Tag: facebook

ICBC Now on Facebook


ICBC is no stranger to social media having an active twitter account for the past two years.  In addition to their active twitter presence they regularly mine social media sites for information in claims investigations.
Despite their social media presence they have neglected opening a Facebook account until now.  Thompson’s World Insurance News reports that ICBC has finally dived into the world of Facebook with their own account.  They report (and I agree) that this is a brave move as there has been no shortage of abuse they receive via twitter which is gracefully handled by the ever patient and diplomatic Karen Basaraba.
ICBC’s Facebook Page can be found here.  Welcome to Facebook Karen.

Spying on Yourself With Facebook


As readers of this blog know I hate insurance fraud.  Sometimes fraudulent claims are weeded out through investigation efforts, other times fraudulent claimants unwittingly spy on themselves.
Today, ICBC reports another example of an individual ratting themselves out unwittingly through social media, in this case Facebook.  ICBC reports the following tale of insurance fraud undone through social media:
(the Claimant’s) troubles began when he rolled his vehicle on a rural road near Springhouse, a small community west of Williams Lake.
At the time, he was prohibited from driving so in order to collect insurance on the vehicle, which was a total loss, he convinced a friend to tell ICBC that she was the driver. At the time of the crash, three other people were in the vehicle and fortunately, no one suffered serious injuries.
The story came apart after ICBC’s special investigation unit (SIU) became aware that Joseph was bragging on his Facebook page that he had rolled his truck after drinking at a New Year’s Eve party and subsequently got a big payout from ICBC.
ICBC reports that the individual was ultimately criminally charged and penalized with a fine, a restitution order and a conditional sentence.

Social Media and Computer Hard Drive Requests "A fishing expedition…without the appropriate bait"


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a defendant application requesting the production of a Plaintiff’s Facebook postings, Twitter postings, Computer Hard Drive and Iphone.
Today’s case (Dosanjh v. Leblanc and St. Paul’s Hospital) involved allegations of medical malpractice.  The plaintiff said she suffered “cognitive impairment that has affected her thinking process“.  She sued for damages.  The Defendants brought an application seeking that the Plaintiff produce her private social media account information and computer hard-drive data arguing that this information would be relevant to the claimed damages.  Master Taylor dismissed the application finding such a broad application, even in the face of alleged cognitive injuries, was “a classic fishing expedition, but without the appropriate bait.“.  Master Taylor provided the following reasons:

[28] The defendant has not indicated the material fact or facts which it believes can be proved by searching the plaintiff’s personal computer and her social media sites.  Rather, the defendant merely says that health, enjoyment of life and employability are in issue.  Surely more is or should be required to meet the test of Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i) than just saying a particular matter is in issue in order to infringe on a litigant’s privacy.

[29] To be able to obtain a litigant’s private thoughts and feelings as expressed to friends or family members after the fact is, in my view, similar to a party intercepting private communications of another party.

[30] I am unable to envisage any rational justification for breaching the privacy rights of an individual in civil proceedings simply because it is alleged that the individual’s general health, enjoyment of life and employability are directly at issue.  Merely because a record may be made of the communication shouldn’t make it any different than a private telephone conversation.  If not, surely applications in civil proceedings for recordings of private communications can’t be far behind…

[33] I am satisfied that the defendant’s application is entirely too broad and lacks the focus required by Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i).  In fact, I am more inclined to call this application a classic fishing expedition, but without the appropriate bait.  I observe as well that the order made by the court in Bishop, supra, was focussed on the times the plaintiff spent on his Facebook account on his computer, and did not give the defendant cart blanche to troll through the plaintiff’s correspondence as is sought in the application before me.

Lawyer Ordered to Download His Own Client's Facebook Account Data In Injury Lawsuit


Controversial reasons for judgement were recently released by the The Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick.  The Court required a Plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit to preserve all contents on her Facebook homepage and have these produced.  While requiring Social Medial Data production is not necessarily unique, the way the Court required this evidence to be preserved will cause concern for many.
In the recent case (Sparks v. Dube) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision in Fredericton in 2008.  She hired a lawyer and sued for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit the defence lawyer brought a motion, without notifying the plaintiff’s lawyer, requesting personal information from the Plaintiff’s Facebook account.  The Court granted the motion and made the following contraversial orders:

1)  A Preservation Order and, in the alternative, an Interlocutory Injunction are hereby made and issued compelling Erica Sparks: 1) to preserve and maintain without deletions or alterations the entire contents of her personal Webpage(s) on the social network Facebook including but not limited to photographs, text, links, postings, event details and video clips until further direction of the court, and 2) to participate in the carrying out of the following orders where her participation is required;

2)  The Interlocutory Injunction shall expire ten days after these orders take effect instituted;

3)  The Applicant-Defendant shall personally and immediately serve all orders and a copy of this judgment upon the Plaintiff’s solicitor, Mr. James Crocco who shall not disclose any of the orders set out herein nor the contents of this judgment except on terms as they are allowed by these orders;

4)  Upon being served, Mr. James Crocco shall arrange for a solicitor in his firm or an agent lawyer of his choice to be appointed to carry out as soon as reasonably possible, and in the case of the Interlocutory Injunction within ten days of the taking effect of these orders, the orders set out that pertain to his client Erica Sparks subject to the following terms:

a)  The appointed solicitor shall be remunerated by the Defendant for his or her services;

b)  That solicitor shall immediately contact Ms. Sparks and, without disclosing the nature of the subject matter to be discussed, schedule a meeting with her at a location convenient to access and download data from the Internet and reduce it to usable form, such as hard copy for data so suited or memory stick or other such device for videos, as soon as reasonably practicable;

c)  Upon personally meeting with Erica Sparks at the location chosen the appointed solicitor shall apprise her of the terms and conditions of the Preservation Order and Interlocutory Injunction as well as the other orders contained herein that pertain to her;

d)  Immediately upon disclosure of the terms and conditions of the orders set out, Erica Sparks, in the presence of the solicitor engaged, shall create a permanent tangible records in hard copy, wherever possible, or to other suitable device, of the entire contents of her Webpage(s) on Facebook including, but not limited to, all photographs, text and links and shall record by a memory stick or other suitable device any videos posted or linked to Erica’s Sparks’ Webpage, one copy of which shall be sealed upon the carrying out of that part of these orders and delivered to Mr. James Crocco to be held and preserved by him until further direction of the court; but the delivering of a sealed copy of the entirety of her Webpage(s) shall not operate to preclude Erica Sparks from providing her counsel, Mr. James Crocco, or anyone else of her choosing with a copy of the entirety of her Webpage(s) in order to prepare for the Production Hearing or further proceedings;

5)  Upon complying with the said orders the solicitor appointed to supervise the downloading of the material referred to herein shall immediately review all of the material downloaded to ensure that the orders have been carried out in full and shall then certify to the court in writing that there has been strict compliance with the orders contained herein, and that the sealed packet represents the entire contents of the Facebook Webpage(s) of Erica Sparks as well as videos posted or linked to it or them;

6)  Upon the successful execution of the orders set out herein and the execution of the certification of strict compliance with the orders contained herein by the solicitor appointed to supervise the downloading of the material referred to herein  Erica Sparks shall be free to resume unrestricted access to her Webpage(s) on Facebook including its substantive composition;

7)  The Motion begun on December 9, 2011 shall be adjourned to a date to be fixed by the Clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench for the Judicial District of Woodstock;

8)  The Defendant shall then file with this court and serve on the Plaintiff, in timely fashion, a Notice of Motion for the production and disclosure of the contents of the sealed packet of information/data;

9)  Once a date for a Production Hearing has been set Mr. James Crocco shall bring to that hearing the sealed packet of data retrieved from the Facebook Webpage(s) of Erica Sparks pursuant to the orders contained herein;

10)                     Upon completion of the execution of the orders contained herein, that apply to the retrieval of the entire contents of Erica Spark’s Facebook Webpage(s) on the terms as set out in these orders, the temporary oral sealing order sealing the entire file and court record in this matter that was imposed on December 9, 2010 at the conclusion of the ex partehearing shall be lifted without further order of the court.

11)                     The Plaintiff shall upon execution of these orders and the holding of a Production Hearing, in timely fashion, file a further and better Affidavit of Documents;

I understand that this order is being appealed and look forward to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal’s views on this matter.  While there are cases requiring Plaintiffs to produce social media data in personal injury lawsuits in BC, I am not aware of any cases in this Province going as far as the above decision.  Arguably the New BC Rules of Court focus on proportionality, narrower document disclosure obligations, and general prohibition of “fishing expeditions” in discovery of documents would prevent such an order from being granted in BC.

