More on Document Disclosure: Hard Drives, Phone and Banking Records


(Note: I’m informed that the case discussed in the below post is under appeal.  When the appellate decision comes to my attention I will update this post)
As previously discussed, one of the areas being worked out by the BC Supreme Court is the extent of document production obligations in personal injury lawsuits under the New Rules of Court.  Further reasons for judgement addressing this subject were recently brought to my attention.
In the recent (unreported) case of Shackelford v. Sweeney the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 motor vehicle collision.  He alleged serious injuries including a head injury with resulting cognitive difficulties.  The Plaintiff was a successful self-employed recruiter and his claim included potentially significant damages for diminished earning capacity.
In the course of the lawsuit ICBC applied for various records supposedly to investigate the income loss claim including production of the Plaintiff’s computer hard-drive, phone records and banking records.  The application was partially successful with Master Taylor providing the following reasons addressing these requests:
[7]  In relation to the cellphone records, the plaintiff gave evidence at his examination for discovery that he conducted most of his business over the telephone or the Internet, and he rarely met with people, and therefore it is suggested that the cell phone records relating to his business are probative.  I agree that they can be probative, but I do not believe that the actual phone numbers themselves would be probative in any particular method or way.  What is probative is how much the plaintiff used his phone on a daily or weekly basis to conduct his business
[8]  Accordingly, I am going to order that the cellphone records that relate to his business, from January 1, 2007, to the present date, be produced, but in all circumstances every phone number but the area code is to be redacted….
[13]  The Defendants also seek an order that the plaintiff produce the hard drive from the laptop he was using when he was operating (his recruiting business)…
[17]  …As there is an ongoing obligation by the Plaintiff to produce all business records in relation to this claim, I say that the obligation continues with respect to the hard drive that exists, and that the plaintiff has the obligation to examine the hard drive himself and/or with counsel, and extract any of his business records from there and provide them to the defendants.
[18]  If the Plaintiff requires the services of a technician to assist in that regard, then the cost of that will be borne by the defendants.  Once the business records have been extracted and redacted for privacy concerns, those documents will be henceforth provided to the defendants within 14 days thereafter…
[21]  I think that only leaves bank statements relating to business income.  I think the plaintiff has a positive obligation to provide some information with respect to his income, showing his income being deposited into his bank account.  Where that in the bank statements shows, it should be left unredacted, but where it shows anything related to his wife or private unrelated business purchases , those may also be redacted.
This case is worth reviewing in full for other matters such as a declined request for production of the Plaintiff’s passport and client names.
At this time this case is unreported however, as always, I’m happy to e-mail a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests the reasons for judgement.

Government Introduces Bill Giving ICBC Direct Access to Your Medical Records


Today Bill 13 (The Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act No. 2) received First Reading. I’ve had a chance to review some of these newly proposed laws and came across a potentially troubling section seeking to give ICBC significant powers to access the medical records of British Columbians.
Specifically, the Government is proposing to amend section 25 of the Motor Vehicle Act as follows:






Information-sharing agreement for Medicare Protection Act purposes

25.02 (1) The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia may enter into an information-sharing agreement with the Medical Services Commission under the Medicare Protection Act for the purposes of collecting, using and disclosing personal information necessary for the administration of

(a) section 25 (1.3) of this Act, and

(b) the Medicare Protection Act, as it relates to the enrollment and renewal of enrollment of beneficiaries under that Act.

(2) If the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia enters into an information-sharing agreement under subsection (1), the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia may, in accordance with the agreement, collect and use personal information from, and disclose personal information to, the Medical Services Commission.







This new power is being given to ICBC to help introduce a new Care Card which is designed to cut down on fraud.  While fraud protection is laudable its important not to exceed this goal by unnecessary erosion of the privacy rights of British Columbians.  A review of the proposed change does not seem to put any concrete limits on ICBC’s power to access medical records or the use these can be put to once obtained.
If you have concerns about this new proposed power I suggest you contact your local MLA or BC’s current Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General (Shirley Bond) and voice these before this bill passes into law.

