Tag: Neuropsychologist Opinion Evidence

BC Supreme Court Discusses Production of Neuropsychologist Raw Test Data

When a party serves an expert report in a BC Supreme Court lawsuit opposing parties are entitled to disclosure of any data compiled by the expert in relation to the report.  When it comes to neuropsycholgoists reports, the raw test data compiled by neuropsychologists is relevant and disclosable.   Sometimes it is difficult to obtain this data as neuropsycholgoists have ethical and contractual considerations limiting how and when such data is to be disclosed.  Often neuropsychologists only wish to disclose the data directly to another neuropsycholgist.
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry  (Smith v. Rautenberg), addressing this and concluding that there is no reason why such data is exempt from disclosure under the BC Supreme Court Rules.   In ordering the data to be disclosed directly to the litigant Master McDiarmid provided the following reasons:
[8]             Appendix B to the report documents over 20 tests, particularizes the ability being assessed by some of the tests and gives a result under the heading “Classification” for each of the tests (except the last mood tests). Specific components of some of the tests are set out.
[9]             A description of the tests in Appendix B are what I would characterize as quite technical. They are the sorts of tests which seem to me would require considerable expertise to both administer and interpret. Clinical psychologists, and in particular clinical neuropsychologists, would probably have the expertise to know whether the administered tests did in fact assess the ability which they purport to assess, and would be able to interpret the data to determine whether or not the interpretation placed on the assessment results by Dr. Pirolli was the proper interpretation. It seems unlikely that the test results could be intelligibly interpreted by persons who did not possess significant expertise in psychology and/or neuropsychology, just from the description of the tests…
[34]         In making my decision, I agree with what was written by Southin J.A., namely that when an expert in one field in possession of documents says that someone from a different discipline is not competent to understand his work, that the court is to be slow to overrule his judgment. That is a very different thing from saying that the documentation could not be produced to counsel for the party seeking production. If that party choses to have the documents interpreted by someone not competent to understand them, lack of competence will be readily available to a trial judge and will work against the party who conducts litigation in that way.
[35]         I also respectfully agree that courts must not run rough shod over those who are not parties to the proceedings. That is why the Rules require delivery of notices of applications to non-parties from whom documents are sought.
[36]         The evidence before Master Horn in Davies was that there was an ethical restriction placed on the neuropsychologist to prevent disclosure. The actual evidence that was presented in that case is not before me.
[37]         I had evidence before me of the current Code of Conduct. So long as Dr. Pirolli complies with the Code of Conduct, and in particular that portion of the Code of Conduct set out in subparagraph 1.2, reproduced above in para. 28, her ethical requirements are met.
[38]         The other concerns raised by the plaintiff are dealt with by the litigation privilege which attaches to the documents.

Scope of Neuropsychological Evidence in BC Brain Injury Cases Discussed


Reasons for judgement were published today on the BC Supreme Court website dealing with the scope of permissible neuropsychological opinion evidence in BC Brain Injury Cases.
When ICBC or other BC brain injury cases go to trial a neuropsychologist is a common type of expert witness called by both Plaintiff and Defence Lawyers.  Neuropsychologists are extensively trained with respect to the cognitive and behavioural consequences of brain injuries and for this reason their evidence is often vital in the prosecution of brain injury claims.
In today’s case (Meghji v. Lee) the Plaintiff alleged she suffered a traumatic brain injury.  In support of her case the Plaintiff sought to have a neuropsychologist give opinion evidence with respect to the cognitive and behavioural sequelae of brain injuries and also with respect to whether the Plaintiff suffered from organic tissue to her brain.  The Defence lawyer objected claiming the latter opinion is outside of the scope of a neuropsycholgists permissible expert opinion.  Mr. Justice Johnston agreed with the defence objection and summarized and applied the law as follows:

[27] Counsel for the plaintiff wants Dr. Malcolm to be permitted to give an opinion on whether Ms. Meghji has had an injury to her brain. I looked briefly at Dr. Malcolm’s written reports, and in his first report, the one of February 1, 2007, Dr. Malcolm provides an overview of the place of psychometric testing in his overall task in this way. He says:

Once the test results are determined to reflect the person’s neuropsychological status with acceptable accuracy, the question remains as to whether clinically significant test results reflect organic damage, or stem from other factors, such as psychological causes. The neuropsychological process considers all of these possibilities in reaching diagnostic conclusions. The conclusions reached are based on a balance of probability, the strength of which is indicated where possible.

[28] At the risk of appearing to be overly semantic about this analysis, I take it that what counsel want Dr. Malcolm to be able to do is to testify by way of opinion about whether or not there has been some form of harm or damage to the tissues of the brain of Ms. Meghji as opposed to some form of harm or damage to the mind or emotions or personality of Ms. Meghji. Whether there is a distinction between the brain as an organ of the body, on the one hand, and the mind and personality of the person in whose body the brain is found, on the other, is a metaphysical question that I hope I never have to answer in a court of law. I am going to confine myself to what I think is in issue, and that is Dr. Malcolm’s qualifications as a neuropsychological and whether they permit him to provide the ready-made inference through opinion on whether there has been physical harm or damage to the brain as an organ of the body, and in my view, they do not.

[29] The statutory regime does not, in my view, go any further than to allow testing, assessment, diagnosis of, and therefore opinions on the abilities, aptitudes, interests, et cetera, or the behaviour, emotional, or mental disorders, that is, disorders of the mind. These conditions may arise with or without damage to the structure or tissues of the brain. They may be associated with or flow from injury or damage to the brain itself. They may arise from or flow from other causes. It does not necessarily follow that because Dr. Malcolm is permitted by statute to test, assess, or diagnose behavioural, emotional, or mental disorder that he must therefore be permitted to give in evidence his opinion that the cause of any of these conditions stems from an injury to the tissues or structures of the brain.

[30] In my view, Dr. Malcolm’s qualifications do not go so far as to permit that opinion.

[31] That does not say that Dr. Malcolm cannot give, in evidence, his opinion based upon the results of his testing, nor does it prevent Dr. Malcolm from giving an opinion on whether the test results as evaluated by him are of a nature, kind, or quality seen in people who have been diagnosed as having had organic brain injuries.

[32] In my view, the distinction drawn by Mr. Justice Clancy in Knight remains appropriate, and that is, Dr. Malcolm is qualified to give his opinion on the cognitive and behavioural sequelae of brain injuries and to indicate the relative likelihood of any cognitive and behavioural abnormalities being the consequence of a traumatic brain injury, but to paraphrase Mr. Justice Clancy, it does not permit him, that is, Dr. Malcolm, to diagnose physical injury and the manner in which it was incurred.

[33] It therefore follows that Dr. Malcolm will not be permitted to give his opinion on whether Ms. Meghji has had an injury to the tissues of her brain or, obviously, as to the cause of any such injury, but he will be permitted to testify as I have indicated.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer