Physician's Evidence Rejeced for Lack of "An Open Mind" Regarding Collision Related Injury
Adding to this site’s archived judicial comments about expert witness evidence that is judicially rejected, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for an L4/5 disc injury caused by a motor vehicle collision.
In this week’s case (Sekihara v. Gill) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision. Although liability was denied the Defendant was found 100% responsible for the crash. In the course of the trial the Defendant relied on an orthopedic surgeon who blamed some of the Plaintiff’s persisting symptoms not on the collision but instead on “deconditioning, her recent pregnancy and weight gain” and pre-existing conditions.
The Court rejected this evidence finding the plaintiff, who was a former professional athlete, suffered an L4/5 disc injury in the crash which was responsible for her persisting symptoms and assessed non-pecuniary damages at $130,000. In rejecting the defence medical evidence the Court provided the following criticism:
 On behalf of the plaintiff, it is submitted that Dr. Grypma’s opinion should be given no weight for the following reasons:
1. He took what can only be described as a cursory history from Ms. Sekihara;
2. he made a number of editorial comments in the section titled “medical records review” which were not identified as being his own comments;
3. in that same section he left out salient facts which tended to support Ms. Sekihara’s complaints;
4. also in that section, if he was unable to read handwriting, he simply left those sections out of his summary without stating that he had done so; and
5. he was evasive at times in his oral testimony.
 I agree with the plaintiff’s submissions regarding Dr. Grypma. In his evidence, Dr. Grypma does not appear to have demonstrated an open mind in his examination of and conclusions regarding Ms. Sekihara or to have taken into account the complete medical history.
 Most importantly, Dr. Grypma’s opinion that the enduring complaints of back pain are related to any of the four unrelated conditions is inconsistent with the evidence of Ms. Sekihara and of the objective evidence of the tear of the annulus fibrosis.
 Ms. Sekihara, as a snowboarder and professional athlete, many times per day for years, would load her spine with at least 3 times her body weight every time she made a jump with no back pain. I do not accept Dr. Grypma’s evidence that it is coincidental that she suffered back pain immediately following the motor vehicle accident due to degeneration or a previously existing pars defect.
 It was Ms. Sekihara’s inability to pursue her regular activities due to her back pain which caused the deconditioning, not vice versa. Ms. Sekihara had ongoing low back pain long before she became pregnant. The pars defect was congenital and the degenerative changes longstanding.
 The characterisation of the low back injury is the major issue. I prefer the evidence of Dr. Hershler who diagnosed it as a disc injury at L4/5. His conclusions are based on his interpretation of the imaging, his examinations, and on Ms. Sekihara’s reporting of her symptoms, both pre and post-accident.