Damages for Violations of Privacy in BC

(Update: The below decision was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in December, 2011)

As I’ve previously written, the BC Privacy Act allows individuals to sue where their privacy is violated “wilfully and without a claim of right” by another person.  This powerful law permits such lawsuits to succeed even where a Plaintiff cannot prove actual damages.
Despite the strength of the BC Privacy Act, relatively few reported decisions have been released applying this law in the years that it has been on the books.  Useful reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, applying this law in combination with a claim for damages for defamation.
In today’s case (Nesbitt v. Neufeld) the Plaintiff and Defendant were involved in “protracted family litigation” During the course of that litigation one of the parties “resorted to out-of-court publications that are plainly private to the litigants“.  The reasons for judgement are worth reviewing in full for the details but these apparently included “private communications…released to third parties and made available to the public (including)…a YouTube video…a website…a Facebook Page…(and) a letter to the Ministry of Child and Family Development”
The victim sued arguing she was defamed and further that her privacy rights were unreasonably violated.  Mr. Justice Crawford agreed and awarded the Plaintiff $40,000 in damages.   In reaching this award the Court provided the following reasons:

[89]         The B.C. Court of Appeal in Davis v. McArthur (1970), 17 D.L.R. (3d) 760, [1970] B.C.J. No. 664 (QL) (C.A.), said this in the course of its judgment at para. 9 of QL:

To constitute the tort [of violation of privacy] the violation must be committed “wilfully and without a claim of right”. The nature and degree of privacy to which the person is entitled in any situation or in relation to any matter is fully set out in s-s (2) [now ss. 1(2) and 1(3)] and, in my opinion, no useful purpose would be served in attempting to elaborate upon the words contained therein. Regard must be had to the provisions of the subsection as a whole. It is plain that whether there has been a violation of privacy of another must be decided on the particular facts of each case. As the learned Judge below said in his reasons for judgment [10 D.L.R. (3d) 250 at p. 255, 72 W.W.R. 69]: “It is necessary to consider all of the circumstances before determining ‘The nature and degree of privacy to which a person is entitled,’ s. 2(2) [now ss. 1(2) and 1(3)].

[90]         In Hollinsworth v. BCTV, a division of Westcom T.V. Group Ltd. (1999), 59 B.C.L.R. (3d) 121, 113 B.C.A.C. 304, the Court of Appeal defined the term “wilfully” to mean “an intention to do an act which the person doing the act knew or should have known would violate the privacy of another person” (at para. 29 of B.C.L.R.).

[91]         Dr. Nesbitt’s use of the private correspondence between Ms. Neufeld and Ms. X was a deliberate act that violated Ms. Neufeld’s privacy. The communications were extremely personal…

[96] Had Dr. Nesbitt restricted his communications within the confines of the family court litigation where he had counsel to advise him of the bounds of legitimate expression of his opinions, the issues before me in this proceeding might not have arisen. I say “might” because I note that certain publications of Dr. Nesbitt prompted an application to the family court that resulted in a consent order made on September 8, 2008 before Master Caldwell restraining Dr. Nesbitt from making further improper communications…

[102] The reality is that Dr. Nesbitt has taken his battle with Ms. Neufeld over custody and access far outside the ordinary confines of the family court litigation. Even worse his lack of appreciation for the proper boundaries of communication of his opinions has spread to besmirch persons that are friends of Ms. Neufeld.

[103] Dr. Nesbitt disclosed matters private to the parties in a manner that defamed Ms. Neufeld; he is the publisher of the defamatory materials at issue.

[104] For breach of privacy and the defamation aspects of the defendant’s claim, I set that amount at $40,000.

[105] I only limit the defamation damages due to the fact that while it is plainly publication to the world in the sense the defamatory materials were put on the Internet, Ms. Neufeld indicated there has been little personal or professional backlash. Indeed, if I read between the lines, the communications to the Rotary Club, the Ministry and the Child’s doctor were treated with the disdain they deserved.

The Court went on to award the victim ‘special costs’ in order to rebuke the other parties ‘reprehensible conduct‘.  The ease created by social media platforms in allowing individuals to quickly publish material to the Internet will likely make claims such as these more prevalent in the years to come.  With this, damage awards for privacy violations will hopefully be shaped into predictable ranges.

