Corporate Plaintiff Not Allowed To Read In Discovery Evidence of Former Employee

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing limits on the use of discovery evidence at trial.
In today’s case (No Limits Sportswear Inc v. 0912139 BC Ltd) the Plaintiff sought to read in evidence at trial of their former employee who was questioned at discovery as a representative of the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff argued that Rule 12-5(47) allowed such a result.  Madam Justice Griffin disagreed and in preventing the Plaintiff from using the discovery evidence of their former employee the Court noted as follows:

[14]         The interpretation of the Rules suggested by the plaintiffs regarding the use at trial of the examination for discovery of a former employee is contrary to the underlying purposes of the procedure.

[15]         The utility of an examination for discovery would be undermined if self-serving parts of evidence of the former employee given on discovery could be read-in at trial by the party who used to employ the witness. Such a result would seriously inhibit the scope of questioning by the examining party, limiting the fact-finding nature of the discovery and its usefulness as a tool to avoid surprise at trial and to encourage settlement.

[16]         The former employer does not need to use the examination for discovery transcript in order to call helpful evidence from its former employee at trial. The former employer always has a choice of calling him as a witness at trial.

[17]         Contrary to the submissions of the plaintiffs, the fact that subrules 12-5(46), (47) and (48) are separate subrules does not lead to the conclusion that each subrule stands alone and that any party can tender the examination for discovery evidence of a former employee.

[18]         Rule 12-5(46) states that evidence given on examination for discovery may be tendered by “any party adverse in interest”. Rule 12-5(47) does not say who it may be tendered by, but instead, deals with the requirement of giving notice of the intention to tender the evidence if it is from a former employee. Subrule (47) does not say the evidence can be tendered by any party and does not supersede the requirement in R. 12-5(46) that it be tendered by a party adverse in interest.

[19]         Also relevant is the restriction on the use of the evidence as set out in R. 12‑5(46)(b). This subrule provides that the evidence is admissible only “against” the adverse party whose status as a party entitled the examining party to conduct the examination. In other words, the evidence of the former employee, if read-in at trial, is only admissible against his former employer, the plaintiff company. It cannot be read-in by one group of defendants as evidence to be used against the other defendant. The plaintiffs’ submission that the plaintiffs should be entitled to read-in portions of the evidence to be used “at large” in the trial would be contrary to these restrictions.

[20]         The purposes of subrules 12-5(47) and (48) are to deal with the situation where the former employee who was examined for discovery is hostile to his former employer, and gave evidence on discovery which the former employer does not accept and wishes to challenge. Subrule (47) requires that the party tendering the former employee’s evidence, which again by subrule (46) must be a party adverse in interest to the party who formerly employed the witness, must give 14 days’ notice before trial of the intention to tender the evidence. This then gives the party who formerly employed the witness, and any other party, the opportunity to require the witness to be produced for cross-examination at trial pursuant to subrule (48).

[21]         To deal with the possibility that the former employee may have loyalties to none of the parties at trial, subrule (48) allows all parties to cross-examine the witness if his presence is required at trial.

[22]         I find support in this interpretation in the commentary to R. 12-5(47) found in McLachlin & Taylor, British Columbia Practice, vol. 2, 3d ed. (Markham, Ont: LexisNexis, 2006) at 12-51 as follows:

Under SCR 1961, M.R. 370rr, only the examination of a person who was an officer or servant of the corporation at the time of trial could be used as evidence. This was subject to SCR 1961, M.R. 370s which effectively excluded the use of discovery of a former officer or servant who had been dismissed from employment except where such dismissal occurred after service of the appointment for examination for discovery, in which case his examination could be used with leave of the court: Seymour v. Fleetwood Logging Co., [1963] B.C.J. No. 64, 45 W.W.R. 511 (S.C.). The apparent reason for these rules was the prospect of the unfair use against a corporation of the discovery of a person no longer in its employ and possibly hostile to it.

These restrictions on the use of examination for discovery of former director, officer, employee, agent or external auditor of a party was abolished by the enactment of SCR 1976, Rule 40(24) (which became SCR 1990, Rule 40(27)): Robitaille v. Vancouver Hockey Club Ltd. (No. 2), [1979] B.C.J. No. 526, 13 B.C.L.R. 309 (S.C.), affd [1981] B.C.J. No. 555, 30 B.C.L.R. 286 (C.A.). Because a party has no choice in the selection of who is examined on his behalf under Rule 7-2(5), it is arguably unfair to burden him with such a person’s answers: see Rule 7-2(5) and comments thereunder.

Accordingly, SCR 1976, Rule 40(27) (which became SCR 1990, Rule 40(24)) was amended in 1985 to provide that the examination for discovery of a former director, officer or servant may be given at trial only if notice of the intention to do so is delivered to all parties at least 14 days before the trial. Any party may then require that the person examined attend at the trial and, if any part of the examination for discovery is given in evidence, all parties may then cross-examine the former director, officer or servant.

[23]         I conclude that the plaintiffs are not entitled to read-in passages of the examination for discovery of its former employee, Mr. Darren Hawrish.

bc injury law, examination for discovery, Madam Justice Griffin, No Limits Sportswear Inc v. 0912139 BC Ltd, Rule 12, Rule 12-5, Rule 12-5(46), Rule 12-5(47)

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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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