"Investigative Stage" Significant Barrier to ICBC Privilege Claims


A trend developing in BC Caselaw is the demonstrated difficulty ICBC has trying to withhold documents in a personal injury lawsuit based on their ‘investigative’ responsibilities.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this topic.
In this week’s case (Gilbert v. Nelson) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision with a vehicle.  The Plaintiff was 13 at the time and was riding a bicycle.  Following the collision ICBC investigated the collision and obtained engineering reports and a further report from an independent adjuster.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendant had access to these documents.  The Defendant refused to produce them claiming litigation privilege.
The Plaintiff brought an application to have these produced.   Master Taylor granted the application finding the documents were created during ICBC’s investigative stage.  In ordering production the Court provided the following reasons:

[35] Saying that litigation is a certainty is not the test for the dominant purpose.

[36] What I do observe from the facts before me is that no counsel was consulted or retained by the defendant or his insurer until after the notice of civil claim was issued in July, 2010.  While the retainer of counsel is not an absolute test as to whether or not documents were created for the dominant purpose of litigation, it is but one factor in this case that indicates that the defendant and his insurer were not preparing for litigation nor directing the course of the defence of a possible law suit, until a notice of civil claim was issued some five years post accident.  One would have thought that the defendants would have sought to establish the dominant purpose by showing on a balance of probabilities that the dominant purpose of the documents was to obtain legal advice or to aid in the conduct of the litigation.

[37] Most certainly the defendant and his insurer had followed a course of investigating the accident, and its dynamics, but other than telephone conversations Ms. Fall had with Mr. Gilbert on June 13 and 15, 2005, there is no evidence before me that the defendant or his insurer made a formal declaration to the Gilbert family by way of letter that liability for the accident was being denied.  In my view, a reasonable person would expect no less especially after the family was told that an assessment of liability would be made after receipt of the traffic analyst’s report which was anticipated to be received by Ms. Fall in August, 2005.

[38] In all of the circumstances, I find that the defendant hasn’t met the onus on him to satisfy me that there exists over either the CWMS notes or the reports currently listed in Part 4 of the Defendant’s List of Documents a litigation privilege, such that disclosure of the documents up to the date of the first letter from counsel for the plaintiff should not be made to the opposite party.  The only caveat will be that all references to reserves are to be redacted.

[39] The plaintiff shall have his costs for preparation for, and attendance at the hearing.

Dominant Purpose, Gilbert v. Nelson, ICBC CWMS Notes, investigative stage, litigation privilege, master taylor, reasonable contemplation of litigation, Rule 7, Rule 7-1, Rule 7-1(1), Rule 7-1(10), Rule 7-1(11), Rule 7-1(12), Rule 7-1(13), Rule 7-1(14)

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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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