StatsCanada Earnings Data Ruled Admissible in Injury Trial Without Economist or Other Introductory Witness

Helpful reasons for judgement were recently shared with me finding that StatsCan evidence about wages were admissible in a personal injury trial even without them being incorporated in an economists report or otherwise being introduced by a witness.

In the recent case (Reddy v. Enokson) the Plaintiff was seeking damages following injuries in a vehicle collision.  In the course of the trial the Plaintiff sought to introduce data from StatsCan “concerning the average hourly wage rate of persons 15 years and over in Canada“.   The Defendant objected arguing “these statistics ought not to replace a proper expert’s opinion. ”

Mr. Justice Blok found the evidence admissible as a public document meeting the admissibility provisions of s. 29 of BC’s Evidence Act.

In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:

[6] In brief, defendant’s counsel says these statistics ought not to replace a proper expert’s opinion.

[7] Both plaintiff and defendant referred to Smith v. Fremlin, 2014 BCCA 253 [Smith], a case which involved a female plaintiff intending to pursue a career in law. There evidently was an economist in that case who prepared a report using statistical income data for female lawyers in BC. Objection was taken on the basis that this was something of a broad category, as there are many different roles that lawyers have, and different locations within British Columbia where lawyers practice, as well as other differences that would make the statistics in question inaccurate.

[8] Both counsel referred to para. 25 of Smith, in which the Court of Appeal said:
[25] Evidence of the earnings of the class of workers to which the plaintiff belongs is clearly relevant to the assessment of a loss of earning capacity. At some point, the evidence may be so general or vague as to be of little assistance but, in my view, that cannot be said of the statistical evidence used in this case. Evidence of the lifetime earning capacity of female lawyers in British Columbia, according to Mr. Wickson’s testimony in cross-examination, was the most specific data available. No further breakdown of incomes of female lawyers in this province by areas of practice is available. The Wickson report therefore was the best available evidence of what has been recognized as the starting point of the assessment of the loss of income earning capacity. It was properly admitted by the judge.

[9] Defence counsel has seized upon the phrase in that quote which reads “at some point, the evidence may be so general or vague as to be of little assistance”, saying that this case has crossed that line. The plaintiff argues that the statistical information, by necessity, has to be general because this plaintiff is young and was uncertain about what she wanted to do. He says that it may have limited weight, but it still meets the test for admissibility.

[10] Additional context on this application is the fact that there is statistical information being admitted without objection about the hourly rates of clinical counsellors in Canada broken down by various provinces. It is the evidence of the plaintiff that she is currently pursuing some training as a clinical counsellor. The plaintiff, nonetheless, says that the contested statistics may still be important to know in terms of alternative careers should this one not pan out.

[11] To be very frank, I suspect that the information in question will achieve at most a very limited usefulness or weight. It is very broad, and given that these are national figures, not even British Columbia figures, there are many reasons to question the weight that could be put on them. However, I am not able to say at this stage, at least, that these figures might not be of some assistance and have at least some weight, so as to surmount the relatively low bar of relevance.

[12] Accordingly, I conclude that this document ought to be admitted.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Blok, Reddy v. Enokson, Section 29 Evidence Act, Statistics, Statistics Canada, StatsCan

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