Useful reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal confirming that when a professional is summoned to testify at trial about facts they have knowledge of (as opposed to privately retained expert witnesses to give opinion evidence) they are entitled to no more than the $20 fee that must accompany a subpoena.
In today’s case (Luis v. Marchiori) the Plaintiff was injured in two vehicle collisions and sued for damages. At trial her family doctor testified but not as an expert opinion witness, but rather as a witness of fact. The Plaintiff paid $2,651 to the doctor for this service and tried to recover this as a disbursement. In refusing to allow this the BC Court of Appeal noted that when a professional testifies as to facts they are entitled to nothing more than any other fact witness. The BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:
 It is useful to begin by distinguishing between expert fact evidence and expert opinion evidence. Witnesses who become involved in litigation due to their profession—such as a treating doctor or an engineer overseeing a construction project—may be called to testify about their observations. Although the observations may be beyond the knowledge of a layperson, that testimony is not opinion evidence. Examples include a witness describing radiological images, identifying a microbe seen under a microscope, or identifying the pathological process seen on surgery or autopsy. Such evidence is sometimes described as “non-opinion expert evidence”: Robert B. White, The Art of Using Expert Evidence (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 1997), ch. 2 at 16‒21.
 Justice Schultes addressed this distinction in Anderson v. Dwyer, 2009 BCSC 1872 at para. 14 in the context of the Rule requiring notice of opinion evidence:
… However, the witness’s factual narrative of the actions he took and the observations he made, including describing without interpretation, the anatomical features he observed in the x-rays does not amount to offering an opinion and does not offend the Rule. The fact that he brings special training or experience to bear in having taken those actions and made those observations is not determinative. It is whether he draws inferences or offers opinion beyond what the actual evidence itself is capable of revealing.
 Although I agree that some professions are more regularly called upon to testify in court than others, it is not readily apparent that a particular individual will be called upon more often. Further, these appeals have focused on the potential financial hardship to professionals such as physicians, engineers and lawyers called to testify as fact witnesses, but as Justice Park observed in Lonergan v. The Royal Exchange Assurance, (1831), 131 E.R. 280 at 283, “time to a poor man is of as much importance as to an attorney.” Indeed, the loss of a day’s work at minimum wage may be a greater relative hardship to a lay witness than the loss of a professional person’s earnings. In addition, to focus on monetary losses alone may be too narrow. Although some witnesses make a sacrifice of time and labour and thus of profits and wages, others sacrifice privacy, and experience the “disagreeable consequence of disclosure”: Wigmore on Evidence, vol. 8 at 72.
 In my view, the interpretation Ms. Luis advances is of no small significance, departing as it would from the longstanding tradition that attendance at trial is “an inherent burden of citizenship”. As John Henry Wigmore put it so eloquently:
That the ordinary witness should be paid more than the nominal dollar — i.e., should be fully indemnified for sacrificing his day’s livelihood in order to perform his testimonial duty — is a plausible assertion. The argument against it, that the total cost of reimbursing highly paid citizens would be prohibitive, gives no real answer, for the state is bound to supply the necessities of justice however expensive. The best answer is that the testimonial duty, like other civic duties, is to be performed without pay, the sacrifice being an inherent burden of citizenship. Neither for military service nor for public office can the citizen claim that he shall be paid on a scale which will bear any equable proportion to the loss of his livelihood’s income. Any other principle would be worthy only of a purely mercenary community. If the sacrifice made is a real one, the dignity of the service rendered should ennoble it. The sense of civic duty done must be the consolation.
Wigmore on Evidence, vol. 8 at 136. [Emphasis added.]
 If there are sound policy reasons for departing from that tradition and the present regime, it is in my view for the legislature and not the judiciary to effect that change.
 In summary, I am of the view that the payment of an attendance fee to expert fact witnesses beyond the fee prescribed in Schedule 3 is not a disbursement recoverable from the opposing party. I would therefore dismiss the appeals, with thanks to all counsel for their able and thorough submissions.
(Update October 2, 2012 – The below post was upheld on appeal in reasons for judgement released today)
Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing reasonable photocopy expenses in a bill of disbursements.
In the recent case (Chow v. Nguyen) the parties could not agree to the reasonableness of various disbursements incurred in the prosecution of a personal injury claim. In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff’s lawyer made 7,231 photocopies and claimed disbursements at $0.25 per copy. ICBC argued this was unreasonable. Master McDiarmid disagreed and allowed this disbursement as presented. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
Counsel for the defendant and third party also objected to the photocopy charges. She accepted plaintiff’s counsel’s representation that the 7,231 photocopies were in fact made. There was no argument that the photocopying was not necessary or proper; rather, the argument was that the 25¢ per page was excessive given the actual cost of photocopying. When assessing costs, a registrar must determine which disbursements have been necessarily or properly incurred in the conduct of the proceedings, and I must allow a reasonable amount for those disbursements (Rule 14-1(5) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules (the “Civil Rules”)).
Pursuant to Rule 14-1(1) of the Civil Rules, I am to assess costs in accordance with Appendix B. Administrative Notice 5 effective July 1, 2010 directs that photocopying charges may be allowed at 25¢ per page on a party/party bill of costs. This amount is a guideline only. If it is shown that the actual cost was or should have been different from the guideline charges, the amounts allowed on an assessment may differ from the guideline amounts.