Lawyer Ordered to Download His Own Client's Facebook Account Data In Injury Lawsuit


Controversial reasons for judgement were recently released by the The Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick.  The Court required a Plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit to preserve all contents on her Facebook homepage and have these produced.  While requiring Social Medial Data production is not necessarily unique, the way the Court required this evidence to be preserved will cause concern for many.
In the recent case (Sparks v. Dube) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision in Fredericton in 2008.  She hired a lawyer and sued for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit the defence lawyer brought a motion, without notifying the plaintiff’s lawyer, requesting personal information from the Plaintiff’s Facebook account.  The Court granted the motion and made the following contraversial orders:

1)  A Preservation Order and, in the alternative, an Interlocutory Injunction are hereby made and issued compelling Erica Sparks: 1) to preserve and maintain without deletions or alterations the entire contents of her personal Webpage(s) on the social network Facebook including but not limited to photographs, text, links, postings, event details and video clips until further direction of the court, and 2) to participate in the carrying out of the following orders where her participation is required;

2)  The Interlocutory Injunction shall expire ten days after these orders take effect instituted;

3)  The Applicant-Defendant shall personally and immediately serve all orders and a copy of this judgment upon the Plaintiff’s solicitor, Mr. James Crocco who shall not disclose any of the orders set out herein nor the contents of this judgment except on terms as they are allowed by these orders;

4)  Upon being served, Mr. James Crocco shall arrange for a solicitor in his firm or an agent lawyer of his choice to be appointed to carry out as soon as reasonably possible, and in the case of the Interlocutory Injunction within ten days of the taking effect of these orders, the orders set out that pertain to his client Erica Sparks subject to the following terms:

a)  The appointed solicitor shall be remunerated by the Defendant for his or her services;

b)  That solicitor shall immediately contact Ms. Sparks and, without disclosing the nature of the subject matter to be discussed, schedule a meeting with her at a location convenient to access and download data from the Internet and reduce it to usable form, such as hard copy for data so suited or memory stick or other such device for videos, as soon as reasonably practicable;

c)  Upon personally meeting with Erica Sparks at the location chosen the appointed solicitor shall apprise her of the terms and conditions of the Preservation Order and Interlocutory Injunction as well as the other orders contained herein that pertain to her;

d)  Immediately upon disclosure of the terms and conditions of the orders set out, Erica Sparks, in the presence of the solicitor engaged, shall create a permanent tangible records in hard copy, wherever possible, or to other suitable device, of the entire contents of her Webpage(s) on Facebook including, but not limited to, all photographs, text and links and shall record by a memory stick or other suitable device any videos posted or linked to Erica’s Sparks’ Webpage, one copy of which shall be sealed upon the carrying out of that part of these orders and delivered to Mr. James Crocco to be held and preserved by him until further direction of the court; but the delivering of a sealed copy of the entirety of her Webpage(s) shall not operate to preclude Erica Sparks from providing her counsel, Mr. James Crocco, or anyone else of her choosing with a copy of the entirety of her Webpage(s) in order to prepare for the Production Hearing or further proceedings;

5)  Upon complying with the said orders the solicitor appointed to supervise the downloading of the material referred to herein shall immediately review all of the material downloaded to ensure that the orders have been carried out in full and shall then certify to the court in writing that there has been strict compliance with the orders contained herein, and that the sealed packet represents the entire contents of the Facebook Webpage(s) of Erica Sparks as well as videos posted or linked to it or them;

6)  Upon the successful execution of the orders set out herein and the execution of the certification of strict compliance with the orders contained herein by the solicitor appointed to supervise the downloading of the material referred to herein  Erica Sparks shall be free to resume unrestricted access to her Webpage(s) on Facebook including its substantive composition;

7)  The Motion begun on December 9, 2011 shall be adjourned to a date to be fixed by the Clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench for the Judicial District of Woodstock;

8)  The Defendant shall then file with this court and serve on the Plaintiff, in timely fashion, a Notice of Motion for the production and disclosure of the contents of the sealed packet of information/data;

9)  Once a date for a Production Hearing has been set Mr. James Crocco shall bring to that hearing the sealed packet of data retrieved from the Facebook Webpage(s) of Erica Sparks pursuant to the orders contained herein;

10)                     Upon completion of the execution of the orders contained herein, that apply to the retrieval of the entire contents of Erica Spark’s Facebook Webpage(s) on the terms as set out in these orders, the temporary oral sealing order sealing the entire file and court record in this matter that was imposed on December 9, 2010 at the conclusion of the ex partehearing shall be lifted without further order of the court.

