Tag: discovery

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.

BC Injury Claims, Pre-Trial Discovery and "Mental Incompetence"


When suing for damages as a result of personal injuries the BC Supreme Court Rules generally permit Defendants to compel Plaintiffs to participate in pre-trial examinations for discovery.  There are a few exceptions to this and one of these relates to mentally incompetent Plaintiffs.  If a Plaintiff is mentally incompetent they can only be examined with permission from the Court.  Reasons for judgement were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with this area of law.
In this week’s case (DeMerchant v. Chow) the Plaintiff sustained a serious brain injury during a fall from a ladder in 2007.  The Plaintiff started a lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court through a litigation guardian.  During the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff refused to participate in a discovery.  The Defendant brought a motion seeking an order that he be forced to participate.  The Plaintiff opposed this and relied on medical evidence which opined that the Plaintiff “could not reliably answer questions put to him” and that he “does not have the capacity to give testimony in court“.
Ultimately Master Taylor dismissed the motion and refused to grant the defendant permission to examine the Plaintiff.  This is the first case I’m aware of applying the new BC Supreme Court Rule 7-2(9) which deals with discovery of mentally incompetent parties.  Master Taylor provided the following reasons in dismissing the application:

[2]             The application is made pursuant to Rule 7-2(9) of the new Rules which was formerly Rule 27(11) of the old Rules.  The wording of both rules is similar, but the new Rule has changed the wording somewhat.  The new Rule provides:

7-2(9) If a party to be examined for discovery is a mentally incompetent person, his or her litigation guardian and his or her committee may be examined for discovery, but the mentally incompetent person must not be examined without leave of the court.

[34]         The question to be determined, therefore, is whether the evidence before me is sufficient to find that court approval should be granted to allow the plaintiff to be examined for discovery.

[35]         In Penn v. Secord (1979), 16 B.C.L.R. 48, [1980] 1 W.W.R. 464, 106 D.L.R.(3d) 9 Ruttan, J. said the onus for showing that a party is competent to be examined rests on the party seeking his examination. In the case at bar, the onus rests on the defendants.

[36]         The Rule in question uses the term, “a mentally incompetent person”.

[37]         It has been assumed up to now that Mr. DeMerchant is a mentally incompetent person because he has a trustee and a litigation guardian.  As well, the very nature of the application assumes the plaintiff is a mentally incompetent person since the application seeks leave of the court to examine him.

[38]         According to section 29 of the Interpretation Act, a “mentally incompetent person” is a “person with a mental disorder as defined in section 1 of the Mental Health Act”.

[39]         Reference to the Mental Health Act reveals the definition of a “person with a mental disorder” as “a person who has a disorder of the mind that requires treatment and seriously impairs the person’s ability (a) to react appropriately to the person’s environment, or (b) to associate with others”…

[45]         In the case at bar, there is medical evidence which conflicts, however I am satisfied that Drs. Bogod and  Lu have provided sufficient medical evidence  to suggest that the plaintiff does confabulate and would be unreliable as a witness.

[46]         I am also satisfied that the evidence of Drs. Bogod and Lu establish that the plaintiff meets both tests set out in the definition of a person with a mental disorder.

[47]         Accordingly, I determine that the applicants have not met the onus imposed upon them in seeking an order that the defendants be granted leave to examine the plaintiff at discovery.  It should also go without saying that I do not find the plaintiff to be competent to give evidence on his own behalf in these proceedings.

[48]           Consequently, I dismiss the defendants’ applications with costs to the plaintiff in any event of the cause.

