Tag: Case Planning Conference

Case Plan Conference Orders Can't Trump Privilege

Last year I highlighted a decision confirming that the Court’s powers under the new rules of court don’t allow orders to be made which will trump legitimate privilege claims.  Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming this principle.
In the recent case (Blackwell v. Kwok) the Defendant sought an order at a Case Planning Conference requiring the Plaintiff to disclose the specialty of the expert witness(es) the Plaintiff intends to rely on.  The Court refused to make this order finding it would trump the privilege in the Plaintiff’s counsel’s solicitor’s brief.  In dismissing the request Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:
[11]         Plaintiff’s counsel referred me to the Court’s decision in Nowe v. Bowerman, 2012 BCSC 1723.  In Nowe, the defendant proposed that each party be limited to one expert each and that the plaintiff advise the defendant of the area of expertise by November 17, 2012, approximately ten months before the scheduled trial.  The Court denied the application:
[10]  The area of expertise of an intended expert witness is a matter of trial strategy.  Trial strategy is a key component of a solicitor’s brief.  It may well evolve as plaintiff’s counsel builds a case and makes decisions based upon a myriad of factors and considerations.  Intentions may change as the process unfolds over time.
[11]  In my view, unless and until the intention to rely upon a particular expert in a particular field is declared by delivery of a report in accordance with the timelines established by the Rules, in the absence of a compelling reason an early incursion into this aspect of the solicitor’s brief will not be justified.
[12]  That being said, there may well be cases in which a departure from the usual timelines can be justified.  For example, in complex cases such as those involving brain injuries as a matter of fairness it may be necessary to provide defence counsel with a longer period than would be available under the usual regime in order to schedule appointments with certain kinds of experts. …
[12]         I note that in Nowe, the plaintiff argued that it was “not the kind of case in which a long period is required in advance of an appointment being made with a certain type of expert” (para. 7).  Although possibly a longer period may be justified in some cases, I am not satisfied that a “departure from the usual timelines can be justified” in the case at bar.
[13]         In my view, the defendants’ application should be rejected.  I see no prejudice if the normal rules for delivery of expert reports apply.  If the defendants choose to retain an expert to conduct an independent medical examination and prepare a report based on the plaintiff’s pleaded injuries, but no psychological injury is alleged at trial, an appropriate award of costs will afford the defendants the necessary relief.
[14]         Not surprisingly, I cannot state matters better than Chief Justice McEachern in Hodgkinson: “While I favour full disclosure in proper circumstances, it will be rare, if ever, that the need for disclosure will displace privilege”.
[15]         The Court declines to make the order sought.
 

BC's New Rules of Court Don't Trump Solicitor's Brief Privilege

Earlier this year I highlighted two  judgements (here and here) discussing that the New Rules of Court don’t allow the Court to override solicitor’s privilege.  Further reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming this principle.
In the recent case (Nowe v. Bowerman) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 motor vehicle collision and sued for damages.  The Defendant set down a Case Planning Conference asking for an order that “Plaintiff’s counsel advise the defence of the areas of expertise of his proposed experts“.
Madam Justice Dickson dismissed this request finding it would infringe on solicitor’s brief privilege.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[10]  The area of expertise of an intended expert witness is a matter of trial strategy.  Trial strategy is a key component of a solicitor’s brief.  It may well evolve as plaintiff’s counsel builds a case and makes decisions based upon a myriad of factors and considerations.  Intentions may change as the process unfolds over time.
[11]  In my view, unless and until the intention to rely upon a particular expert in a particular field is declared by delivery of a report in accordance with the timelines established by the Rules, in the absence of a compelling reason an early incursion into this aspect of the solicitor’s brief will not be justified.
[12]  That being said, there may well be cases in which a departure from the usual timelines can be justified.  For example, in complex cases such as those involving brain injuries as a matter of fairness it may be necessary to provide defence counsel with a longer period than would be available under the usual regime in order to schedule appointments with certain kinds of experts.  In this case, however, I am unable to identify such a compelling reason.  In these circumstances, I decline to make the order sought.
To my knowledge these reasons for judgement are not publicly available but, as always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.

Court Can't "Ride Roughshod" Over Solicitor's Brief Privilege At a Case Planning Conference


