Filing Expert Reports as Exhibits at Trial - Part 1

Does Expert Testimony Preclude the Expert’s Report as an Exhibit?

In Clark v. Zigrossi, [2010] O.J. No. 3954 (Ont. Sup. Ct.), Justice Brown made a mid-trial ruling on whether an expert report can be filed as an exhibit even though the expert will be testifying at trial.

The plaintiff was seeking damages for injuries he alleged to have suffered in a July 2003 collision with the car driven by the defendant. The defendant had admitted liability and the jury was to assess damages. The plaintiff retained as an expert, Dr. Joseph Kwok, an orthopaedic surgeon who had prepared an expert report based on his examination of the plaintiff. The plaintiff served Dr. Kwok’s report on the defendant and gave the defendant notice pursuant to s. 52(2) of the Evidence Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.23. The plaintiff indicated his intention to adduce expert evidence “by either calling them to testify or by filing their reports.” At trial, plaintiff’s counsel sought leave both to call Dr. Kwok to give viva voce evidence and to mark his expert report as an exhibit, with copies of the report being provided to the jury so that they could follow the doctor’s evidence. Defendant’s counsel objected and submitted that the plaintiff must elect either to file the report or elicit viva voce evidence from the doctor. Defendant’s counsel acknowledged that if Dr. Kwok’s report was to be filed instead of him giving oral evidence at trial, she would require his presence to cross-examine him on his report, so Dr. Kwok’s attendance at trial would be necessary regardless of which path was taken.

Justice Brown held that the court possessed the discretion to permit an expert’s report to be filed where the expert intended to give viva voce evidence at trial. The needs of jurors to follow and understand the evidence should inform the exercise of judicial discretion.

Ultimately, in the circumstances of the case, Justice Brown did not think that the jury would encounter much difficulty in following Dr. Kwok’s evidence without having copies of his report and so it was not filed as an exhibit.

Justice Brown’s analysis affirms that there is no hard and fast rule that exists as to whether a party must elect either to file an expert’s report or call the expert to give viva voce evidence. In a jury trial, whether a party may call a health care expert to testify and also file his report as an exhibit remains a matter of discretion for the trial judge to determine.

The decision contains a good summary of the case law regarding filing expert reports and calling viva voce evidence. In our next post we will summarize those decisions.

Thanks to our articling student, Alexandra Lacko, for contributing this post.

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