Scope of Pre-Trial Document Production Under the New BC Supreme Court Rules Discussed


As I’ve previously discussed, one of the biggest changes under the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules is the test relating to pre-trial document production.  Under the former rules parties had to disclose documents “relating to every matter in question in the action“.  Under the new rules this test has been changed to “all documents that are or have been in a parties possession or control that could be used by any party to prove or disprove a material fact” and “all other documents to which a party intends to refer at trial“.
This new test is supposed to be narrower in scope than the old one.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, interpreting the new test for the first time.
In last week’s case (Biehl v. Strang) the Plaintiff sued the Defendants claiming damages for breach of contract.  The alleged contract between the parties was based in part on an a verbal agreement and partly based on the parties actions over the years.   The events in dispute occurred over a 4 year period.  The Plaintiff was alleged to have a history of illicit drug use during part of this period.  The Defendants challenged the reliability of the Plaintiff’s recollection and argued that this was hampered due to drug use.
The Defendants wished to further explore this issue and brought an application to force production of the Plaintiff’s personal diary as this apparently made reference to some of the Plaintiff’s illicit drug use.  The Defendant argued that this was material evidence because the reliability of the Plaintiff’s memory is a central issue in the lawsuit.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that his diary is not material in the action.  Mr. Justice Punnett ultimately granted the motion for production.  In doing so the Court defined what “Material Fact” means under the new Rules of Court.  Mr. Justice Punnett provided the following reasons:

What is a Material Fact?

[16]        In Alan W. Bryant, Sidney N. Lederman & Michelle K. Fuerst, The Law of Evidence in Canada, 3d ed. (Markham: LexisNexis Canada, 2009) at para. 2.50, relevance is distinguished from materiality:

§2.50   A distinction has also been drawn between relevance and materiality.  Evidence is material in this sense if it is offered to prove or disprove a fact in issue.  For example, evidence offered by a plaintiff in a conversion action to prove a loss of profit is not material since loss of profits cannot be recovered in such an action, and evidence that an accused charged with forcible entry is the owner of the land is immaterial since the offence can be committed by an owner.  This evidence may very well be immaterial, but it is also simply irrelevant.  This excluded evidence is no more required to make out the case than is evidence that the accused owns three other properties or owns a black dog for that matter.  There is no probative connection between the fact to be proved and the facts in issue as determined by the substantive law.  Little is added to the analysis by adding a concept of materiality, as different results do not depend on the distinction. The concept of materiality, however, requires the court to focus on the material issues in dispute in order to determine if the proffered evidence advances the party’s case.[Footnotes omitted.  Emphasis added.]

In other words, the requirement that the disclosure relate to a material fact limits the breadth of what is relevant.

[17]        The authors of The Law of Evidence in Canada define relevance at para 2.35:

§2.35   A traditionally accepted definition of relevance is that in Sir J.F. Stephen’s A Digest of the Law of Evidence, where it is defined to mean:

… any two facts to which it is applied are so related to each other that according to the common course of events one either taken by itself or in connection with other facts proves or renders probable the past, present, or future existence or non-existence of the other.

Pratte J. in R. v. Cloutier accepted a definition from an early edition of Cross on Evidence:

For one fact to be relevant to another, there must be a connection or nexus between the two which makes it possible to infer the existence of one from the existence of the other.  One fact is not relevant to another if it does not have real probative value with respect to the latter.

[18]        In January 2009, Rule 14.01(1)(a) of the Nova Scotia Civil Procedure Rules changed document production in Nova Scotia by requiring a judge to determine relevancy “by assessing whether a judge presiding at the trial or hearing of the proceeding would find the document … relevant or irrelevant”.

[19]        The Nova Scotia Supreme Court in considering the new rule in Halifax Dartmouth Bridge Commission v. Walter Construction Corporation, 2009 NSSC 403, 286 N.S.R. (2d) 179 at para. 18, stated:

[18]      … As to what is meant by relevancy, in Sydney Steel v. Mannesmann Pipe (1985), 69 N.S.R. (2d) 389 (S.C.T.D.), Hallett, J. (as he then was) stated, at paras. 14-18:

[17] In the Law of Evidence in Civil Cases by Sopinka and Lederman, at p. 14 the authors also make reference to the quotation from Stephen’s Digest as to the meaning of relevance and make the following statement that is applicable and worthy of consideration when assessing the relevancy of the documents that are before me on this application:

“The facts in issue are those facts which the plaintiff must establish in order to succeed together with any fact that the defendant must prove in order to make out his defence. It is seldom possible to prove a case or establish a defence solely by direct evidence as to the facts in issue and, therefore, the law admits evidence of facts, which, although not themselves in issue, are relevant in the sense that they prove or render probable the past, present or future existence (or non-existence) of any fact in issue.

