Tag: Civil Procedure

The Jursidiciton of Trial Judges to Rule on "Trial Fairness" Matters

In a judgement released today the BC Court of Appeal discussed the power of Trial Judges to make orders relating to “Trial Fairness” matters.
In today’s case (Oberreiter v. Akmali) the Plaintiff sued for personal injuries from a 2004 BC car crash.  The matter went to trial and a Jury awarded the plaintiff about $118,000 in total damages.  Before the judgement was ‘entered’ it was discovered that the jury was given access to surveillance footage of the Plaintiff which had not been entered into evidence.  The Plaintiff successfully applied for a mistrial.  (Click here to read my summary of the mistrial application).
The Defendants brought the matter to the Court of Appeal arguing, amongst other things, that the Trial Judge had “no jurisdiction to entertain a motion after a jury has rendered its verdict and been discharged“.
The BC Court of Appeal disagreed with this submission and dismissed the appeal.  In doing so Madam Justice Smith gave the following useful and succinct outline regarding the powers of trial judges to rule on “trial fairness” matters:

[24] It is settled law that until a judgment or order has been entered, a trial judge continues to be seized of the matter before him or her. In Clayton v. British American Securities,[1935] 1 D.L.R. 432 at para. 83, [1934] 3 W.W.R. 257 (B.C.C.A.), the court noted that this was recognized as an “unquestioned practice” and “one of very long standing”. Similarly inBurke, the court concluded that, as a principle of law, a trial judge retains the remedial jurisdiction to declare a mistrial on an issue that goes to trial fairness (in that case it was whether there existed a reasonable apprehension of bias) after a jury verdict has been rendered and the jury discharged.

[25] In my view, there is no conflict in the authorities and none were provided that would suggest that a trial judge, before judgment is entered, does not retain jurisdiction to address a trial fairness issue. If that were so, then there would be no jurisdiction for a trial judge, as an issue of law, to address an application to reduce a jury’s award on damages that exceeded the “cap”. In my view, there was no arguable or meritorious issue as to whether the trial judge was functus officio to hear the application.

Joining 2 Separate ICBC Claims for Trial at the Same Time

If you are involved in 2 separate car accidents and start 2 separate Injury Claims in the BC Supreme Court is it possible to have the trials heard at the same time?
The answer is yes and such applications are governed by BC Supreme Court Rule 5(8) which states that “proceedings may be consolidated at any time by order of the court or may be ordered to be tried at the same time or on the same day“.
Today reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court (Miclash v. Yan) considering an application under Rule 5(8).  In granting the Plaintiff’s request to have multiple claims heard at the same time Master Keighley concisely set out the principles to be considered in these applications.  The Court summarized the law as follows:

[15] The application is brought pursuant to Rule 5(8) of the Rules of Court…

[16] The order sought is discretionary.

[17] Exercise of this discretion is governed by the principles set out in the decision of Master Kirkpatrick, as she then was, in the case of Merritt v. Imasco Enterprises Inc. (1992), 2 C.P.C. (3d) 275 at para. 18 and 19:

18.       None of the submissions of counsel address the real issue to be determined. That is, are the issues raised by the pleadings sufficiently similar to warrant the order sought and will the order make sense in the circumstances? An application to have actions tried at the same time thus requires an examination of circumstances which may be of a more general nature than is made under R. 27 or 19.

19.       I accept that the foundation of an application under R. 5(8) is, indeed, disclosed by the pleadings. The examination of the pleadings will answer the first question to be addressed: do common claims, disputes and relationships exist between the parties? But the next question which one must ask is: are they “so interwoven as to make separate trials at different times before different judges undesirable and fraught with problems and economic expense”? Webster v. Webster (1979), 12 B.C.L.R. 172 at 182, 10 R.F.L. (2d) 148, 101 D.L.R. (3d) 248 (C.A.). That second question cannot, in my respectful view, be determined solely by reference to the pleadings. Reference must also be made to matters disclosed outside the pleadings:

(1)        Will the order sought create a saving in pre-trial procedures, (in particular, pre-trial conferences)?;

(2)        Will there be a real reduction in the number of trial days taken up by the trials being heard at the same time?;

(3)        What is the potential for a party to be seriously inconvenienced by being required to attend a trial in which that party may have only a marginal interest?; and

(4)        Will there be a real saving in experts’ time and witness fees?