11)                     The Plaintiff shall upon execution of these orders and the holding of a Production Hearing, in timely fashion, file a further and better Affidavit of Documents;

I understand that this order is being appealed and look forward to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal’s views on this matter.  While there are cases requiring Plaintiffs to produce social media data in personal injury lawsuits in BC, I am not aware of any cases in this Province going as far as the above decision.  Arguably the New BC Rules of Court focus on proportionality, narrower document disclosure obligations, and general prohibition of “fishing expeditions” in discovery of documents would prevent such an order from being granted in BC.

"Demystifying" Mild Traumatic Brain Injury


(Update: the Defendant’s Appeal of the below judgement was dismissed by the BC Court of Appeal on February 7, 2012)
Many of you may be aware of ICBC’s current “demystifying” campaign.   There are many misunderstood topics related to injury lawsuits and one of the most prominent is that of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).  Reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, demystifying some of the arguments that are commonly raised in opposition to these claims.
In today’s case (Madill v. Sithivong) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2004 BC motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck on the passenger side by the Defendant’s vehicle.  The issue of fault was admitted by the Defendant with the trial largely focussing on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The collision was not significant, from a vehicle damage perspective, causing little over $1,700 in damage to the Plaintiff vehicle.   Despite this the Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash.  ICBC argued that the injuries were not serious in part because the vehicle damage was modest, the Plaintiff had a ‘normal‘ Glasgow Coma Scale score of 15/15 noted on the ambulance crew report and that the hospital records relating to the treatment of the Plaintiff noted that he suffered from “No LOC (loss of consciousness)” and “zero amnesia“.
The Plaintiff called evidence from Dr. Hunt, a well respected neurosurgeon, who gave evidence that the above facts were not determinative of whether the Plaintiff suffered from serious consequences related to MTBI.  Madam Justice Morrison was persuaded by Dr. Hunts’ evidence and accepted that the Plaintiff suffered from long term consequences as a result of an acquired brain injury.  In rejecting the defence arguments Madam Justice Morrison provided the following ‘demystifying‘ reasons:

[112]     Dr. Hunt said he tries to concentrate on the individual.  He finds it helpful to see the notes of the family doctor, which deal with initial complaints, as do the notes of the ER doctor and responders.  But he notes that those doctors are very busy, and things get overlooked.  The same is true with an ambulance crew.  Dr. Hunt stated there may be no loss of consciousness, but there may be a loss of awareness.  An ambulance crew may give a 15 score for the Glasgow scale, indicating normal, but that could be misleading.  He also noted that someone may be described as being in good health pre-accident, but that would not mean he would not have issues.

[113]     Dr. Hunt disagreed that the best evidence of whether the plaintiff was an amnesiac, were notes at the hospital of “no LOC” and “zero amnesia”.  It was the evidence of Dr. Hunt that no matter how many times you see those terms, that a patient is alert and wide awake, that sometimes in looking at crew reports, the necessary information is not there.  A person does not need to strike his head for a concussion to have occurred.  It need only have been a shaking.

[114]     It is important to explain what a mild traumatic brain injury is, he stressed; Dr. Hunt referred to the many concussions in sports.  He said it is important to look at what happened following the accident, what symptoms have occurred and are continuing to occur.  Patients often deny a loss of consciousness or a loss of awareness, and it may be so fleeting that they may well be unaware.  But if the head has been shaken or jarred enough, this will equal a concussion, which is the same as a mild traumatic brain injury.  There may be no indication of bruises on the head, but it still could be a concussion.  Dr. Hunt noted that something prevented the plaintiff from exiting the vehicle, so the Jaws of Life was used.

[115]     Dr. Hunt noted that Dr. Tessler agreed that the plaintiff had a cerebral concussion in his initial report, but it was the opinion of Dr. Hunt that Dr. Tessler was not up to date on mild traumatic brain injuries.

[116]     In his evidence, Dr. Hunt listed some of the symptoms that are compatible with a concussion having occurred:  headaches, altered vision, balance difficulties, general fatigue, anxiety, memory disturbance, inability to manage stress.  “A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury.  We no longer grade concussions.”

[117]     I found Dr. Hunt to be an excellent witness.  He was cautious, detailed, thoughtful, low key, thorough and utterly professional.  In cross-examination, he gave a minor clinic on mild traumatic brain injuries.  He was subjected to a rigorous, lengthy and skilful cross-examination, which only served to expand upon and magnify his report and opinions.