“The facts in issue are controlled by the date of the commencement of the action. All facts essential to the accrual of a cause of action must have occurred prior to commencement of the action but evidence may be tendered as to facts occurring after the commencement of the action if they merely tend to prove or disprove the existence of the facts in issue. On the other hand any fact giving rise to a defence need not have occurred before the commencement of the action. An admission after the issue of the writ by one of the parties is admissible and conduct which is tantamount to an admission is equally admissible.

The state of mind of a party may be proved as a fact in issue or as tending to prove or disprove a fact in issue. Thus the knowledge of a party may be directly in issue or relate to a matter directly in issue.” [emphasis by Hallett J.]

Is the Reliability of the Plaintiff’s Memory a Material Fact?

[25]        The defendants argue that the reliability of the plaintiff’s evidence, given the potential memory loss from drug use, is at issue in this case. The plaintiff asserts that reliability includes credibility and a line cannot be drawn between reliability and credibility. Therefore the information relates only to credibility and as such is a non-material collateral fact.

[26]        “Reliable” is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed., as the “able to be relied on.” Credibility relates to whether or not the court accepts or believes the evidence. In assessing credibility, the court may consider how reliable the evidence is.

[27]        In my view, the error in the plaintiff’s position is conflating reliability and credibility when the former is but part of the latter. The ability of the plaintiff to remember is, in my opinion, relevant to proof of a material fact, namely the existence of a contract based on oral terms.

[28]        Frequently courts take into account factual considerations, such as the ability of a witness to see or hear what occurred, in determining whether evidence is reliable and should be accepted. Surely, if an individual has suffered damage to his cognitive or memory functions, that is equally a relevant fact.

[29]        I am satisfied that, if otherwise admissible, the requested production is relevant and could prove or disprove a material fact. Rule 7-1 does not restrict production to documents that in themselves prove a material fact. It includes evidence that can assist in proving or disproving a material fact.

ICBC Claims and Requests for "Particulars"


When suing for compensation in an ICBC claim the BC Supreme Court Rules contain various ways to force disclosure of information.  From requiring the exchange of relevant documents, permitting the parties to attend an examination for discovery and even forcing an ‘independent medical exam’ in certain circumstances there are many tools which can be used to learn about your opponents case.
One further tool is the request for “particulars“.  If a party to a lawsuit is not clear what the other side is formally putting in issue they can ask for clarification by making a demand for particulars under Rule 3-7(23) of the Rules of Court.  There are, however, limits to the use of this Rule and this was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court.
In this week’s case (Yousofi v. Phillips) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  He sued for damages seeking compensation for, amongst other things, past and future wage loss, past and future medical expenses, past and future disability and out of pocket expenses.  ICBC’s lawyer demanded that the Plaintiff provide particulars of these claims.  The Plaintiff refused arguing that this was an inappropriate request.  Mr. Justice Hinkson agreed with the Plaintiff and in dismissing the Defence motion made the following useful comments about the limited use requests for particulars should have in ICBC injury claims:

The entitlement of a party to particulars…is discussed by Mr. Justice Joyce in Delaney & Friends Cartoon Productions Ltd. v. Radical Entertainment Inc. et al, 2005 BCSC 371, beginning at paragraph 9.

[4] In that case, His Lordship makes the point that:

Particulars are provided to disclose what the pleader intends to prove. How that party intends to prove the material facts and particulars is a matter of evidence. The pleading party is not required to, and indeed, is not entitled to set out in the pleadings the evidence that he or she intends to adduce at trial to prove the facts that have been pleaded.