This is in no way intended to be an exhaustive list. It merely sets out some of the factors which, it seems to me, ought to be weighed before making an order under R. 5(8).

[18] To these considerations, Master Joyce, as he then was, added two more in the case of Shah v. Bakken, [1996] B.C.J. No. 2836, 20 B.C.L.R. (3d) 393, at para. 15:

Other factors which in my view can be added to the foregoing list are:

(5)  Is one of the actions at a more advanced stage than the other? See: Forestral Automation Ltd. v. RMS Industrial Controls Inc. et al. (No.2), unreported, March 6, 1978, No. C765633/76, Vancouver (B.C.S.C.).

(6)  Will the order result a delay of the trial of one of the actions and, if so, does any prejudice which a party may suffer as a result of that delay outweigh the potential benefits which a combined trial might otherwise have?

In my continued effort to cross reference civil procedure cases with the new BC Supreme Court Rules which will take effect on July 1, 2010 Rule 5(8) is replicated in full under the New Rules and can be found at Rule 22-5(8).  Accordingly, the principles set out above will likely continue to be useful in considering similar applications once the new rules come into force.

Can a Plaintiff's Treating Doctor Give Expert Opinion Evidence for the Defence in an Injury Claim?

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with this interesting issue.
In today’s case (MacEachern v. Rennie) the Plaintiff ‘suffered traumatic brain injury when her head came into contact with a tractor trailer while she was walking or riding her bicycle along King George Highway in Surrey, BC
In the years before the collision the Plaintiff was treated by a physician, Dr. Dowey, who apparently “prescribed methadone (to the plaintiff) as part of her treatment for heroin addiction“.
In the months leading up to the trial the Defence lawyers had a pre-trial interview with the doctor which was not consented to by the Plaintiff’s lawyers.  After speaking with this doctor the defendants decided to rely on him as a witness in their case.
The Defendants called the doctor to give evidence and sought to have the doctor qualified as an expert to give medical opinions about the Plaintiff’s pre-accident condition and prognosis.  The Plaintiff opposed this for several reasons and argued that “it was improper for Dr. Dowey to have pre-trial meetings with counsel for the defendants in the absence of plaintiff’s counsel“.
In permitting the doctor to testify as an expert witness for the defence Mr. Justice Ehrcke of the BC Supreme Court summarized and applied the law as follows:
[22] Plaintiff’s counsel submits that as a treating physician, Dr. Dowey owed the plaintiff a duty of confidentiality not to divulge her personal information without her consent, and that Dr. Dowey breached his duty of confidence when he spoke with counsel for the CN Defendants in the their absence. The submission is that as a result, the CN Defendants should not be permitted to lead evidence of Dr. Dowey’s expert opinions….

[29]         The only question before me, then, is whether Dr. Dowey should be prohibited from giving opinion evidence. He has been subpoenaed by the CN Defendants. As a witness under subpoena, he must answer the questions asked of him unless there is a basis in law for excluding his evidence. The plaintiff does not make a claim of privilege, but rather submits that to permit Dr. Dowey to give expert opinion evidence would conflict with his duty of confidentiality.

[30]         The plaintiff relies on a decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Burgess v. Wu (2003), 68 O.R. (3d) 710 (Sup. Ct. of Justice). In that case, Ferguson J. emphasized the distinction between pre-trial disclosure and the admissibility of evidence at trial, as well as the distinction between a claim of privilege and the duty of confidentiality. He wrote at para. 55-57:

[55]      It is important at the outset to distinguish between access at trial and access before trial. Once a physician takes the witness stand, and regardless of whether he or she is called by the patient or subpoenaed by the defence, the physician must answer all relevant questions subject to a ruling in unusual circumstances that some subjects are privileged (see the discussion below re M. (A.) v. Ryan, infra). It is irrelevant whether or not the patient consents. The physician cannot refuse to answer on the ground of a duty of confidentiality:  Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Frenette, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 647, 89 D.L.R. (4th) 653, at p. 687 S.C.R., p. 681 D.L.R., per L’Heureux-Dubé J.

[56]      This rule is consistent with the rules of ethics promulgated by the profession and by regulation which specifically state that the duty does not apply to situations where disclosure is “required by law”.

[57]      The issue of concern in the present case is access before trial. The general question is:  what is required by law outside the witness stand? In this context the primary restraint is the duty and right of confidentiality, and not the evidentiary issue of legal privilege.