Neck, Low Back and Knee Soft Tissue Injuries Discussed

Reasons for Judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry awarding a Plaintiff damages for injuries sustained in two BC motor vehicle collisions.
In today’s case (MacIntyre v. Pitt Meadows Secondary School) the Plaintiff was involved in a total of three seperate accidents and sued.  All three trials were heard together.  His claim for the first accident (a claim against his school for being injured while in shop class) was dismissed.  This left the court to deal with the Plaintiff’s motor vehicle accident claims.
The first motor vehicle collision happened in 2003.  The Plaintiff was 15 at the time.  He was struck by a vehicle at low speed on his right leg while he was walking in a crosswalk.  The issue of fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered a knee injury and eventually had arthroscopic surgery.  Mr. Justice Butler awarded the Plaintiff $35,000 for his non-pecuniary damages as a result of this injury.  In arriving at this figure the Court highlighted the following facts:
86] There is no question that Evan’s right knee suffered a significant blow in the Second Accident.  He suffered discomfort and a restriction in his activities.  In the first three weeks after the Second Accident, Evan missed six full days of school.  He found it difficult to crouch or kneel and felt that the knee was unstable.  He was not able to carry out his part-time job as a football referee.  He used crutches for a month or two and then used a cane.  He found it difficult to use the crutches because this caused additional pain in his right wrist.  His parents rented a wheelchair for him to use at home.  He was unable to take part in part-time work over the Christmas holidays…

[100] There is no controversy between the expert orthopaedic surgeons regarding the nature of the injury and the current condition of Evan’s right knee.  The structural injury was mild.  If there was damage to the ACL, it was not significant and healed quickly.  As of the date of the arthroscopic investigation, the knee compartment exhibited no abnormalities as a result of the injury.  All of the doctors accept that there was a severe strain to the right knee.  The impact of the injury was likely worse than it would have been for most people because of the pre-existing laxity in Evan’s knee joint.

[101] The experts also agree that Evan should have been symptom free sometime after June 2006.  However, as Dr. McCormack notes, there is a small subset of individuals who continue to experience residual symptoms.  The question that remains is whether Evan falls within that small subset.  If I can accept Evan’s subjective complaints of continuing pain and limitation of movement, I can conclude that he falls within that small subset in that his condition has reached a plateau.  This question raises the issue of Evan’s credibility….

I have concluded that I cannot accept his evidence regarding the continuing symptoms that he says he has experienced and is currently experiencing as a result of the three accidents.  There are simply too many inconsistencies in his case to accept his assertions at face value…

[105] In summary, I find that Evan suffered a severe strain to his right knee as a result of the Second Accident.  There is no lasting damage to his knee compartment or the knee structure. There is no possibility of future problems with the knee as a result of the Second Accident.  I also find that Evan’s knee symptoms persisted longer than they would have normally because of the laxity in his knee joints.  I accept Dr. McCormack’s evidence that normally after a couple of months of therapy following arthroscopy patients are able to return to their pre-injury status.  In the circumstances of this case, I conclude that Evan’s knee functioned well within three or four months after the arthroscopy, although some activities continued to cause him pain or discomfort.  Specifically, I find that the symptoms persisted for four or five years…

[111] Taking into account the incapacity Evan suffered after the initial injury and after the surgery, the aggravated injury to his right wrist, and the persistence of the symptoms for four to five years, I fix non-pecuniary damages at $35,000.

The second accident was a rear-end car crash.  Fault was admitted.   The Court had some problems with the Plaintiff’s credibility but ultimately did find that the crash caused a compensable injury.  In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $22,500 for this crash Mister Justice Butler found as follows:

[132] On the basis of all of the evidence, I conclude that the Third Accident resulted in a soft tissue injury to the cervical and lumbar regions of Evan’s spine.  In general, I accept Dr. Hill’s opinion evidence regarding the nature and extent of the injury Evan suffered.  While I do not accept Evan’s complaints of ongoing pain, I find that his symptoms persisted somewhat longer than predicted by Dr. Hill.  Given the level of physical activity Evan was able to maintain in the years following the accident, I conclude that the impairment to his work and leisure activities was not significant.  By the date of the trial, approximately two years after the Third Accident, the injuries were substantially healed…

[135] Given my findings, the cases referred to by the plaintiff are of little assistance.  In light of my finding that Evan’s symptoms persisted for two years, the only case referred to by the defendants that has some similarity to the present case is Levasseur.  Of course, in addition to the soft tissue injuries, Evan also suffered from disruption to his vision, which resulted in the strabismus operation.  In all of the circumstances of this case, I assess non-pecuniary damages at $22,500.