The actual cost of photocopying is difficult to determine, in as much as it involves a combination of fixed costs, per page costs, and labour costs. There was no evidence before me to show what the actual cost was. I find that in the circumstances of this case, the number of photocopies was both necessary and proper, and I allow the photocopying charges as claimed in the amount of $1,807.75, plus applicable taxes.
This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of document binding charges (dismissed as overhead) and the cost of fairly expensive expert reports which were allowed as being reasonable given the circumstanses of the case.
Update November 17, 2014 – in Reasons released today the BC Court of Appeal overruled the below decisions and found interest on disbursements cannot be recovered.
Update – May 17, 2013 – the below decision was overturned on Appeal. You can click here to read about this development
A very uncertain area of the law relates to recovery of interest on disbursements. Last year the BC Court of Appeal declined to resolve this uncertainty. Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, further weighing in on this inconsistent area of law finding that interest on disbursements is not recoverable.
In today’s case (MacKenzie v. Rogalasky) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision. In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff borrowed $25,000 to finance the disbursements in his case. Following trial the interest on this loan was over $11,000. The Plaintiff sought to recover this interest but Registrar Sainty declined to allow this claim. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
Based on all of the matters that I have considered — and I have had this matter under consideration for some time; I reviewed all of the submissions before coming here today and then today I have heard even more comprehensive submissions from counsel — I find that I am not bound by the decision of Mr. Justice Burnyeat in Milne. None of the decisions cited to me in favour of awarding interest, including Milne, are on all fours with the facts before me. Milne arose in the context of settlement of an action. Here, the matter was decided following a trial. Further, I find that Mr. Justice Burnyeat’s comments in Milne were obiter and are not binding on me. The case before me is also distinguishable from the decision of Registrar Cameron in Chandi as, in that case, counsel told the Learned Registrar that he was bound by Milne. His Honour was not given the benefit of the submissions I have had regarding the nature of that decision; nor of the impact of theCourt Order Interest Act on his decision. On that basis I may distinguish his reasons.
That, of course, does not end the matter because the fundamental question still remains to be answered: Is this a disbursement that is recoverable by the plaintiff? I think that it is not on the basis of the arguments made by Mr. Parsons, most particularly those related to the impact of the Court Order Interest Act on claims of this nature.
Firstly, a successful party’s right to claim disbursements does not actually arise until the action itself has been determined and so, until the judgment has been rendered, no entitlement arises to recover any costs or any disbursement. Accordingly there can be no right to claim any disbursement until the determination of the action.
The decision in Milne was made without the benefit of the extensive argument that was before me, particularly the argument based on the application of the provisions of the Court Order Interest Act. That Act makes it clear that the legislature did not intend that interest be recoverable on disbursements.
Nor can it be said that the object of costs (as compared to damages for a tortious act) is to return a party to his pre-litigation status and thus interest ought not to be recoverable. Costs are not intended to provide full indemnity to a successful party and the successful party is only entitled to recover necessary or proper disbursements at a reasonable amount. In my view it cannot be said that interest on disbursements is a necessary and proper adjunct of litigation. It is simply one of those unfortunate matters that arose in the circumstances of this particular plaintiff and I find it is not reasonable that the plaintiff recover it.
So, for all of these reasons, I am going to disallow the plaintiff’s claim for interest paid to the third party lender in respect of the loan to fund the disbursements.
Further to my previous post on this topic, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing when an MRI is a reasonable disbursement in a personal injury lawsuit.
In today’s case (Farrokhmanesh v. Sahib) the Plaintiff was injured in two BC collisions. He sued for damages and settled his claims prior to trial. However, the parties could not agree on whether some of the Plaintiff’s disbursements were reasonable. The parties applied to the Court to resolve the issue and Registrar Sainty held that the Plaintiff’s privately retained MRI was not a recoverable disbursement. The Plaintiff appealed this ruling. Mr. Justice Ehrcke dismissed the appeal and in doing so made the following comments about MRI’s in personal injury lawsuits:
 The applicant submits that the Registrar erred in principle by saying that there must be a medical reason for ordering the MRI. In my view, the applicant’s submission seeks to parse the Registrar’s decision too finely. In reviewing the Decision of the Registrar with the appropriate level of deference, it would be wrong to focus on a single word or a phrase taken out of the context in which it occurs.
 When read in context, the Registrar’s reason for disallowing the cost of the MRI is that she found it was not necessarily or properly incurred. In coming to that conclusion, she took into account that no medical professional had advised counsel of the probable utility of an MRI in the particular circumstances of this case. Mr. Fahey had deposed in para. 11 of his affidavit that he was unaware of the plaintiff exhibiting any objective signs of injury when he ordered the MRI scans.
 I am unable to find that the Registrar acted on a wrong principle in disallowing the cost of the MRIs in this case, and I would not interfere with her Decision.
To be on the safe side it is a good idea to have a treating medical practitioner requesting an MRI or other diagnostic test to maximize the chance that these expenses will be recoverable disbursements.