ICBC Law

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Court Criticizes Unilateral Discovery Scheduling Practices

Unilaterally scheduled discoveries, while technically permissible, are a frowned upon practice.  Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, critically commenting on such a tactic.

In this week’s case (Morgan v. BC Transit) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of a motor vehicle incident.  In the course of the litigation issues arose with respect to scheduling the discovery of the Plaintiff.  The Defendant unilaterally set a discovery date which the Plaintiff indicated he could not attend.  After non-attendance the Defendant brought a motion seeking to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claim but eventually backed away from this harsh request and instead sought an order that the Plaintiff attend discovery on another date and further seeking costs.

The court directed the parties to get on with the discovery and reserved dealing with costs consequences until this took place.  Ultimately Mr. Justice Betton dismissed the Defendants application and ordered that costs be paid to the Plaintiff.  In doing so the Court provided the following comments regarding unilaterally set examinations for discovery:

[14]         Obviously, the system would be challenged if appointments were routinely taken out without consultation with opposing parties and applications for dismissal followed non-attendance at such appointments. There is a balance that requires considered utilization of Rule 22-7(5). Circumstances must justify the application. Those who have an obligation to submit to an examination for discovery must cooperate reasonably in allowing the examinations for discovery to occur. Indeed it is a relatively unusual application and quite rare that such a severe remedy is granted. The reasons for this are numerous and most are self-evident. Most parties are represented and counsel are well aware of their own and their clients’ obligations. They make accommodations appropriately and reasonably to assist in achieving the objectives of the Rules. Even those who are not represented understand that procedural rules exist, and are to be followed, and there are consequences for failing to do so.

[15]I note in this case, there is no evidence before me indicating that there was any particular urgency to having the examination for discovery of the plaintiff concluded by the end of December. The trial date, as I noted, is set for December of 2012. When the December 1 date was adjourned on November 8, there was some discussion, but nothing done to formally set the examination for discovery until November 28, approximately three weeks later, when the issues quite quickly emerged. In this case, it is of significance that plaintiff’s counsel advised on December 18, approximately one month before this application was filed, that he had become available to have the examination for discovery of the plaintiff concluded in early January 2012. That is now some two months ago.

[16]There are cases when parties with or without counsel either use the Rules or ignore them to frustrate another’s legitimate efforts to prepare their case. In my view, this is not one of those cases. There are also cases where the Rules are used in ways which serve to defeat the broader objectives as described in the Rules of having cases proceed in an efficient and fair way. In all of the circumstances, it is my conclusion that the defence in these circumstances was overly aggressive in its utilization of this Rule and making an application to have the action dismissed with costs to the defendants; pressing to set the date on December 15 without consultation or without agreement was not necessary. Of most significance is the fact that before this application was set, plaintiff’s counsel had advised that they were now available to accommodate the examination for discovery occurring in early January. That discovery would have long since been concluded, rather than now being set in March and this application having had to proceed.

[17]In all of the circumstances, I decline to grant any costs thrown away to the defence for the examination for discovery of December 15, 2011.

[18]With respect to the costs of this application, in the circumstances, the defence will not have its costs of this application. The plaintiff will have its costs.

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