Treating Surgeon Allowed to Give Expert Evidence Despite Non-Compliance With Rules of Court


Although the BC Supreme Court Rules have strict requirements with respect to the admission of expert opinion evidence Rule 11-7(6) gives the Court a wide discretion to dispense with these if “the interests of justice require it“.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this discretion.
In this week’s case (Milliken v. Rowe) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  At trial the Plaintiff presented expert opinion evidence from a privately retained physiatrist.  The Plaintiff’s treating orthopaedic surgeon was also called to the stand, however, he was not called as an expert witness but rather as a witness of fact.  Despite this limitation the Court exercised its discretion under Rule 11-7(6) and permitted the treating surgeon to give opinion evidence addressing diagnosis and prognosis.  In doing so Mr. Justice Davies provided the following reasons:

[55] Dr. Zarkadas was not called as an expert witness at trial but he is obviously a well-qualified orthopaedic surgeon. He is also Ms. Milliken’s treating physician concerning her right shoulder difficulties.

[56] As such he was able to assist me in assessing Ms. Milliken’s future prospects if the surgery is undertaken or if it is not. To that extent, his more immediate involvement with and treatment of Ms. Milliken allows insight that was not previously available to Dr. Andrew Travlos (adduced as opinion evidence by the plaintiff) arising from his examinations and enquiries six months earlier.

[57] In those circumstances, notwithstanding the failure of the plaintiff to seek to have Dr. Zarkadas qualified to provide opinion evidence, I determined to receive his evidence concerning his diagnosis and prognosis related to Ms. Milliken’s right shoulder injuries.

[58] I did so over the objection of the defendant because of my belief that the determination of damages in this case should be based upon the best evidence available.

[59] In my opinion, the ability to achieve a just result should be served, rather than thwarted, by the application of procedural rules.

[60] The Court’s power to exercise discretion to allow relief from the harsh consequences of non-compliance with procedural rules recognizes that principle.

[61] I also, however, recognized that the defendant could be prejudiced by the admission and consideration of Dr. Zarkadas’ prognostic evidence if not given an opportunity to answer it.

[62] I accordingly provided the defendant an opportunity to consider whether to call rebuttal evidence before rendering judgment.

[63] I was subsequently informed that the defendant did not intend to do so.

bc injury law, Milliken v. Rowe, Mr. Justice Davies, Rule 11, Rule 11-7, Rule 11-7(6)

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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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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