In addition to the Court’s discussion of pain and suffering awards this decision is worth reviewing for the extensive reasons given with respect to credibility.  In a tort claim involving soft tissue injuries Plaintiff credibility plays a key role.  Here the Court made some unfavourable findings with respect to some of the Plaintiff’s evidence.   Some of the evidence that influenced the Court’s findings were “facebook photographs…(showing the Plaintiff) performing many other activities without apparent difficulty.” and video showing the Plaintiff “winning the limbo contest with an impressive limbo move“.  This case is worth a read to see the damaging impact photographic / video evidence can in BC injury litigation.

Leave For Appeal Denied in Computer Hard-drive Disclosure Case


In April of this year the BC Supreme Court ordered that a Plaintiff involved in a Brain Injury Claim from a BC Car Crash “produce for inspection by an independent expert a duplicate copy of his computer hard-drive and that the expert prepare a report identifying the number, nature, and time for all files relating to the use of the plaintiff’s Facebook account between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., dating from July 23, 2005 to the present.” (Click here to read my post summarizing the trial decision).
The Defendant in this case sought greater disclosure including “production of information (from the Plaintiff’s computer hard drive) regarding the number, nature and time of the information files that related to the Plaintiff’s Hotmail account and all other computer activity occurring between the hours of 11:00 pm and 5:00 am.”  This application was dismissed by the Chambers Judge.
The Defendant asked the BC Court of Appeal permission to appeal this order arguing that such information would have been relevant in assessing the Plaintiff’s brain injury claim and that the Judge failed to turn his mind to the application properly.
The Court of Appeal refused to hear the appeal holding that the sought order was not supported by the evidence, specifically the Court of Appeal held as follows:

[22] At the plaintiff’s examination for discovery, he testified that he communicated with a friend on Facebook at night.  He also testified that he does have a Hotmail account but he had not “checked it forever”.  His mother testified that if anyone used the computer after 11:00 p.m. on weekdays, it would be the plaintiff (as opposed to other family members), and that he would probably be on the computer most nights.

[23] In the psychiatric assessment dated March 10, 2008, the plaintiff had apparently reported to his psychiatrist as follows:

[H]is sleep varies with the time one of his friends goes to bed.  This is because he spends a lot of time on Facebook chatting with this friend.

[24] I conclude that this appeal is prima facie without merit.  It is true that the chambers judge did not explain his reasons for dismissing that part of the application that is the subject of the appeal, but having reviewed the evidence that was before the chamber judge, it does not appear to me there was an evidentiary foundation for the request for the electronic records of his computer usage beyond Facebook.  Any other usage, such as was suggested in the argument before me (that the plaintiff may be using gaming websites or other such websites late into the night), appears to be somewhat speculative.

[25] I dismiss the application for leave to appeal.

You can read the full judgement by clicking here (Bishop v. Minichiello)

Unfortunately the Court of Appeal did not highlight any factors which will be of use in considering when applications for computer hard drives will be meritorious in personal injury claims.  With more and more information being stored on computers these days, however, such applications will become more frequent and it will only be a matter of time before the Court of Appeal has a chance to weigh in on this important issue.

More on Facebook and BC Injury Claims

Further to my previous posts on the subject, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, showing that the use of Facebook photos by Defence Lawyers is a trend that is becoming well entrenched in ICBC and other BC Injury Claims.
In today’s case (Mayenburg v. Yu) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC Car Crash.  Liability (fault) for the crash was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages were valued at $50,000.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Myers accepted the evidence of Dr. Apel, an expert in physical and rehabilitation medicine.  Dr. Apel opined that the accident caused a soft tissue injury to the Plaintiff’s upper trapezius muscles described as a “myofascial pain of mild severity“.  Additionally the Plaintiff was found to have “myofascial chronic regional pain syndrome of the gluteus medius” and “mechanical back pain“.
The court accepted that the Plaintiff’s injuries were likely permanent, specifically noting that her “prognosis for complete symptom resolution is guarded“.
At trial the Defence Lawyer challenged the credibility of the Plaintiff and to this end tried to introduce 273 photos from the Plaintiff’s Facebook wall.
Mr. Justice Myers noted that “the bulk of these photos showed no more than (the Plaintiff) enjoying herself with her friends“.   He ruled that over 200 of these photos were inadmissible only permitting the photos that showed the plaintiff “doing a specific activity which she said she had difficulty performing”, he did not let the other photos in because they “had no probative value“.
Mr. Justice Myers did not agree with the Defendant’s challenges to the Plaintiff’s credibility noting that the admissible photos did not contradict the Plaintiff’s evidence, specifically he stated as follows:

[40]    This left a subset of approximately 69 photographs.  These showed Ms. Mayenburg doing things such as hiking, dancing, or bending.  However, even these photos do not serve to undercut Ms. Mayenburg’s credibility, because she did not say that she could not do these activities or did not enjoy them.  Rather, she said she would feel the consequences afterwards.

