Medico-Legal Reports from Previous Lawsuit Ordered Disclosed in Subsequent Litigation
In the ever developing landscape of disclosure obligations in personal injury lawsuits, reasons for¬†judgement¬†were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing the¬†discoverability¬†of medico-legal reports obtained in previous litigation.
In the recent case (Wright v. Thomas) the Plaintiff was¬†involved¬†in a personal injury lawsuit that went to trial in 2007. ¬†In that lawsuit various expert reports were introduced into evidence. ¬†The Plaintiff was injured in a subsequent¬†collision¬†and advanced another lawsuit. ¬†The Defendant wished to rely on the previous medico-legal reports but the Plaintiff objected arguing these reports were not relevant and production violated the implied undertaking of confidentiality. ¬†In ordering that the reports be¬†produced¬†Master Bouck provided the following reasons:
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Whether the implied undertaking rule even applies in this case might be in doubt. In¬†Cochrane v. Heir, 2011 BCSC 477, the court ruled that a plaintiff must provide records obtained in a previous personal injury action as part of disclosure obligations under Rule 7‚ÄĎ1. Furthermore, one might query whether evidence disclosed at a public trial and now part of a public record is subject to the implied undertaking rule. The underlying purpose of the implied undertaking rule is to protect the privacy of an individual who is compelled to disclose certain information in the pre‚ÄĎtrial process.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†In the case at bar, I understand that some of the reports were used at trial and thus any breach of privacy has already happened. However, this last point was not argued, so I must still determine whether the documents at issue involving the same plaintiff also concerned the same or similar issues to the case at bar…
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†In the present action, the clinicians also make mention of possible conversion disorder.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The alleged probative value of the reports in the earlier action is to show that the plaintiff has a history of, or perhaps a susceptibility to, these non‚ÄĎorganic conditions.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†In my view, in the absence of some medical evidence in support, the court should not make the leap and decide that all of the above‚ÄĎdescribed conditions fall within the same diagnostic category. In fact, the only similar or same diagnosis is the conversion disorder. Presumably the existence of this condition historically forms the factual basis for one of the defences to this action, otherwise the defendant would not be pursuing the application.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The defendant’s pleadings were not before me. It might have been helpful to have that pleading as an exhibit to an affidavit. One option for the court would be to dismiss the application with liberty to reapply upon providing such evidence. Obviously a further application will result in additional cost to one or both parties. To avoid such cost, I have instead reviewed the electronic record of this pleading, which is a matter of public record. The presumption of the plea of pre‚ÄĎexisting condition was confirmed.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Thus, in my view, the defendant has met the threshold test of relevancy with respect to the following reports: Dr.¬†Rocheleau dated October¬†24, 2005; Dr.¬†Rocheleau dated December¬†21, 2005; and Dr.¬†Kemble dated November¬†28, 2005…
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†I now turn to the question of prejudice. First, there is no evidence from the plaintiff that she is prejudiced by the use of this information. The contents of the affidavit of Katheryn MacDonald can be given no weight, as any statements regarding possible prejudice are based on double hearsay. Other parts of the affidavit are akin to argument.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†In any event, the implied undertaking rule is not intended to prevent attacks on the plaintiff’s credibility. Indeed, in many of the cases before me, leave is granted to permit a challenge to a party’s credibility using the evidence given at a previous examination for discovery. Prejudice to the plaintiff has not been established.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Nevertheless, in my view, the order sought by the defendant with respect to the use of the reports at trial is too broad. Rather, the order will go that the defendant is given leave to list the three reports in her list of documents.