A court won’t force a plaintiff to give “consent”.

On June 27, 2016, a master of the BC Supreme Court found that it is not appropriate for a Court to order a plaintiff to sign a consent form when attending a court ordered independent medical exam.

In Gill v. Wal-Mart Canada Corporation, 2016 BCSC 1176, the plaintiff sued the defendant for personal injuries after a slip and fall incident.  In the course of the lawsuit the plaintiff agreed to be examined by a physician of the defendant’s choosing but refused to sign a consent form the physician required.  The defendant asked the Court to order the plaintiff to sign the form; the application was dismissed.  In finding judicially ordered “consent” to be inappropriate, Master Harper gave the following reasons:

[31]         In my view, because an order compelling an IME is discretionary, I am not bound by Kalaora or Nikolic to order that the plaintiff sign the consent form. I prefer to follow the reasoning of Peel. In addition, although Dr. Travlos and the College have a legitimate interest in ensuring that a person attending for an IME is properly informed about all aspects of the IME, there are alternative methods to compelled consent to convey the information. I conclude that the plaintiff in this case should not be compelled to sign the consent form required by Dr. Travlos.

[32]         Even if I were of the view that Ms. Gill should be compelled to sign a reasonable consent form, Dr. Travlos’s consent form contains clauses that are not reasonable.

i)       First, Ms. Gill should not be expected to have to agree in writing as to the definition of physiatrist: Slobodzian v. Mitchell and Hameiri (unreported, February 2, 2015, Courtenay Supreme Court Action S085376);

ii)     Second, the last paragraph of the consent form contains this statement: “I am signing this document voluntarily …”. Ms. Gill would not be signing the document voluntarily if compelled to do so by court order;

iii)    Third, the consent form says:

I hereby release Dr. Travlos, his employees and agents, from any and all claims whatsoever, which may arise as a result of the release of the above information.

The clause is difficult to interpret. Dr. Travlos might mean that he is released from liability for releasing the report to the referring source. Or, he might mean that he is released from liability for releasing the report to someone other than the referring source. In either case, a release of liability goes beyond the bounds of a reasonable consent form.

[33]         In Mund v. Braun, 2010 BCSC 1714, the IME doctor required the execution of a jurisdiction agreement. The plaintiff declined to sign it and the court declined to order the plaintiff to sign it on the basis that the court did not have jurisdiction to order the plaintiff to sign a jurisdiction agreement. The release of liability in Dr. Travlos’s consent form is in the same category and is therefore objectionable.

[34]         Both Dr. Travlos and the College have a legitimate interest in ensuring that persons attending IMEs understand the nature and purpose of the IME. Clarity is always better than confusion.

[35]         The options presented on this application were limited to the court ordering the consent form be signed, or not. In my view, there are other options. The desired outcome of a party attending an IME fully informed about the IME could be met if the court were asked to incorporate reasonable terms into the order granting the IME. Those terms would meet the reasonable and legitimate interests of the plaintiff, the defendant, the examining doctor and the College.

[36]         Of course, the terms would have to be acceptable to the doctor or the exercise is meaningless. A drawback to this option is the unnecessary increase in court applications. Both Dr. Travlos and the doctor in Kalaora said that most people seeing them for IMEs consent. It would not be proportionate to require all applications for IMEs to result in a court order.

[37]         The concerns about “improved communication by physicians” and “enhanced understanding by patients” expressed in the guideline could also be met by the doctor providing written information about the IME to the party in advance of the examination. This option would be simpler and less expensive than a court order incorporating the information the doctor seeks to convey to the person being examined.

[38]         An even better option might be for the College to amend its guideline to provide recommendations for physicians conducting IMEs that are court-ordered and not by consent.