[5] In David et al v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada et al, 2004 BCSC 1306, Mr. Justice Cohen considered the distinction between the material facts and evidence and referred to an earlier decision of Mr. Justice Joyce when he was a master of this court, Firestone v. Smith, [1991] B.C.J. No. 2660 (S.C.)(QL), where Master Joyce said at paragraph 11:

In my view the concern raised by the plaintiff at this stage is that he does not know but would like to know now what precise evidence the defendant may lead in support of his allegations of fact. In my respectful opinion the plaintiff is not entitled to ascertain the evidentiary basis of the defendant’s case by way of this demand for particulars.

[6] Turning to the notice of motion for particulars, the particulars sought at a relatively late juncture following examinations for discovery include a request for further and better particulars with respect to:

(a)      The Plaintiff’s Past and Prospective Loss of Enjoyment of Life

In my view, that is an inappropriate request for particulars and is a matter that can and should be pursued by way of examination for discovery. In my view, it is not necessary to provide particulars with respect to that head of damage.

(b)      The Plaintiff’s Past and Prospective Physical Disability

The injuries alleged by the plaintiff have been set out in the statement of claim and the extent of his disability arising therefrom is not a matter that is required as an item of pleadings. It, too, should be pursued by examination for discovery.

(c)      The Plaintiff’s Past and Prospective Loss of Earnings

Insofar as the past loss of earnings is concerned, this is information that can be identified and quantified and should be provided by the plaintiff to the defendant. It is not, in my view, appropriate that it be provided as particulars, but I am satisfied it should be provided in some fashion to the defendant, and I am going to direct that the plaintiff quantify his claim for past loss of earnings and provide that information to the defendant.

Insofar as prospective loss of earnings is concerned, I am not satisfied that that is a matter that can be necessarily particularized, and I leave it to the defendant to pursue that through examinations for discovery.

(d)      The Plaintiff’s Past and Prospective Loss of Earning Capacity

Like the prospective loss of earnings, I do not consider this to be an appropriate subject matter for particulars, and it is a matter that can be pursued by way of examination for discovery.

(e)      The Plaintiff’s Past and Prospective Loss of Opportunity to Earn Income

This is a head that is hard to distinguish from past and prospective loss of earning capacity. To the extent there is any difference, in my view it should be treated the same as the request for particulars of past and prospective loss of earning capacity.

(f)       The Plaintiff’s Past and Prospective Loss of Housekeeping Capacity

This is another matter that in my view does not warrant particularization in the pleadings. It can be pursued through examinations for discovery.

(g)      The Trust Award on Behalf of the Plaintiff’s Friends and Family

This, too, is not a matter that, in my view, should be dealt with by way of particulars, with this exception:  The individual or individuals for whom a trust award is claimed should be identified in the statement of claim where the trust award is advanced.

(h)      The Plaintiff’s Special Damages

These are matters that should be identified by the plaintiff for the defendant, but not as particulars of the pleadings.

Just Because You Have It Doesn't Mean You Should Use It – Trials and Discovery Evidence


As I’ve previously discussed, one of the main purposes of an examination for discovery is to ‘discover‘ evidence that can help your case or hurt your opponents.
After a discovery a lawyer can read relevant portions of the transcript in at trial and the evidence can have the same weight as if it was given live in Court.   However, just because you have evidence obtained from a discovery does not mean it should be used.
If you read evidence in that advances your opponents case (or that contradicts yours) the Court can rely on this to dismiss your lawsuit.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing this principle and some of its limits.
In today’s case (Duncan v. Mazurek) the Plaintiff, a pedestrian who was jay-walking, was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle.  At trial both the Plaintiff and the Defendant were found at fault.  The Defendant successfully appealed and a new trial was ordered.  Before reaching this verdict the BC High Court had the opportunity to discuss the weight of discovery evidence at trial.
During the trial the Plaintiff read in portions of the Defendant’s examination for discovery.  Some of the evidence apparently contradicted the evidence supportive of the Plaintiff’s case.  The Defendant argued that doing this  amounted to the Plaintiff adopting the Defendants evidence and leaving the trial judge with no choice but to accept it.  The BC Court of Appeal disagreed however provided the following caution about reading in unhelpful evidence from a discovery transcript:
[30] The defendant, relying on Chetwynd-Palmer v. Spinnakers, [1993] B.C.J. No. 95 (S.C.) and Tsatsos v. Johnson (1970), 74 W.W.R. 315, says that by reading in that discovery the plaintiff adopted and approbated his evidence, and the trial judge is not entitled to reject it and choose a different version more favourable to the plaintiff. I am not convinced those cases go that far. While the plaintiff may be at some risk in reading in such evidence as part of her case, where there is contradictory evidence it is my view that the trial judge must retain discretion to weigh it all in reaching his findings
Before you read in discovery evidence ask yourself if the evidence helps your case or hurts your opponents.  If the answer is no to both questions you should think twice before letting the evidence go before the Court.

