Tag: Responsive Reports

Responsive Report Rule "Is Not a Licence" For Failing to Prepare Expert Evidence

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, criticizing and restricting the practice of allowing late defense medical examinations in the guise of obtaining ‘responsive’ reports.
In last week’s case (Timar v. Barson) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 collision and sued for damages.  The alleged injuries included a concussion.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff served a psychologists report which found the plaintiff suffered from a variety of cognitive issues.  As the 84 day deadline approached the Plaintiff served the balance of his reports which included a psychiatric opinion that the Plaintiff suffered from an ongoing concussive injury from the collision.  The Defendant applied for an independent medical examination beyond the 84 day deadline arguing they needed a responsive opinion in the face of these new reports.  Mr. Justice Smith disagreed and in doing so provided the following reasons criticizing the ‘wait and see’ approach in defendant’s exercising their rights for independent medical exams:

[19]         Rule 11-6(4) establishes a notice requirement for responsive evidence, but it does not exempt any party from the basic notice requirement in R. 11-6(3). In other words, it is not a licence for any party to wait until they have seen the other’s expert reports before deciding what expert evidence they need to obtain or rely on. Where each party has properly prepared its case and used the rights given by the Rules to discover the other party’s, responsive reports under R. 11-6(4) should rarely be necessary and IME’s for the purpose of preparing such reports should be rarer still.

[20]         A party seeking an IME after expiry of the deadline in R. 11-6(3) must, as stated in Luedecke,  satisfy the court that the examination is necessary to properly respond to an expert report served by the other party and not simply to respond to the subject matter of the plaintiff’s case.

[21]         However, other factors beyond the meeting of that evidentiary threshold must be considered. The principle one that emerges from virtually all the cases is the extent to which the party seeking the examination can claim to be truly surprised by the expert evidence served by the other party: Jackson at para. 27; Compton v. Vale (4 June 2014), Kelowna M95787  at para. 11 (B.C.S.C.). Defendants who delay obtaining or serving expert evidence until after the plaintiff’s evidence is received, then attempt to introduce all of their expert evidence as response, do so at their peril: Crane v. Lee, 2011 BCSC 898 at para. 22; Gregorich v. Gregorich (16 December 2011), Victoria 09-4160 at para. 11 (B.C.S.C.)…

[31]         A defendant in a personal injury action must therefore know that the plaintiff will have to rely on medical evidence if the matter proceeds to trial. Knowing that, the defendant must consider whether an IME is required in order to obtain a report that can be served at least 84 days before trial pursuant to R. 11-6(3). In order to determine that and to identify the type of medical expert to involve, the defendant must determine what the plaintiff is saying about his or her condition. An examination for discovery is the obvious, most effective and most important way to do that.

[32]         The defendant in this case chose not to exercise its rights under the Rules. It did not conduct an examination for discovery and made no effort to obtain a timely IME. In the absence of such efforts, I must hold that the Master erred in permitting the defendant to use R. 11-6(4) as a means of obtaining its first medical evidence. In the limited time she had to deal with the application, the Master failed to fully and properly consider the limited purpose of R. 11-6(4) and its interaction with other rules as they affect actions of this kind.

 

More on Responsive Opinion Evidence Admissibility

Reasons for judgement were published recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing responsive expert reports and the discretion of the Court to adjourn a trial to permit late expert evidence to be introduced.
In the recent case (Lennox v. Karim) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2003 collision.   87 days prior to trial the Plaintiff served a medico-legal report diagnosing the Plaintiff with a meniscal tear.  The Defendant obtained a report addressing this injury and served it on the Plaintiff.  This report was served in less than 84 days before trail.  The Plaintiff objected arguing this report was late and that it was not truly responsive.  Mr. Justice Armstrong disagreed and admitted the report finding that it was responsive, and if not, the trial should be adjourned to allow admission of the report to address the relatively late disclosure of the meniscal tear.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[38] In this case, Mr. Lennox failed to alert the defendant to the central issue of a torn meniscus. His pleadings indicated an injury of both knees without any reference in specific to the torn meniscus. This is significant in this case, because the plaintiff was under the obligation to obtain a court order to permit Dr. Stewart to testify and if that order had been applied for, the defendant would have been put on notice at an earlier time as to the issue which became central to this case.