[118]     He commented on the history of Mr. Madill prior to the accident, pointing to a number of things that may have caused excessive jarring or shaking of the head, even if there had been no symptoms of concussion.  He believes that the first responders’ observations are not always accurate as to what actually happened.  He said he himself may not have identified problems of concussion at the scene of the accident.  Ninety percent of people with concussions have headaches.  They have difficulty describing the headaches, and they are not the same as migraine or tension headaches.

[119]     Dr. Hunt was further critical of Dr. Tessler in opining that Dr. Tessler had diluted his opinion, and that he had concerns with the report of Dr. Tessler.  He felt that Dr. Tessler was still “in the dark ages” with regard to mild traumatic brain injuries, that he has not had the advantages that Dr. Hunt has had in working with sports brain injuries.  “Concussion is cumulative.”

[120]     I found the report and the evidence of Dr. Hunt persuasive.  He came across as an advocate of a better understanding of concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries, not as an advocate on behalf of the plaintiff.

In addition to the above, two other topics were of interest in todays’ case.  Evidence was presented by ICBC though private investigtors they hired who conducted video surveillance of the Plaintiff.  The Court found that this evidence was of little value but prior to doing so Madam Justice Morrison made the following critical observations:

[74] Much of the videotaping occurred while both the plaintiff and the private investigator were moving on streets and highways, driving at the speed of other traffic.  The investigators testified they drove with one hand on the wheel and the other hand operating the video camera, up at the side of their head, to allow them to view through the camera what they were taping.  That continues to be their practice today, according to at least one of the investigators, which was interesting, considering from whom they receive their instructions, a corporation dedicated to road safety.

Lastly, this case is worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of diminished earning capacity.  In short the Plaintiff was self employed with his spouse.  Despite his injuries he was able to continue working but his spouse took on greater responsibility following the collision.  The Court recognized that the Plaintiff suffered from a diminisehd earning capacity and awarded $650,000 for this loss.  Paragraphgs 193-210 of the judgement contain the Court’s discussion of this topic.

Challenging ICBC Surveillance Disbursements – Evidence of Necessity Required


If parties to a lawsuit can’t agree which disbursements were reasonably incurred they can ask the Court to decide the issue.  As recently discussed, it is important for parties to bring appropriate evidence to Court to justify their disbursements.  This was further addressed in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.
In today’s case (Hambrook v. Sandhu) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 BC motor vehicle collision.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC made a formal offer to settle the claim for $75,000.   About 16 months later the Plaintiff accepted the offer.  The formal offer had a declining value reducing its amount by ICBC’s ‘costs and disbursements‘ incurred following the delivery of the offer.
After the offer was accpeted ICBC produced a bill of costs totalling almost $28,000.   Once of the biggest disbursements included in this total were the accounts of a private investigator who was retained to conduct video surveillance of the Plaintiff.  These accounts totalled almost $20,000.
The Plaintiff argued that ICBC’s disbursements were unreasoble.  Eventually the BC Supreme Court was asked to decide the issue.  Master Keighley sided largely with the Plaintiff and reduced ICBC’s account to just over $6,000.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons refusing the disbursements related to the private investigator and addressing the need for parties to come to Court with adequate evidence:

[11]         As a general proposition, the party claiming reimbursement for sums expended in the course of litigation bears the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the charges claimed.

[12]         I have suffered, on this assessment, from a paucity of evidence offered by the defendants in support of the disbursement claims. With respect to the Lanki Investigations Inc. invoices I have no evidence before me as to the necessity for or results of these investigations. I am told by counsel that the investigations, which consisted largely of video surveillance, were instrumental in resolving this claim. I have no evidence as to this effect, however, only records of the amount of time spent by various individuals. I note that the surveillance took place after the delivery of the offer to settle and in the last two weeks prior to trial. Mr. Smith says that the surveillance materials were of little value and that the case settled when it did because of a clarification in the law of costs and a change in his client’s employment. The former, he says, meant that his client would potentially net more money as a result of accepting the offer than he had previously anticipated, and the second meant a substantial limitation of his claim for loss of future earnings. These details are confirmed to some extent by the plaintiff’s affidavit of February 6, 2009. In the circumstances, while I am not prepared to say that the defendants’ expenses for surveillance were entirely unreasonable, I am compelled by the tariff item and the case law to allow them only if settlement was achieved as a result of the services provided. In the absence of any evidence from the defendants on this point, I cannot do so. The Lanki accounts are disallowed.