[31]         Counsel for the plaintiff points out that Ferguson J. went on to hold that the doctor who had treated the plaintiff in that case would be prohibited from testifying as an expert for the defence. Counsel urges me to make a similar ruling here.

[32]         There are, however, two important distinctions between that case and this. First, Ferguson J. made a finding that there had been improper pre-trial contact between the witness and counsel for the defence, and that finding was instrumental in his decision that the witness should not be permitted to testify as an expert for the defence. He wrote at para. 134: “The party at fault should not benefit from the fruits of the impropriety.”  On the facts of the present case, I have found that there was no impropriety in the meeting between Dr. Dowey and counsel for the CN Defendants.

[33]         The second distinction is in the nature of the opinion evidence that is being sought. In Burgess v. Wu, the tenor of the opinion sought was expressed in a letter quoted at para. 21:

We are interested in your views, as a forensic psychiatrist, as to the likelihood that Mr. Burgess would have committed suicide (regardless of the prescription of Seconal), his prognosis otherwise, and the probability of him returning to a functioning lifestyle.

[34]         That is, the opinion sought in Wu related to the patient’s prognosis after the period of time when the witness had treated him. In the present case, counsel for the CN Defendants have stated that they do not seek any opinion from Dr. Dowey about Ms. MacEachern’s prognosis after the last date he saw her, November 29, 2004. More specifically, they do not seek from him an opinion about whether she likely would have continued using drugs after September 2005 had it not been for the accident. They might attempt to elicit such an opinion from another expert who did not treat the plaintiff, but they will not seek such an opinion from her treating physicians.

[35]         Counsel for the plaintiff has referred to the Personal Information Protection Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 63, but its provisions do not support the plaintiff’s position since s. 3(4) of thatAct provides:

3(4) This Act does not limit the information available by law to a party in a proceeding.

[36]         In the circumstances of this case, I do not find that the duty of confidentiality would prevent Dr. Dowey from giving relevant opinion evidence as a medical doctor in relation to the period of time that she was his patient.

Litigation Privilege and Solicitor-Client Privilege Explained

In BC Lawsuits one of the primary goals of the Rules of Court is to require document disclosure to put the parties on a level playing field with respect to the facts and to prevent trial by ambush.
Disclosure requirements, however, need to compete with the equally compelling doctrine of privilege which permits parties to lawsuits the right to refuse production of certain classes of otherwise relevant documents. Two categories of privileged documents which are not always clearly understood by litigants are those of ‘solicitor client privilege‘ and ‘litigation privilege’.
Today the BC Supreme Court released reasons for judgement explaining the difference between these classes of privileged documents.
In today’s case (Lougheed Estate v. Wilson) the Plaintiff sought access to certain documents which the Defendant refused to produce on the basis on litigation privilege.  In ordering that the documents be produced Mr. Justice Grauer did a great job in explaining the difference between solicitor-client and litigation privilege.  I reproduce this summary below:

(b) Solicitor-client privilege

[26] Solicitor-client privilege, or “legal advice privilege”, is conceptually different from litigation privilege.  One of the important differences is that solicitor-client privilege applies only to confidential communications between the client and his or her solicitor: Blank v. Canada, [2006] S.C.R. 319, 2006 SCC 39 at para. 28, citing with approval Professor R.J. Sharpe (now Sharpe, J.A.):  “Claiming Privilege in the Discovery Process”, in Special Lectures of the Law Society of Upper Canada (1984), 163, at pp. 164-65.

[27] The documents over which Mr. Wilson asserts privilege that are at issue before me consist solely of correspondence between Mr. Wilson’s solicitor and counsel for Elections Canada.  They do not consist of confidential communications between Mr. Wilson and his solicitor.  Accordingly, I find that they are not eligible for the protection of solicitor-client privilege.

(c) Litigation privilege

[28] The nature of litigation privilege was thoroughly discussed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Blank case, where Fish J. quoted further from Prof. Sharpe’s article as follows (loc. cit. supra):

Litigation privilege, on the other hand, is geared directly to the process of litigation.  Its purpose is not explained adequately by the protection afforded lawyer-client communications deemed necessary to allow clients to obtain legal advice, the interest protected by solicitor-client privilege.  Its purpose is more particularly related to the needs of the adversarial trial process.  Litigation privilege is based upon the need for a protected area to facilitate investigation and preparation of the case for trial by the adversarial advocate.  In other words, litigation privilege aims to facilitate a process (namely, the adversary process), while solicitor-client privilege aims to protect the relationship (namely, the confidential relationship between a lawyer and the client).

