Tag: rule 40A

Who's the Expert? The Rule Against "Corporate Reports"


When a party introduces an expert report at trial in the BC Supreme Court one of the requirements is that the report sets out “the name of the person primarily responsible for the content of the statement“.  If a party fails to do so they risk having the report excluded from evidence.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In this week’s case (Jones v. Ma) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident.  She sued for damages.  Fault was at issue and in support of their case the Defendants hired an engineering firm who produced an accident reconstruction report.  The report was signed by a Forensic Engineer.
The Plaintiff objected to the admission of the report arguing that it was not the report of the expert who signed it, rather it was “a corporate report which embodies the observations and opinions of several individuals, without clearly distinguishing who made the various observations on which the opinions are based and who engaged in the process of forming the opinions that are expressed in the report.”
The Engineer was cross examined and it become evident that “the majority of the work on the report was not done by (the engineer that signed it), but rather by other persons in the firm he works for”.  The Court went on to exclude the report from evidence.  Mr. Justice Ehrcke provided the following useful summary and application of the law:

[11]         This is not simply a matter of form. The purpose of the rule is to ensure fairness to both parties by providing the party on whom the report is served with adequate notice to enable them to effectively cross-examine the expert and to properly instruct their own expert if they choose to retain one.

[12]         The relevant case law was reviewed by Burnyeat J. in Dhaliwal v. Bassi, 2007 BCSC 548, 73 B.C.L.R. (4th) 170. In that case, the Court was presented with an expert report of a Dr. Passey who, in forming his opinions, relied on psychological questionnaires administered by a Dr. Ross. Mr. Justice Burnyeat wrote…:

[4]        The purposes of Rule 40A are clear:  (a) neither side should be taken by surprise by expert evidence (Sterritt v. McLeod (2000), 74 B.C.L.R. (3d) 371 (B.C.C.A.) at para. 33) and neither side should be ambushed or surprised at trial; (b) to ensure fairness to the parties and to promote the orderly progression of the trial (C.A. v. Critchley(1996), 4 C.P.C. (4th) 269 (B.C.S.C.) at para. 15). The burden on Mr. Bassi to show that I should exercise my discretion to allow the report to be introduced has been described as a:  “… relatively heavy burden ….”:  McKay v. Passmore, [2005] B.C.J. (Q.L.) No. 1232 (B.C.S.C.), at para. 26. The question which arises is whether there is “… substantial and irremediable prejudice ….” so as to justify the exclusion of the report on the basis that the statement does not comply with Rule 40A(5)(c) of the Rules of Court:  C.A. v. Critchley,supra, at para. 12…

In my view, a document is not a written statement setting out the opinion of an expert unless it appears clearly from the face of that document that the opinions in it are those of the individual expert who prepared and signed the statement. Our rules make no provision for the entry in evidence of joint or corporate opinions. The opinion must be that of an individual expert and it must fall, of course, within the scope of her own expertise. The opinion cannot simply be a reporting of the opinions of others. The statement, to be admissible, must show clearly that this is the case.

I find some support for this view in the decision of my brother Judge Macdonald in Emil Anderson Construction Co. Ltd. … As that case points out, there is a real possibility of procedural prejudice to cross-examining counsel if he or she cannot tell from the report which of the opinions are truly those held by the witness giving evidence and which are simply opinions of other team members reported to her and asserted by her in the written report. (at paras. 11-12)

[10]      Unless the authors of all parts of an opinion are known, unless the qualifications of each person contributing to the opinion are known, and unless the facts upon which each of the persons contributing to an opinion are set out, the cross-examination of an expert witness regarding the opinion that had been provided would be impossible.

[13]         In my view, the report tendered by the defendant in the present case does not comply with the requirements of Rule 40A(5), and it would cause irreparable prejudice to the plaintiff if the report were admitted.

[14]         The report is excluded from evidence.

I should point out that this case was decided relying on the current BC Supreme Court Rule 40A(5)(c).  As readers of this blog know the BC Supreme Court Rules are being overhauled on July 1, 2010 and some of the biggest changes relate to the rule concerning expert opinion evidence.

