Tag: Recording independent medical exams

More on the Prohibition of Recording Court Ordered Medical Exams


Reasons for judgement were published this week demonstrating that while the BC Supreme Court has discretion to permit a Plaintiff to tape record a Court-ordered medical exam, this discretion is rarely exercised.
In this week’s case (Colby v. Stopforth) the Plaintiff and her litigation guardian were ordered to attend a series of medical exams.  The Plaintiff sought permission to tape record these.  Madam Justice Dardi refused to allow this and in doing so provided the following comments:

[18] However, that is not the end of the analysis. I must next consider whether in the unique circumstances of this case the plaintiff has nonetheless adduced cogent evidence that the use of an audiotape would advance the interests of justice.

[19] The plaintiff forcefully argues that the audio recordings are required to protect Mr. Rogers. The plaintiff’s overarching concern is the potential for an evidentiary conflict between Mr. Rogers and an examiner, particularly given that Mr. Rogers is a key witness whose credibility will be a central issue at trial. Mr. Rogers also asserts that he requires this procedural safeguard because of his status as Ms. Colby’s committee—as a fiduciary he is required to act in her best interests.

[20] The court in Wong observed that a medical examination, although part of the discovery process, is quite different in nature from statements made to an independent medical examiner and cannot be equated with the statements taken under oath on an examination for discovery: Wong at paras. 27-29.

[21] As I mentioned in my earlier ruling, I am not persuaded that the potential for an evidentiary conflict between Mr. Rogers and the examiners is, in itself, a cogent reason for ordering an audio recording. Plaintiffs routinely answer questions at independent medical examinations, as they are required to do under the Rules, when their credibility is at issue.

[22] Nor upon careful consideration am I persuaded on the evidence that Mr. Rogers’ status as a committee, in itself, is a sufficiently compelling or cogent reason to warrant the use of an audio recording. To permit the use of audio recording here would be to place Mr. Rogers in a preferred or advantageous position to that of a plaintiff who attends an independent medical examination on his or her on behalf. There may be cases where it is appropriate that a litigation guardian or committee should be permitted the opportunity to have the independent medical examination audio recorded, but on the evidence adduced this is not one of them.

[23] In summary, the evidence in this case falls short of establishing that the use of an audiotape recording would advance the interests of justice. Based on the reasoning articulated by the Court of Appeal in Wong, I cannot conclude on any principled basis that the plaintiff has met the onus in the circumstances of this case for showing that the use of an audiotape recording at the independent medical examinations will advance the interests of justice. I therefore decline to make any orders in this regard.

For more on this topic you can click here to access my archived posts discussing recording what transpires at independent medical exams.

Court Ordered Defence Medical Exams and the Right to Take Notes


It is not uncommon for discrepancies to arise about the exact details of an appointment following Court ordered medical exams.  These exams can last from several minutes, to several hours, or even (in the case of Functional Capacity and Neuropsychological Exams) to several days.  If a discrepencey arises as to what was said by the Plaintiff a Trial Judge can face a he-said she-said situation.  This can lead to serious disputes because the outcome of a personal injury trial can turn largely on a Plaintiff’s reliability and consistency.
When such a dispute arises the examining physician often has access to his or her notes detailing the examination.  This can sometimes work to the doctor’s advantage when a Court is asked to decide what was actually said.   To remedy this can a Plaintiff take their own notes while attending an independent medical exam?  Reasons for judgement were recently published on the BC Supreme Court website addressing this issue..
In today’s case (Makowsky v. Jawandha) the Plaintiff was involved in two separate motor vehicle collisions. He alleged injury including brain damage and memory problems.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff was ordered to attend an independent medical exam with a psychiatrist.   Given the Plaintiff’s poor memory the Court further ordered that “someone invited by the plaintiff could observe the examination“.
The Plaintiff attended the exam with a friend.  During the exam the friend took extensive notes detailing the discussion between the Plaintiff and the Physician.  The Physician claimed this was distracting and put an end to the exam believing the extensive note-taking violated the general BC prohibition on recoding Court ordered medical exams.  The parties put the matter before the Court.
Ultimately the Court held that the Plaintiff’s observer could take notes so long as doing so did not interfere with the examination.  Madam Justice Gray provided the following useful reasons:

[15] There is a right, in my view, for the observer to take notes, but not in a manner that slows or interferes with the examination.  For example, the observer cannot ask someone to pause in what they are saying, or say, “Just a minute, I’m taking a note,” or make noise or gesture in a way that creates a distraction. …

[17] The examination can proceed on the basis that the doctor agrees that there can be an observer present and that observer can take notes, but on the basis that the observer will take notes quietly and out of view of the doctor and patient.