[29] Fish J. then went on to explore the limits of the privilege:

34        The purpose of the litigation privilege, I repeat, is to create a “zone of privacy” in relation to pending or apprehended litigation.  Once the litigation has ended, the privilege to which it gave rise has lost his specific and concrete purpose – and therefore its justification.  But to borrow a phrase, the litigation is not over until it is over.  It cannot be said to have “terminated”, in any meaningful sense of that term, where litigants or related parties remain locked in what is essentially the same legal combat.

35        Except where such related litigation persists, there is no need and no reason to protect from discovery anything that would have been subject to compellable disclosure but for the pending or apprehended proceedings which provided its shield….

36        I therefore agree with the majority in the Federal Court of Appeal and others who share their view that the common-law litigation privilege comes to an end, absent closely related proceedings, upon the termination of the litigation that gave rise to the privilege [citations omitted].

37        Thus, the principal “once privileged always privileged”, so vital to the solicitor-client privilege, is foreign to the litigation privilege.  The litigation privilege, unlike the solicitor-client privilege, is neither absolute in scope nor permanent in duration.

38        As mentioned earlier, however, the privilege may retain its purpose – and, therefore, its effect – where the litigation that gave rise to the privilege has ended, but related litigation remains pending or may reasonably be apprehended….

39        At a minimum, it seems to me, this enlarged definition of “litigation” includes separate proceedings that involve the same or related parties and arise from the same or related cause of action (or “juridical source”).  Proceedings that raise issues common to the initial action and share its essential purpose would in my view qualify as well.

40        As a matter of principle, the boundaries of this extended meaning of “litigation” are limited by the purpose for which litigation privilege is granted, namely, as mentioned, “the need for a protected area to facilitate investigation and preparation of the case for trial by the adversarial advocates” (Sharpe, at p. 165).

Examinations for Discovery and Proper Objections in ICBC Injury Claims

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing examinations for discovery in ICBC Injury Claims and the proper way to frame objections.
In yesterday’s case (Day v. Hume) the Plaintiff allegedly suffered a brain injury as a result of a serious motor vehicle accident.  In the course of being examined for discovery the Plaintiff’s lawyer ‘intervened on several occasions and, in the end, terminated the examination after 50 minutes over (the objection of the ICBC defence lawyer).’
As a result ICBC’s lawyer brought a motion seeking to dismiss the Plaintiff’s lawsuit on the basis that he unreasonably refused to answer questions put to him in discovery.
Madam Justice Smith of the BC Supreme Court declined to grant ICBC this relief and in doing so highlighted some points about the proper course of objecting to questions in examinations for discovery.  I reproduce the highlights of the courts discussion below:

[20]            The principles emerging from the authorities are clear.  An examination for discovery is in the nature of cross-examination and counsel for the party being examined should not interfere except where it is clearly necessary to resolve ambiguity in a question or to prevent injustice.  Intervention should not be in a form that suggests to a witness what a desirable answer might be.  As stated by Garson J. in Forliti v. Woolley, the proper conduct of counsel is to state the objection to the form of the question and the reasons for the objection, but it is not appropriate to make comments, suggestions, or criticism. 

[21]            There was no real disagreement about the legal principles, except that Mr. Maryn submitted that it must be recognized that the practice has changed since Cominco was decided in that it is now necessary to bring on an application in Chambers with respect to disputes about relevance or other matters at examinations for discovery.  Mr. Maryn submitted that it is quite appropriate for counsel to have a discussion about what might make a line of inquiry relevant and he suggested that if counsel for the defendant had been more forthcoming in this case, some of the problems leading to this application might have been avoided. 

[22]            Mr. Maryn also submitted that, in this case, where his client has suffered a brain injury and consequential memory loss, it was appropriate to remind him during the course of the examination for discovery not to make guesses.  Mr. Duplessis’s submission on that point was that it is not appropriate to remind a witness of such instructions and that any of Mr. Maryn’slegitimate concerns could be resolved through appropriate re-examination at the end of the examination for discovery. 

[23]            Looking at the transcript in this case, while possibly Mr. Maryn would have been justified in reminding his witness once not to guess or speculate and his initial comment to that effect was probably appropriate, his statement after question 39… went well beyond a reminder….  