[39] In my view the Leith report, in the words of Smith J., is not a freestanding medical opinion that ought to have been served under Rule 11-6(3). It is in its entirety a responsive opinion directed solely to one opinion of Dr. Stewart relating to the plaintiff’s medical condition, that being the torn meniscus…

[42] If I am wrong in this decision, it would have also been my further opinion that in the circumstances of this case the defendant would have otherwise been entitled to an adjournment of the trial to secure the medical report of Dr. Leith if it was not otherwise admissible under 11-6(4). It seems to me that 11-1(2) is purposely directed at requiring the plaintiff and defendant to avoid the last minute introduction of medical evidence in cases which may have proceeded for many years on a different track or a different theory. I note that neither of the experts described in the CPC report have been or are going to be called as witnesses in this case, but I am not required to deal with that issue.

[43] It seems to me that Dr. Leith’s report can simply be admitted and I can ignore those provisions which in my view are not appropriate.

Late Defence Medical Report Inadmissible For Going Beyond Responsive Evidence Exception


When the New Rules of Court were introduced last year changes were made to the timelines to exchange expert reports.  An 84 day deadline was set out in Rule 11-6(3) and a shorter 42 day deadline is set out in Rule 11-6(4) for “responding reports“.   The first reasons for judgement that I’m aware of were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing whether to admit a late report under the “responsive evidence” exception.
In today’s case (Crane v. Lee) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant ran a stop sign and admitted fault for the crash.   The Plaintiff’s expert provided evidence that she suffered from soft tissue injuries and a herniated disc.  The Defendant obtained an expert report which contradicted this finding and served this report less than 84 days before trial.  The Defendant argued that the report was responsive and should be admitted.  Mr. Justice Smith disagreed finding the report went beyond the narrow circumstances permitted in Rule 11-6(4).  In excluding the report the Court provided the following reasons:



[21] At the opening of the trial, counsel for the plaintiff objected to and sought a ruling on the admissibility of a medical report that the defendant intended to rely upon.  The report had not been served within the 84 days required by Rule 11-6 (3) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009.  Counsel for the defendant relied upon rule 11-6 (4), which reads:

(4)        Unless the court otherwise orders, if a party intends to tender an expert’s report at trial to respond to an expert witness whose report is served under subrule (3), the party must serve on every party of record, at least 42 days before the scheduled trial date,

(a)        the responding report, and

(b)        notice that the responding report is being served under this rule.

[22] Rule 11-6 (4) is intended to apply only to evidence that is truly responsive or in rebuttal to specific opinion evidence tendered by the opposite party.  It is not intended to provide defendants with a general exemption from the basic time limit for serving expert reports that is set out in Rule 11-6 (3).  Defendants who delay obtaining or serving expert evidence until after the plaintiff’s opinions have been received, then attempt to introduce all of their expert evidence as response, do so at their peril.

[23] In this case, I found that the report was not limited to true responsive evidence.  It stated the author’s opinion on the nature and cause of the plaintiff’s injury?the central issue that both sides had to address from the outset?and was based upon a review of all the medical records, including some not referred to by Dr. Field in his report.  As such, I considered it to be a free-standing medical opinion that ought to have been served pursuant to Rule 11-6 (3).  I ruled the report inadmissible, with the result that there was no expert evidence before me to contradict Dr. Field’s opinion.




The Court accepted the evidence from the Plaintiff’s expert and in assessing non-pecuniary damages of $100,000 Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:
[33] On review of all the evidence, I find that the accident for which the defendant has admitted liability caused soft tissue injuries to the plaintiff’s neck and upper back, which eventually resolved, and a herniated disc in the lower back that continues to cause pain and limitation.  To the extent that the accident may have aggravated a pre-existing condition, I find that in the years immediately preceding the accident that condition was minimally symptomatic and there is no evidence that it would likely have become worse but for the accident.  I accept the uncontradicted evidence of Dr. Field that the plaintiff’s current pain is likely to be permanent…
[45] The injury the plaintiff suffered has had a significant impact on her enjoyment of life.  She has back pain on a daily basis, fluctuating according to her activities.  She has lost what was formerly a very active lifestyle, giving up some activities that she formerly enjoyed, while continuing some others on a reduced level, accepting the trade-off of increased pain.  The only medical evidence before me is that this condition is likely to be permanent. She also suffers severe anxiety while driving, particularly in situations similar to those that gave rise to the accident, although there is no evidence that this condition is necessarily permanent…
[49] Taking into account the effect of the plaintiff’s injuries on her lifestyle, the permanent nature of her pain and the psychological impact, including her driving anxiety, and considering the cases cited, I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $100,000.

