Canada: L'obligation de neutralité imposée au témoin expert

Lorsqu'un témoin expert est appelé à témoigner devant le Tribunal, il doit respecter ses obligations d'objectivité, d'impartialité et de rigueur.

En cas d'absence de consensus scientifique sur une question, les experts doivent proposer diverses théories objectivement réalistes et laisser le soin au juge de trancher.

C'est ce que la Cour Supérieure rappelle dans le jugement récent Mas et Fils, Jardiniers ltée c. Maraîcher A. Barbeau & Fils inc.

En effet lorsqu'une partie d'un litige retient les services d'un témoin expert, ce dernier doit tout d'abord se faire qualifier comme tel par le juge en démontrant que son témoignage est pertinent et nécessaire en plus de convaincre le juge qu'il est compétent dans son domaine. Une fois cela accompli, l'expert doit éclairer le Tribunal sur les «règles de l'art» dont dispose le milieu.

Dans la présente affaire, Mas et fils jardiniers (MFJ), une entreprise spécialisée dans la culture de carottes et betteraves, a entrepris une poursuite contre l'expert Gaétan Villeneuve, qui a soumis un rapport d'expertise et qui a témoigné pour le Maraicher A. Barbeau et Axa Assurances inc., défendeurs dans un autre différend. MFJ réclame des dommages à l'expert, car n'eût été de son rapport et de son témoignage le procès pour cet autre différend n'aurait jamais dû avoir lieu. Les prétentions de MJF sont à l'effet que l'expert a fait preuve d'insouciance et n'a pas respecté ses obligations légales, c'est-à-dire de faire preuve d'objectivité et d'impartialité

Contexte du premier procès

Les faits remontent en juin 2008, alors que le voisin de MFJ, Maraicher A. Barbeau, une entreprise entre autres spécialisée dans la culture d'oignons procédait à la pulvérisation d'herbicide sur son terrain. Quatre jours après la pulvérisation par son voisin, MFJ constatait que plusieurs de ses plants étaient morts ou complètement desséchés. Dans cet autre différend, MFJ a poursuivi son voisin, Maraicher A. Barbeau pour les dommages subis à sa récolte de carottes.

À la suite de ces évènements, plusieurs experts se sont présentés sur les lieux afin de constater les faits et de comprendre les causes possibles. Ce n'est qu'en juillet 2010, soit plus de deux ans plus tard, que l'expert a été mandaté afin de découvrir les causes, de quantifier le dommage subi par MFJ puis d'éclairer le Tribunal lors du procès.

Dans le jugement de la Cour Supérieure en 2012 la Cour d'appel n'a pas retenu les hypothèses de l'expert puisque plusieurs de ses affirmations et procédés étaient «forts surprenants». La cour n'a pas été satisfaite de son témoignage, qui a soulevé plus de questions qu'il n'a apporté de réponse, en plus de prendre position pour le défendeur, ce qui ne relève pas de son rôle.

Sanction disciplinaire de l'expert

À la suite du procès et du dépôt de deux plaintes au Conseil de discipline de l'Ordre des Agronomes du Québec par M. Mas et son expert retenu dans le différend l'expert a plaidé coupable à ces plaintes disciplinaires. Quoique le tribunal ne soit pas lié par cette sanction disciplinaire, celle-ci étaye la faute de l'expert, en ne basant pas son rapport sur des faits techniques ou scientifiques. C'est donc sur cette question que le juge de la Cour supérieure s'est penché dans son jugement.

Obligations légales du témoin expert

L'expert a une obligation de diligence. Sa mission première, primant sur les intérêts des parties, est d'éclairer le tribunal dans sa prise de décision en faisant preuve d'objectivité, d'impartialité et de rigueur. Dans l'accomplissement de sa tâche, l'expert doit impérativement se baser sur des faits relatifs au litige ou sur des éléments factuels ou matériels liés à la preuve.

La juxtaposition des termes « objectivité » et « impartialité » utilisés par le législateur dans le Code de procédure civile du Québec démontre l'importance de l'obligation de neutralité imposée aux experts. Ceux-ci doivent agir dans les règles de l'art reconnues dans leur domaine en menant une analyse rigoureuse. En cas d'absence de consensus scientifique sur une question, les experts doivent proposer diverses théories objectivement réalistes et laisser le soin au juge de trancher.

Il convient de rappeler qu'ici la preuve démontre que l'expert en question a été mandaté plus de deux ans après le début du dossier. En ne prenant pas connaissance des rapports des experts intervenus avant lui ainsi qu'en écartant des faits importants seulement car il les considérait comme incomplets, imprécis et discordants, il a commis un grave manquement. La cour poursuit en ajoutant qu'il a émis des hypothèses «farfelues») afin d'écarter les hypothèses des experts l'ayant précédé. Il les contredisait sans aucun fait à son appui et ne défendait pas la logique de son raisonnement.

  • En bref, tout expert retenu par une partie afin d'éclairer le Tribunal sur un sujet précis ne doit pas se comporter comme une partie et encore moins défendre les intérêts de la partie ayant recours à ses services. L'expert doit rester neutre dans son analyse afin d'apporter des précisions au Tribunal, à qui il revient de trancher.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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