[24]            There was also disagreement as to whether or not counsel for the party under examination for discovery can make statements for the record at the examination for discovery.  Mr. Duplessis took the position that it is not open to counsel to state things for the record.  I disagree.  Although, as I have stated, counsel for the party under examination should not make comments unless they are clearly necessary, it may be appropriate for counsel making an objection to state briefly what the objection is based upon.  First, that may lead to a resolution of the matter through discussion between counsel and avoid this kind of application.  Second, it facilitates a determination of the issue by the court if there is an application to compel an answer.  However, objections by counsel should be concise and to the point….


More on BC Personal Injury Claims and Litigation Privilege

I’ve written previously on BC Personal Injury Claims and Litigation Privilege and today reasons for judgment were released by the BC Supreme Court further considering this topic.
In today’s case (Semkiw v. Wilkosz) the Plaintiff was the widow of a person who was allegedly killed as a pedestrian in a serious motor vehicle collision in Vernon, BC in 2006.
The driver of the allegedly offending vehicle was operating a vehicle owned by U-Haul Co. (Canada) at the time of the crash.  Following the crash the driver gave a statement to a a “U-Haul adjuster” and subsequent to this she showed a copy of this statement to a lawyer that she consulted with and to the RCMP in Calgary.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer asked for a copy of this statement and the Defendants lawyer in the injury lawsuit refused to produce it claiming that it was subject to litigation privilege.
The Plaintiff also asked for a copy optometrists records relating to the eyesight of the alleged driver and lastly asked for photographs and measurements of the van allegedly involved in this collision taken by a professional engineer instructed by U-Haul.  Production of these materials was also opposed on the basis of litigation privilege.
In rejecting the claim for privilege Mr. Justice Rogers of the BC Supreme Court summarize and applied the law as follows with respect to the statement to the insurance adjuster (so that the following excerpt makes sense Ms. Aisler is the ‘U-Haul adjuster’ and Ms. Wilkosz is the alleged driver):

[12]            It is evident from this list that Ms. Aisler had several goals in mind when she asked Ms. Wilkosz to give her statement.  The current litigation is not clearly dominant among them.  In fact, it appears that Ms. Aisler was as concerned about whether Ms. Wilkosz would ask for payment of no?fault accident benefits as she was about instructing some lawyer that U?Haul might eventually retain or preparing for litigation being advanced by the third party to the accident.  I cannot, on Ms. Aisler’s evidence relating to the purposes for which the Wilkosz statement was obtained, conclude that this litigation was the dominant reason for getting it.

[13]            Further, what a party actually does with a document and how it treats that document before its production is demanded can sometimes be as good an indicator of privilege as anything that the party may decide to assert after that demand is made.  In this case, Ms. Wilkosz’s interaction with the police officer in Calgary clearly demonstrates that U?Haul was quite content for her to have and keep and distribute a copy of her statement to whomever she chose.  Ms. Wilkosz was not, apparently, under any instruction from U?Haul to not show the statement to other persons.  If she was under such instruction, one would have thought that U?Haul would have adduced evidence of such in this application, but it did not.  Furthermore, Ms. Wilkosz made it clear that she had shown her statement to her lawyer Mr. Yuzda.  If Ms. Aisley had truly obtained that statement in order to protect U?Haul from, among other things, Ms. Wilkosz’s claims for accident benefits it is unlikely in the extreme that Ms. Aisley would have allowed Ms. Wilkosz to take the statement off to show to a lawyer who might well advise her on how to successfully prosecute such a claim.

[14]            In my opinion, the fact that U?Haul gave a copy of the statement to Ms. Wilkosz and that it did not restrict her use of that statement demonstrates that U?Haul’s dominant purpose in obtaining the statement was not to instruct its own counsel with respect to the accident.  If that had been U?Haul’s dominant purpose, common sense dictates that U?Haul would have kept the statement to itself, or if it let Ms. Wilkosz have a copy it would have done so after giving her very strict instructions limiting her dissemination of it.

[15]            The defendants’ claim of litigation privilege over the Wilkosz statement must fail.  Because the defendant has chosen to assert a single basis for its claim of privilege for all of its documents, the failure of its claim with respect to that one document means that its claims for all of the documents must likewise fail.  The defendants will be required to give production of all of the documents pre?dating September 21, 2007 and for which they claimed privilege in Part III of their supplemental list of documents.  It follows that Ms. Wilkosz need not give evidence in her examination for discovery concerning the circumstances in which she gave her statement to U?Haul.