Wage Loss Claims, Document Disclosure and Proportionality


As previously discussed, the new BC Civil Rules have changed the test of document production in the pre-trial discovery process.  The test has been narrowed from documents “relating to every matter in question in the action“ to “all documents that are or have been in a parties possession or control that could be used by any party to prove or disprove a material fact” and “all other documents to which a party intends to refer at trial“.  In addition to this the Court must take the concept of ‘proportionality‘ into account when considering an order to produce third party records.
Reasons for judgement were released considering this narrower obligation in the context of an ICBC claim.
In today’s case (Tai v. Lam) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff was injured and claimed damages.  The Defendant asked that the Plaintiff produce his bank statements from the date of the accident onward in order to “defend against (the Plaintiff’s) claim for loss of earning capacity”  The Plaintiff refused to provide these and a motion was brought seeking production.    Master Baker dismissed the motion and made the following useful comments about document disclosure obligations under the new rules and the concept of proportionality:

[5]             I am not going to make the order sought.  I agree entirely with Mr. Bolda’s view of this, which is that it is essentially one production too far, that the information and details sought goes beyond what is reasonable, even on a redacted basis.  To ask that all the bank statements be produced is a broad, broad sweep.

[6]             Sitting here listening, it struck me, it is as if a party who commences proceedings and says, “look, I have been injured and I have suffered financial losses” is inviting some kind of a Full Monty disclosure, that they are expected to produce all financial information they might ever have out there.  Even if it is suggested or offered today that that be done on a redacted basis, it is still, in my respectful view, a requirement for production that is excessive.

[7]             It certainly raises big issues about privacy and if one says, “well, redaction would fix that”, what does it take for counsel to sit down and patiently, carefully redact their client’s bank records for four and a half years?  If that is not a question of confidentiality and privacy, it is a question of proportionality, which is just as concerning to me today as the other issues.

[8]             The banking records.  I am also persuaded by Mr. Bolda’s argument, and a  common position taken today, that the judgment will be one of assessment, not calculation, that the trial judge will have multiple facets to consider and amongst them the gross income.  And while it is for the defence to present and structure its case as it wishes, it seems to me that if it successfully attacks any of these claims for expenses it can only increase Mr. Tai’s income, and I cannot see the value in that perspective.

[9]             I know that until recently the standard in this province was Peruvian Guano and locally Dufault v. Stevens, but that standard has changed.  There has to be a greater nexus and justification for the production of the documents in a case, and I am satisfied that that standard has not been met here today, so that the application is dismissed.

We Don't Need Your Consent! – ICBC Claims and Medical Reports


If you’re involved in a BC motor vehicle collision and have your injuries treated by a “medical practitioner” ICBC can compel the medical practitioner to provide them with a report documenting your injuries.  This is so even if you are not insured with ICBC and even if you don’t consent.  Reasons for judgement were published this week on the BC Supreme Court’s website discussing this area of law.
In today’s case (Pearlman v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in collision in 2004.  He was insured with a carrier from Washington State.  The other motorist was insured with ICBC.   The Plaintiff initially contacted ICBC and signed an authorization permitting ICBC to obtain medical information relating to his injuries.  About a year later the Plaintiff hired a lawyer and cancelled the authorization.  Despite this ICBC contacted a physician who treated the Plaintiff after the accident (Dr. Lubin) and requested “a narrative medical report“.
Ultimately the Plaintiff’s lawsuit against the other motorist was dismissed at trial.  The Plaintiff then sued Dr. Lubin arguing that the physician breached the Plaintiff’s confidence by providing ICBC a medical report when the Plaintiff withdrew his consent for ICBC to obtain his medical information.  The Plaintiff also sued ICBC directly arguing that ICBC improperly requested the medico-legal report.  Both of these lawsuits were dismissed with the BC Supreme Court finding that whether or not ICBC has written authority, section 28 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act permits ICBC to obtain reports from treating medical practitioners and that practitioners have “no legal choice” other than to comply with such requests.
In the claim against Dr. Lubin Madam Justice Morrison stated as follows about the mandatory nature of section 28 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act:
[] Dr. Lubin was obligated to provide ICBC with the report as requested.  Dr. Lubin had no legal choice other than to comply with the mandatory request to submit a medical legal report to ICBC.  This did not amount to a breach of confidentiality as alleged by the plaintiff.
In the claim against ICBC Mr. Justice Smith found that it would be an ‘abuse of process‘ to permit the Jury in that action to make findings contrary to Madam Justice Morrison’s previous decision.  Mr. Justice Smith held as follows:

[14]         The plaintiff also sued Dr. Lubin, alleging a number of causes of action, including negligence and breach of confidence.  That action went to trial before Madam Justice Morrison and was dismissed in reasons for judgment dated March 11, 2009.  Madam Justice Morrison held that when ICBC requested the report, Dr. Lubin was obliged to provide it.  She found that obligation arose out of s. 28 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, which reads:

If any of the following persons attends to, diagnoses, treats or is consulted by a person injured in a motor vehicle accident in British Columbia, he or she must, whenever the corporation requests, provide the corporation, as soon as reasonably practicable, with a report of the injuries and their diagnosis and treatment and a prognosis, in the form the corporation prescribes …

The persons then listed include a medical practitioner….

[20] Madam Justice Morrison’s findings regarding Dr. Lubin’s conduct were made on the same or very similar evidence that is before the Court in this case, and I conclude it would indeed be an abuse of process to invite this jury to make contrary findings.

The Plaintiff appealed Madam Justice Morrison’s decision.  In the course of the Appeal the Plaintiff was ordered to post security for costs in the event he lost the appeal.  In reviewing this decision the BC Court of Appeal made the following comments on the matter of ICBC ordering reports not in the ‘prescribed form‘:

[19] Even if Mr. Pearlman were to succeed in his argument that the judge erred in finding that Dr. Lubin was required to provide the report under statute – I note, in that regard, that the report was not prepared in form CL 19, which is ICBC’s prescribed form under s. 28 of theInsurance (Vehicle) Act) – it is difficult to see how his appeal could succeed given the trial judge’s clear finding that Dr. Lubin did not cause him any loss.

These decisions illustrate ICBC’s power to get medical reports even absent patient consent.  It can be argued that the Court of Appeal’s comments can leave individuals with little recourse if ICBC goes further than ordering a CL-19 and in fact obtains a full medico-legal report.  A solution, at least insofar as tort claims are concerned, is for plaintiffs to bring this power to the Courts attention when ICBC insured defendants try to obtain independent medical exams in order to ‘level the playing field‘ under the BC Supreme Court Rules.

Damages for Violations of Privacy in BC

(Update: The below decision was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in December, 2011)

As I’ve previously written, the BC Privacy Act allows individuals to sue where their privacy is violated “wilfully and without a claim of right” by another person.  This powerful law permits such lawsuits to succeed even where a Plaintiff cannot prove actual damages.
Despite the strength of the BC Privacy Act, relatively few reported decisions have been released applying this law in the years that it has been on the books.  Useful reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, applying this law in combination with a claim for damages for defamation.
In today’s case (Nesbitt v. Neufeld) the Plaintiff and Defendant were involved in “protracted family litigation” During the course of that litigation one of the parties “resorted to out-of-court publications that are plainly private to the litigants“.  The reasons for judgement are worth reviewing in full for the details but these apparently included “private communications…released to third parties and made available to the public (including)…a YouTube video…a website…a Facebook Page…(and) a letter to the Ministry of Child and Family Development”
The victim sued arguing she was defamed and further that her privacy rights were unreasonably violated.  Mr. Justice Crawford agreed and awarded the Plaintiff $40,000 in damages.   In reaching this award the Court provided the following reasons:

[89]         The B.C. Court of Appeal in Davis v. McArthur (1970), 17 D.L.R. (3d) 760, [1970] B.C.J. No. 664 (QL) (C.A.), said this in the course of its judgment at para. 9 of QL:

To constitute the tort [of violation of privacy] the violation must be committed “wilfully and without a claim of right”. The nature and degree of privacy to which the person is entitled in any situation or in relation to any matter is fully set out in s-s (2) [now ss. 1(2) and 1(3)] and, in my opinion, no useful purpose would be served in attempting to elaborate upon the words contained therein. Regard must be had to the provisions of the subsection as a whole. It is plain that whether there has been a violation of privacy of another must be decided on the particular facts of each case. As the learned Judge below said in his reasons for judgment [10 D.L.R. (3d) 250 at p. 255, 72 W.W.R. 69]: “It is necessary to consider all of the circumstances before determining ‘The nature and degree of privacy to which a person is entitled,’ s. 2(2) [now ss. 1(2) and 1(3)].

