Do Parties Have to Disclose Documents They Will Use to Impeach Opposing Expert Witnesses?


When a party to a personal injury lawsuit wishes to use documents at trial those documents have to be disclosed to the opposing side as per the BC Supreme Court Rules otherwise the evidence may not be admissible.  Two recent cases from the BC Court of Appeal have clearly highlighted this.  Today, reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court considering the scope of documents that need to be disclosed.
In today’s case (Beazley v. Suzuki Motor Coroporation) the Plaintiff called a witness to give expert evidence.  The witness testified that he had limited knowledge of something known as the “Critical Sliding Velocity standard” and that he had “never proposed such a standard to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration“.
On cross-examination the Defence lawyer produced a letter written by the witness addressed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration apparently “supporting the use of a Critical Sliding Velocity Standard“.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer objected to this cross examination arguing that the letter was not listed on the Defendant’s list of documents and therefore could not be used.  Mr. Justice Goepel disagreed finding that documents that are used solely for impeaching an expert wittiness’ credibility do not necessarily have to be listed.  Specifically the Court reasoned as follows:

[7] A party is obliged to list all documents that fall within the purview of Rule 26(1) including those documents that can properly be described as forming part of the solicitor’s brief: Stone v. Ellerman, 2009 BCCA 294, 92 B.C.L.R. (4th) 203; Dykeman v. Porohowski, 2010 BCCA 36. Neither Stone, Dykeman or the cases cited therein deal with the use of documents being introduced to impeach the general credibility of an expert witness.

[8] A party who chooses to call an expert vouches for that expert’s credibility. The type and nature of documents that might challenge such credibility are endless. They may include articles, letters, testimony, speeches or statements that the expert has made in the past. There may be other articles which critically challenge the expert’s conclusion. Most documents which go to challenge an expert’s opinion or credibility are not documents which are related to the matter in question in the action. They only become relevant because of the expert’s testimony and do not fall under the purview of Rule 26.

[9] This ruling does not apply to all documents that the defendants may wish to put to this or other witnesses. If a document is otherwise related to a matter in question, it is not protected from disclosure merely because it will be used in cross examination or forms part of the solicitor’s brief.

[10] The August 5, 1994 letter, however, only becomes relevant because of Mr. Heitzman’s testimony. It was not a document that need be listed and the defendant is entitled to use the document in cross examination.

[11] To the extent the plaintiffs object to other documents the defendants might wish to put to Mr. Heitzman, those objections will be dealt with as they arise.

bc injury claims, Beazley v. Suzuki Motor Corporation, cross examination, disclosure, discovery, List of Documents, Mr. Justice Goepel

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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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