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Tag: Mr. Justice Cole

Defense Doctor Opinion Rejected After Finding He Acted As "Advocate"

Adding to this site’s archived judgments of judicial criticism of expert witness ‘advocacy’, reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, rejecting the testimony of a defense hired expert.
In today’s case (Nagra v. Stapleton) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 collision that the Defendant admitted responsibility for.  Despite voicing some concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility the Court accepted his medical evidence that he suffered injuries to his neck and low back as a result of the crash.
In the course of the trial the Defendants called a physician they hired who provided an opinion minimizing the collision’s connection to the injuries.  In rejecting this evidence Mr. Justice Cole found this expert “seemed to be more of an advocate” and provided the following critical comments:

[40]         Dr. Laidlow, called on behalf of the defendant, also confirms that movement of the neck noted during joint examination did seem to be consistent with what was observed spontaneously. Dr. Laidlow also found restrictive range of motion in the plaintiff’s neck but was of the view that his physical symptoms are at the same level or consistent with the plaintiff’s physical symptoms as a result of the 2012 motor vehicle accident.

[41]         I have difficulty with Dr. Laidlow’s evidence as he seemed to be more of an advocate, he was argumentative, and based his report, in part at least, on the fact that because there was no record of neck pain prior to his examination of the plaintiff, that the neck pain had been resolved to the state it was prior to the motor vehicle accident.

[42]         Dr. Laidlow’s opinion is based on the assumption that the neck pain that the plaintiff reported at the end of June 2013, continued on through 2013 and 2014, since the plaintiff was still experiencing neck pain when the June 2014 accident occurred. This assumption was made despite the fact that the plaintiff provided no information to suggest he was experiencing these pain symptoms in 2014 at the time of the accident. Dr. Laidlow admitted that he found no clinical records between 2014 and the date of the accident where the plaintiff reported ongoing neck pain or headaches. Dr. Laidlow reviewed the report of the plaintiff’s family doctor to indicate that there were no reports in his records of pain symptoms similar to those sustained in the accident. Instead, Dr. Laidlow relied on a report by Dr. Novak from June 16, where he indicated that the plaintiff was suffering from chronic neck pain “likely since 2012”.

[43]         I prefer the evidence of Drs. Watson and Waseem, however, the weight to be given to their evidence is diminished because I do not find the plaintiff to be a credible witness.

Chronic Regional Myofascial Pain Syndrome Leads to $125,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment

Reasons for judgement were released today assessing damages following chronic injuries sustained in a collision.
In today’s case (Kam v. Van Keith) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 rear end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff complained of” injuries to her neck, upper and lower back, shoulders, she suffers from depression, sleep disturbance, fatigue, headaches and has chronic pain”.  These were ultimately diagnoses as a chronic regional myofascial pain syndrome and the Plaintiff’s symptoms were not expected to make meaningful improvement.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $125,000 Mr. Justice Cole provided the following reasons:
[15]        Dr. Apel does not state the plaintiff has fibromyalgia but does find she has some symptoms of fibromyalgia. She makes a conclusive diagnosis of chronic regional myofascial pain syndrome which is unchallenged by the other experts…
[24]        I was impressed with Dr. Apel. She saw the plaintiff on two occasions. Her report was thorough and detailed as was her examination. I am satisfied that the kinesiologist that worked with the plaintiff (which I assume was in response to Dr. Piper’s recommendation in his first report) between November 2013 and April 2, 2014 along with her continual rigorous workout program that she had continued to do following his recommendation of a kinesiologist has not improved her condition and I am satisfied that it is unlikely her symptoms will improve in any significant way. In my view she had tried everything possible. She has applied herself in a rigorous discipline fashion and four years after the accident she still has chronic lower back pain…

[25]        Non-pecuniary damages are awarded to compensate a plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. The factors to consider are set out in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at para. 46, leave to appeal refused, 2006 SCC 100. Any assessment of damages of course must be fair to both parties, and must be decided on the facts of the particular case.

[26]        The plaintiff is still relatively young, being born in November 1975. The nature of her injuries are significant and they have subsisted at least in the lower back for four years. The plaintiff has suffered emotionally and her life has been impaired. It has also adversely affected her family, her marital relationship and her social relationships. She is incapable of doing practically all the sporting activities that was a vital and vibrant part of her personality and her relationship with her husband, her family and friends. Although she only took three days off work purely because she is stoic is not a reason to generally penalize the plaintiff…

[31]        I am satisfied, considering all of the evidence that the proper award is the amount of $125,000.

