BC Court of Appeal Weighs in on Litigation Privilege
Further to my previous posts on Litigation Privilege in British Columbia, reasons for judgement were released today adding further clarity to this area of the law.
In today’s case (Shooting Star Amusements Ltd. v. Prince George Agricultural and Historical Association) the Plaintiff brought an application for the production of certain documents which the Defendant refused to produce on the grounds of Litigation Privilege. Madam Justice Bruce ordered that the documents be produced. The Defendant appealed. In dismissing the appeal the BC Court of Appeal made it clear that when asserting a claim for privilege the party must offer evidence in support of this claim. Specifically the Court held that:
it is only common sense that where a claim of privilege is contested, a court would normally require something more than counsel’s opinion offered in the course of argument. As Mr. Cassie argued on behalf of the plaintiff, it has been clear at least since this court decidedHamalainen (Committee of) v. Sippola (1991) 62 B.C.L.R. (2d) 254, 3 C.P.C. (3d) 297 that the party asserting privilege in respect of a document bears the onus of establishing the privilege.
The defendant argued that the order for production would cause irreparable harm because the materials ordered to be disclosed would provide details of settlement discussions and legal advice. The Court noted that such evidence was not before the trial judge. Interestingly, the court stated that just because a claim for litigation privilege fails in a document production application the party is free to raise the claim again at trial and the trial judge will need to consider whether the documents can stay out of evidence for grounds privilege. Specifically Madam Justice Newbury stated
I note that although the defendant was ordered to disclose the minutes, unredacted, to the plaintiff, this does not mean they, or the information they contain, will be admissible at trial. A claim of privilege can still be asserted by the defendants if and when the plaintiff seeks to introduce the minutes into evidence and it will be for the trial judge to determine whether any kind of privilege does indeed attach.