Details Please: Privileged Documents and Disclosure Requirements of the New Rules of Court
In 2009 the BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement addressing the details necessary when listing privileged documents. The first reasons I’m aware of addressing this issue under the New Rules of Court were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating that the law remains unchanged.
In today’s case (Anderson Creek Site Developing Ltd. v. Brovender) the Plaintiff sued various defendants claiming damages for alleged unpaid accounts. The Defendants listed many privileged documents in the course of the lawsuit. The Plaintiff brought an application seeking that these be described with greater detail. Mr. Justice Verhoeven granted the application and in doing so provided the following useful summary describing the necessary details when listing a privileged document under Rule 7-1(7):
 Rule 7-1(7) requires that:
The nature of any document for which privilege from production is claimed must be described in a manner that, without revealing information that is privileged, will enable other parties to assess the validity of the claim of privilege.
 The description in the list of documents is not sufficient to respond to that requirement.
 The defendants argue that the description that they have given on their list of documents is not materially different than the plaintiff’s own description. That may be. That application is not before me at the moment.
 It is hard to know in a given case how much description is required to answer the requirement in Rule 7-1(7) without revealing privileged information. It depends on the nature of the case and the nature of the document. In this case, I would expect most documents to be transactional documents. There may be other documents as well.
 As a minimum, in order to have any assessment of the validity of a claim of privilege, in the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that what is required to be described are four things: first, something about the nature of the communication, that is whether it is a letter or an e-mail or memorandum or something else; second, the date upon which it was created or sent; third and fourth, the author and the recipient. With that information, it may be possible for the plaintiff to assess the claim of privilege. There may be further disclosure that is necessary at that stage; I cannot tell.
 So that application will be allowed to that extent. The defendants will produce a more detailed list of privileged documents disclosing that information. The plaintiff will be at liberty to reapply for a better list, in order to challenge the claim of confidentiality.