Rule 40A(5)(c) reads that “The statement shall set out or be accompanied by a supplementary statement setting out…the name of the person primarily responsible for the content of the statement.”

The new rule dealing with the content of expert reports is Rule 11-6 which states

An expert’s report that is to be tendered as evidence at the trial must be signed by the expert, must include the certification required under Rule 11-2 (2) and must set out the following:

(a) the expert’s name, address and area of expertise;…”
While the language has changed somewhat the underlying purpose of the requirement appears the same and that is to not prejudice the opposing party’s ability to cross examine the opinion.  It seems this case will retain its value as a precedent under the New BC Supreme Court Rules but time will tell.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Late Defence Motions For Medical Exams


Further to my recent post on this topic, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating that ICBC may face an uphill battle when they apply for a Defence medical exam when the trial of the action is imminent.
In this week’s case (Agesen v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured in 2 separate motor vehicle accidents.  The Plaintiff sued and both cases where scheduled to be heard at the same time.  In support of his case the Plaintiff served medico-legal reports from a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, his GP and a vocational assessment.  The Plaintiff attended a defence medical exam with a neurosurgeon and a report was served by the Defendants.
The Defendants then requested that the Plaintiff be assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon.  The Plaintiff would not consent and a court motion was brought.  The Master who presided granted the motion and ordered the Plaintiff to be assessed by the orthopaedic surgeon.  This appointment was to take place less than one month before trial.  The Plaintiff appealed and succeeded.  In overturning the Master’s decision Madam Justice Morrison reasoned that the late application would be prejudicial to the Plaintiff.  Specifically, on the topic of timing of defence applications for medical exams the Court stated as follows:

[38]        In Benner v. Vancouver (City), Mr. Justice N. Smith refused an application for a medical examination that came three weeks before trial.  The application was three weeks before trial and the examination itself would have been less than two weeks before trial.  In paragraph 19 of his judgment, Smith J. confirmed that the purpose of Rule 30 was “to place the parties on an equal footing in their ability to obtain medical evidence in a case where injuries are alleged.”  He also referred to Rule 40A which requires service of expert opinions 60 days before trial, where a report delivered less than 60 days before trial is inadmissible unless the court were to order otherwise.  In that case, the court found that the plaintiff’s physical condition was clearly put in issue by the pleadings.  The defendants had full advantage and protection of routine production of medical records.  I find that decision is applicable to this appeal.

[39]        In dismissing the application for a medical examination at that late stage, at paragraph 35, Smith J. stated, “… the Rules of Court are intended to level the playing field as between the plaintiff and the defendant, a defendant who takes no timely steps to exercise its rights under the rules does so at its peril.”..

[45] In my view, it would be prejudicial to the plaintiff at this date to order an IME four weeks before a ten day jury trial.  That the plaintiff has serious injuries is not a surprise to the defence.  That his claim is substantial should certainly not have been a surprise.  Any advantage to the defence at this point in time would be outweighed by prejudice to the plaintiff, not only because of his problems in dealing with examinations, depositions and preparation for trial, but also because of the very real possibility that a late medical opinion could well result in plaintiff’s counsel having to seek an adjournment of this trial, in order to meet unexpected or opinion evidence that may be prejudicial to the plaintiff.  In this case, the balancing of prejudice must be in favour of the plaintiff, given the chronology of events.

As readers of this blog know the BC Supreme Court Civil Rules are being overhauled in July 2010.  Some of the biggest changes in the new Rules relate to expert evidence and you can click here to read my article discussing these changes.  The Court will continue to have the power to order multiple medical exams in particular circumstances but one thing that will change is that the concept of ‘proportionality’ will be introduced into the analysis.  I will continue to post about these decisions as the new Rules is developed in its application by the BC Supreme Court.