[90]         In Hollinsworth v. BCTV, a division of Westcom T.V. Group Ltd. (1999), 59 B.C.L.R. (3d) 121, 113 B.C.A.C. 304, the Court of Appeal defined the term “wilfully” to mean “an intention to do an act which the person doing the act knew or should have known would violate the privacy of another person” (at para. 29 of B.C.L.R.).

[91]         Dr. Nesbitt’s use of the private correspondence between Ms. Neufeld and Ms. X was a deliberate act that violated Ms. Neufeld’s privacy. The communications were extremely personal…

[96] Had Dr. Nesbitt restricted his communications within the confines of the family court litigation where he had counsel to advise him of the bounds of legitimate expression of his opinions, the issues before me in this proceeding might not have arisen. I say “might” because I note that certain publications of Dr. Nesbitt prompted an application to the family court that resulted in a consent order made on September 8, 2008 before Master Caldwell restraining Dr. Nesbitt from making further improper communications…

[102] The reality is that Dr. Nesbitt has taken his battle with Ms. Neufeld over custody and access far outside the ordinary confines of the family court litigation. Even worse his lack of appreciation for the proper boundaries of communication of his opinions has spread to besmirch persons that are friends of Ms. Neufeld.

[103] Dr. Nesbitt disclosed matters private to the parties in a manner that defamed Ms. Neufeld; he is the publisher of the defamatory materials at issue.

[104] For breach of privacy and the defamation aspects of the defendant’s claim, I set that amount at $40,000.

[105] I only limit the defamation damages due to the fact that while it is plainly publication to the world in the sense the defamatory materials were put on the Internet, Ms. Neufeld indicated there has been little personal or professional backlash. Indeed, if I read between the lines, the communications to the Rotary Club, the Ministry and the Child’s doctor were treated with the disdain they deserved.

The Court went on to award the victim ‘special costs’ in order to rebuke the other parties ‘reprehensible conduct‘.  The ease created by social media platforms in allowing individuals to quickly publish material to the Internet will likely make claims such as these more prevalent in the years to come.  With this, damage awards for privacy violations will hopefully be shaped into predictable ranges.

Surveillance Evidence Excluded From Trial for Failure of Disclosure


(Note: The Decision discussed below was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal on August 25, 2011)
As I’ve previously written, the Rules of Court require parties to a BC Supreme Court Civil Lawsuit to disclose relevant documents to opposing parties.  Some documents are privileged and need not be exchanged but their existence needs to be disclosed and these documents need to be described “in a manner that, without revealing informaiton that is privileged, will enabel other parties to assess the validity of the claim of privilege“.  Failure to do so can result in exclusion of the documents from trial.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing this area of law.
In today’s case (Houston v. Kine) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant admitted responsibility for the crash.  The Plaintiff sustained various  injuries including a major depressive disorder, pain disorder, anxiety disorder and PTSD following the collision.  Madam Justice Gropper found that the collision was responsible for these injuries and assessed the Plaintiff’s damages at $525,000.
There was a 5 month break from the beginning of the trial to its conclusion.  During this break ICBC undertook surveillance of the Plaintiff over two periods of time.  The Defence lawyers, however, failed to disclose this evidence in compliance with the Rules of Court.  When they attempted to put the video into evidence the Plaintiff objected.  Madam Justice Gropper sided with the Plaintiff and held that the evidence should not be admitted.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following helpful reasons:

[11] The burden on the party seeking to tender the undisclosed document is to establish to the Court’s satisfaction a reasonable explanation for the failure to disclose. As Henderson J. stated inCarol v. Gabriel (1997), 14 C.P.C. (4th) 376, 75 A.C.W.S. (3d) 858:

[9]        A party tendering a previously undisclosed document must establish to the court’s satisfaction a justification for the failure to abide by Rule 26(14). The question of whether the opposite party will be prejudiced by the admission of the document is always relevant but is not, in and of itself, decisive. Even in cases where no prejudice will ensue from the admission in evidence of the document, it will be excluded unless there is a reasonable justification for the earlier failure to disclose it. To hold otherwise would be to dilute the disclosure obligation and tempt counsel to refrain from disclosing in situations where they do not expect any prejudice to result.

[12] Here, the explanation for the failure to disclose is that the videos are not documents and they were never in the defendants’ possession or control. Rather, these videos and the accompanying reports fall clearly within the solicitor’s brief.

