Discovery Evidence and the Principled Exception to the Hearsay Rule
As previously discussed, one of the limits of examination for discovery evidence at trial is that it is generally only admissible against the person being examined. Rule 12-5(46) permits the Court to make exceptions to this restriction in appropriate circumstances. Reasons for judgement were released earlier this year by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing one such exception.
In the recent case (Yamakami v. Whittey) the Plaintiff was injured in an intersection crash. Fault was contested. In the course of the lawsuit the Defendant was examined for discovery. Prior to trial the Defendant died.
The Defendant’s lawyer wished to rely on his examination transcript at trial in support of the Defence case. Mr. Justice Fitch allowed this finding it was necessary to do so. Interestingly, although the Court admitted the evidence finding that an examination for discovery created the necessary safeguards to meet the principled exception to the hearsay rule, the Court ultimately placed little weight on the Defendant’s version of events. In allowing the evidence to be introduced Mr. Justice Fitch provide the following reasons:
 Mr. Whittey, who was 81 years of age when the accident occurred, died before trial but after his examination for discovery was completed on May 11, 2010. Counsel for the defendants applied at the outset of the trial to have his examination for discovery admitted in evidence for the truth of its contents under the principled approach to the hearsay rule. The application was opposed. As Mr. Whittey was deceased at the time of trial, the necessity criterion was met. Counsel for the plaintiff argued that despite the existence of process-based substitutes compensating for the loss of an ability to engage in contemporaneous cross-examination of the defendant (the oath, cross-examination and the existence of a verbatim record of the examination for discovery) the evidence Mr. Whittey gave on the examination for discovery was so inherently unreliable that the test of threshold reliability at the admission stage was not met. In oral reasons for judgment delivered November 4, 2011, I concluded that the process-based compensators present in this case provided a satisfactory basis for evaluating the reliability of the evidence in issue. Accordingly, I exercised my discretion to admit the evidence but made clear that it was for me, at the end of the day, to determine the ultimate or actual reliability of the evidence and the weight it should be accorded.