Tag: gulamani v. chandra

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Pre Trial Discovery – XFD's and Requests for Particulars

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry dealing with 2 types of pre-trial discovery procedures utilized in the Supreme Court, the scope of examination for discovery questions and requests for particulars.
In today’s case (Gulamani v. Chandra) the Plaintiff alleged injury from 2 motor vehicle collisions some 10 years apart.  The Defendant put together a rather ‘boilerplate’ statement of defence which alleged, amongst other things that the Plaintiff was injured in previous and/or subsequent incidents, that the Plaintiff failed to follow medical advice, that the Plaintiff failed to take appropriate medications and that the plaintiff  did not return to work when she reasonably could have.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer brought an application that the Defence lawyer provide better particulars of these allegations (these types of boilerplate allegations are very typical in Statements of Defence filed in BC Personal Injury Actions).
In granting the Plaintiff’s request for further particulars Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey summarized and applied the law as follows:

[27] The court has the discretion, under Rule 19(16), to order a party to deliver better and further particulars of a matter stated in a pleading, provided that the party seeking that order has demanded them in writing from the other party, as required by Rule 19(17).

[28] It is clear from the case law that the decision to order particulars is extremely discretionary and heavily fact dependent.

[29] Considering the cases provided by counsel on this issue, my view is that the request for particulars is very similar to the previously granted request for further particulars made by counsel for the plaintiff of the Chandra defendants.  Here, as in that motion, what has been provided is so broadly worded and generic that it tells the plaintiff virtually nothing as to the true nature of the case she has to meet with regards to her alleged congenital defects or diseases prior to or post-accident, or regarding aspects of her alleged failure to mitigate.  Such broadly worded statements are particularly problematic in the present case because of the plaintiff’s extensive history of medical treatment over the past 12 years, since the injuries allegedly sustained in the first accident are said to overlap with the injuries sustained in the second accident with the defendant.

[30] I do not find the decisions in Fireside or Hoy provided by counsel for the defendant to be of assistance in this case.  While they are both examples of cases in which particulars were not ordered, they are both easily distinguishable from the case at bar.  Hoy deals with specifics on standard of care in a class action matter, where significant particulars had already been provided.  Fireside was a case where more than a generic particular had already been provided to the plaintiff.  In the case at bar there have been no particulars provided at all with regard to the broad claims contained in the statement of defence.

[31] The Court of Appeal clearly stated the function of particulars in Cansulex Ltd. v. Perry, [1982] B.C.J. No. 369 (C.A.) [Cansulex], where Lambert J.A., for the court, described their use at para. 15:

(1)        to inform the other side of the nature of the case they have to meet as distinguished from the mode in which that case is to be proved;

(2)        to prevent the other side from being taken by surprise at the trial;

(3)        to enable the other side to know what evidence they ought to be prepared with and to prepare for trial;

(4)        to limit the generality of the pleadings;

(5)        to limit and decide the issues to be tried, and as to which discovery is required; and

(6)        to tie the hands of the party so that he cannot without leave go into any matters not to be included.

[32] I now turn to the specific point set out in para. 15 of Cansulex that particulars are designed “to inform the other side of the nature of the case they have to meet”.  In my view, the statements made in the statement of defence are not sufficient to enable the plaintiff to know the case she must meet.

[33] Considering further the points contained in para. 15 of Cansulex, in this case I find that if further and better particulars are not provided by the defendant as to how to the plaintiff failed to mitigate her losses generally as claimed and with regards to her alleged failing to take reasonable steps to return to work, failing to follow medical advice and failing to follow exercise advice, then if there is any substance to these claims, it is likely she will be taken by surprise at trial.  The same may be said with regards to any other incidents or congenital defects or diseases that the defendant alleges caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

[34] I turn to additional points set out at para. 15 of Cansulex, requiring that the particulars must “enable the other side to know what evidence they ought to be prepared with and to prepare for trial”.  Based on what has been provided to date to the plaintiff, I do not see how proper trial preparation could be done.