Late Applications for Defence Medical Exams in ICBC Injury Claims


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court considering the issue of timing of applications for compelled medical exams in the context of an ICBC Injury Claim.
Under the current BC Supreme Court Rules expert evidence that is not ‘responsive‘ is required to be served on opposing parties 60 days before it is tendered into evidence.  This requirement is set out in Rule 40A.  (As of July 1, 2010 a new set of BC Supreme Court Rules will come into force and Rule 11 will govern the admissibility of reports which makes some changes to timelines for exchange of expert evidence).
When a Defendant comes to court asking for a compelled exam BC Courts have considered the issue of timing and if the application is inside the timelines for service of a report the Defendant may have an uphill battle.  Reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Moore v. Hind) the Plaintiff was injured in 2 motor vehicle collisions.  Both trials were set to be heard together.  ICBC brought an application to compel the Plaintiff to be assessed by Dr. Ray Baker, a doctor who specializes in so-called ‘addiction medicine‘.  This application was brought late in the litigation process.  ICBC argued that the medical evidence served by the Plaintiff’s lawyer gave a “clear and emphatic indication that the plaintiff may suffer a drug addiction problem” and as a result the need for the late application.
The Plaintiff disagreed arguing that ICBC could have pursued this line of inquiry earlier in the process.  Master Keighley agreed with the Plaintiff and dismissed the motion.  In doing so the Court placed weight on the late timing of this application and this proved fatal to ICBC’s argument.  Specifically the Court stated as follows:

[10] This application raises certain practical difficulties.  One is the question of whether a further examination and the likely preparation of a report at this time will jeopardize the existing trial date.  There is certainly very little time left now between the date of this application and the trial.  It is unlikely that the plaintiff would have sufficient opportunity to in any way rebut the findings in a report prepared by Dr. Baker.  It seems to me there is a substantial likelihood that should the order sought be granted, an application may be made to adjourn the trial.

[11] It also seems to me that this application is unnecessarily brought at a late date.  There was, to my mind, a significant indication of overuse or misuse of prescription drugs as early as a year ago, and arrangements might then have been made in a more orderly fashion to have an examination by Dr. Baker or another, with respect to these issues.

[12] Having read portions of Dr. Smith’s report, it seems to me, however, that the third parties may well be afforded an opportunity to yet achieve a level playing field by having their own expert, Dr. Smith, consider the reports, the clinical records and other information relating to the claim with regard to assessing the issue of the plaintiff’s prescription drug use and its impact potentially upon her claim.

[13] In this regard it seems to me that the prejudice to be suffered by the third party in not having an opportunity to have a further assessment is minimized, whereas the potential prejudice to the plaintiff is substantial.  She is depicted in the medical reports as being a highly tense, anxious individual, and it would seem, and indeed she suggests that she will be extremely prejudiced if this claim is not resolved at the earliest possible date.  There is also an issue of inconvenience which is of a relatively minor nature, in that she has another medical examination scheduled for the morning of the proposed examination and would be obliged to cancel that if ordered by the court to attend for an appointment with Dr. Baker.  She also then had made plans to visit with her mother in the Christmas holidays, beginning on the night of December 22nd.  Those issues of inconvenience are of a relatively minor nature and would not be conclusive in themselves.

[14] I am satisfied that the application should be dismissed.  It is simply brought at too late a date and it is likely that it will result in an adjournment of this trial, which the material before me indicates, if adjourned, would likely not be rescheduled until perhaps June of 2011.

