Case Summary by Erik Magrakan
http://bc-injury-law.com/blog

Re: Rule 7-8
Case: Campbell v. McDougall

Defense Doctor Video Deposition Request Denied

In  the course of a lawsuit it is not uncommon for expert witnesses to occasionally be unavailable for trial.  When this happens their evidence is often recorded by way of pre trial deposition.  If the parties don’t consent to this practice the party wishing to rely on the expert can seek a court order permitting a deposition.  Useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing such an application.

In this week’s case (Campbell v. McDougall) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions.  In the course of her claim she attended a Defence Medical Exam with Dr. Maloon.   He produced a report which the Plaintiff intended to challenge by way of cross examination.  Dr. Maloon was scheduled to be out of the Country at the time of trial and the Defendants lawyer brought an application that his evidence be recorded by way of pre-trial deposition.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that if the physician was not available to testify in person at the very least he should testify live via video-conference.

Master Bouck agreed with the Plaintiff and dismissed the application.  In doing so the Court provided the following helpful reasons:

[47] The predecessor to Rule 7-8 was Rule 38 of the Rules of Court. The language in these Rules mirror each other except for the new consideration of the possibility and desirability of having a witness testify by videoconferencing: Seder v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2011 BCSC 823 at para. 4.

[48] The introduction of this factor reflects a recognition by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council that modern technology will allow a witness outside of the court’s jurisdiction to provide live and simultaneous evidence — in effect, to be in open court…

[55] In this case, Dr. Maloon is an important witness for the defence. From this observer’s perspective, there are several aspects of the report that invite careful and thorough cross-examination by plaintiff’s counsel.

[56] It is fairly easy to anticipate areas of cross-examination where objections might be raised by the defence. The court will then be asked to rule on the objections at trial in Dr. Maloon’s absence. The plaintiff will not have the opportunity to cross-examine Dr. Maloon on issues arising from evidence led at trial, or garnered through the cross-examination of the plaintiff’s own experts.

[57] The concerns raised by Mr. Justice Harris in Byer v. Mills are reasonably anticipated in this case. It is desirable that Dr. Maloon testify in open court; videoconferencing offers this opportunity.

[58] The defence has not provided any evidence to contradict the plaintiff’s evidence as to the availability of videoconferencing technology in southern Africa. How that videoconferencing will be set up is yet to be determined. Nonetheless, the criteria under Rule 7-8(1)(d) is the possibility of the use of videoconferencing.

[59] Another factor to consider here is that Dr. Maloon was aware of the trial date and the possibility of his sabbatical when he agreed to perform this independent medical examination. While the court would never discourage or be critical of the terms of the sabbatical taken by Dr. Maloon, the consequences of that sabbatical should not trump the objective of achieving a fair trial in this matter.

[60] Finally, it should be noted that the court’s order is simply to dismiss the application to have Dr. Maloon attend at a deposition on September 8, 2011. The order will not state that Dr. Maloon’s evidence must be provided by way of videoconferencing although that appears to be the parties’ intention as neither wishes to disrupt Dr. Maloon’s sabbatical by flying him to Victoria for a day or two of testimony: Rule 7-8(3)(e).