You Can't Be Forced to Show Your Hand: Litigation Privilege and Expert Reports
Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with the limits of the Court’s power to order litigants to reveal which experts they may rely on at trial.
In the recent case (Amezcua v. Norlander) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate collisions. The first took place some 14 years ago. Commenting on the pace of litigation the Court noted that “the wheels of justice have ground so slowly that at times they stopped“.
The Defendant was apparently not aware of the nature of the injuries the Plaintiff was advancing. An application was brought at a Case Planning Conference seeking the Plaintiff to “confirm which experts and expert reports it plans to rely on at trial“. The Defendant argued that the Court can make such an order under Rule 5-3(1).
Master Baker noted that such an order would infringe on litigation privilege. The Court did, however, order an accelerated date for the Plaintiff to serve his expert reports noting the slow pace of litigation. Master Baker provided the following reasons:
As I said above, the defendant Taylor asks for an order that the plaintiff “…confirm which experts and expert reports it plans to rely on at trial”. In Galvon v. Hopkins, Kloegman J. declined to order that a party name a neurologist consulted by the party, along with the date of the appointment, or to advise of the names of subsequent experts or the dates of their appointments. After considering several authorities, she concluded:
I do not see anything in Rule 5?3 governing case planning conferences that clearly, expressly, and specifically allows the presider to compel a party to provide another party with the details of any potential expert witnesses before that party has even consulted with the expert or made an election whether to call the witnesses’ evidence at trial.
Rule 5-3 does have clear and express provisions respecting experts: Rule 5-3(1)(k) permits the Court to direct the appointment of joint experts, to order that they consult, to limit the number of experts, to set dates for service of experts’ report (i.e. other than those set by Rules 11-6(3) and (4)), or to direct what issues upon which they may be called. But none of these (other than by advancing the service date for reports) requires that a party disclose either the expert’s identity, or the area of his or her expertise before serving the report.
Rule 5-3(1)(k) is not inconsistent, in my view, with the reasoning in Galvon. The disclosure aspects of that Rule assume that evidence has been gathered, assessed, and considered essential to a party’s case. The only question remaining then is when it will be disclosed, thus Rule 5-3(1)(k)(iv), permitting service dates other than those provided by Rule 11-6. It is important and instructive to note the court’s reference to “potential” expert witnesses; it seems to me that Kloegman J. was concerned with protecting litigation privilege during the evidence-gathering phase, so that the party assembling his or her case is free to do so without the requirement of disclosing experts (or, I conclude, directions) that may prove fruitless and avoid adverse inferences.
The defendant Taylor’s request, however, comes within Rule 5-3(1)(k) and does not ask the name or expertise of potential witnesses, but rather the details of the experts it will rely on at trial.
This case, as I have mentioned, has an extraordinary aspect. The first accident occurred approximately 13 years ago. Such delays sometimes occur when, for example, the plaintiff is an infant. That is not the case in this situation. The defence is justified in its frustration and perplexity in not knowing, in any reliable way and after 13 years, the nature or extent of medical injuries suffered by the plaintiff. That being the case, the plaintiff is ordered to deliver the reports of experts upon which she intends to rely at trial, no later than November 1, 2012.