[41]    In effect, the defendants sought to set up a straw person who said that she could not enjoy life at all subsequent to the accident.  That was not the evidence of Ms. Mayenburg.

[42]    As indicated above, I accept the conclusions of Dr. Apel.  That said, Ms. Mayenburg’s injuries have had minimal effect on her lifestyle or her ability to carry on with the activities that she enjoyed beforehand.  Her damages must be assessed on that basis.

[43]    In terms of the facts relevant to assessing non-pecuniary damages (as opposed to loss of capacity) this case is remarkably similar to Henri v. Seo, 2009 BCSC 76, in which Boyd J. awarded the plaintiff $50,000.  I find that to be a suitable award in this case.

The Defence also tried  to minimize the extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries by pointing out that there was a “limited number of times she visited physicians to complain about her pain”  Mr. Justice Myers quickly disposed of this argument noting

[37]    I do not accept those submissions, which have been made and rejected in several other cases:  see Myers v. Leng, 2006 BCSC 1582 and Travis v. Kwon, 2009 BCSC 63.  Ms. Mayenburg is to be commended for getting on with her life, rather than seeing physicians in an attempt to build a record for this litigation.  Furthermore, I fail to see how a plaintiff-patient who sees a doctor for something unrelated to an accident can be faulted for not complaining about the accident-related injuries at the same time.  Dr. Ducholke testified how her time with patients was limited.

[38]    In summary, Ms. Mayenburg’s complaints to her doctors were not so minimal as to cast doubt on her credibility.

Lastly, this case is also worth reviewing as it contains a useful discussion of ‘rebuttal’ expert medical evidence at paragraphs 29-35.

Personal Injury Claims and Privacy – Can ICBC access your Facebook Account?

If you pursue a personal injury claim in the BC Supreme Court you will be bound by the Rules of Court with respect to production of relevant documents.
With our ever-expanding use of technology, more and more documents may become relevant in Injury Litigation.  So, can computer records ever be relevant in personal injury claims?  
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court (Bishop v. Minichiello) dealing with this issue.  In today’s case the Plaintiff allegedly suffered a brain injury as a result of the negligence of the defendants.  The Defendants wished to analyze the Plaintiff’s computer hard drive to ‘determine the period of time the plaintiff spends on Facebook between eleven at night and five in the morning‘.  The Plaintiff refused to produce his computer hard-drive and this resulted in a Court motion seeking an order compelling the Plaintiff to do so.
Mr. Justice Melnick granted the motion and ordered that ‘the parties agree on an independent expert to review the hard drive …to isolate and produce to counsel…the information sought or a report saying that the information sought is not retrievable.’.
In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Melnick engaged in the following analysis and application of the law:

IV. ANALYSIS

[46]            Electronic data stored on a computer’s hard drive or other magnetic storage device falls within the definition of “document” under R. 1(8) of the Rules of CourtIreland at para. 6. 

[47]            Rule 26(1) requires disclosure of documents relating to any matter in question in the action.  The decision of whether to grant an order requiring production under R. 26(10) is a discretionary one: Park at para. 15.  The court has used its discretion to deny an application for the production of documents in the following two circumstances: firstly, where thousands of documents of only possible relevance are in question; and secondly, where the documents sought do not have significant probative value and the value of production is outweighed by competing interests such as confidentiality and time and expense required for the party to produce the documents: Park at para. 15.  Additionally, privacy concerns should be considered in a determination under R. 26(10), where the order sought is so broad it has the potential to unnecessarily delve into private aspects of the opposing party’s life: Park at para. 21.

[48]            Disclosure in the civil litigation context is largely informed by an inquiry into relevance and probative value.  Relevance should be granted a broad scope: Peruvian Guano at 62.  Relevancy is to be determined upon a description of the nature of the documents sought and a reasonable interpretation of the pleadings: Boxer at 359. 

