin’s original and rebuttal reports, I concluded that it was necessary to excise as inadmissible the following parts of his reports:
1)    The observation in the body of his opinion that:
It should be mentioned at the beginning of this summary that Ms. Yang’s diagnostic formulation should be viewed in the context of her interview in my office that revealed numerous discrepancies and inconsistencies between her subjectively-reported complaints of anxiety and her virtually-unimpaired social, occupational and interpersonal functioning. Ms. Yang initially omitted and under-reported her pre-existent history of psychological/emotional disturbances, attributing her current subjectively-presented complaints of “generalized” anxiety specifically and selectively to the subject MVA.
2)    The observation in Appendix C of his opinion that:
From a diagnostic perspective, however, the above-reviewed psychological clinical notes do not identify any specific PTSD symptomatology or reports of any type of generalized anxiety described by Ms. Yang during the interview in my office. It seems that Ms. Yang’s “generalized anxiety” disturbances had a somewhat rapid onset following her reported psychiatric consultation with Dr. Lu (organized by her lawyer).
[54]         I excised those paragraphs because:
1)    The excised observations in the body of his opinion not only crossed the line into an improper assessment of credibility but also constituted advocacy in the guise of expertise; and
2)    The excised observations in Appendix C demonstrated an unwarranted and unsubstantiated personal attack not only on the credibility of the plaintiff but also upon a well-qualified psychiatrist and upon plaintiff’s counsel.
[55]         I did not, however, rule that the totality of Dr. Levin’s reports should be determined to be inadmissible at that stage of the proceeding because I was satisfied that fairness to the impugned expert and to the defendant who had relied upon his evidence required that such a ruling should not be made without the benefit of hearing Dr. Levin’s evidence in chief and in cross-examination
[56]         I reached that conclusion also because of the complexities of the subject matter on which Dr. Levin was seeking to opine and in the context of the breadth of the attack by counsel for Ms. Yang upon not only his substantive opinion but also the methodology employed by Dr. Levin in rendering it.
[57]         After hearing his evidence at trial and having the opportunity to consider the totality of his evidence, including both written opinions and the entirety of his testimony at trial, I have concluded that Dr. Levin’s opinion presents a distorted recording of his interview with Ms. Yang by failing to identify with preciseness the questions which he asked of her and by his interspersed editorializing as to what answers he would have expected, all of which constituted his assessment of her lack of credibility which he then used as the basis for his diagnosis. That in turn resulted in a resort to advocacy on behalf of the defendant in relation to issues of causation and, in my view, demonstrated a personal investment in the litigation sufficient to constitute bias.
[58]         Those concerns were even more dramatically highlighted by a highly personalized, and, in my view, entirely unwarranted attack upon Dr. Lu’s opinion and professionalism in Dr. Levin’s rebuttal report delivered in response to Dr. Lu’s critique of Dr. Levin’s analysis.
[59]         In result, I have concluded that Dr. Levin’s opinions suffer so greatly from overstepping the proper bounds of opinion evidence into the assessment of credibility (a function for the trier of fact), advocacy and bias, that they are inadmissible.
[60]         I must also observe that even if I had concluded that some part or parts of his opinions could be determined to be admissible, I would in any event have been required to give such opinions little or no weight because of the many shortcomings to which I have adverted.
[61]         That conclusion is also mandated because while Dr. Levin improperly questioned the veracity of many of Ms. Yang’s responses to his questions and offered his versions of what responses he would have “expected,” counsel for the defendants did not confront Ms. Yang with the alleged “inconsistencies” and “discrepancies” relied upon by Dr. Levin in rendering his opinions.
[62]         What is left is simply an array of unfounded and untested allegations of dishonesty and exaggeration that do not accord with my own assessment of Ms. Yang as a witness.
[63]         Notwithstanding that English is Ms. Yang’s second language she is fluent in it and well able to express herself. She impressed me as a stoical, careful and honest witness who listened carefully to the questions asked of her and responded without exaggeration.
[64]         Although the anxiety she testified about now suffering related to seemingly common everyday life situations may seem wholly disproportionate to the circumstances she related in her evidence which manifest in those reactions, the totality of the evidence, including most importantly the psychological evidence of Dr. Lu to which I have referred in detail, convinces me that the anxiety she expresses is genuine.
[65]         In summary, I find that I can safely rely on the veracity of Ms. Yang’s testimony concerning the injuries she suffered in the collision, the progress of those injuries and the extent to which they have impacted her life both on a physical and emotional level.