ICBC Injury Claims and Witness Statements; Getting Proper Disclosure

Further to my recent post on this topic, often after serious motor vehicle collisions ICBC sends adjusters out to collect statements from the parties and known witnesses to the event.
When a lawsuit for compensation is brought by an injured party ICBC sometimes does not disclose the witness statements to the Plaintiff on the basis of ‘litigation privilege‘.   Being a monopoly insurer, ICBC investigates claims and our Courts have consistently held that if the statements were obtained during the ‘investigation‘ stage ICBC’s claim of ‘litigation privilege‘ will fail and the documents will have to be disclosed.  Reasons for judgement were released this week with helpful comments addressing this area of the law.
In this week’s case (Sauve v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured in 2008 motor vehicle collision.   After the collision ICBC hired an independent adjuster who obtained witness statements and also provided ICBC a report in which she sized up the various witnesses.  In describing the report the adjuster deposed that she “used my expertise and experience as an Insurance Adjuster to describe each of the Witnesses, including their physical appearance, demeanor and presentation. I also provided an analysis as to the likely performance of each witness in court. I further provided analysis of the commonalities between various witness accounts for the purpose of assessing credibility and preparing the case of the Defendant, ICBC should litigation occur”
ICBC provided the Plaintiff with the witness statements but refused to provide the report claiming the protection of litigation privilege.  The Plaintiff brought a motion to force disclosure.  Ultimately Mr. Justice Joyce held that the reports were privileged and ICBC did not have to disclose them to the Plaintiff.  Before reaching this conclusion the Court provided helpful reasons addressing the difficulty ICBC may face in claiming privilege over witness statements obtained in the immediate aftermath of a collision.  Mr. Justice Joyce reasoned as follows:

[34] I turn to the second part of the test: were the documents created for the dominant purpose of assisting the defendant in the conduct of the anticipated litigation by Ms. Sauvé?

[35] Once again in answering that question, it is important to focus on when the reports were created and to consider them separate from any consideration of whether the witness statements and photographs would meet the dominant purpose test. I can certainly accept that the witness statements and photographs may well have come into existence for two purposes:

(1)       to investigate the circumstances of the accident, and

(2)       to assist in the conduct of litigation.

[36] Therefore, whether those documents would satisfy the second part of the test might have been a difficult question to answer. The defendant might not have been able to meet the test for the first group of documents on a balance of probabilities, but that is not the question that I have to decide.

[37] In my view, when deciding whether the reports were prepared for the dominant purpose of litigation I have to consider not only what was known by Mr. Taylor and communicated to Ms. Webber; I also have to consider what Ms. Webber knew when she prepared the reports, as well as the nature of the reports. Ms. Webber has deposed that when she prepared the reports, she believed that the dominant purpose for their creation was litigation. She came to that conclusion being aware of the information that the witnesses could give with respect to the circumstances of the accident. According to Ms. Webber, the reports consist of her descriptions of the witness, her impressions or opinions concerning their credibility and her own analysis of how the evidence of the various witnesses matched or conflicted. While it might be possible that such information might assist ICBC at the investigation stage, I am of the view that any such use of the documents would clearly be secondary to their use in assisting counsel in the conduct of the action. I am, therefore, satisfied that the reports were created for the dominant purpose of litigation and attracted litigation privilege.

In addition to the above this case contains a useful analysis of the law of waiver of privilege and ‘common interest’ privilege and is worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in these topics.

