Patient sues private MRI clinic for $1,500 after doctors couldn’t open ‘useless’ computer file

Patient asks tribunal to order clinic to refund cost of MRI and $280 he spent on food, lodging during trip to Vancouver for emergency MRI.

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A $1,200 MRI at a private clinic turned out to be “useless” for a B.C. man because his doctors couldn’t download the digital data, so he sued the Richmond clinic to try to get his money back.

But the owner of Priority MRI said she provided the patient with a CD using the industry standard technology and she wasn’t responsible if the doctor and hospital couldn’t read the CD.

Richard O’Brien, who lives in the central Interior, got the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) diagnostic test he needed for a medical procedure from Priority. He received the specialized test last summer, which included the MRI, a radiologist’s interpretation report and the raw MRI data, according to a decision by the province’s civil resolution tribunal.

O’Brien, who couldn’t be reached for comment, said he was forced to travel to Vancouver for an emergency MRI, covered by MSP, and months later, his doctor couldn’t download the data from the CD or successfully get Priority to transfer the files digitally.

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“O’Brien therefore says that the MRI he paid Priority $1,200 for was useless,” wrote tribunal member Eric Regehr.

He said Priority breached its contract or implied warranty or was negligent and he asked the tribunal to refund the cost of the MRI plus $280 in food and accommodation he spent on a trip to Vancouver for the second MRI.

The CRT found there was no written contract and that Priority didn’t promise any particular file format or warranty for the images. But under B.C.’s Sale of Goods Act, “if a buyer implies or expressly tells the seller the particular purpose they are using the good for, there is an implied condition the good will be reasonably fit for that purpose,” wrote Regehr.

But an MRI wouldn’t fall under the law because it’s a service not a good, he said.

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Although O’Brien argued that “the MRI itself had no value without the raw images on the CD for his health-providers to use,” Regehr agreed with Priority that it provided a service, an MRI and a radiologist’s interpretation, along with the CD.

“The CD containing the raw images was incidental to the contract’s primary purpose,” that is, “the bulk of the value of the MRI is the expertise of the people performing it and interpreting the results.”

On the negligence issue, Regehr said Priority owed O’Brien a duty of care but found there was no evidence that the clinic was negligent.

“Mr. O’Brien ended up with MRI results that his doctors were unable to use, apparently through no fault of his own. But he didn’t prove breach of contract or negligence,” he wrote. He also found the Sale of Goods Act doesn’t apply.

“We believe sincerely that we did what we were required to do,” said Priority owner Dawn Haider by phone. She said they haven’t had other issues with other hospitals or doctors.

“We have no control over what happens after we provide our service,” she said.

The average wait in B.C. for an MRI is 36 days. Two years ago, waiting times for MRIs dropped from 48 days, after B.C. in 2018 began running 10 of the province’s 33 MRI machines 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and bought two privately owned MRI clinics in the Fraser Valley to expand capacity.

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