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  • FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education


17-001337 v. Coachman Insurance Company, 2018 CanLII 139515 (ON LAT)

17-001337 v. Coachman Insurance Company, 2018 CanLII 139515 (ON LAT), <http://canlii.ca/t/hzm7j

[45]        West Park Assessment Centre conducted a catastrophic evaluation for Coachman in 2016, and addendums in 2017. Coachman called the team’s psychologist and orthopaedic surgeon, and relied on the reports of the Occupational Therapist.

[46]        Dr. David Prendergast conducted a psychology IE on July 20, 2016, and issued a report dated October 12, 2016, and a “Material Review” report dated April 21, 2017. His key finding was that “this gentleman was not being entirely straight with me, and I didn’t find any objective evidence of psychological problems.” He concluded that [the applicant] had a 0% WPI rating and a Class 1 (no impairment) under the four domains. There were several noteworthy points to his testimony.

[47]        First, he expressed his evaluation showed (in my words) [the applicant] was dishonest and deliberately exaggeratory, based on several factors: (1) His psychometric testing produced invalid results, with results on the “REY” so low that it’s highly unlikely that his limited education would have been the cause, the MSPQ showed over-reporting physical problems, and on the TOMM Memory Test, which should be free of educational concerns, “His responses were quite extreme. You would have to go out of your way to choose the wrong item in order to do as poorly as he did.” (2) Testing by Drs. Becker and Notofonzo also produced invalid or incomplete results. (3) [the applicant]’s interview did not demonstrate any symptoms that indicate post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or a driving phobia, such as tearfulness, agitation or flashbacks. (4) He maintained a sense of humor, yet displayed a high degree to pain related behavior, walking slow, standing several times to stretch, tense facial expressions, and frequent comments upon his pain.

[48]        Second, during Dr. Prendergast’s testimony, it became clear that he was unaware that two different versions of his report existed, creating an inference that his report had been altered without his knowledge. That discovery came to light during his testimony when he was providing page citations that did not match the version that Coachman had previously circulated and entered into evidence. The copy the doctor brought with him was a 60-page report, dated July 25, 2016 on his own letterhead, yet the report Coachman had disclosed was 44-pages, dated October 12, 2016, and on West Park’s letterhead.

[49]        On inquiry, Dr. Prendergast explained that his version was the draft he sent to West Park and the clinical portion would be the same. West Park’s version, he believed, simply included the OT and in-home assessment reports, but yet he would have reviewed those. However, [the applicant]’s counsel’s questioning established that the OT Report was not yet available at the time the draft report was written, at least minor tinkering can be found in the wording, and the focus of his report is somewhat different (Criterion 7 & 8, versus just 8). Still, he maintained, it’s likely he did the editing, but he could not be sure if the editing occurred after his last approval, and he doesn’t recall switching [the applicant]’s name from Mr. R. to Mr. A.R.

[50]        Third, his testimony changed on questioning. At first, he said he was disagreeing “to an extent” with prior assessors that found [the applicant] had diagnoses from the work-related accident, but when pressed during cross-examination, he broadened his opinion to even disagree with prior assessments, including Dr. Notorfonzo’s, despite it being several years earlier. Then on re-examination, he again changed his answer, correctly limiting it to that he can only comment as to the date of his assessment. His waiver back and forth on this point of inherently claiming [the applicant] had fooled so many previous assessors, may simply be due to strong cross-examination, but it weakens his testimony. Ultimately, for balance, he did clarify that while he could not confirm objective evidence of a psychological impairment or distress based on his interview and test data to formally diagnose [the applicant] with a disorder – he did acknowledge [the applicant] could still have distress, a history of pain problems, or limitations.

[69]        Regarding the diagnosis, I find that [the applicant] does have a pain disorder and depression, although possibly not to the full extent that [the applicant] suggests. Thus, I accept Dr. Becker’s conclusion on diagnosis over Dr. Prendergast’s, for several reasons.

                                   a.         [The applicant] has been consistently diagnosed with a pain disorder and/or depression since at least 2008, by numerous assessors, including Coachman’s own, who did so despite “invalid” indicators.

                                   b.         Both psychological assessors agreed that a lack of formal education and cultural and language issues could at least partially explain the poor validity results. Dr. Becker concluded that validity tests were not particularly reliable, and tried to interpret the remaining data. Dr. Prendergast concluded that regardless of educational issues, the results were so extreme, and not supported by other objective evidence, that he concluded that [the applicant] “wasn’t being straight” with him.

                                    c.         While [the applicant] wasn’t entirely “straight” with Dr. Prendergast, Dr. Becker’s approach fit with the overall evidence – [the applicant]’s behavior, other diagnoses (including IE assessor Dr. Notarfonzo’s on “invalid” results).

                                   d.         While I accept some of Dr. Prendergast’s testimony on other points, the altered report and his comment that he disagreed with long-past prior diagnoses, a comment he soon retracted, weakened the strength of his opinion in this matter.

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