Getting the Insurance Company's Documents; Litigation Privilege and the Trend of Increased Disclsoure


As I’ve previously written, litigation privilege is a principle which allows parties not to share relevant documents with the other side in a lawsuit in limited circumstances.  Despite this principle, the BC Courts seem to be favouring the trend of disclosure making it more difficult for parties not to disclose documents after lawsuits get underway.  Reasons for judgement were released last week demonstrating this trend.
In last week’s case (Beer v. Nickerson) the Plaintiff was injured in 2008 as a result of a slip and fall incident at a Pharmasave in Victoria, BC.  The Plaintiff alleged the fall occurred as a result of the Defendant’s “negligent operation of her scooter in the store“.
The Defendant contacted her insurance company after the incident.  The insurance company conducted an investigation and in the process of this obtained a statement from the Defendant, a drawing of the store prepared by the Defendants daughter, and photographs of the location of the incident.
After the lawsuit started the Defendant’s lawyer refused to provide these documents arguing they were protected by “litigation privilege“.   Master Bouck of the BC Supreme Court disagreed and ordered that these documents be produced.  In reaching this conclusion the Court reasoned that the documents were not privileged because a lawsuit was not a ‘reasonable prospect‘ when these documents were created and further that they were not created for the ‘dominant purpose‘ of use in a lawsuit.  Before reaching her verdict Master Bouck provided the following useful summary of the law:

[17] The legal principles to be applied on this application are well-settled and set out in Hamalainen (Committee of) v. Sippola (1991), 62 B.C.L.R. (2d) 254, and Stevanovic v. Petrovic, supra. Those principles are as follows:

1.  The party withholding disclosure bears the onus of establishing a claim for privilege over a document.

2.  The test for considering whether litigation privilege is established is two-fold:

(a)  Was litigation a reasonable prospect at the time the document in dispute was created?

(b)  If so, was the dominant purpose of the document’s creation for use in litigation? (commonly known as the “dominant purpose” test.)

3.  Litigation can properly be said to be in reasonable prospect when a reasonable person, possessed of all the pertinent information including that particular to one party or the other, would conclude that it is unlikely that the claim for loss will be resolved without it.

4.  However, the prospect of litigation alone is not sufficient to meet the claim of privilege. Nor does the denial of liability alone mean that all documents produced thereafter are subject to a claim for privilege. As stated by the court in Hamalainen v. Sippola:

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.

6.  It is not incumbent upon the court to accept without question the opinion of either deponent on one of the very issues that is to be decided. Whether or not litigation was a reasonable prospect is a matter for the court to decide on all the evidence.

[18] To these principles I would add that the dominant purpose test is consistent with “the more contemporary trend favouring increased disclosure”: Blank v. Canada (Department of Justice), 2006 SCC 39 at paras. 60-61.

This case is helpful in permitting Plaintiffs to obtain more fulsome disclosure early in a lawsuit.  Our Courts have made it clear that if documents are gathered by an insurance company for the purpose of investigating a claim (as opposed to defending a potential lawsuit) then these documents will have to be disclosed under the BC Supreme Court Rules.

More on Privacy Rights, Compelled Disclosure and the Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality


Further to my previous posts on this topic, when people sue (or are sued) in the BC Supreme Court the Rules force disclosure of certain facts and documents.  To balance the parties privacy interests the Courts have developed an “implied undertaking of confidentiality” which is basically a judge made rule that “requires a party to civil litigation to keep confidential all information disclosed by adverse parties in the litigation under the compulsion of discovery procedures.  The receiving party is only to use the disclosed information in the litigation in which it was produced
The implied undertaking can be lifted by an order of the Court or by consent of the party that disclosed the information.  Another way the implied undertaking can come to an end is if the case goes to “open court”.   The question is when is the open court exception triggered.  As most lawyers know most cases don’t go to trial but it is common to have pre-trial applications held in open court.  In such a case is the exception triggered?  Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with this novel issue.
In today’s case (Bodnar v. The Cash Store inc.) the Plaintiff’s were involved in a lawsuit.  During the course of that claim a pre-trial motion was brought which relied, in part, on documents produced by the Defendant by the compulsion of the forced disclosure under the Rules of Court.  The case ultimately settled and a different class of Plaintiff’s brought a “virtually identical” lawsuit.
The Plaintiff’s wished to use the materials obtained in the first lawsuit in the second claim.  The Defendant’s would not consent arguing that the implied undertaking of confidentiality prohibited this use.  The Court was asked whether having the documents used in a pre-trial chambers application triggered the open court exception.  Madam Justice Griffin provided the following useful analysis:

[45] I conclude that a proper balancing of the public interest involved in the implied undertaking rule and in the open court principle, in respect of information filed in court as part of an interim application, can best be achieved by applying the following principles:

(a) the implied undertaking does not end when information, produced by an adverse party under compulsion of discovery (the “Producing Party”), is filed in court by the receiving party (the “Receiving Party”) in support of an interim application;

(b) in considering a Receiving Party’s application for leave to be relieved from the implied undertaking, the court may consider, as one factor in support of leave, the fact that the information was filed in court for a legitimate purpose and became part of the court record; and

(c) the implied undertaking of a Receiving Party ends, with respect to information produced by the Producing Party, when that information is filed in court by the Producing Party itself.

[46] The above principles would seek to avoid the mischief of a party with ulterior motives filing the adverse party’s information in court simply to get around the implied undertaking.  Upholding the implied undertaking and placing the onus on the Receiving Party to seek the court’s leave before using the information for another purpose, would encourage parties to fulfill their discovery obligations knowing that the implied undertaking cannot easily be avoided.   At the same time, the fact that the documents are now part of the court record, available to all other persons, will be one important factor to be considered by the court on a Receiving Party’s subsequent application for leave to use the documents for other purposes.

[47] It makes sense however, that the implied undertaking is lost when the Producing Party files its own information in open court.  There can be no concern about abuse of process or a deliberate attempt to circumvent the implied undertaking rule in such a situation, given that the Producing Party is not under any undertaking with respect to its own information and was not compelled to produce it in court.

The Court went on to hold that, despite the implied undertaking not coming to an end by virtue of the documents use in court, it would be appropriate to permit the Plaintiff’s to use the information in the subsequent lawsuit.  This case is worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in the developing principles of privacy law in BC as the judgement contains a lengthy discussion of the principles at play and the relevant precedents addressing the “implied undertaking of confidentiality”.

Do Parties Have to Disclose Documents They Will Use to Impeach Opposing Expert Witnesses?


When a party to a personal injury lawsuit wishes to use documents at trial those documents have to be disclosed to the opposing side as per the BC Supreme Court Rules otherwise the evidence may not be admissible.  Two recent cases from the BC Court of Appeal have clearly highlighted this.  Today, reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court considering the scope of documents that need to be disclosed.
In today’s case (Beazley v. Suzuki Motor Coroporation) the Plaintiff called a witness to give expert evidence.  The witness testified that he had limited knowledge of something known as the “Critical Sliding Velocity standard” and that he had “never proposed such a standard to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration“.
On cross-examination the Defence lawyer produced a letter written by the witness addressed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration apparently “supporting the use of a Critical Sliding Velocity Standard“.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer objected to this cross examination arguing that the letter was not listed on the Defendant’s list of documents and therefore could not be used.  Mr. Justice Goepel disagreed finding that documents that are used solely for impeaching an expert wittiness’ credibility do not necessarily have to be listed.  Specifically the Court reasoned as follows:

[7] A party is obliged to list all documents that fall within the purview of Rule 26(1) including those documents that can properly be described as forming part of the solicitor’s brief: Stone v. Ellerman, 2009 BCCA 294, 92 B.C.L.R. (4th) 203; Dykeman v. Porohowski, 2010 BCCA 36. Neither Stone, Dykeman or the cases cited therein deal with the use of documents being introduced to impeach the general credibility of an expert witness.

