LETTER OF THE LAW: A victory for freedom of speech, injured victims
A recent Ontario Court decision has upheld the fundamental right in Canada for freedom of speech.
Justice Sean Dunphy granted summary judgment and dismissed Doctor Howard Platnick’s defamation lawsuit he had brought against personal injury lawyer Maia Bent.
Equally important was his finding that Dr. Platnick had likely altered medical reports that ultimately resulted in an injured person being denied needed benefits.
For more than 10 years, Dr. Platnick has worked almost exclusively for insurance companies or assessment centres hired by insurance companies to evaluate claims of people injured in car crashes.
I have had several clients where Dr. Platnick was involved in the case – never to the benefit of the client.
Finally, I think we have seen the last of Dr. Platnick with this decision.
The Toronto Star recently reported on the case. Ironically, Dr. Platnick might still have his lucrative defence medical practice if he had only left well enough alone. Alas, apparently that is not his style and now he is paying the price.
The case started in 2014 when a woman injured in a car crash applied to her insurer, TD Insurance, for “catastrophic designation” under the terms of her auto insurance policy.
TD Insurance hired Sibley SLR to obtain so called “independent” medical assessments from medical specialists to evaluate her application. Sibley retained Dr. Platnick to review and summarize the specialists’ reports.
Predictably, the report, produced by Sibley and provided to TD Insurance, concluded that the injured woman had not suffered a catastrophic impairment and was therefore not entitled to the higher level of benefits. She did not accept the report and took the case to arbitration.
Her lawyer, Maia Bent, questioned the various specialists at the arbitration hearing.
During her cross-examination of the doctors, it became apparent that Dr. Platnick had altered many of the conclusions from the specialists in preparing his executive summary.
In particular, a neurologist who testified at the hearing said that important parts of Dr. Platnick’s original report that he had sent to Sibley had been removed without his knowledge.
According to Ms. Bent, Sibley rewrote the doctors’ reports to change their conclusions from the woman meeting the definition of catastrophic impairment to not having a catastrophic impairment.
Ms. Bent is a member of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA), an organization of plaintiff trial lawyers dedicated to representing injured victims. She posted on the internal OTLA listserv a warning to all members that Dr. Platnick and Sibley had altered reports to deny her client benefits.
Ms. Bent advised OTLA lawyers to always request the actual reports from the medical specialists and Sibley.
The email was leaked. Dr. Plantick was none to pleased and he sued Ms. Bent for defamation. In his lawsuit, he claimed that as a result of Ms. Bent’s email insurance companies no longer hired him to evaluate claims.
Ms. Bent brought a summary judgment motion asking that the Court dismiss his claims. Justice Dunphy agreed and summarily dismissed all his claims. In his decision, Justice Dunphy said that Platnick’s report was most certainly false and misleading. Ms. Bent’s email was substantially true and correct.
Justice Dunphy’s decision brings to light the troubling fact that most personal injury lawyers already know and deal with on a daily basis: that there are a stable of doctors willing to do the insurance companies’ bidding to deny claims to those who need benefits.
The insurance companies often complain of fraud in the system. I think the real fraud is on the victims who have their benefits unfairly denied by biased doctors.
Kristian Bonn is a personal injury lawyer and partner at Bonn Law. He grew up in Trenton, works in Belleville and Trenton and lives just over the Bay Bridge in Prince Edward County.
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