"Pro Forma" Pleadings Not Enough To Compel MSP Record Production

Further to my previous post on this topic, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether MSP records were producible in a personal injury claim.
Today’s case provides perhaps the most in depth analysis of the issue to date and is worth reviewing in full.  In short the Court held that such records may be disclosable given the right circumstances but a ‘pro forma’ pleading of pre-existing injury is not sufficient to trigger disclosure obligations.
In this week’s case (Kaladjian v. Jose) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision.  The Defendant applied for production of the Plaintiff’s MSP printout.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer had this document but did not produce it arguing it was not relevant.  The Defendant’s application was dismissed at first instance.  The Defendant appealed arguing MSP records were disclosable as a matter of course in a personal injury claim.  Mr. Justice Davies disagreed and dismissed the appeal.  In doing so the Court provided feedback as to the proper procedure when seeking production of such records and gave the following reasons:

[38] Under Rule 7-1(1)(a), a party is now (at least initially) obligated to list only:

(i) all documents that are or have been in the party’s possession or control and that could, if available, be used by any party of record at trial to prove or disprove a material fact, and

(ii) all other documents to which the party intends to refer at trial, …

[39] That change has altered the test in British Columbia for determining whether any document or class of documents must now (at least at first instance) be disclosed.

[40] As stated by Edwards J. in Creed, the former broad test of relevance for disclosure purposes, emanated from the decision in Cie Financière du Pacifique v. Peruvian Guano Ltd (1882), 11 Q.B.D. 55 (Eng. Q.B.) [Peruvian Guano], which required disclosure of documents that “may fairly lead to a line of inquiry which may “either directly or indirectly enable the party…to advance his own case or damage the case of his adversary”

[41] Rule 7-1(1) changed that test for documentary relevance at first instance by requiring listing only of documents that could be used at trial to prove or disprove a material fact and documents the disclosing party intends to rely upon at trial.

[42] I say that the test of documentary relevance is changed “at first instance” because Rule 7-1 also provides processes by which broader disclosure can be demanded of a party under Rules 7-1(11) through (14) under which the court can decide whether, and if so, to what extent, broader disclosure should be made…

[46] The introduction of the concept of proportionality into the present Rules together with the need for a party to satisfy the court that additional document discovery beyond a party’s initial obligations under Rule 7-1(1) must inform the interpretation of Rule 7-1(18). It also satisfies me that cases decided under the former Rule 26(11) are of limited assistance in interpreting and applying Rule 7-1(18) in motor vehicle cases.

[47] It would, in my view, be arbitrary and inconsistent with the objects of the present Rules if the production of the records of a party to litigation in the possession of third parties were to be subject to a pleadings-only Peruvian Guano based test of relevance when more narrow tests govern the production of a party’s own documents…

[61] After considering the authorities and submissions of counsel, I have concluded that the pleadings continue to govern the determination of issues of relevance in relation to the scope of examination for discovery under the present Rules and will usually also govern issues concerning the initial disclosure obligations of a party under Rule 7-1(1), if challenged by a party under Rule 7-1(10).

[62] I have also concluded that the narrowing of the discovery obligations of parties and most particularly the removal of the Peruvian Guano “train of inquiry” test of relevance will generally require a defendant to provide some evidence to support an application for additional documents, whether demand is made under Rule 7-1(11) or Rule 7-1(18).

[63] A requirement for evidentiary support recognizes the difference between the scope of examination for discovery and the scope of document discovery under the present Rules and will allow considerations of proportionality to be addressed in specific cases.

[64] A requirement for evidentiary support in requests for additional documents and third party records also prevents against unwarranted “fishing expeditions” based solely upon pro formapleadings…

70] The all too common pro forma pleading of a pre-existing condition by defendants is not sufficient without more to require disclosure of MSP records which may prove to be wholly irrelevant to the injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiff.

bc injury law, Kaladjian v. Jose, Mr. Justice Davies, MSP Printout, Pharmanet Printout, Rule 7 Rule 7-1, Rule 7-1(1), Rule 7-1(10), Rule 7-1(11), Rule 7-1(13), Rule 7-1(14), Rule 7-1(18)

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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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