Administrative law – Motor vehicles – Suspension of driver’s licence – Medical condition – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Medical Advisory Committee – Judicial review – Standard of review – Correctness
Devlin v. Ontario (Registrar of Motor Vehicles),  O.J. No. 2012, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, May 26, 2003, Pitt J.
Devlin had experienced a single incident of syncope, otherwise known as a sudden loss of consciousness, from which he recovered spontaneously. He later had a cardioverter/defibrillator implanted and his physician relied on the Canadian Medical Association Guidelines mandating a one month driver licence suspension for the single episode of syncope.
However, the Registrar further suspended Devlin’s licence and advised that it would reconsider Devlin’s licence upon receipt of a satisfactory assessment from a cardiologist or arrhythmia clinic confirming that the implanted device had delivered no shock or anti-tachycardia pacing therapy and that one year had elapsed since implantation.
After three meetings to review Devlin’s case, the Medical Advisory Committee decided to continue the suspension of his licence. The court framed the issue as whether the Registrar was entitled to lengthen the period of suspension of the licence on the basis of medical information provided by the treating expert physician, where the physician took preventative measures in his treatment regime, not required by the licence holder’s current medical condition.
The court applied the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Dr. Q case, 2003 SCC 19, and found that there was no privative clause in the legislation being considered, that the Tribunal had very little specific expertise for which deference could be warranted, and that the purpose of the legislation was public protection. In addition, the court held that the question in dispute was one of mixed fact and law, which did not attract a very high level of curial deference. Thus, the court applied the more searching standard of review, correctness. The court held that the decision of the Registrar and the Medical Advisory Committee was not supported by a tenable explanation. The Tribunal had used an extremely cautious treating regime employed by the treating physician as a basis for imposing a suspension of five months more than what was required by the Canadian Medical Association standards that it had consulted. As a result, the appeal was allowed and the decision of the Tribunal set aside.
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