With respect to the optometrists records:

[16]            Ms. Wilkosz’s visual acuity is obviously an issue in this case.  She has filed no material to suggest that records relating to her eyesight contain any embarrassing, sensitive, or confidential information that is not relevant to these proceedings.  She has not, therefore, met the criteria for insisting that these records be sent first to her counsel for review.  The plaintiff is, therefore, entitled to receive the records directly from the professionals involved in Ms. Wilkosz’s eye care.  Plaintiff’s counsel has offered her undertaking to deliver those records to defence counsel immediately upon receipt.  Defence counsel has, for no good reason I can discern, been reluctant to accept that undertaking.  In the result there will be an order that defence counsel accept the undertaking.  There will be an order that Ms. Wilkosz sign authorizations for release of her eye care records and delivery of those records to plaintiff’s counsel.  She must sign those authorizations and see that they are delivered to plaintiff’s counsel within seven days of the release of these reasons.  Defence counsel will deliver the signed authorizations to plaintiff’s counsel immediately upon receipt.

and lastly with respect to the engineers materials:

 

[18]            Ms. Aisley’s affidavit does not describe Mr. Gough’s involvement in the case beyond saying that she understood that he was to provide expert advice and that he took a look at the U?Haul van and tried to look at another vehicle involved but was rebuffed by its owner.  Mr. Gough’s affidavit describes his activities concerning the U?Haul van and the site, but does not illuminate his purpose.  Specifically, Mr. Gough does not assert that he examined the van and the site for the purpose of preparing an expert report or for the purpose of assisting counsel in preparing for this or any other litigation.  On Mr. Gough’s evidence, the most that I can conclude is that U?Haul asked him to have a look at the van and the accident scene and to record his observations.  There are no grounds on which U?Haul can claim that Mr. Gough’s work is protected by privilege.

[19]            Mr. Gough’s observations are, of course, relevant to issues raised in the lawsuit.  The plaintiff has asked Mr. Gough to produce the records of his observations but he has refused.  This is a proper circumstance for an order under Rule 26(11) that Mr. Gough deliver to all parties of record a copy of all photographs and records in his possession relating to his examination of the U?Haul van and of the accident scene.

ICBC Claims and Litigation Privilege

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court ordering the production of certain documents that the defendants claimed were exempt from disclosure due to ‘litigation privilege.’
The Plaintiff suffered severe head injuries when struck as a pedestrian in 2006.   In the course of her lawsuit her lawyer served the defendants with a Demand for Discovery of Documents.  In exchanging their List of Documents the Defendants claimed ‘litigation privilege’ over some of the documents.  The Plaintiff brought motion to compel production of these documents and largely succeeded with the court holding that:
the defendants failed to provide sufficient information to enable the plaintiff to assess whether the defendants were correctly claiming litigation privilege over each of the documents found in P3 to P9 of their list of documents.
In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Blair provided a great overview of the legal principles relating to a claim of litigation privilege which I reproduce below:

[5]                Litigation privilege extends to those documents prepared for the dominant purpose of preparing for ongoing or reasonably anticipated litigation as discussed in Hamalainen (Committee of) v. Sippola, [1991] B.C.J. No. 3614; 2 W.W.R. 132; 9 B.C.A.C. 254; 62 B.C.L.R. (2d) 254.  Wood J.A. (as he then was) for the Court of Appeal stated at ¶18 that the two following factual findings required answering to determine whether litigation privilege applied to a document:

(a)        Was litigation in reasonable prospect at the time the document was produced, and

(b)        If so, what was the dominant purpose for the document’s production?

[6]                Wood J.A. held that the onus is on the party claiming privilege to establish on a balance of probabilities that both tests are met in connection each of the documents for which the party claimed litigation privilege.  With respect to the first factual finding, Wood J.A. wrote at ¶20 that

. . . litigation can properly be said to be in reasonable prospect when a reasonable person, possessed of all pertinent information including that peculiar to one party or the other, would conclude it is unlikely that the claim for loss will be resolved without it. The test is not one that will be particularly difficult to meet.

[7]                With respect to the second factual finding Wood J.A. wrote:

21.       A more difficult question to resolve is whether the dominant purpose of the author, or the person under whose direction each document was prepared, was “… [to use] it or its contents in order to obtain legal advice or to conduct or aid in the conduct of litigation …”.

