Tag: Hoflin v. Rea

"Belt and Suspenders" Exam Denied in Face of Previous Opinion on Plaintiff's Medical Condition

As previously discussed, while the BC Supreme Court Rules permit multi-disciplinary defence medical exams in appropriate circumstances.  Once a Defendant obtains an opinion from a properly qualified expert with respect to the Plaintiff’s alleged injury, a further exam will not be ordered to bolster the opinion of the initial expert.  This is sometimes referred to as the “Belt and Suspenders” principle.  Reasons for judgement were recently published by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, further addressing this issue.
In the recent case (Knowles v. Watters) the Plaintiff alleged she suffered from balance issues including imbalance, dizziness and light-headedness due to a motor vehicle collision.  In support of her case the Plaintiff tendered reports from a neurologist  psychologist, an otolaryngolosit and a general practitioner    The Plaintiff’s otolaryngologist opined that the dizziness issues were “multifactoral” in origin   .
The Plaintiff agreed to see a defence expert who opined that “there was nothing in my evaluation to suggest that she has sustained any injury to her peripheral balance mechanisms, including the inner ear vestibular mechanisms“.  The Defendant then sought  an additional exam with an ENT to further address this issue.  Master McCallum dismissed the application finding the Defendant already had an opinion on the issue and a further expert was not warranted in the circumstances   In dismissing the application the Court provided the following reasons:
[8]             The defendant says that Dr. Moll’s report is restricted to neurological functions, and is not a complete answer or a complete response, if it were looked at in that way, to what Dr. Noel had to say. The defendant says that can only be accomplished by an examination by Dr. Bell.
[9]             In this case the defendant has had the opportunity the authorities require to essentially balance the playing field. Counsel are agreed that the authorities I have been cited are to that effect. The court’s job is to ensure that there is a so-called level playing field or that the parties have the opportunity to deal with the case fairly on the merits.
[10]         The plaintiff here has, as is always the case, the opportunity to visit various specialists and get various reports. The defendant’s opportunity is limited to reports necessary to ensure that a fair trial can be obtained on the merits. In this case it is too fine a distinction to make to say that Dr. Moll, who made a comprehensive examination and gave a comprehensive report on the plaintiff’s balance complaints, can be distinguished from what Dr. Bell might or might not do as an otolaryngologist. There is no evidence to say that Dr. Moll was unable to make the report he did, that if he had had more information he might have made a different report, or indeed that if he had seen Dr. Noel’s report that he might have come to a different conclusion. None of that is the case. The plaintiff has disclosed its reports to date. The defendant has had a fair opportunity to respond to those reports. Dr. Moll’s report is indeed a complete response to Dr. Noel’s report. The plaintiff’s own report from Dr. Noel does not suggest that there is an underlying otolaryngological cause to the plaintiff’s symptoms. He says that the ENG test was normal except for one abnormality that he says is most likely due to other causes. Dr. Noel says the symptoms were multifactorial, not related to one issue. That is at odds with what Dr. Moll has to say, but that is what the jury will have to decide when the case comes to trial.
[11]         This is not a case where the defendant has made out the burden on him to demonstrate that this application is necessary. The application is dismissed. Costs should go as costs in the cause. There is no reason to depart from the usual rule.

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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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