Personal Injury Claims and Radiologists Opinion Evidence


(Please note the topic discussed in this post should be reviewed keeping a subsequent October 2010 BC  Court of Appeal in mind)
X-rays, CT Scans, Bone Scan and MRI’s are routinely used in the diagnosis of traumatic injury and accordingly the findings of these diagnostic tests are frequently used at trial by personal injury lawyers.
Strictly speaking, however, the findings of radiologists interpreting the raw data generated by these tests are opinions and opinion evidence needs to comply with the Rules of Court to be admissible.  If an MRI shows a traumatic injury it is not good enough to show up at trial with only the radiologists consultation report in hand.  If you want the Court to rely on the radiologists findings of injury the reports need to be served in compliance with Rule  40A (Rule 40A is being overhauled in July 2010 and you can click here to read my previous article discussing this) Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court showing this legal principle in action.
In today’s case (Wittich v. Bob) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 BC Car Crash near Merritt, BC.  She sued for her injuries seeking up to some $800,000 in damages.  She claimed various accident related injuries including a herniated disc at C5-6.  In support of this claim two CT Scan Reports were entered into evidence, the first taken before the crash and the second after the crash.  The later scan was “interpreted by the radiologist as showing….a c56 level …herniated disc“.
The radiologist’s consultation report did not comply with Rule 40A.  Accordingly the report was only admitted for the fact that the diagnosis was made but not for the truth of the opinion.  Ultimately the court did not make a finding that the herniated disc was caused by the car crash.    Madam Justice Bruce summarized and applied the law to the facts of this case as follows:

[143] Of particular concern is the plaintiff’s failure to call any medical opinion evidence to support a finding that she suffered a herniated disc at C5-6 during the accident. As part of Dr. Grist’s clinical records, Mrs. Wittich entered two CT scan reports; one taken prior to the collision and one taken shortly thereafter. While the later scan was interpreted by the radiologist as showing a change from disc degeneration at the C5-6 level to a herniated disc that was impinging on the nerves of the spinal canal, this evidence cannot be regarded as expert medical opinion. These reports do not comply with Rule 40 and contain no indication of the radiologist’s qualifications and expertise to make these findings. Thus they are only admissible for the fact that this diagnosis was made and not for the truth of their contents.

[144] Moreover, even if I were to accept these reports as expert opinion evidence, there is the cogent evidence of Dr. Maloon, an orthopaedic surgeon, which supports a contrary finding as to the existence of a disc herniation. Dr. Maloon provided a detailed explanation for his conclusion that Mrs. Wittich did not suffer from a herniated disc, which included factors related to his physical examination of Mrs. Wittich and the symptoms she presented with at the time of his examination and interview. Dr. Maloon was qualified as an expert in the field of orthopaedic surgery and qualified to give opinion evidence as to the existence, cause and prognosis of spinal cord injuries. His evidence was thoroughly tested in cross examination and held up to scrutiny. In my view, it would be in the most unusual circumstances that the court would prefer the radiologist’s report to the evidence to that of Dr. Maloon and I find there are no such circumstances in this case. There is no evidence of the radiologist’s qualifications or expertise and no explanation of the reasons underlying his diagnosis.

[145] As a consequence, I find there is really no medical evidence before the court that Mrs. Wittich suffered any injuries to her neck apart from soft tissue complaints. In this regard, it was Dr. Maloon’s evidence that she likely experienced such injuries in the accident, but he was unable to specify which tissues (muscles, ligaments, or facet joints) were damaged based on Mrs. Wittich’s subjective reporting of vague pain symptoms.

The Plaintiff’s claim was largely dismissed and damages of just over $30,000 were awarded.  This case serves as a reminder that if the findings of a radiologist make up an important part of your personal injury case the evidence has to be served in compliance with the rules governing expert opinion evidence.