[35] With regards to the further points from para. 15 of Cansulex regarding the purpose of particulars, “to limit and generality of pleadings” and “to limit and decide the issues to be tried”, once apprised of her alleged failure to mitigate the plaintiff will be able to take steps to collect the relevant evidence with regard to the specific failures or conduct alleged.  As indicated, the alleged overlap between the plaintiff’s injuries from the first accident in June 1997 to the alleged injuries from the second accident in July 2007, add considerable additional factual complexity.

[36] Regarding the final point in Cansulex at para. 15, that particulars serve to “tie the hands of the party so he cannot, without leave, go into any matters not included”, I find that there is considerable benefit to all parties in these actions to be tried together in the upcoming 30 day trial to properly identify and limit such claims.

[37] When considering an application for the delivery of further and better particulars, Bouck J. made a comment in Cominco Ltd. v. Westinghouse Can. Ltd. (1978), 6 B.C.L.R. 25 at 27 (S.C.). at paras. 7-8, which I consider to be relevant to the present application, namely:

Occasionally parties can get caught up in the fascination of the interlocutory process and lose sight of the fact that some day the matter must go to trial even though a “perfect” framework does not exist for its presentation.  Sometimes as well one side or the other is merely replying to the overzealousness of his opponent and motions or their opposition are meant to let one another know it will be a long hard fight.

I mean no criticism of counsel by these remarks.  They are honestly trying to pursue every recourse for the benefit of their respective clients.  That is their right and their duty.

[38] For these reasons the plaintiff’s application for further particulars is granted.

The second pre-trial procedure dealt with in today’s case was the scope of examination for discovery questions.  On examination the Plaintiff’s lawyer asked the Defendant to provide his cell phone records (to help prove or disprove that he was on the phone at the moment of impact), to provide the names of “liability and damage witnesses and contact information”.  In holding that these are proper discovery questions Madam Justice Arnold Bailey applied and summarize the law as follows:

[39] With respect to question (a) and the demand for cellular phone records, Rule 27(20) states that “a person to be examined for discovery… shall produce for inspection on the examination all documents in his or her possession or control not privileged, relating to the matters in question in the action”.

[40] Liability is at issue and the potential for the cellular phone records to indicate whether the defendant was using his phone at the time of the accident does exist.  Although not referred to any authorities by counsel, I note that there are several cases where cellular phone records have been referred to as to whether a person was using the cellular phone at the time of the accident.  One such case is Abay v. Keung, 2006 BCSC 1236, in which the plaintiff testified that the defendant had been using a cellular phone at the time of the accident, and the defendant denied doing so.  The defendant there had also refused to divulge his cellular phone records on examination for discovery.  There is no record of a demand being made for those records.  In that case, Cohen J. found, at para. 73, “although I find that the defendant had a cell phone in his vehicle, I cannot conclude that the defendant was talking on the cell phone at the time of the collision, as there is strongly conflicting evidence on this point”.  Cohen J. did not comment on the lack of records as affecting credibility or believability of the defendant.

[41] Conversely, in Zubko v. Ezaki, 2002 BCSC 1894, the defendant produced her cellular phone records to prove conclusively that she was not speaking on her phone at the time of the accident, as was alleged by the plaintiff.

[42] While I agree with the submission on behalf of the defendant that the phone records will not necessarily show with certainty whether the defendant was talking on the phone at the time of the accident, it seems that those records are within the scope of Rule 27(20) insofar as they relate to the matters in question in the action, namely liability for the motor vehicle accident.  It is entirely possible that the records will prove to have little weight at trial, but that is irrelevant to what is required by Rule 27(20).  Accordingly, I order the defendant to provide the answers to questions 68 – 71 of the examination for discovery, including providing his cell phone records for the day of the accident.

[43] With regard to question (b) and the names and contact information of liability and damage witness names, I agree with the reasoning in Sovani, at para. 3, where Paris J. held “Rule 27(22) means just what it says, namely, that the names and addresses of such persons must be disclosed if requested and the fact that a person’s knowledge relates only to the issue of damages does not safeguard the names from disclosure”.  Accordingly, I order the defendant to answer question 276 and as posed on p. 63 of the examination for discovery.

