Counselling Record Production Request Denied as Irrelevant and Privileged


Concise reasons for judgement were recently released discussing the scope of document production limits under the New Rules of Court.  In today’s case (RCL v. SCF) the Plaintiff was seeking damages following a motor vehicle collision.  He had a history of emotional difficulties stemming in part from childhood abuse.  He received counselling regarding this from the Elizabeth Fry Society.  The Defendant requested a Court Order for production of these records.
Master Young refused the application as going beyond the narrower document production test under the New Rules of Court and further held that even if the documents were relevant they were privileged under the Wigmore criteria.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[1] The application is being brought under our new Rule 7-1(1). The relevancy test in the Supreme Court Rules has now narrowed to one of direct relevance, to use the words of the section, “to prove or disprove a material fact”, and it is no longer a chain of inquiry test related to any matter in question. I am not satisfied that these records will assist in proving any material fact.

[2] The defendant already knows that the plaintiff was abused as a child; that this event caused him emotional pain; that he attempted suicide; that he sought help from the Elizabeth Fry Society; that he missed work prior to the motor vehicle accident; and that he suffers from borderline personality disorder and depression. I also note a record that his brother passed away shortly before this accident. The defendant has obtained volumes of clinical records. I do not see how the detail of the counselling at Elizabeth Fry or the details of the abuse are going to add anything to the information they already have. It is clearly a request based on a chain of inquiry that there might be something relevant in those records.

[3] Everyone agrees that the Wigmore criteria that is set out in the Slavutych v. Baker decision is the relevant test to determine if the records are privileged, and I am not going to repeat those four criteria, but criteria 1 to 3 were conceded to exist, and there was some debate in submissions about whether criteria 4 has been met, and that says that (as read in):

The injury that would inure to the relationship by the disclosure of the communications must be greater than the benefit thereby gained for the correct disposal of the litigation.

[4] I agree with Mr. Williams that the case of M. v. Martinson is directly on point. Paragraph 4 of the Wigmore criteria has been interpreted in the broad sense as one of a public policy issue. Would the public interest and the proper administration of justice outweigh in importance any public interest that may be protected by upholding the claim for privilege? As Master Joyce (as he then was) said at para. 18 (as read in):

I find there is great public interest in encouraging victims of abuse to seek counselling and to be assured of the confidentiality of that communication. The public interest is served if that confidentiality is fostered to the greatest possible degree.

[5] What of the interests of justice? Is the central issue in this case before me today in this lawsuit the same as might be contained in those records? I think not. There have already been several other sources outlining this plaintiff’s prior psychological problems. These records are at best peripherally related to the material issue. I am not convinced that in the interests of justice, I should breach that confidential relationship at all, not even to review those records myself and certainly not under this new narrow test for document production in our Rules of Court.

[6] So on that basis, I am denying the application.

bc injury law, counselling records, document production, Master Young, material fact test, privilege, public interest privilege, RCL v. SCF, Rule 7, Rule 7-1, Rule 7-1(1), wigmore criteria, Wigore test

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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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