BC Injury Claims and "Responsive" Expert Opinion Evidence

Currently the law relating to the disclosure of expert opinion evidence is governed by Rule 40A of the BC Supreme Court Rules.   (click here to read my previous posts about the upcoming changes to the Rules of Expert Opinion Evidence).
If a party wishes to introduce expert opinion evidence at trial Rule 40A requires that “a copy of the statement is furnished to every party of record at least 60 days before the statement is tendered in evidence.”
One noteworthy exception to this is the rule of “responsive” opinion  evidence.  If the defence in a personal injury trial obtains a report that does not offer a fresh opinion but rather is an opinion that is ‘truly responsive to evidence introduced by the opposing party”  the 60 day notice period does not apply.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with this area of law.  In today’s case (MacEachern v. Rennie) “the plaintiff suffered traumatic brain injury when her head struck the side of a large tractor-trailer as she was walking or riding a bicycle along the side of King George Highway” in 2005.  One of the Defendants in the Plainitiff’s injury claim sought to introduce the report of a toxicologist which concluded that “the plaintiff was cognitively impaired from the ingestion of drugs at the time of the accident, and that she had permanent brain damage from drug abuse prior to the accident.”
This report was served outside of the requirements of Rule 40A.  The defendant tried to rely on the ‘responsive‘ evidence exception to Rule 40-A and have the report introduced into evidence despite its late disclosure (the report in fact was exchanged after the Plaintiff concluded her portion of the trial).
In refusing to enter the report into evidence Mr. Justice Ehrcke gave the following consice and handy definition of the law of rebuttal opinion evidence in the BC Supreme Court:
The right to introduce opinion evidence without notice is limited to rebuttal evidence that is truly responsive to evidence introduced by the opposing party, and cannot be used as a masquerade for introducing a fresh opinion: Sterritt v. McLeod (2000), 74 B.C.L.R. (3d) 371 (C.A.); Stainer v. Plaza (2001), 87 B.C.L.R. (3d) 182 (C.A.). Where a defendant elicits opinions in cross-examination of a plaintiff’s witness that were not in that witness’s report, the defendant cannot use his own elicitation to justify calling a defence expert to give an opinion on the topic without notice.

The New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules and Admissibility of Expert Reports

