Tag: Rule 30

Defence Medical Exams – BCSC More Than Just A "Rubber Stamp"


As readers of this blog know when people sue for damages in the BC Supreme Court as a result of an Injury Claim they give up certain privacy rights.  Documents need to be disclosed to opposing counsel, examinations for discovery can be compelled, even ‘independent‘ medical exams can be ordered.
In the course of an Injury Claim Rule 30 of the BC Supreme Court Rules permits a Court to order that a Plaintiff undergo a Defence Medical Exam(DME) in order to “level the playing field“.   It is generally accepted that at least one DME will be ordered by the Court if requested in a typical personal injury claim.  Such an order, however, is not an automatic right and reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Chapman v. Magee) the Plaintiff was injured in “a reasonably nasty motor vehicle accident involving…a car and a motorcycle“.  The Injuries included a flailed chest and a broken ankle.
The Defence lawyer asked that the Plaintiff attend a defence medical exam with a respirologist and an orthopaedic surgeon.   The Plaintiff’s lawyer did not consent and a court motion was brought to compel attendance.  Master Caldwell dismissed the application finding that the materials in support were “significantly wanting“.    The Court noted that while the evidentiary burden on these applications is not high the Court is not a ‘rubber stamp‘ and some evidence needs to be tendered.  Specifically Master Caldwell stated:

There is nothing in the material where counsel opines as to the need for these reports or these examinations to be done, which, as I see the case authority, and in particular, Astels, para. 23, where the court says:

In addition to the paralegal’s affidavit, there was also in evidence a letter from counsel for the defendants to counsel for the plaintiff concerning the proposed medical examination in which counsel for the defendant said:

You will be asking the court to retrospectively decide whether or not the plaintiff was totally disabled the date the action was commenced.  Clearly medical opinion in that regard is relevant.

[5] He is opining there as counsel as to the importance and purpose of the Rule 30 examinations.  In my view, that sets out a bare minimum, and I do not want to be overly technical because it may or may not be efficient to go on that basis, but in my view there is not a scintilla of evidence here from counsel or otherwise as to the use that this information would be put to.  I can certainly speculate and it would appear from the pleadings that I could speculate as to what use it might be made, but far and away from what the minimum level is, it would be nice on these applications to have letters or some kind of material from a doctor opining as to why they need to see the person.  That certainly goes beyond what would be needed, but in my view, Astels puts down a bare minimum.

[6] And as I say, I may be being overly technical, but I do not think so.  These are not rubber-stamp applications and they cannot become rubber-stamp applications.  There must be some substance relating to what this information is going to be used for and what the focus is going to be.  And, frankly, having gone over the lunch hour and again read the letters, I can find no such supporting evidence in the material filed by the defendant.

[7] On that basis, this application for today by the defendants is dismissed.  It is dismissed without prejudice to their right to re-bring the application on proper material because I think there may be something out there and I think Rule 1(5) does say “on the merits” and it should not be just simply a technical slam-dunk there.  But the application on the basis of the material before me has to be dismissed in my respectful view.  It has to be dismissed on the basis that costs will be to the plaintiff in any event of the cause on this because the material brought by the defence simply is not adequate.  The issue of costs in subsequent application, should the defence seek to bring such an application, can be dealt with by the court that hears that application.

As with all civil procedure cases I will cross reference this with the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules.  Rule 30 is replaced with Rule 7-6 and the wording is almost identical under the new rules making precedents such as this one useful under the soon to be in place new system.

ICBC Injury Claims and Late Independent Medical Exams

When advancing an Injury Claim in the BC Supreme Court the Defendant’s are entitled to send the injured plaintiff to an independent medical exam or exams in order to ‘level the playing field’.
If a litigant wishes to rely on expert evidence addressing injuries Rule 40A of the BC Supreme Court Rules sets out the timelines for disclosure of such evidence to the opposing side.  Sometimes, ICBC defence lawyers apply for multiple independent medical exams and sometimes these applications are brought late into the pre-trial process such that any report generated will not comply with the timelines of Rule 40A.
Reasons for judgement were released today (Critchley v. McDiarmid) by Mr. Justice Burnyeat of the BC Supreme Court clarifying the law as it relates to late applications for independent medical exams.  In today’s case the court ordered that the Plaintiff see a psychiatrist even though the scheduled appointment was to take place outside of the timelines required by Rule 40A.  In reaching this decision the court summarized the relevant legal principles as follows:

[16] In Stainer v. Plaza (2001), 87 B.C.L.R. (3d) 182 (B.C.C.A.) Finch, J.A., as he then was, stated on behalf of the Court that the purpose of Rule 30 was:

This Court has repeatedly said that the purpose of Rule 30 is to put the parties on an equal footing with respect to medical evidence.  What steps are necessary to achieve that end is a matter of discretion for the chambers judge to assess in the circumstances of each case.

[17] Subsequent decisions have established  the following general principles: (a) the timing of the request for the independent medical examination is a relevant consideration in that a late request by a defendant may create a prejudice to the plaintiff by placing the plaintiff in a situation where he or she is either unable to respond to the proposed examination or is forced to seek an adjournment of the trial; (b) an inability to respond to a proposed examination constitutes prejudice to a plaintiff; (c) and an adjournment of a trial constitutes prejudice to a plaintiff.

[18] I am of the view that the exercise that was before the Learned Master was as set out by Master Groves, as he then was, in Mackichan v. June and Takeshi, [2004] B.C.J. (Q.L.) No. 2296 (B.C.S.C.):

The argument for a late medical examination is really a complication, or better put, an extension of the Stainer v. Plaza reasoning in that, I believe, the court must consider fairness between the parties and a balancing of prejudice when a request for a late medical examination is made.  It is not simply a question of putting the parties on a level playing field at this stage, it is a question of really balancing the prejudice which will result to the defendants in not having a report and the prejudice that will result to the plaintiff in having a report prepared late which would no doubt, I accept, cause an adjournment of the trial.

(at para. 11)

[19] While I am satisfied that the question of whether an independent medical examination raises a question vital to the final issue including the quantum of damages so that it is appropriate that there be a re-hearing of the matters which were before the Learned Master, the submission made on behalf of Mr. Critchley was that this was a purely interlocutory matter and that the Court on a review would have to find that the Learned Master was clearly wrong.

[20] On the assumption that the appeal must be heard on that basis, I have come to the conclusion that the Learned Master was clearly wrong in reaching his decision.  First, I cannot be satisfied that the Learned Master considered whether or not the proposed independent medical examination was required to put the Defendant on equal footing with the Plaintiff.  Nowhere in his Reasons does the Learned Master make this finding or give full consideration to this question.

[21] The Learned Master also fell into error by requiring the Plaintiff to establish with near certainty that the Trial would be adjourned.  By using the phrases “would be adjourned”, “why an adjournment would be inevitable”, “it is not automatic that the trial will be adjourned”, and “I have no evidence to conclude that there would be an adjournment ….”, the Learned Master was in error.  The Learned Master pointed out in his Reasons that which is obvious – the question of whether an opinion produced after an independent medical examination will result in an application for an adjournment can only be answered after an expert opinion is tendered under Rule 40A of the Rules of Court.  Here, it may well be that there is no need for the Plaintiff to arrange for an expert opinion to counter what might appear in the expert opinion flowing from the independent medical examination requested.  Accordingly, it is never correct to require a party to show that an adjournment would be “inevitable”.

[22] The nature of the findings in an opinion after an independent medical examination, the timing of the receipt of it, and the proximity of the likely receipt of it in relation to the date set for the Trial are factors which must be taken into account but whether or not an adjournment will be inevitable is not a factor which need be shown.  The question of whether an adjournment may be required is merely one of the factors which should be considered.  However, it is not the sole factor to be considered on the question of whether the independent medical examination should be ordered.

[23] I am also satisfied that the Learned Master erred by taking into account an earlier examination date which Mr. Critchley was not able to attend and by concluding that, had this earlier examination taken place, there would have been no prejudice to the Plaintiff.  I am satisfied that the Learned Master should only have given consideration to the proposed date of the examination and not an earlier date.

[24] In the circumstances, I can conclude that the Learned Master was clearly wrong and that the Order made should be set aside.

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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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