[49]            Relevant to this particular application are the values enshrined in s. 8 of the Charter – the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.  Rule 26(10) confers no power to make an order that is really authorization for a search: Privest Properties Ltd. at para. 38.

[50]            Metadata is information recorded or stored by means of a device and is thus a document under R. 1(8): Desgagne at para. 29.  Metadata is a report of recorded data that is generated by computer software.  It is not something created by the user; rather, it is based on what the user does with their computer.  In both Park and Desgagne, it was held the threshold of relevance had not been met to order production of records of the frequency and duration of computer use.  However, Mr. Justice Myers in Park stated at para. 42 that he did not mean to say that hard drives and other electronic documents need never be produced under R. 26.  Thus, in the appropriate case if the threshold of relevance is met, a hard drive may require production.

[51]            This threshold was found to be met in Chadwick.  Despite agreeing with the plaintiffs that this was a case in which the hard drive was to be regarded as a file repository and not a document itself, Mr. Justice Myers held that such a distinction was not to be determinative of the application. 

[52]            Mr. Justice Bauman, for the Court of Appeal, held that leave to appeal the order should not be granted and the application was dismissed.  The Court of Appeal stated that while an appropriate case may give rise to important issues such as privacy, solicitor-client privilege, expense, and time, this was not that case as Mr. Justice Myers’ order was of narrow scope.

[53]            Similarly, the application at hand is of narrow scope.  The defence wishes to have the plaintiff’s hard drive of his family computer produced and analyzed to determine the periods of time the plaintiff spent on Facebook between eleven at night and five in the morning, each day.

[54]            Examination for discovery evidence of the plaintiff’s mother confirms that the plaintiff is the only person in the family using the family computer between those hours.  The plaintiff suggests that, at times, friends may use the computer once he logs onto Facebook.  But that is an evidentiary issue for trial.  The issues of privacy and solicitor-client privilege are basically resolved as only the plaintiff has the password to his Facebook account and he has not used this account to converse with his counsel.

[55]            It is true the Bishop family computer is more akin to a filing cabinet than a document; however, it is a filing cabinet from which the plaintiff is obligated to produce relevant documents.  This sentiment was approved in Chadwick.  Simply because the hard drive contains irrelevant information to the lawsuit does not alter a plaintiff’s duty to disclose that which is relevant.  If there are relevant documents in existence they should be listed and produced (or simply listed if they are privileged). 

[56]            The defence argues that this case is distinguishable from Baldwin and that the information sought is relevant.  The plaintiff advised Dr. Zoffman that his sleep varies with the time one of his friends goes to bed.  This is because he spends a substantial amount of time on Facebook chatting with this friend.  The plaintiff alleges that ongoing fatigue is preventing him from maintaining employment and thus his late-night computer usage is relevant to matters at issue in this lawsuit.

V. CONCLUSION

[57]            The information sought by the defence in this case may have significant probative value in relation to the plaintiff’s past and future wage loss, and the value of production is not outweighed by competing interests such as confidentiality and the time and expense required for the party to produce the documents.  Additionally, privacy concerns are not at issue because the order sought is so narrow that it does not have the potential to unnecessarily delve into private aspects of the plaintiff’s life.  In saying that, I recognize the concern of the plaintiff that to isolate the information the defence does seek, its expert may well have consequent access to irrelevant information or that over which other family members may claim privilege.  For that reason, I direct that the parties agree on an independent expert to review the hard drive of the plaintiff’s family computer and isolate and produce to counsel for the defendant and counsel for the plaintiff the information sought or a report saying that the information sought is not retrievable, in whole or in part, if that is the case.  I grant liberty to apply if counsel cannot agree on such an independent expert or if other terms of this order cannot be agreed. 

[58]            At the conclusion of the hearing on March 5, having been made aware that the passage of time was critical because of the potential for the memory of the plaintiff’s family computer to be “overwritten” with ongoing use, I directed that within two weeks of that date, an expert engaged by the plaintiff’s counsel, at the expense of the defence, produce two copies of the hard drive to be deposited with the court pending this ruling.  One of those copies should be used for the analysis I have now ordered.  The other copy should remain with the court as a backup to be accessed only with further order of the court. 

This case should serve as a reminder that technology is rapidly changing the potential scope of document production in Injury Litigation.  Lawyers and Plaintiff’s advancing BC Injury Claims need to be aware of the scope of documents that may be relevant and when doing so should not be so quick to overlook the potential relevance of electronically stored documents not only on a computer hard drive but also those that can be found on social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.

 

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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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