One of the biggest changes in the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules (click here and here to read my previous posts on these rules) are those with respect to the requirements for admissibility of expert reports.  These changes are significant for ICBC and other Personal Injury Lawyers because these types of lawsuits are heavily dependent on expert opinion evidence.  From medical doctors to engineers to vocational specialists, personal injury trials are perhaps more reliant on expert evidence than any other type of trial.
One thing we should all keep in mind is that as of July 1, 2010 ongoing lawsuits will be deemed to be started under the new rules.  This means that any report ordered now that will be used in trial after July 1, 2010 will have to comply with the new rules.  For this reason it is vital that lawyers and expert witnesses alike become immediately familiar with the new Civil Rules.
Under the current Supreme Court Rules expert evidence requirements are governed by Rule 40-A.  These are rather modest.  Rule 40A(2) requires that expert reports be exchanged “to every party of record at least 60 days before the statement is tendered in evidence” and Rule 40A(5) requires that the reports set out “the qualifications of the expert, the facts and assumptions on which the opinion is based, and the name of the person primarily responsible for the content of the statement”
Under the new BC Civil Rules requirements of expert reports are set out in Rule 11-6.  Below I reproduce Rule 11-6 in its entirety.  On review it is clear that the new rule has significant changes compared to the current Rule 40A.
One of the most obvious changes is the time when expert evidence needs to be exchanged.  Currently reports need to be exchanged 60 days before they are put into evidence.  The new rule requires reports to be exchanged at least 84 days ‘before the scheduled trial date‘ and goes on to create a second category of reports called “responding reports” which need to be served “at least 42 days before the scheduled trial date
The other significant change relates to requirements for admissibility.    Rule 11-6(1) requires experts to be much more clear and detailed about how they arrived at their opinions as compared to the current Rule 40A.  Although, to be fair, these changes are really little more than a codification of the common law that has developed around Rule 40-A.
The new rule also improves on the disclosure obligations to opposing counsel.  Under the current rule opposing counsel is not entitled to review the experts working files and materials until the expert takes the stand.  This can lead to unnecessary delay and surprise at trial.  Under the new Rule 11-6(8) opposing parties are entitled to fulsome pre-trial disclosure of the experts materials which will let lawyers better prepare for cross examination.
Other parts of Rule 11 contain interesting provisions about court appointed experts, joint experts and the role of the expert in the lawsuit.  I hope to write about these shortly.  Overall these improvements will likely be for the better, however, lawyers and doctors can be stubborn and it may take some adjustment for all of us to get used to these changes.
RULE 11-6 – EXPERT REPORTS
Requirements for report
(1) An expert’s report that is to be tendered as evidence at the trial must be signed by the expert, must include the certification required under Rule 11-2 (2) and must set out the following:
(a) the expert’s name, address and area of expertise;
(b) the expert’s qualifications and employment and educational experience in his or her area of expertise;
(c) the instructions provided to the expert in relation to the proceeding;
(d) the nature of the opinion being sought and each issue in the proceeding to which the opinion relates;
(e) the expert’s opinion respecting each issue and, if there is a range of opinions given, a summary of the range and the reasons for the expert’s own opinion within that range;
(f) the expert’s reasons for his or her opinion, including
(i) a description of the factual assumptions on which the opinion is based,
(ii) a description of any research conducted by the expert that led him or her to form the opinion, and
(iii) a list of every document, if any, relied on by the expert in forming the opinion.
Proof of qualifications
(2) The assertion of qualifications of an expert is evidence of them.
Service of report
(3) Unless the court otherwise orders, at least 84 days before the scheduled trial date, an expert’s report, other than the report of an expert appointed by the court under Rule 11-5, must be served on every party of record, along with written notice that the report is being served under this rule,
(a) by the party who intends, with leave of the court under Rule 11-3 (9) or otherwise, to tender the expert’s report at trial, or
(b) if 2 or more parties jointly appointed the expert, by each party who intends to tender the expert’s report at trial.
Service of responding report
(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.
Supplementary report of joint or court-appointed expert
(5) If, after an expert’s report is served under subrule (3) (b), the expert’s opinion changes in a material way,
(a) the expert must, as soon as practicable, prepare a supplementary report and ensure that that supplementary report is provided to the party who served the report under subrule (3), and
(b) the party to whom the supplementary report is provided under paragraph (a) of this subrule must promptly serve that supplementary report on every other party of record.
Supplementary report of own expert
(6) If, after an expert’s report is served under subrule (3) (a) or (4), the expert’s opinion changes in a material way and the party who served the report intends to tender that expert’s report at trial despite the change,
(a) the expert must, as soon as practicable, prepare a supplementary report and ensure that that supplementary report is provided to the party, and
(b) the party must promptly serve that supplementary report on every other party of record.
Requirements for supplementary report
(7) A supplementary report under Rule 11-5 (11) or under subrule (5) (a) or (6) (a) of this
rule must
(a) be identified as a supplementary report,
(b) be signed by the expert,
(c) include the certification required under Rule 11-2 (2), and
(d) set out the change in the expert’s opinion and the reason for it.
Production of documents
(8) Unless the court otherwise orders, if a report of a party’s own expert appointed under Rule 11-3 (9) or 11-4 is served under this rule, the party who served the report must,
(a) promptly after being asked to do so by a party of record, serve on the requesting party whichever one or more of the following has been requested:
(i) any written statement or statements of facts on which the expert’s opinion is based;
(ii) a record of any independent observations made by the expert in relation to the report;
(iii) any data compiled by the expert in relation to the report;
(iv) the results of any test conducted by or for the expert, or of any inspection conducted by the expert, if the expert has relied on that test or inspection in forming his or her opinion, and
(b) if asked to do so by a party of record, make available to the requesting party for review and copying the contents of the expert’s file relating to the preparation of the opinion set out in the expert’s report,
(i) if the request is made within 14 days before the scheduled trial date, promptly after receipt of that request, or
(ii) in any other case, at least 14 days before the scheduled trial date.
Notice of trial date to expert
(9) The person who is required to serve the report or supplementary report of an expert under this rule must, promptly after the appointment of the expert or promptly after a trial date has been obtained, whichever is later, inform the expert of the scheduled trial date and that the expert may be required to attend at trial for cross-examination.
Notice of objection to expert opinion evidence
(10) A party who receives an expert report or supplementary report under this Part must, on the earlier of the date of the trial management conference and the date that is 21 days before the scheduled trial date, serve on every party of record a notice of any objection to the admissibility of the expert’s evidence that the party receiving the report or supplementary report intends to raise at trial.
When objection not permitted
(11) Unless the court otherwise orders, if reasonable notice of an objection could have been given under subrule (10), the objection must not be permitted at trial if that notice was not given.

