Case Plan Conference Orders Can't Trump Privilege

Last year I highlighted a decision confirming that the Court’s powers under the new rules of court don’t allow orders to be made which will trump legitimate privilege claims.  Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming this principle.
In the recent case (Blackwell v. Kwok) the Defendant sought an order at a Case Planning Conference requiring the Plaintiff to disclose the specialty of the expert witness(es) the Plaintiff intends to rely on.  The Court refused to make this order finding it would trump the privilege in the Plaintiff’s counsel’s solicitor’s brief.  In dismissing the request Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:
[11]         Plaintiff’s counsel referred me to the Court’s decision in Nowe v. Bowerman, 2012 BCSC 1723.  In Nowe, the defendant proposed that each party be limited to one expert each and that the plaintiff advise the defendant of the area of expertise by November 17, 2012, approximately ten months before the scheduled trial.  The Court denied the application:
[10]  The area of expertise of an intended expert witness is a matter of trial strategy.  Trial strategy is a key component of a solicitor’s brief.  It may well evolve as plaintiff’s counsel builds a case and makes decisions based upon a myriad of factors and considerations.  Intentions may change as the process unfolds over time.
[11]  In my view, unless and until the intention to rely upon a particular expert in a particular field is declared by delivery of a report in accordance with the timelines established by the Rules, in the absence of a compelling reason an early incursion into this aspect of the solicitor’s brief will not be justified.
[12]  That being said, there may well be cases in which a departure from the usual timelines can be justified.  For example, in complex cases such as those involving brain injuries as a matter of fairness it may be necessary to provide defence counsel with a longer period than would be available under the usual regime in order to schedule appointments with certain kinds of experts. …
[12]         I note that in Nowe, the plaintiff argued that it was “not the kind of case in which a long period is required in advance of an appointment being made with a certain type of expert” (para. 7).  Although possibly a longer period may be justified in some cases, I am not satisfied that a “departure from the usual timelines can be justified” in the case at bar.
[13]         In my view, the defendants’ application should be rejected.  I see no prejudice if the normal rules for delivery of expert reports apply.  If the defendants choose to retain an expert to conduct an independent medical examination and prepare a report based on the plaintiff’s pleaded injuries, but no psychological injury is alleged at trial, an appropriate award of costs will afford the defendants the necessary relief.
[14]         Not surprisingly, I cannot state matters better than Chief Justice McEachern in Hodgkinson: “While I favour full disclosure in proper circumstances, it will be rare, if ever, that the need for disclosure will displace privilege”.
[15]         The Court declines to make the order sought.
 

bc injury law, Blackwell v. Kwok, Case Planning Conference, CPC, litigation privilege, Mr. Justice Funt, Rule 11-6, Rule 5, Rule 5-3, Rule 7, Rule 7-1(18), Rule 7-2, Rule 7-4, Rule 7-5, Rule 7-5(2), Solicitor's Brief Privilege

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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