$25,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Multiple Rib Fractures

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, assessing damages for multiple rib fractures caused by a collision.
In today’s case (Bariesheff v. Bennett) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 rear end collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The plaintiff  “fractured five of her left lower ribs, more particularly the 8th to the 12th rib of the left chest wall, for which the defendant has accepted responsibility.“.
The Plaintiff alleged the crash caused a chronic low back injury as well although this was rejected by the Court.  In assessing damages for the rib injuries at $25,000 Mr. Justice Cole provided the following reasons:
[55]         The following cases provide a range of between $15,000 and $35,000 for general damages: Sinnott v. Boggs, 2007 BCCA 267; Kapelus v. Hu, 2013 BCCA 86; Mak v. Eichel, 2008 BCSC 1102; Sun v. Sukhan, 2012 BCSC 365; Currie v. McKinnon, 2012 BCSC 698; De Abreu v. Huang, 2013 BCSC 398.
[56]         I have taken into account the relatively young age of the plaintiff, the fact that she missed her graduating ceremonies to a great extent, which was an important event of her life, and that the pain, though essentially gone, persisted for about three years and is still tender to the touch. I am satisfied that an appropriate award for general damages is $25,000.

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.

Court Largely Rejects Claim of Plaintiff Who "Attempted to Coerce (Witnesss) To Give False Evidence"

Plaintiff credibility is integral to prosecutions involving chronic soft tissue injuries. If a Plaintiff’s credibility is successfully attacked the underlying claim can be impacted accordingly.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Nelson Registry, demonstrating this.
In this week’s case (Harshenin v. MacLeod) the Plaintiff was involved in a significant rear end collision in 2008.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The Plaintiff alleged the crash caused long standing injuries which forced him into early retirement.  The Plaintiff sought damages of over $470,000.  The Court, however, had serious concerns about the plaintiff’s credibility and largely rejected his claim.  In awarding less than 10% of the damages sought Mr. Justice Cole provided the following comments about the plaintiff’s credibility:
35]         At the same time the plaintiff was claiming, since the date of the accident to the date of trial, that he spent approximately $36,162.29 on out-of-pocket expenses for transportation, accommodation, meals and massage therapy as a result of the accident. Many of the out-of-pocket expenses were shown to be either not related to the accident, excessive, or lacked proper documentation.
[36]         For instance, the plaintiff would claim massage therapy while he was in Lumby/Vernon, visiting his girlfriend, and then staying in a hotel and charging meals for both himself and his girlfriend. He failed to provide documentation in respect to the massage therapy. He travelled from Castlegar to the Lumby/Vernon area on February 12, 2008, which is a 4 ½-5 hour drive; he also travelled to the Lumby/Vernon area to visit his girlfriend and for a massage on March 13, 22, 31, April 10, and 30. In the latter part of May he hauled his fifth-wheel trailer to Vernon which took approximately 8-9 hours and then went to Kamloops with his girlfriend to purchase a new fifth-wheel trailer. What is most telling is that, although he said the massage therapy was somewhat of a unique nature that was provided to him by the individual in Lumby, those trips ceased when his relationship with his girlfriend was terminated.
[37]         The plaintiff also claimed receipts for meals for two people in Howe Sound and Squamish on two separate occasions but could not explain the purpose of those trips, and there was no documented evidence that he was there for a medical purpose. There is also a group of three receipts, undated, that he claims for, but has no idea what the receipts represent. When asked why he kept receipts for food and hotel and not for massage therapy, the plaintiff gave the unbelievable answer that, “I was so relaxed I forgot to get receipts”…
[49]         I was impressed by Ms. Cymbal as a witness. Her evidence is internally consistent; her evidence is supported by her Employment Insurance claim forms that were filed in these proceedings. I am satisfied Ms. Cymbal still, in her own way, likes the plaintiff. She appears to be a very forgiving person and I am satisfied that she was forthright and honest. I therefore accept her evidence and reject the evidence of the plaintiff and Darren when it conflicts with her evidence. I am satisfied that the plaintiff has attempted to coerce her to give false evidence with respect to his claim. I am satisfied that he sold his business to his son because he wanted to retire. His suggestion that he may lose his business and farm is without any factual basis whatsoever. His pattern of travel and spending money for the purchase of vehicles is all inconsistent with his evidence that he was broke or could be foreclosed out of his business and farm. The dishonest receipts that he has attempted to collect on for trips that were clearly unnecessary and for meals that were for him and his girlfriend are consistent with his inability to tell the truth. I am therefore satisfied that the plaintiff sold his business to his son because he wanted to retire and for no other reason…
[55]         I am satisfied that the plaintiff has suffered a mild neck injury along with short term pain and lower and upper back pain, all of which should have, in my view, resolved within 2 months.