I should point out that although this decision was recently published it was decided in 2008 under the former BC Supreme Court Rules.  There is, however, no reason that I’m aware of to conclude that the Court’s reasoning would not apply to the current Rules.

ICBC Medical Exams and Secret Tape Recordings


Further to my previous post discussing the topic of taping independent medical exams, reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating that BC Courts are not very receptive to such evidence if secretly obtained.
In the 2006 case of Wong v. Wong the BC Court of Appeal made it clear that permission for a Plaintiff to record a defence medical exam will rarely be granted.  Sometimes Plaintiff’s have recorded such exams without seeking the court’s permission first.  While the secret audio recording of an independent medical exam by a participant is not necessarily a criminal offence in Canada, it is frowned upon.   One remedy a Court can exercise when presented with such evidence is to simply exclude it from trial.  Today’s case used exactly this remedy.
In today’s case (Anderson v. Dwyer) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 rear end crash.   ICBC, on behalf of the Defendant, admitted fault for the accident but disputed the extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff attended a medical exam with Dr. Locht, an orthopaedic surgeon selected by ICBC.  The Plaintiff surreptitiously recorded this exam and then her lawyer tried to make use of this recording at trial.  Mr. Justice Schultes was not receptive to this and disallowed the use of this recording for cross examination purposes.  While the reasons for judgement did not have an analysis of why the Court used this remedy the following was highlighted:

[12] The plaintiff also admitted surreptitiously recording her examination by Dr. Locht, the orthopaedic surgeon who conducted an independent medical examination of her on behalf of the defendant. ( This came to light as a result of an objection by the defendant’s counsel during the cross-examination of Dr. Locht. The plaintiff’s counsel did not use the transcript any further after the objection and nothing in my analysis of Dr. Locht’s evidence turns on its use.)

[13] Her explanation for this action was that she wanted an accurate record of everything that was said during the examination and was concerned that she would not be able to recall it herself without assistance. She felt she had been treated disrespectfully by representatives of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia during a previous meeting about this litigation and, I gather, that as a result she was suspicious of how the examination would be conducted.

[14] She maintained that she did not originally intend to use the recording in the litigation but that a friend had typed it up for her shortly before the trial so that she could refresh her memory and at that point she found discrepancies between the transcript and Dr. Locht’s report. She intended it to be used during cross-examination only if “the truth wasn’t coming out” in his evidence…

[43] It was suggested to Dr. Locht that his report presented some of the plaintiff’s symptoms in a misleading way. For example, he described her as having “no sleep disorder”, although she told him that her neck pain woke her several times throughout the night. His explanation was that because she was still getting six hours of sleep per night, in total, he did not consider that she had a sleep disorder. Similarly, he described the plaintiff as being “physically capable” of continuing all work, household, and recreational activities that she could do before the accident, despite her descriptions of experiencing severe pain (and in one case nausea) after engaging in them. He explained that his determination that a person is physically able to perform an activity does not depend on whether she in fact avoids that activity because it causes her pain…

[49] With respect to the plaintiff’s general credibility, I did not find her recording of the examination by Dr. Locht, her failure to disclose potentially relevant documents, or her “hands on” involvement in this litigation to be as significant as the defendant suggested. However improper surreptitious recording of medical interviews may be, it appeared to me that this recording was a reflection of the plaintiff’s suspicious and hostile view of ICBC and of her desire to protect herself from the unfair treatment that she expected to receive from its representative, rather than of any desire to manipulate the evidence.

Given the very important role expert witnesses play in injury litigation it is fair to debate whether tape recordings should routinely be used to add greater objectivity to the IME process.  Unless and until this comes about our Court’s will continue to struggle with the use this evidence will be put to when parties choose to obtain evidence through surreptitious recording.

Can You Record an "Independent Medical Exam" In an ICBC Injury Claim?

