Tag: Cochrane v. Heir

Document Disclosure Obligations and the Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding that personal injury plaintiffs need to list and produce examination for discovery transcripts from previous claims dealing with similar injuries under Rule 7-1(1) of the Rules of Court.  This decision appears to me to be at odds with previous cases addressing this issue (you can click here to access my archived posts on this topic).  This issue may need to be dealt with by the Court of Appeal in order to have some certainty in this area of law.
In today’s case (Cochrane v. Heir) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  She sued for damages.  ICBC appointed the same lawyer to defend the claim that defended a previous lawsuit of the Plaintiffs.  In the previous lawsuit ICBC’s lawyer conducted an examination for discovery of the Plaintiff.  He applied for an order to set aside the ‘implied undertaking of confidentiality’ that applied to the former transcript.
Mr. Justice Harris granted the application but went further and ordered that Plaintiffs are obligated to list and produce previous discovery transcripts.  Mr. Justice Harris provided the following reasons:

[5] In my view, there should be no need to relieve counsel for the defendants of his obligation under the implied undertaking. The documents are either in the possession of the plaintiff or they were in her control or possession. The plaintiff has an independent obligation to list and produce them further to her obligations under Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i) of the Civil Rules. The plaintiff cannot shield herself from her obligation to list and produce relevant documents by invoking the implied undertaking against opposing counsel who came into possession of those documents in the previous litigation: see Wilson v. McCoy, 2006 BCSC 1011.

[6] Given that the documents in issue have not yet been listed and produced by the plaintiff, I am prepared to relieve counsel for the defendants of the implied undertaking in respect of the transcripts of the examinations for discovery conducted in the previous action and the documents in issue. The implied undertaking exists to protect privacy rights and to facilitate the free flow of information in litigation by providing an assurance that information compelled to be provided in discovery is not used for collateral purposes.

[7] In Juman v. Doucette, [2008] 1 S.C.R. 1011, the following is said that governs the exercise of my discretion to relieve a party or counsel of the obligations imposed by the implied undertaking:

[35]      The case law provides some guidance to the exercise of the court’s discretion. For example, where discovery material in one action is sought to be used in another action with the same or similar parties and the same or similar issues, the prejudice to the examinee is virtually non-existent and leave will generally be granted. See Lac Minerals Ltd. v. New Cinch Uranium Ltd. (1985), 50 O.R. (2d) 260 (H.C.J.), at pp. 265-66; Crest Homes, at p. 1083; Miller (Ed) Sales & Rentals Ltd. v. Caterpillar Tractor Co. (1988), 90 A.R. 323 (C.A.); Harris v. Sweet, [2005] B.C.J. No. 1520 (QL), 2005 BCSC 998; Scuzzy Creek Hydro & Power Inc. v. Tercon Contractors Ltd. (1998), 27 C.P.C. (4th) 252 (B.C.S.C.).

[8] The application of counsel for the defendants is granted.

Uncertain Prognosis Results in Injury Trial Adjournment


As previously discussed, it is risky to settle an ICBC claim prior to knowing the long-term prognosis of your injuries.  Without a prognosis it is difficult to value a case and therfore difficult to gauge a fair settlement amount.
The same caution holds true for taking a case to trial.  Absent recovery or a meaningful prognosis it will be difficult for a judge or jury to properly value the claim.  If a case is set for trial but the prognosis is unknown an adjournment can often be obtained pursuant to Rule 12-1(9).  This was demonstrated in short but useful reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In last week’s case (Cochrane v. Heir) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 collision.  She was scheduled to undergo surgery in February, 2011 and her lawsuit was set for trial shortly thereafter.  The Plaintiff was concerned that her prognosis would not be known at the time of trial and applied to adjourn.  The Defendant opposed arguing that the upcoming surgery was not related to the collision and the adjournment was not necessary.
Mr. Justice Harris concluded that ultimately it would be for the jury to decide whether the surgery was related to the crash, however, since it may be related an adjournment was in the interests of justice.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[3] There is some medical evidence before the court to the effect that the plaintiff’s condition, prognosis and ability to return to work cannot fairly be assessed until after the surgery and after sufficient time has been allowed for rehabilitation.

[4] Counsel for the defendant opposes the adjournment because this is, he submits, a unique case. In a nutshell, he says that the delays and behaviour of the plaintiff in presenting the case are characteristic of her conduct in other matters she has been involved in. In effect, he submits that I should discount the evidence in support of the adjournment. In particular, I should be sceptical of the suggestion of any causal link between the accident and the condition that has led to the proposed surgery, as well as the need or the surgery itself. All an adjournment will do is expand the trial and encourage further delay and obstruction in bringing this matter to trial.

[5] Since I have decided that the interests of justice require an adjournment and since I am the trial judge, albeit with a jury, I have concluded that it would be unwise to comment directly on the evidence referred to by the parties in support of their positions. The issue of the causal connection between the accident, the plaintiff’s current condition and her alleged inability to work, are the primary matters that will be before the court for adjudication. Not to grant an adjournment would work relatively greater prejudice to the plaintiff than to the defendants by constraining her opportunity fully to present her case whatever its merits at trial.

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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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