Aggravated Assault Causing Orbital Fracture Leads to $50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment

In an expensive lesson that problems should not be solved with violence, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Nelson Registry, assessing damages for a facial fracture caused by an assault.
In this week’s case (Plishka-Humphreys v. Bolen) the Plaintiff was walking with friends by a highway when “unbeknownst to him his friend Arnie van der Holt took a slingshot and ball bearing and shot it at a vehicle which was owned and driven by the defendant Bolen.“.  The Defendant chased the Plaintiff and his friend into the woods and “hit him in the face with considerable force. He fell down. He repeatedly was struck in the head and face. He was in and out of consciousness and was in shock.”
The Plaintiff suffered an orbital fracture and ultimately required surgery.  He was left with permanent issues including occasional double vision. In addition to being criminally convicted of aggravated assault, the Defendant was found civilly liable and ordered to pay damages.  In assessing non-pecuniary loss at $50,000 Mr. Justice Cole provided the following reasons:
[20]         I am satisfied that the plaintiff received permanent injury to his eye because of his double vision. He is also at risk of developing glycoma and he suffers from anxiety and thoughts of suicide. He is now more vulnerable to further exacerbation of his post-traumatic stress disorder. He has lost a tooth in what was a traumatic violent assault.
[21]         The range of damages, according to the plaintiff, is (figure is adjusted for inflation) between $24,000 in Springett v. Shanklin, 2001 BCSC 853 and $53,700 in Minet v. Kossler, 2007 YKSC 30.
[22]         Considering and weighing all the evidence, the trauma that the plaintiff experienced, the permanent damage to his eye which causes him to suffer on occasion from double vision and is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and is at an increased risk of anxiety and depresic disorder, I am satisfied that an appropriate award including aggravated damages is the sum of $50,000.

ICBC Expert Evidence Rejected for Advocacy

Adding to this site’s archived posts highlighting judicial criticism of expert witness advocacy, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, rejecting the opinion of an ICBC retained expert in a chronic pain case.
In this week’s case (Dakin v. Roth) the Plaintiff was injured in three separate collisions.  At trial she introduced evidence from a variety of medical experts including an occupational therapist.  ICBC retained an expert who criticised this evidence.  The Court, however, was ultimately critical of ICBC’s rebuttal expert’s opinion finding it was not “fair, balanced or objective“.  In rejecting the rebuttal evidence Mr. Justice Cole provided the following reasons:
[38]         What is most disturbing about Ms. Taylor’s report is that she describes what she says are discrepancies in Ms. Dakin’s reports to various medical professionals at various points in time. She then lists approximately 1½ pages of these discrepancies and states that it was appropriate for her to make these comments as they were relevant in assessing a client’s reliability. When questioned why she also did not highlight the consistencies within the plaintiff’s reports to other medical professionals, she could not provide a rational answer. I am satisfied that the only reason she provided discrepancies in the plaintiff’s reports to other medical professionals was to attack the plaintiff’s credibility. Her evidence was not fair, balanced or objective, I am satisfied that Ms. Taylor was more of an advocate on behalf of a client. I therefore reject her evidence.

Facebook Photos Found to be "Of Limited Usefulness" In Injury Claim

Adding to this site’s archived posts addressing Facebook photos in BC personal injury lawsuits, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, finding such photos to be ‘of limited usefulness‘ when assessing a chronic soft tissue injury claim.
In today’s case (Dakin v. Roth) the Plaintiff was injured in three collisions.  The Defendant unsuccessfully argued that the Plaintiff  “is not a credible witness”.  In support of this argument the Defendant introduced two years of photos taken from the Plaintiff’s Facebook profile.  In discussing the lack of impact of these photos Mr. Justice Cole provided the following reasons:
[55]         The defendants have entered into evidence photos posted on the plaintiff’s Facebook between 2007 and 2009, which the defendants say are inconsistent with her physical limitations.
[56]         I do not place much weight on those photographs. They are staged, at a party, and taken on holidays. As stated by Mr. Justice Goepel in Guthrie v. Narayan, 2012 BCSC 734 (at para. 30) in respect to Facebook photos:  “Those pictures are of limited usefulness. [The plaintiff] is seeking compensation for what she has lost, not what she can still do.” I agree.

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Headache Disorders

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, assessing damages for a chronic headache disorder caused as a result of a motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Fennell v. Herbert) the Plaintiff was involved in a ‘quite violent’ collision in 1998 when she was 8 years old.  Liability was admitted focussing the trial on an assessment of damages.  The trial proceeded summarily as there were no issues as to the legitimacy of the plaintiff’s symptoms nor to their connection to the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 the court summarized the following medical evidence and provided the following reasons:

[4] As a result of the motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck and lower back and headaches started within days of the collision. The headaches and neck pain have continued ever since and it is the headaches that are the most debilitating and are now considered chronic.

