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Trial Re-Opened to Prove Prior Inconsistent Statement

Reasons for judgement were recently published by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing the discretion to reopen a case prior to judgement to call new evidence.
In the recent case (Kostecki v. Li) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision and sued for damages.  In the course of the trial she was cross examined about statements attributed to her in a consultation letter from a treating neurologist which “can be seen as inconsistent with Ms. Grace’s evidence of the seriousness of the accident and of the persistence and seriousness of her ongoing symptoms.”
The Plaintiff did not adopt the statements contained in the letter.  After the close of the case the trial judge noted the limitation of such cross examination absent proof the statement was made.  The Defendant brought an application to re-open the case and call the doctor to prove the statement.  In allowing this request Mr. Justice Schultes provided the following reasons:
[18]         No judgment has been pronounced and only the plaintiff has made submissions. The cases demonstrate that the discretion is exercised much more readily prior to judgment.
[19]         The failure to call this witness originally was due to a simple mistake by counsel in failing to grasp the evidentiary value of Dr. Beckman’s report standing alone, if the plaintiff failed to adopt its relevant portions. The purpose of reopening would only be to remedy that error and to put the defendant in the position that he would have been in if it had not been made. It confers no additional benefit beyond this corrective purpose. It represents proof of statements with which the plaintiff has been confronted, and the only potential additional evidence will be any explanation by Dr. Beckman of his process of recording patient histories and any aspects of that process that might allow him to vouch for the accuracy of the statements he has recorded in his letter.
[20]         In this regard, as in this case, when it is the defendant who applies to reopen and the plaintiff has not called reply evidence, the additional defence evidence can simply be considered as a continuation of the defence case and is even less prejudicial than when a plaintiff seeks to reopen:  Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. v. Canadian National Railway Company, 2011 BCSC 1536, at para. 34.
[21]         In my view, prejudice to the plaintiff here is minimal or non‑existent. What she loses is the purely tactical benefit of a slip-up by opposing counsel. We obviously work in an adversarial system and hard knocks are inevitable, but my having to decide the critical issue of credibility with a piece of evidence that may be highly relevant to that assessment sitting on the sidelines only because of counsel error is indeed the stuff of which miscarriages of justice are made.
[22]         Accordingly, the application is allowed with respect to the evidence of Dr. Beckman only. His evidence in the reopening will be restricted to proof of those portions of his letter that were put to Ms. Grace. That obviously includes evidence going to the accuracy of what he has recorded, including his note‑taking and report‑writing practices.

bc injury law, Kostecki v. Li, Mr. Justice Schultes, re-opening a trial