The New BC Supreme Court Rules and "Responsive" Expert Reports


Important reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, interpreting and applying Rule 11-6(4) for the first time.  This rule deals with “responsive” expert opinion evidence.
Under the old Rules of Court parties could call responsive expert evidence without notice provided the evidence was truly responsive.  The new rules of court changed this and require responsive expert reports to be served 42 days ahead of the scheduled trial.
In today’s case (Wright v. Bower) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision and alleged chronic back pain as a result of the crash.  Her lawyer served expert reports addressing these injuries in compliance with the time lines set out in the rules of court.  The Defendant brought a motion to compel the Plaintiff to attend an examination with an orthopaedic surgeon in order to obtain a ‘responsive’ report.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that an examination was not necessary for the Defendant to obtain a truly responsive report.  Mr. Justice Savage agreed with the Plaintiff and dismissed the motion.  In doing so the Court provide the following useful reasons setting the parameters for responsive expert evidence:

[12]         Rule 11-6(4) was enacted to fill a lacuna in the Rules.  Under the former Rules, Rule 40A permitted parties to call expert evidence in reply without notice at trial.  In order for such evidence to be admitted, however, it had to be truly responsive to the expert evidence of a witness called by the opposing party.

[13]         In Stainer, supra, the British Columbia Court of Appeal considered Rule 40A(3) and the scope of the Court’s discretion to admit responsive evidence.  At paragraphs 16-18, Finch J.A. said:

[16]      …The admission of expert evidence is now governed by Rule 40A(3)

An expert may give oral opinion evidence of a written statement if the opinion has been delivered to every party of record at least sixty days before the expert testifies.

[17]      That rule applies equally to all parties.  In the normal course, a defendant will wish to protect his right to adduce expert evidence at trial by giving the notice required by that rule.  But the court retains a discretion to admit responsive evidence of which notice has not been given:  Pedersen v. Degelder (1985), 62 B.C.L.R. 253 (B.C.S.C.); Kroll v. Eli Lilly Canada Inc. (1995), 5 B.C.L.R. (3d) 7 (S.C.); and Kelly v. Kelly (1995), 20 B.C.L.R. (3d) 232 (S.C.).  In the latter case Mr. Justice Williamson said:

I would restrict, of course, as courts I think must, the practice of having opinion evidence without notice strictly to truly responsive rebuttal evidence, and I think that if that rule is carefully observed, there should be no difficulties.

[18]      That is, in my respectful view, a correct statement of the proper practice. …

[15]         Amongst other things, the parties argued before me regarding whether the new Rules have substantively changed the practice which existed under Rule 40A.  They agreed that this is an important practice point, and a case of first impression.

[16]         Rule 40A gave the Court discretion to admit responsive evidence of which notice had not been given.  Rule 11-6(4) now provides that notice must be given of responsive expert evidence (although I note that the Court retains discretion to admit expert evidence of which sufficient notice has not been given).

[17]         I would expect that, in the ordinary course, an examination would be ordered under Rule 7-6(1) where a person’s medical condition was in issue in an action, provided it was requested in a timely way.

[18]         However, at this point in time in the action, the defendants are limited to what Mr. Justice Williamson referred to in Kelly, supra, as “truly responsive rebuttal evidence”.  The application must be considered in that light; the question on this application is not one of notice, but whether the Examination should be ordered to enable the defendant to file responsive evidence.  The authorizing Rule, 7-6(1) uses the term “may”.

[19]         In Kroll v. Eli Lilly Canada Inc. (1995), 5 B.C.L.R. (3d) 7, Sanders J., as she then was, noted that “true response evidence, does not permit fresh opinion evidence to masquerade as answer to the other side’s reports”.

[20]         In C.N. Railway v. H.M.T.Q. in Right of Canada, 2002 BCSC 1669, Henderson J. considered the admissability of “reply reports” holding that only the portions of the reports that provided a critical analysis of the methodology of the opposing expert were admissible as responsive evidence.  The portions of the reports describing the authors’ own opinions on the matters in issue were not admitted.

[21]         In this case, the defendants do not explain why an examination is required in these circumstances, other than a statement by a legal assistant that counsel says such is “necessary to properly defend this action and to respond to the reports of Dr. Weckworth and Dr. O’Connor”.  Master McCallum in White v. Gait, 2003 BCSC 2023 declined to order an examination where it had not been shown why such was required to produce a responsive report.

[22]         In my opinion, the bare assertion reported to a legal assistant in this case is insufficient to support an order under Rule 7-6(1) that the plaintiff attend the Examination, when the defendants are limited to providing response reports under Rule 11-6(4).  In the circumstances, the application is dismissed.  The plaintiff is entitled to costs of the application.

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