22.       When this Court adopted the dominant purpose test, it did so in response to a similar move by the House of Lords in Waugh v. British Railways Board, [1980] A.C. 521. In that case the majority opinion is to be found in the speech of Lord Wilberforce, who agreed “in substance” with the dissenting judgment of Lord Denning M.R. in the Court below. While the Court of Appeal judgments do not appear to have been reported, some excerpts from Lord Denning’s opinion are to be found in the speech of Lord Edmund-Davies, including the following at p.541 of the report:

If material comes into being for a dual purpose — one to find out the cause of the accident — the other to furnish information to the solicitor — it should be disclosed, because it is not then ‘wholly or mainly’ for litigation. On this basis all the reports and inquiries into accidents — which are made shortly after the accident — should be disclosed on discovery and made available in evidence at the trial.

23.       At the heart of the issue in the British Railways Board case was the fact that there was more than one identifiable purpose for the production of the report for which privilege was claimed. The result of the decision was to reject both the substantial purpose test previously adhered to by the English Court of Appeal and the sole purpose test which by then had been adopted by the majority of the Australian High Court in Grant v. Downs.

24.       Even in cases where litigation is in reasonable prospect from the time a claim first arises, there is bound to be a preliminary period during which the parties are attempting to discover the cause of the accident on which it is based. At some point in the information gathering process the focus of such an inquiry will shift such that its dominant purpose will become that of preparing the party for whom it was conducted for the anticipated litigation. In other words, there is a continuum which begins with the incident giving rise to the claim and during which the focus of the inquiry changes. At what point the dominant purpose becomes that of furthering the course of litigation will necessarily fall to be determined by the facts peculiar to each case.

[8]                The dominant purpose test in the context of litigation privilege came before the Supreme Court of Canada in Blank v. Canada, 2006 SCC 39.  Fish J. for the majority noted at ¶60 that the dominant purposes standard was consistent with the notion that the litigation privilege should be viewed as a limited exception to the principle of full disclosure.

ICBC Claims and the Seperation of Fault and Quantum

While there are a host of issues involved in most ICBC injury claims (tort claims), the issues can be broken down into 2 broad categories 1. Who is at Fault (Liability) and 2. How much is the ICBC claim worth (quantum).
In a case where the issue of fault is hotly contested, is it possible to have that matter heard first before spending time (and in all likelihood a lot of money) presenting the medical evidence addressing the extent of injury?  The answer is sometimes.
Reasons for judgement were released today considering exactly such an application.
The Plaintiff was injured in a motor cycle accident in 2006.  He brought a personal injury claim.  He asked the court to determine the issue of fault ahead of the issue of quantum of damages.
Rule 39(29) of the BC Supreme Court Rules allows such an applicaiton, particularly it holds that:
39(29)  The court may order that one or more questions of fact or law arising in an action be tried and determined before the others, and upon the determination a party may move for judgment, and the court, if satisfied that the determination is conclusive of all or some of the issues between the parties, may grant judgment.
Some of the factors a court will consider in such an application include the following:

a.         A judge’s discretion to sever an issue is probably not restricted to extraordinary or exceptional cases. However, it should not be exercised in favour of severance unless there is a real likelihood of a significant saving in time and expense.

b.         Severance may be appropriate if the issue to be tried first could be determinative in that its resolution could put an end to the action for one or more parties.

c          Severance is most appropriate when the trial is by judge alone.

d.         Severance should generally not be ordered when the issue to be tried is interwoven with other issues in the trial. This concern may be addressed by having the same judge hear both parts of the trial and ordering that the evidence in the first part applies to the second part.

e.         A party’s financial circumstances are one factor to consider in the exercise of the discretion.

f.          Any pre-trial severance ruling will be subject to the ultimate discretion of the trial judge.

In today’s case, the application was dismissed.  Madam Justice Holmes of the BC Supreme Court held that:
[16]            Even if a case need not be exceptional to support an order for severance, it must disclose some compelling reason for such an order.  Compelling reasons must arise from the circumstances of the particular case.  Although I have considerable sympathy for Mr. Biggs’ personal situation, I find no compelling reason for separate trials of liability and damages.  Difficult though Mr. Biggs’ personal circumstances undoubtedly are, I am not persuaded that, in the context of the litigation as whole, they support a departure from the general practice by which all issues are determined in a single trial.
 

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

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