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Defendants need not pay more than what is reasonable for the Plaintiff’s expert fees

The plaintiff in Senner v. GE Canada Leasing Services Company, 2018 BCSC 1256, sought an assessment of his costs and disbursements after a successful 14 day trial of his claim for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Among other things, the defendants objected to the amounts claimed for disbursements to experts.

The case was complex, involving multiple varying injuries and issues of causation, and requiring multiple medical experts. Nonetheless, the defendants argued that disbursements claimed for many of the plaintiff’s expert reports were not reasonable. For example, the plaintiff retained a highly specialized sleep medicine doctor who also had expertise in internal medicine and psychiatry. The court noted that such highly specialized professionals may charge high fees but held that it is not necessarily reasonable for a defendant to have to pay those fees. The court reduced the disbursements relating to fees charged by that particular expert, and by others, and also reduced the disbursements for their attendance at trial.

The defendants also objected to the reasonableness and necessity of obtaining several reports by each of several of the 6 independent medical experts the plaintiff had retained. At least one of the experts saw the plaintiff on multiple occasions and produced a report and associated invoice after each appointment. The court held that this was unreasonable and disallowed those disbursements.

This case demonstrates that in a litigation environment where expert costs continuously spiral northwards, defendants cannot and will not necessarily be expected to pay whatever the expert charges the plaintiff. Defence counsel and insurers ought to review the reports received, compare the fees charged to other experts’ fees, consider the number of reports obtained from a given expert, and offer to pay disbursements on an assessment of what is reasonable in all the circumstances.

Case summary by Tim Wedge