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.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Independent Medical Exams

One of the most frequently litigated issues in ICBC claims is the nature and number of ‘indpendent’ medical examiners (“IME”) that Defendants are entitled to have Plaintiffs examined by.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court ordering a Plaintiff to be examined by a psychiatrist of the Defendant’s choosing.  In this case the Defendant’s need for a psychiatric IME of the Plaintiff was not seriously challenged, what was challenged was the timing.
Rule 40-A of the Supreme Court Rules deals with the admissibility of expert opinion evidence in Supreme Court trials.   Rule 40A(5) requires such expert evidence to be exchanged with the other party 60 days before it is tendered in evidence.
In today’s case the requested examination would take place less than 60 days from trial.  The Plaintiff argued that if the medical exam went ahead he would be prejudiced because the Plaintiff would have insufficient time to hire his own expert to respond to the opinion that was being sought.  This, the Plaintiff argued, would likely lead to an adjournment which would be prejudicial to the Plaintiff.
Master Tokarek of the BC Supreme Court ordered that the medical exam proceed despite the Plaintiff’s objection.  In doing so he stated that “the timing of the application, without more, is largely irrelevant”.  The key reasons are set out in paragraphs 23-27 which I set out below:

[23]            The comment about the balancing of prejudice is of some significance in the context of submissions made in the case at bar with respect to when defence counsel could or would be able to seek an IME.  Plaintiff’s counsel submitted that whenever the plaintiff would be unable to obtain expert evidence to rebut or deal with any defence IME report, an order should not be made.  Counsel indicated that his dilemma would be the same even if this application was brought in December because he would need approximately one year to get an appointment with his own expert.  The logic of that seems to be that unless defence counsel applied for the psychiatric IME a year or more in advance of the trial date, the application should be denied because plaintiff’s counsel would be in exactly the same position of not being able to get his expert to deal with it and prejudiced because of an adjournment.  I utterly reject that logic

[24]            I believe the more appropriate approach is to balance the prejudice of a potential adjournment against the prejudice to the defendant in not obtaining relevant evidence.  Here the requested IME is not with respect to an inconsequential or insignificant issue.  The defendant seeks to reasonably establish that the plaintiff’s complaints are wholly or largely unconnected to the MVA.

[25]            The balance of the authorities are similarly either distinguishable or unhelpful.  Master Barber, in the Bubra decision said:

. . . the defendant has had full opportunity to have this matter brought forward at an earlier date so that these matters could be dealt with in a reasonable way.  For their own reasons, they have not done so. 

I do not find that to be the situation here.

[26]            The last authority, the Barron case, is another decision of Master Patterson.  At paragraph 21 he said:

. . . it seems to me that it is the obligation of the defence to not sit and wait until the last minute and then scramble to bring an application like this on.

With all due respect, the timing of the application without more, is largely irrelevant.  All of the authorities relied on by the plaintiff came to the conclusion, in some fashion unknown to me, certainly not discernable from the reasons, that the timing would lead to an adjournment and that an adjournment would prejudice the plaintiff.  Apart from the Mackichan decision, there is nothing to suggest that any consideration was given to balancing the prejudice to the plaintiff against that of the defendant.

[27]            In this case, I have no evidence to conclude that there would be an adjournment or that if that was so, it would amount to a prejudice that outweighs the prejudice to the defendant in not being able to obtain material evidence going to the heart of the plaintiff’s claim.  Consequently I grant the application and order that an IME take place as requested.

$35,000 Pain and Suffering for Moderately Severe Whiplash

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding close to $45,000 in total damages as a result of a 2006 Surrey, BC car accident.
This case involved a rear-end crash and liability was admitted.  The trial focused solely on damages.
The Court made the following findings of fact:

[50]            I am satisfied that (the Plaintiff) suffered a moderately severe whiplash injury as a result of the accident in January 2006 that involved her upper, mid and lower back, neck, and shoulders. In addition, I am satisfied (the Plaintiff) suffered an injury to the web spaces between her thumbs and forefingers on both hands when they struck the steering wheel upon impact. As a consequence of these injuries, I accept that (the Plaintiff) suffered muscle stress headaches in the back of her neck that were distinct from her migraine headaches.  Further, I accept that she had difficulty sleeping because of the pain from her injuries and, at least initially, because of the emotional distress caused by the serious nature of the accident.