[13] The defendants’ position that it is sufficient that the videos and background materials were disclosed in March 2010, before the recommencement of the trial does not address the requirement of the Rule in 23(13) that the disclosure be “forthwith.” Not disclosing, as a matter of strategy, is not a satisfactory explanation to address the “forthwith” requirement.

[14] It is therefore my view that the videos have not been disclosed in accordance with R. 26(13) and I must therefore consider whether I ought to exercise my discretion to allow the Mexico video into evidence in accordance with R. 26(14).

[15] The factors to be considered are described by the Court of Appeal in Stone v. Ellerman, 2009 BCCA 294; 273 B.C.A.C. 126; [2009] 9 W.W.R. 385; 71 C.P.C. (6th) 25; 92 B.C.L.R. (4th) 203; 2009 CarswellBC 1633, at paras. 30 and 31. They are:

1.         prejudice to the party, in this case the plaintiff;

2.         whether there was a reasonable explanation for the other party’s failure to disclose;

3.         whether excluding the document would prevent a determination of the issue on the merits; and

4.         whether in the circumstances of the case the ends of justice require that the document be admitted.

[16] Addressing the prejudice to the plaintiff, it is difficult for me to assess the prejudice versus the probative value issue as I have not seen the videos and I have not reviewed the investigators’ notes of the video. I note in addressing this factor that there were hours of video recorded and the defendants’ counsel has provided a summary of what is contained in the videos. Based upon that, I am not satisfied that the videos are sufficiently probative to outweigh the prejudice to the plaintiff in allowing their admission having not been disclosed forthwith on a supplementary list of documents. This is despite the assertion that the plaintiff “lived” the events and that she would not be surprised by the contents. She has given evidence and called her medical and functional capacity experts. The late disclosure of the video evidence has impaired the ability of the plaintiff to meet the evidence.

[17] The admission of the videos and notes may require that she be recalled, or that she recall some of the experts. These days were added to the trial for its conclusion. The admission of the video evidence will necessarily extend the trial.

[18] In relation to the second factor, whether or not there was a reasonable explanation for the parties’ failure to disclose, I have already determined that strategy does not provide a reasonable explanation for lack of disclosure. Rule 26(13) requires that supplementary documents are to be disclosed forthwith and they were not.

[19] Concerning the third factor, whether the document would prevent the determination of the issue on the merits, I have heard evidence including the plaintiff’s evidence and the defendants’ evidence and expert evidence about the plaintiff’s activity and her level of disability. Based on the summary provided by counsel for the defendants of the contents of the video I cannot conclude that I will be prevented from determining the issue on the merits.

[20] Finally, I am not persuaded that the ends of justice require that videos be admitted.

[21] I therefore find that the videos are not admissible.

Interestingly, Madam Justice Gropper went even further and held that the witnesses who made the videos could not testify as to their observations of the Plaintiff as doing so would undermine the decision to exclude the video evidence.  The Court’s reasoning behind this decision could be found at paragraphs 22-28 of Appendix A to the Reasons for Judgement.

Damaging Your Personal Injury Claim: Spying on Yourself


It’s a not so well-kept secret that Insurance Companies often hire private investigators to conduct video surveillance of people involved in personal injury claims.  Sometimes the efforts pay off in uncovering a fraudulent claim.  More often than not hours of bland video are produced doing little more than intruding on the privacy of an injured plaintiff.
These days, however, private investigators may play less of a role as many Plaintiffs are doing the surveillance work themselves. That’s right, Plaintiffs spy on themselves and hand the goods right over to the Insurance Company.
I’m talking about the liberal use of social media, specifically YouTube.  When you or a friend make a film and post it on YouTube chances are the video will be of better quality and give more intimate access to your life than anything a Private Investigator can put together.  PI’s often film from the bushes, a van or other less than ideal locations.  The videos produced are often grainy, distant and of poor quality.  Most videos uploaded to YouTube, on the other hand, are up close and personal.  These videos can give a lot of insight into a person’s life.
Whether or not these videos are damaging to your claim insurance companies are viewing them.  This information can either be directly used against you or will give the insurance company further avenues to pursue in trying to damage your personal injury claim.
The reality is that insurance companies are effectively using social media and uncovering a gold-mine of useful information in the process.  As I’ve previously written, the mere mention of ICBC on twitter will immediately bring you to their attention.  If you’re using social media be aware that your audience is bigger than you intend.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
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