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

Re: Rule 5-3
Case: Leer and Four L Industries v. Muskwa Valley Ventures Ltd.

Joint Expert Witness Appointed Despite “Vigorous” Defendant Opposition

Reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, appointing a joint expert witness against the wishes of a Defendant in an on-going legal dispute.  Although this recent case is not a personal injury claim I summarize the findings because it is the first case I’m aware of appointing a joint witness in a contested application under the ‘new’ BC Supreme Court Civil Rules.

In the recent case (Leer and Four L. Industries v. Muskwa Valley Ventures Ltd.) the Plaintiff and Defendants had a falling out in their commercial dealings.  The Plaintiff sued seeking an order that the Defendant “purchase his shares at fair market value“.  At a Case Planning Conference the Plaintiff sought an order that a joint business valuator be appointed to value the shares.  The personal Defendant “vigorously oppose(ed)” the idea of a joint expert.

Ultimately Master Scarth granted the order and in doing so provided the following useful comments of general interest in applications for joint experts:

[4] Rule 5-3(1)(k)(i) provides that at a case planning conference, a judge or master may order that expert evidence on any one or more issues be given by one jointly-instructed expert. Given the prohibition in Rule 5-3(2)(a) against hearing an application supported by affidavit evidence at a case planning conference, the court is required to rest any exercise of discretion on the pleadings and submissions to the extent that they do not require recourse to affidavit evidence: Przybysz v. Crowe, 2011 BCSC 731 at para. 59; Vernon v. British Columbia (Liquor Distribution Branch), 2010 BCSC 1688; and Jurezak v. Mauro, 2011 BCSC 512 - considering Rule 12-2(11)…

[14] Rule 11-3 was recently considered in Benedetti v. Breker, 2011 BCSC 464. Master Baker noted that while joint experts are not new to litigation in British Columbia, the new rules clearly have brought greater focus and emphasis to the appointment of joint experts and invite wider application of that process: paragraph 11…

[18] The personal defendants object to paying for expert evidence which is part of the plaintiffs’ case. Why should they pay for a report which the plaintiffs require? The answer is because it is a proportionate way to conduct this proceeding.

[19] Read together with Rule 1-3 which sets out the object of the rules, Rule 11-3, like joint expert rules in other jurisdictions, is intended to reduce litigation costs and promote the conduct of a proceeding in ways consistent with the amount involved. While in this case, the amount at issue is not yet resolved and will not be until an opinion has been obtained, the buyout of Royer in 2009 gives some indication that the amount is likely modest. In such circumstances, proportionality suggests that an effort should be made to avoid duplication of the costs of obtaining an expert report which is the likely outcome if a joint report is not ordered.

[20] It follows that the parties are required to share the cost of the expert, at least at the outset. The ultimate determination as to costs is for the trial judge.

[21] I will add that a report as to value may benefit all parties in another way. The value of Leer’s shares has been an issue and a topic of discussion between the parties since 2009, when the personal defendants offered him a buyout. A valuation will provide the parties with the information required to settle this longstanding dispute, and may promote that result.

[22] I conclude that it is appropriate to exercise my discretion in favour of the plaintiffs and to make the order set out in Rule 5-3 that expert evidence as to valuation of Leer’s shares be given by a jointly appointed expert.