When ICBC sends you to an ‘independent’ medical exam for the purposes of litigation in the BC Supreme Court are you permitted to record the examination?
This issue was dealt with by the BC Court of Appeal in a 2006 decision (Wong v. Wong) in which the Court held that BC Courts do have the authority to permit audio recording as part of an order for an independent medical exam but that this discretion should be exercises sparingly.  Specifically the BC Court of Appeal said the following about the courts ability to permit audio recording as a term of an independent medical exam:

[44]           One would think that if the tape recording of a medical or psychiatric examination was thought likely to enhance the quality of such an examination, the medical profession would long since have adopted the use of audio tapes as a general practice.  The material before us shows that use of an audio tape recorder is not only not considered to be an advantage, but rather can be an impediment to a proper, independent examination.  Dr. Smith says that use of an audio tape recorder will alter the nature of a psychiatric exam, and may make the examinee reluctant to answer some questions.  These observations have the ring of simple common sense.  In fact, hundreds if not thousands of psychiatric examinations of both infant and adult plaintiffs have been conducted in this province under Rule 30, or its predecessors, without any suggestion that they might have been of better quality if tape recorded.

[45]           It may well be that the recollection of a plaintiff as to what was said on an examination will differ from the doctor’s notes or recollection.  As Brooke J.A. observes, “the rules proceed on the basis that there may be some disparity” in recollections.  But these differences can be tested in the usual way, as they have been for years.  As in the Bellamy case “… there is no suggestion on the record that any injustice has occurred.”

[46]           It was argued before us that an audio tape recording would provide the “best evidence” at trial of what was said in the examination, in the event of a conflict between the examinee and the doctor, and that the courts should endorse the use of technologies available to provide the best evidence.  The oral history and other information provided by the person being examined is often an important part of the foundation on which the examiner’s opinion is based.  However, any advantage to be gained by tape recording the interview must be weighed against the extent to which it would impede or impair a full and proper examination.  Absent unusual circumstances, I am not persuaded that the presumed advantage would outweigh the disadvantages.

[47]           Apart from any impairment of the examination itself, there are other concerns related to the audio taping of medical examinations.  No matter how good the technology, there will be failures.  A tape recording will no doubt be transcribed and there will be issues before and at trial over the transcription.  The transcript will add an unwarranted level of importance to the oral portion of examination, and another layer of adversarial complexity to the trial process.  None of these difficulties need be encountered.

[48]           While I am of the view that a master or judge has a discretion under Rule 30 to permit the use by a plaintiff of an audio tape recorder on an independent medical examination, it is in my opinion a discretion that should be exercised rarely and with restraint, and only in circumstances where there is cogent evidence that the use of an audio tape recording will advance the interests of justice.

Today, reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court further dealing with this issue.  In today’s case (Kelly v. Sanmugathas) the Defendants sought to have a plaintiff examined by a psychiatrist.  The Plaintiff wished to have the examination recorded.  In permitting the recording Master Donaldson summarized and applied the law as follows:

[2] A number of authorities were cited specifically referring to Dr. Davis.  The decision of the Court of Appeal in Wong stands for the current state of law in British Columbia, namely, that if there is to be a recording it would be only in very limited situations.  Counsel on behalf of the plaintiff referred me to a number of decisions where it was concluded that Dr. Davis was an advocate for the defence and matters of that nature.  Those decisions do not concern me in this instance and do not lead me any closer to reaching the conclusion that the plaintiff should be able to record her visit with Dr. Davis.  What does give me concern are two references, Sinclair, Mr. Justice Hood in 2002, and McGowan, a 1992 decision of Madison, J. in the Yukon, both of which make reference to mistakes having been made.  Fraser, J. in the Edmonds case where he stated: “if [sic] mistakes, likely they were those of Dr. Davis”.  In the McGowan decision, Mr. Justice Madison stated “his opinion was thus based on an erroneous view of the facts.”

[3] Clearly it will be easy enough for a judge in this action to conclude how he or she should assess the opinion of Dr. Davis, but of concern to me, is whether or not Dr. Davis takes an accurate history.  Clearly the recollection of the plaintiff as to the history taken and the reliance on clinical records and the like, will assist the court in determining whether or not Dr. Davis in fact has misapprehension of the facts or he in fact was accurate so far as the facts given are concerned.

[4] I have concluded that recording is the least invasive way of ensuring that Ms. Kelly’s recollection of the facts which have been elicited from her and Dr. Davis’ recollection of the facts elicited from her are accurate.  Her evidence, by way of affidavit, interestingly enough, seems to indicate, if you will, self generated concern about Dr. Davis once she had discussions with her counsel about Dr. Davis.  It is also interesting to note that apparently her concerns only arose after she was ill and could not attend the 28 of May medical examination which had been arranged with Dr. Davis.

[5] Notwithstanding this state of affairs, I am satisfied there should be a recording.  It will be a dual recording:  one tape will be given to Dr. Davis and the other can be retained by Ms. Kelly.

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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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