Expert Witness Judicially Drubbed for Showing "a Lack of Willingness to Be Frank, Open and Honest With The Court"

In perhaps one of the strongest judicial drubbings in recent years by the BC Supreme Court, an expert witness was criticized for abandoning his obligation to assist the court in favour of advocacy.
In today’s case (Mattice v. Kirby) the Plaintiff was injured following a high impact collision.  The Court heard competing medical evidence as to the severity of the Plaintiff’s collision related injuries.  In rejecting the defense evidence which minimized these Mr. Justice Jenkins had the following critical comments:
 [1]             This case involves a significant claim for damages for personal injuries following a high impact collision on August 21, 2009. Of particular interest in this case is the dramatically different approaches taken by the medical experts for both sides. In spite of statements by these experts that they are aware of their obligations as expert witnesses under Rule 11-2(1) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009, and their duty to assist the Court and not be an advocate for any party, in some cases it is clear that the temptation to become an advocate takes priority over the obligation to assist the Court…
[75]         Dr. Keith Christian, an orthopaedic surgeon, provided an expert report for the defence and was also cross-examined at trial. Dr. Christian assessed Mr. Mattice on October 19, 2012 and issued a report the same day. Dr. Christian completed his interview and physical examination of Mr. Mattice in a total of twenty minutes, which included 16 minutes for the interview and four minutes for the physical examination. Dr. Christian did not disagree that his assessment of Mr. Mattice was very brief.
[76]         During cross-examination, Dr. Christian was very argumentative and often arrogant. He stated that when asked previously by defence counsel whether he took notes of his meeting with Mr. Mattice, he advised that he did not take notes. At trial Dr. Christian admitted to having taken “scribbles”, which he said were illegible and which he destroyed after dictating his report on the day of the assessment. He said he had denied having taken notes as he had instead made “scribbles” and that no one had asked him if he had taken any “scribbles”. Since Dr. Christian admitted on cross-examination to having used his “scribbles” to dictate his report, there is little doubt in my mind that his “scribbles” were what any doctor would consider “notes” and that Dr. Christian was well aware that his “scribbles” constituted what anyone else would consider to be “notes”. His answers in this inquiry were most evasive and clearly showed a lack of willingness to be frank, open and honest with the Court.
[77]         Dr. Christian’s interview and physical examination of Mr. Mattice were without question incomplete. On cross-examination, Dr. Christian admitted that he had not asked Mr. Mattice questions regarding, among many other things: the severity of the accidents of 2008 and 2009; any symptoms in his hands such as pain and “pins and needles”; whether symptoms, if there were any, were improving; bruising on Mr. Mattice’s elbow; the nature of his employment; the extent of the pain in his shoulder; and sleep problems. Dr. Christian also did not inquire about aspects of the accident that were relevant to the injuries claimed, such as Mr. Mattice’s body position in the 2009 accident and how he was impacted in the accident. In written submissions, counsel for Mr. Mattice listed 18 areas of legitimate inquiry that Dr. Christian could have pursued to provide a more informed and unbiased opinion; in my view, there were areas in addition to these 18 which Dr. Christian could have explored, but elected not to do so….
[82]         In cross-examination Dr. Christian stated that there was no reason at the time for him to be having shoulder pain, that any fatigue being experienced by Mr. Mattice was “absolutely irrelevant”, that there was no reason for Mr. Mattice not to improve, and that there was no reason for Mr. Mattice to have a problem with his shoulder. He stated that, generally, in his opinion, Mr. Mattice should have been over any injuries from the 2009 accident long before the visit to Dr. Christian.
[83]         In conclusion on Dr. Christian’s evidence and opinions, I have no hesitation in finding that his research was incomplete, that he was predisposed to a finding that Mr. Mattice’s injuries were either exaggerated or did not exist, and that by limiting his opinions to musculoskeletal injuries, he was not qualified to opine on the injuries which Mr. Mattice claimed to have suffered in the 2009 accident. As a result, I find the opinions and evidence of Dr. Christian to be of little or no probative value and I am left with the medical-legal opinions of the plaintiff’s expert and all other evidence to make a determination regarding Mr. Mattice’s injuries.
 

Court Finds Dr. Koch "To Be More of An Advocate For ICBC"

Adding to this site’s archived posts highlighting judicially rejected expert witness evidence reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, criticizing the evidence of a defense medical opinion.
In last week’s case (Kristiansen v. Grewal) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision.  Fault was admitted.    The Plaintiff alleged a host of consequences from the crash.  Although the Court found that some of the Plaintiff’s difficulties originated from issues other than the collision the crash was causative of some of her difficulties.
In the course of the trial the Court heard from a variety of physicians.  Once expert, Dr. Koch, hired by ICBC, was found to be an advocate and his evidence was not accepted for this reason.  In rejecting his evidence Mr. Justice Romilly provided the following brief comments:
 [14]         Among the experts, I found that Dr. Koch’s report and his testimony in court seemed to lack objectivity. In fact, he seemed to be more of an advocate for the defendants and ICBC. I have difficulty accepting any of his evidence.
 

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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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