[5] Dr. Robinson, who is a neurologist that specializes in pain disorders stated in his report that:

In all likelihood she will continue to have chronic headache and neck pain indefinitely. This will have a negative impact on her quality of life, as well as occasionally resulting in an inability to work, attend school, or socialize…

[7] Dr. Laidlow, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, in a report dated April 28, 2010, noted that the plaintiff had neck pain, back pain, and two types of headaches. His opinion was that her neck and lower back pain was myofascial pain caused by musculoligamentous strain at the neck and lower back at the time of the accident. Dr. Laidlow recommended that she see a neurologist. Dr. Robinson’s report was dated August 9, 2011. He noted that as a result of the accident she probably sustained soft tissue injury to her neck and shoulders and developed chronic headaches relating to the neck injury:

I believe that she probably did develop chronic headaches relating to neck injury as a result of the January 30, 1998 motor vehicle accident. As a result of that accident, she has ongoing neck and shoulder discomfort present constantly. The pain is aggravated by physical activity whereupon there is an increase in her head pain.

I believe that it is possible that she did develop an increased predisposition to headache reflecting migraine in her early teenage years. However, I doubt that she would have developed a constant headache or as frequent severe episodes had the lingering effects motor vehicle accident not been present.

In essence, I believe that her current headache difficulties are primarily related to chronic pain involving her neck secondary to the motor vehicle accident of January 30, 1998, superimposed upon which is a predisposition to headaches. Although it is impossible to be definitive I believe that she probably would not have developed any substantial problems with headaches if the accident had not occurred.

In all likelihood she will continue to have chronic headaches and neck pain indefinitely. This will have a negative impact on her quality of life, as well as occasionally resulting in an inability to work, attend school, or socialize. I doubt that her headache disorder will worsen or that it will have a negative impact upon her post-secondary education or for that matter her career potential.

[8] Dr. Laidlow also stated:

I do feel that she should be able to go to school and do any work activities. I think she will also be able to do any recreational activities that she chooses…

[15] I accept the evidence of the plaintiff. I find that under the heading of general damages for loss of enjoyment of life, given her young age and the severity of pain and discomfort she has suffered, she is entitled to general damages in the amount of $70,000. Also included is a component for loss of housekeeping capacity.

Defence Expert's Evidence Rejected in Fibromyalgia Trial Based on "Advocacy"

As previously discussedexpert witnesses have a duty to be objective when giving their evidence and opinions in a BC Supreme Court trial.  Rule 11-2 specifically sets out that “In giving an opinion to the court, an expert appointed under this Part by one or more parties or by the court has a duty to assist the court and is not to be an advocate for any party.”
If experts fail to abide by this requirement they risk having their opinions rejected and further being criticized by the Court.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, highlighting such a result.
In last week’s case (Marchand v. Pederson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.  It was a rear-end collision and fault was admitted.  The trial focused on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Court heard competing expert witnesses with the Plaintiff’s physiatrist (Dr. Apel) providing evidence that the collision caused various injuries including fibromyalgia.
This opinion was contradicted by a physiatrist retained by the Defendant (Dr. Nowak) who provided an opinion that the collision played a lesser role in the Plaintiff’s symptoms.
Dr. Nowak’s opinion was largely rejected with the court placing little weight on it.  Non-pecuniary damages of $65,000 were awarded with the Court providing the following reasons in assessing damages and criticizing the defence expert:
[44] I find Dr. Nowak’s evidence to be problematic. He initially refuses to answer a question based on assumptions. It is clear that he is wrong in his reading of the intake report of Dr. Kinakin where he assumed that the pain was remaining constant. He is not accurate in the date of the last chiropractic treatment. I am of the view that Dr. Nowak is more of an advocate than an expert and I give very little weight to his evidence. I prefer the evidence of Dr. Apel when it comes to the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and the other conclusions reached by Dr. Apel. I am satisfied that the plaintiff may have improved somewhat from her last visit with Dr. Apel but I am satisfied that she continues to suffer a long term disability in respect to the fibromyalgia in the lower and upper back. I accept Ms. Phillips’ functional capacity evaluation and the limitations that the plaintiff has in respect to job opportunities because of her physical restrictions. I am also satisfied that the report of Dr. Wallace is fair and balanced and should be given a great deal of weight. I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that she stopped seeing her chiropractor, Dr. Kinakin, because she no longer had pain, but the chiropractor asked her to continue to see him because he was of the view that she had subluxation, which is poor posture so he was giving her treatment for that. She confirmed that she did not have any pain when she stopped seeing Dr. Kinakin. I accept her evidence….
[46] The function of non-pecuniary damages is to compensate the plaintiff for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. Taking into account the relatively young age of the plaintiff (she is now 24 years old), the chronic nature of her injuries, the severity and duration of her pain, her disabilities, her emotional suffering and loss of her social and marital life, I am of the view that a proper award would be in the amount of $65,000.

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