"Customer Safety" Based Incident Report Ordered Disclosed as Non Privileged

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a Defendant in a personal injury lawsuit to disclose an incident report created following the incident at question.
In today’s case (Smith v. Air Canada) the Plaintiff “was in her seat when a bag allegedly fell on her after a fellow passenger failed to store it securely in the overhead compartment.“.  She sued Air Canada alleging negligence.  Following the incident Air Canada created an “incident report” but refused to provide the Plaintiff with a copy of this document alleging it was created for the dominant purpose of litigation.  Madam Justice Gropper disagreed finding it was instead created primarily with customer safety in mind and ordered it disclosed. In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[24]         As noted, the first part of the test, whether the document was prepared in contemplation of litigation, must be satisfied before the court goes on to consider the dominant purpose of the creation of the document. Master Baker considered the first part of the test in light of the affidavits that were provided and as a matter of fact. He properly considered, in my view, that when Ms. Soroka prepared her incident report she was attempting to discover the cause of the accident, whether there were witnesses, and the nature of the injuries sustained by Ms. Smith. She said that her first concern was customer safety.
[25]         As with any claim of privilege, the trier of fact must assess whether the assertion that the document was prepared in contemplation of litigation is reasonable. He cannot simply rely on the statement that the document was prepared in contemplation of litigation. If that were so the mere assertion would determine whether the document was privileged.
[26]         Master Baker assessed the circumstances at the time the report was written and concluded that it was not reasonable to accept that Ms. Soroka prepared the incident report in contemplation of litigation.
[27]         As I stated, the Master applied the appropriate test and reached a reasonable conclusion. The Master’s view that litigation was not a reasonable prospect at the time the incident report was created is not clearly wrong.
[28]         Having reached that conclusion, it was not necessary for Master Baker to consider the dominant purpose test. He did not conflate the two-part test as Air Canada suggests. Air Canada did not clear the first hurdle.
 

incident report, investigative stage, litigation privilege, Madam Justice Gropper, Smith v. Air Canada

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ERIK
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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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