[51]            There is also cogent evidence that as a result of these injuries (the Plaintiff) was incapable to performing her crossing guard job and her noon hour supervision work from January 9 to March 10, 2006. Further, it is apparent that the pain (the Plaintiff) suffered as a result of these injuries was significant enough to warrant frequent and regular appointments with Dr. Rondeau up until October 2006 and twice weekly physiotherapy treatments from February 2006 to December 2006.

[52]            After December 2006, however, there is no evidence that (the Plaintiff) sought medical treatment for her injuries. While (the Plaintiff) continued to do the exercises and stretches she was taught by her physiotherapist once or twice per week, she did not return to her doctor or seek other types of therapy until July 2008 when she began a course of massage therapy as recommended by Dr. Hershler. Moreover, (the Plaintiff) went to work and carried out her regular duties during this period with only limited discomfort as corroborated by the evidence of Ms. Sawicki and Ms. Hildebrandt. With her return to regular work duties, (the Plaintiff) was also capable of engaging in her only physical recreational activity: going for walks. As walking was a regular part of her job each day, it is likely that she was capable of returning to her pre-accident recreational walking soon after she returned to work.

Damages were assessed as follows:

1.         Non-pecuniary damages $35,000.

2.         Past loss of wages $1,474.15.

3.         Future loss of earning capacity $3,158.

4.         Special damages $665.03.

5.         Cost of future care $1,353.

6.         Loss of housekeeping services $4,704.

One procedurally interesting part of this decision was the issue of the admissibility of a treating doctor’s CL-19 report.   When people apply to ICBC for no fault benefits they have the right to obtain a report in the prescribed form from treating physicians.  The prescribed form is known as a CL-19 which is a short form fill in the blanks type of a document in which treating doctors are asked to answer certain questions relating injuries and disability.  In this case the Plaintiff  wished for the doctor’s opinion contained in the CL-19 to be admitted into evidence.  The defence opposed arguing that the report does not comply with Rule 40A (the supreme court rule dealing with the admissibility of expert opinion evidence)  The court ruled the report inadmissible finding as follows:

[6]                Clearly both parties’ positions have merit. There was nothing further  (the Plaintiff’s) counsel could have done to secure a report from Dr. Rondeau that complied with the Rules of Court. On the other hand, Mr. Sharma’s counsel had no notice of the nature of Dr. Rondeau’s opinion and an adjournment of the trial at this late stage would not have been appropriate.

[7]                I heard Dr. Rondeau’s evidence in a voir dire subject to a ruling on its admissibility. In my view, apart from his observations of (the Plaintiff’s) symptoms and his chronology of events, his testimony had very little probative value. First, Dr. Rondeau did not diagnose (the Plaintiff) as having myofacial pain syndrome. This was simply a question in his mind when he completed the CL-19 form about six weeks after the accident which was far too soon to make such a diagnosis. Second, although he observed some signs that she suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, there was also no definite diagnosis of PTSD at the time the CL-19 was completed. It is also my view that the diagnosis of such psychological conditions may well be outside the expertise of a family physician. Accordingly, the weight that could be applied to the opinion evidence of Dr. Rondeau is very limited.

[8]                In these circumstances, it is appropriate to exercise my discretion in favour of the defendant and exclude Dr. Rondeau’s opinion evidence. The CL-19 does not meet the minimum requirements for a medical/legal opinion and it would prejudice Mr. Sharma if I were to admit the evidence despite its deficiencies. On the other hand, even if I were to admit Dr. Rondeau’s opinion evidence, it adds little to the plaintiff’s case.

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.

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