"Overly-Frequent Interventions, Inappropriate Objections, and an Under-Prepared Witness" Leads To Further Discovery

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a further examination for discovery of a party due to “overly-frequent interventions, inappropriate objections, and an under-prepared witness“.
In this week’s case (CP v. RBC Life Insurance Company) the Plaintiff was suing for disability insurance coverage she had in place with the Defendant.  In the course of the lawsuit the plaintiff examined a representative of the Defendant and the discovery was “at times disruptive, or event fractious“.  The Plaintiff adjourned the discovery before using her full 7 hours.  The Plaintiff sought an order allowing her to reschedule the examination and seeking to exceed the 7 hour cap.  In finding this was appropriate Master Baker provided the following sensible comments addressing the conduct of discoveries under the new rules of court:
[14]         Ms. Hayman adjourned in part due, she says, to the frequent interruptions and interventions by Ms. Carmichael. She argues that many of the interruptions were in and of themselves improper and that, for example, questions that were objected to should be answered by court direction. But perhaps more concerning to Ms. Hayman is that, she says, it was practically impossible to establish “a flow” to the examination which is, after all, in the nature of a cross-examination.
[15]         I have reviewed the 170 pages of the transcript of the two examination intervals. There are comments, objections, interventions, questions, or the like by Ms. Carmichael on 116 of the pages. It must be said that many are typical of an examination and benign; advice to Ms. Edizel, for example, to speak up, or confirmation to Ms. Hayman that the defense does have the proffered document. But the sheer number of recorded comments and interventions lend support to Ms. Hayman’s submission…
[18]         I worry that there is a trend to more oppositional examinations for discovery and that more and more will, inevitably, result in applications such as this. While the court is always available to apply the Rules of Court and decide on procedural issues, the process for examinations for discovery never intended this level of supervision. I agree with N. Smith J. that the court should generally discourage a question by question approach that, essentially, subsidizes counsel’s fundamental duty to conduct an appropriate discovery, on the one hand, or to permit one (including its broad and wide-ranging nature, often), on the other.
[19]         Rule 7-2(1)(a) inevitably increases the responsibilities in that regard. With a seven-hour limitation, examining counsel is obviously required to be efficient, focussed, and effective in conducting his or her examination. Opposing counsel, on the other hand, is obliged to restrict his or her objections and not consume that valuable time with unnecessary objections or interventions. Quite the contrary: if one thinks strategically, why not allow one’s opponent to use the examining time with irrelevant or non-productive questions? Tedious as they may seem, they would offer an excellent response to any application for increased examination time.
[20]         But that choice would be entirely left to the examinee’s counsel. In the main, it is for him or her to avoid intruding on the examiner’s time unless clearly justified.
[21]         There is a parallel obligation on the actual examinee; with the restriction on examination time comes a heightened responsibility to inform oneself in advance of the examination, so that the time can be used fruitfully and the discovery process serve its purpose. In this case Ms. Edizel had a particularly clear obligation in that regard. She was not the case manager or supervisor during the operative times of C.P.’s claim management; both of those individuals, as I’ve said, have left RBC. It was therefore incumbent on Ms. Edizel to redouble her efforts to examine the file and its history and to inform herself as much as possible. Both Ms. Wadhwani and Ms. Rhodes were apparently unwilling to talk to anyone about C.P.’s claim. The best source of information (other than the file entries themselves, one supposes) were therefore denied Ms. Edizel. I can understand, then, her inability to answer some (perhaps many) questions, but on the whole I am not satisfied that she met her obligation to inform herself as much as reasonably possible in advance of her examination. As a consequence, Rule 7-2(22) applies:
In order to comply with subrule (18) or (19), a person being examined for discovery may be required to inform himself or herself and the examination may be adjourned for that purpose.
[22]         The combination, then, of overly-frequent interventions, inappropriate objections, and an under-prepared witness requires that Ms. Edizel be further examined. I will not restrict that examination to outstanding requests. Moreover, her attendance for further examination in British Columbia will be at the expense of the defendant (subject, obviously, to any future rulings on costs). Ms. Hayman will be permitted a further four hours for examination as requested.

bc injury law, CP v. RBC Life Insurance Company, examination for discovery, Master Baker, Rule 7, Rule 7-2, Rule 7-2(1), Rule 7-2(1)(a), Rule 7-2(2), Rule 7-2(3)

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ERIK
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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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