Document Production Obligations and the New Supreme Court Civil Rules
One of the goals of the New Rules of Court was to make litigation “just, speedy and inexpensive” and to simplify the process. One area where the Rules have fallen short of this goal is the area of pre-trial document disclosure obligations. Under the former Rules parties were bound by one consistent (but arguably over-broad) test. Now parties are met with a host of obligations which were well summarized in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry.
In this week’s case (Edwards v. Ganzer) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision. A dispute arose with respect the Plaintiff’s disclosure obligations. In resolving the dispute Master Bouck provided the following reasons summarizing the legal disclosure obligations (and dispute process) under Rule 7-1:
 Biehl v. Strang is the seminal decision of Punnett J. addressing (mostly) the primary obligation of document disclosure under Rule 7-1(1) (a). The remaining decisions touch upon, if not directly address, the document disclosure obligations under both Rule 7-1(1)(a) and Rule 7-1(14) of the SCCR.
 In addition, Master Baker has recently discussed the application of Rule 7-1 in Burgess v. Buell Distribution Corp., 2011 BCSC 1740.
 I understand the principles outlined in these various decisions, together with the applicable Rules, to be as follows:
a. The initial production obligation under Rule 7-1 (1) (a) (i) is limited to what is required to prove or disprove a material fact: Biehl v. Strang at para. 14;
b. Rule 7-1(10) allows the opposing party to issue a written demand requiring the listing party to amend the original list and produce documents that should have been disclosed under Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i);
c. In addition, Rule 7-1(11) allows the opposing party to issue a written demand requiring the listing party to amend the list and produce documents which ought to be disclosed under a test “close to” that set out in Compagnie Financiere et Commerciale du Pacifique v. Peruvian Guano Company (1882), 11 Q.B.D. 55 at 63, (the “Guano test”): Global Pacific at para. 9;
d. The distinction between the two types of disclosure provided for under Rule 7-1 is stated in Global Pacific as follows:
The question is whether a document can properly be said to contain information which may enable the party requiring the document either to advance his own case or damage the case of his adversary, if it is a document which may fairly lead him to a train of inquiry, or if it may have either of those two consequences. Therefore, it is acknowledged that the initial disclosure under Rule 7-1(1) relates to a materiality requirement, but that a party can apply to the court, as the defendant did here, for broader disclosure pursuant to Rule 7-1(14).
e. Both the demand by the requesting party and the response of the opposing party should be set out in writing addressing the terms and criteria used in Rule 7-1. Whether the demand and response provide sufficient particularity is a matter of the court’s discretion;
f. If an application is brought under Rule 7-1(13) for the listing or production of documents, the court may either order compliance with the demand, excuse full compliance, or order partial compliance: Rule 7-1(14);
g. The objectives of the SCCR, including proportionality, may be taken into account by the court when exercising its discretion under Rule 7-1(14). The proportionality rule can be applied to either expand or restrict the required production of documents: Global Pacific citing Whitcombe v. Avec Insurance Managers Inc., 2011 BCSC 204.
 Interestingly, a party may be excused from compliance with Rule 7-1(1) generally, but the court is not given the specific power to order compliance with a demand made for the listing and production of the so-called “materiality” documents. Rule 7-1(14) only specifically allows for an order requiring compliance with a broader disclosure demand under Rule 7-1(11): Global Pacific; Burgess v. Buell Distribution Corp. Whether this distinction is an oversight or intentional is difficult to say. It might well be the former, given that Rule 7-1(13) contemplates a compliance order by the court if a demand for the “material” documents is issued. The distinction is more fully canvassed in Burgess v. Buell Distribution Corp. at para. 15.