[8] A party who chooses to call an expert vouches for that expert’s credibility. The type and nature of documents that might challenge such credibility are endless. They may include articles, letters, testimony, speeches or statements that the expert has made in the past. There may be other articles which critically challenge the expert’s conclusion. Most documents which go to challenge an expert’s opinion or credibility are not documents which are related to the matter in question in the action. They only become relevant because of the expert’s testimony and do not fall under the purview of Rule 26.

[9] This ruling does not apply to all documents that the defendants may wish to put to this or other witnesses. If a document is otherwise related to a matter in question, it is not protected from disclosure merely because it will be used in cross examination or forms part of the solicitor’s brief.

[10] The August 5, 1994 letter, however, only becomes relevant because of Mr. Heitzman’s testimony. It was not a document that need be listed and the defendant is entitled to use the document in cross examination.

[11] To the extent the plaintiffs object to other documents the defendants might wish to put to Mr. Heitzman, those objections will be dealt with as they arise.

BC Injury Claims and Production of Pre Accident Medical Records


Further to my previous post discussing this topic reasons for judgement were released today dealing with the extent of pre-accident record disclosure ICBC (or other defendants) are entitled to when a Plaintiff sues for damages for personal injuries in the BC Supreme Court.
In today’s case (Moukhine v. Collins) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 BC car crash.  The Plaintiff sued for damages.  In the Statement of Defence the lawyer plead that the injuries are not the result of an accident, but are were in fact pre-existing conditions.  (This is a rather ‘boilerplate’ pleading raised by the defence in almost every ICBC injury claim).  The defence lawyer then asked that the Plaintiff provide medical records which pre-date the accident by as much as 15 years.
The Court was asked to decide  “whether a mere allegation in a pleading that a plaintiff’s injuries are not the result of an accident, but are caused by his or her pre-accident health condition is enough, without more, to entitle a defendant to production of pre-accident medical records“.
Mr. Justice Harris went on to hold that in personal injury cases, the mere allegation by the Defence lawyer of a pre-existing condition may be enough to compel the disclosure of pre-accident records.  Specifically the Court reasoned as follows:

[18] In my opinion, nothing in Dufault is authority for the proposition that pleadings alone are insufficient to make an order under Rule 26(11) or that evidence is always necessary. Similarly, Dhaliwal does not address the relevance of pleadings as a basis for making a Rule 26(11) order. There is no reference in the judgment  to the issues pleaded in the action and whether pleadings  would have affected the outcome. The case deals only with the sufficiency of the evidence that was before the court. I do not draw from the case the proposition that pleadings standing alone and defining the issues in the action are never a sufficient basis to satisfy the court to make a Rule 26(11) order.

[19] In Marsh v. Parker, 2000 BCSC 1605 at para. 9, Master Horn concluded that Dhaliwal stood for the proposition that “there must be something either by way of evidence or by way of the pleadings which raises the plaintiff’s pre-injury state of health as an issue.”  I agree. Indeed, in Creed v. Dorio, [1998] B.C.J. No. 2479, Mr. Justice Edwards, at paragraph 13, rejected the proposition that “some evidence”  was necessary to establish relevance….

[22] In an appropriate case pleadings  are a sufficient basis on which to exercise a discretion to order production of at least some documents. In some cases it is reasonably obvious that records  may contain relevant (in the sense that term is used in Peruvian Guano) information and should be produced, subject to production following a Jones orHalliday format. Evidence may be required in order to resist a production order. That does not mean, however, that an order will always go on the basis of pleadings alone and it may be premature in some circumstances  to make such an order before discovery (see, for example, Mehdipour v. Shingler (18 March 2009), Vancouver M080517 (S.C.)). Merely pleading pre-existing conditions does not deprive the court of its discretion to refuse to make the order sought when, for example, there is no air of reality about the alleged connection between the documents sought and the issues in the action. Evidence may therefore, on occasion,  be required to establish the relevant connection to overcome the conclusion that the documents are  irrelevant to the claim.

I should point out that as of July, 2010 the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules come into force and the tests for what types of documents need to be exchanged will be narrower so it will be interesting to see how this area of law changes under the soon to be in place new system.

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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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