03 Jul Competing Medical Experts Regarding Low Back Pain

In most cases, the Plaintiff and Defense experts have competing views of the case.  How do the courts resolve this type of evidentiary issue?

In Wagner v. Newbery, 2015 BCSC 894, there was an issue as to whether the accident caused the Plaintiff’s low back pain.  The Defendant hired Dr. Grypma and the Plaintiff hired Dr. Koo.  The Court reviewed the medical expert evidence and stated:

[191]     Dr. Grypma could not find anything structurally wrong with Ms. Wagner or identify any other objective findings supporting her subjective complaints.  He said the “natural history” of soft-tissue injuries is that they heal in about two to three months.  He also noted there were no hospital notes of low back complaints and questioned whether Ms. Wagner would have suffered an injury to her lower back in a rear-end accident.  He felt that Ms. Wagner’s complaints were due to weight gain, poor posture and deconditioning.

[192]     I was left with the impression that Dr. Grypma’s approach was unduly narrow. Dr. Grypma himself noted that that paramedics who attended at the second car accident noted low back pain, so it is not clear why he discounted that.  As to the absence of hospital records evidencing complaints of low back pain, I am satisfied that this issue would have been very much in the background given that the focus of Ms. Wagner’s hospital admission was on the health, indeed the life, of her baby.  In addition, Ms. Wagner was on mandatory bed rest, so she would not have been moving her back very much.

[193]     In addition, while it may be that many accident victims see their soft-tissue symptoms abate in a few months, the courts are filled with plaintiffs whose (legitimate) soft-tissue complaints carry on long after that.  I felt that Dr. Grypma did not adequately account for that well-known phenomenon in considering Ms. Wagner’s case.

[194]     By contrast, Dr. Koo was very thorough.  I conclude that there is merit to his interdisciplinary approach, at least to a point.  From this I conclude that his opinions on the plaintiff’s physical injuries carry more weight.

Based on Dr. Koo’s opinion, the court found the car accident caused the low back injury, in addition to other injuries.  The court awarded the Plaintiff $285,000 in damages.