December 14, 2016
In the recent decision of Khudabux v. McClary, 2016 BCSC 1886, the court criticized ICBC’s reliance on the opinion of an Orthopaedic Surgeon in a Soft Tissue Case, preferring the evidence of a Physiatrist. Using somewhat colourful language, the court said:
 The expert medical evidence presented at this trial brought into focus a difficulty that not infrequently arises when a defendant pursues the strategy of tendering the opinion of an orthopaedic surgeon to rebut allegations of soft tissue injury. Of course, there may be situations in which such a specialist feels able to offer opinion evidence that sheds light on the nature and scope of such complaints. But it is also the case that a clash between experts pitting an orthopaedic surgeon against a physiatrist, specializing in rehabilitation medicine – or even, as in the present case, against a family physician – can possibly leave counsel in the position of the hoodlum in the film The Untouchables, at the point when he realizes too late that he has brought a knife to a gunfight.
 There is a tendency common to many orthopaedic surgeons who provide expert opinion reports in soft tissue injury cases before this court to express their opinions without qualification – specifically, without acknowledging the extent to which their opinions are shaped by or restricted to the narrow field of their own expertise. In the result, many such reports come before this court that, in substance, say “I have examined this patient, and nothing is wrong with them,” when what is really meant is, “I have examined this patient, and I am unable to diagnose any orthopaedic injury”. Expert witnesses who provide opinions in such stark terms without explicitly stating the limitations of their opinion may, if their opinions contrast with complaints of pain and suffering that are found to be genuine, and are at odds with contrary opinion evidence from another medical expert, risk creating confusion. They may also leave themselves vulnerable to a finding of bias if the unstated limitations of their opinions are not drawn out at trial.
The full text of the decision can be found here: http://www.canlii.org/en/bc/bcsc/doc/2016/2016bcsc1886/2016bcsc1886.html
The McQuarrie Hunter Personal Injury Blog is maintained by the ICBC and personal injury practice group at McQuarrie Hunter LLP.