Reasons for judgement were recently brought to my attention discussing the scope of powers of the Court at Case Planning Conferences. Specifically the Court found that Rule 5-3 does not provide the power to over-ride common law principles of privilege.
In the recent case (Galvon v. Hopkins) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision. She sued for damages. As the lawsuit progressed the Plaintiff did not provide any expert medico-legal evidence to the Defendant.
This concerned the Defendant who brought a Case Planning Conference and obtained an order requiring the Plaintiff to “notify counsel for the defendant of the name of the neurologist with whom the appointment had been made and the date of the appointment, and secondly, that the parties were to provide opposing counsel with written notice forthwith upon any appointment being set for the plaintiff with medical experts, such notice to include the name of the expert, the expertise of the expert, and the date of the appointment“.
The Plaintiff appealed arguing that the Court did not have jurisdiction to make such orders under the Rules of Court. Madam Justice Kloegman agreed and allowed the appeal. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
21. I agree with counsel for the plaintiff’s submission that Rule 5-3 cannot be read as to allow the Case Planning Conference Judge or Master to disregard the common law principle of privilege.
22. In my view, Master Bouck was fixated upon settlement of the litigation; always a commendable and important goal of a case planning conference, but not at the cost of ignoring the boundaries of her jurisdiction. It may well be that such information could have been exchanged at a settlement conference, which is a voluntary and without prejudice process, but it should not be mandated as part of trial preparation.
23. …She did not appear to consider that the object of the Rules to avoid trial by ambush only apply to evidence that would be used at trial, not to expert advice received through consultation.
24. By requiring the plaintiff to disclose the very fact of her attendance before a medical expert, and run the risk of an adverse inference if she did not call the expert at trial, the master was also interfering with the plaintiff’s right to elect which witnesses to call. Such interference is not sanctioned, or warranted, I might add, by our Supreme Court Rules.
25. Having concluded that our Rules do not grant the presider at a case planning conference the power to make the orders made by Master Bouck, it follows that she did not have the jurisdiciton to do so.
26. The appeal is allowed and Master Bouck’s orders will be set aside.

Scope of "Representations of Counsel" at Case Planning Conferences Discussed


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the scope of appropriate applications at Case Planning Conferences and further the prohibition of affidavit evidence in this venue.
In today’s case (Gill v. A&P Fruit Growers Ltd.) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 slip and fall incident.  The Defendant was found 70% at fault for this incident.
As the damages trial neared the Plaintiff brought an application to allow him to introduce evidence from two physicians by way pre-trial deposition.  The Defendant opposed arguing this order should not be made and further that such applications should not be heard at a Case Planning Conference.  Mr. Justice Willcock disagreed and provided the following feedback about the scope of CPC applications:

[17] There is still some uncertainty with respect to the scope of the prohibition against hearing applications supported by affidavit evidence on a case planning conference.  In order to effect the objectives of the Rules by making orders designed to resolve disputes efficiently and in a cost-effective manner on the merits, in my view, it will occasionally be necessary to rule on the manner in which evidence will be adduced at trial.  In some circumstances, even when such matters are hotly contested, they may be determined without affidavit evidence.  That may be the case where the issue may be determined on the basis of representations of counsel as officers of the court.

[18] It has long been the case that the courts have given evidentiary weight to the representations of counsel with respect to evidence to be called at trial, availability of witnesses and procedural questions going to trial management.  In Nichols v. Gray (1978), 9 B.C.L.R. 5 (C.A.), the Court of Appeal reaffirmed a chambers judge’s discretion to give weight to statements of counsel relating to the evidence and the conduct of trial.  It is in that context that the new Supreme Court Rules were enacted.  The prohibition against hearing applications supported by affidavit evidence must be interpreted in the light of that practice.

[19] I adopt as applicable to case planning conferences the views expressed by N. Smith J. in Jurczak v. Mauro, 2011 BCSC 512, and by Gray J. in Enns v. Cahan, 2011 BCSC 54, in addressing the similar provision in the trial management rule prohibiting the granting of orders requiring affidavit evidence: that it is for the trial management judge to decide whether a particular application requires affidavit evidence and whether any affidavits that have been tendered are relevant.

[20] In the case at bar, as in Jurczak, the evidence in the affidavits that were before me added nothing to the submissions of counsel and counsel’s advice to the court with respect to matters that ought to be canvassed at a case management conference, specifically the witnesses availability for trial and the importance of cross-examination of those witnesses to the defence case.  The affidavit evidence that I would have to weigh on the application was like that described in para. 14 of the judgment in Jurczak:

[14]      All of that relates to matters of evidence that counsel expected or wanted to put before the trial judge, the availability of that evidence, and the readiness of the defendant to proceed to trial.  Those are matters of which counsel are expected to advise the court at the TMC and the court is, of course, entitled to assume counsel’s statements are true.  Affidavits in which their legal assistants simply say the same thing about these procedural matters are of no further assistance.

[21] The enumeration of orders that may be made at a case planning conference is exhaustive but Rule 5-3(1)(k) confers a broad discretion on the case planning judge to make orders respecting expert witnesses and Rule 5-3(1)(v) confers a broad discretion to make any order that advances the objectives of the Rules.  The judicial exercise of these discretionary powers requires that some consideration be given to the nature of the orders more specifically enumerated in Rule 5-3.  The Rules contemplate active judicial management of litigation and, in particular, judicial regulation of the role of expert witnesses at trial.  The Rules require that case planning and trial management be conducted with an eye to efficiency and the proportionality of the expense of the process to the value, importance and complexity of the matters in issue.  In my view, an application for an order that expert witnesses be deposed before trial rather than testifying by a video conference at trial is clearly an order of the type that may be made at a case planning or trial management conference, if the factual matrix necessary for making such an order can be established.  Such an order is in the nature of the procedural orders enumerated in Rule 5-3.

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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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