Lastly, since this is a case dealing with Civil Procedure, it is my practice to check if this case will remain a useful precedent when the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules come into effect in July, 2010.  The answer is probably yes as the current Rule 19(16)(17) which the court relied on in its order for further particulars remains intact under the new rules and can be found at Rule 3-7(22).

With respect to the order addressing examinations for discovery, this case relied on Rule 27(20) which remains largely intact under the new Supreme Court Rules and can be found at Rule 7-2(16).  While the new rule seems to have some restrictions to it not present in the current rule the same result should arguably apply as the rule for production of relevant documents at the discovery will continue to apply to “a person for whose immediate benefit an action is..defended” as set out in Rule 7-2(6).

More on Medical Records, Document Production and Privilege in ICBC Injury Claims

Useful reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with the records that need to be disclosed to opposing counsel following an Independent Medico-Legal Exam.
In today’s case (Gulamani v. Chandra) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 motor vehicle accidents approximately one decade apart. In the course of the lawsuits she attended various medico-legal appointments at the request of the Defence Lawyers under Rule 30 of the BC Supreme Court Rules.
Following these the Plaintiff’s lawyer brought an application that  these doctors deliver “copies of their examining notes or any other recording generated by or on behalf of the said doctors that record any history given to them by the plaintiff on the examination, and any notes that record the doctor’s observations or findings on physical examination together with copies of any tests, questionnaires, or other documents completed by or on behalf of the plaintiff including scoring documents prepared by the examiner“.
The Defence lawyers opposed this motion and argued that the sought materials “constitute the doctors’ working papers and underlying materials that are privileged and part of the solicitor’s brief until the doctor testifies in court, at which point the privilege is waived. ”
Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey rejected the defence position and noted that “solicitor’s brief privilege can be trumped when it comes to the bare facts” and that “there is no property in a witness of fact”.  In ordering production of the sought records the Court extensively canvassed the law in this area and summarized its position as follows:

[24]         Stainer and Traynor clearly indicate that any notes, annotations, recordings, or working papers that reveal an examining doctor’s confidential opinion or advice to counsel will, generally, be privileged.  Even things as small as question marks or exclamation marks added to raw test data could fall into this category and would potentially need to be redacted:Traynor, at para. 21.

[25]         However, the cases also illustrate that notes or recordings that capture the factual history given by the plaintiff to an examining doctor, as well as raw test data and results, are outside the scope of solicitor-client privilege and are subject to production.  I agree with the conclusion reached by the learned master in McLeod as one that follows these basic principles and extends them to circumstances outside the scope of a Rule 30 order. General principles are indeed just that – general principles – and not principles that are only to be applied in making a Rule 30 order or only to be applied when such an order is made.  As Master Caldwell opined in McLeod, the timing of the request for disclosure and whether a court order triggered the examination are factors which do not override the application of Rule 1(5) and the court’s role to “secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits”.  I share this view.

[26]         I do not disagree with the submission by counsel for the Chandra defendants, in line with S. & K. Processors and Vancouver Community College, that an expert’s working papers remain privileged until that expert takes the witness stand.  As I understand the jurisprudence, however, there is a clear distinction between an expert’s working papers, which contain opinions, or which may be prepared for the sole purpose of advising counsel, and the facts underlying those opinions or advice.  In the case at bar, the plaintiff is not asking for the type of documents that were at issue in those cases, and those cases reaffirm that the factual material the plaintiff seeks is indeed subject to production.

[27]         The Sutherland case is perhaps, at first blush, most problematic for the plaintiff, in that it appears to imply that the only factual material requiring disclosure will be that which is not already adequately set out in the written statement accompanying the expert report (in the context of Rule 40A).  As I have indicated above, however, upon further analysis I do not believe the case stands for this point.  The court in Sutherland could not find that giving notice under Rule 40A meant that everything underlying the report was suddenly subject to production before the witness took the stand, because a pre-existing privilege existed over the documents, and was not entirely waived simply by virtue of giving notice under Rule 40A.  The court therefore only ordered production of the raw data from among the requested general “rubric of clinical records” – material that was clearly factual in nature and did not involve opinion or advice.

[28]         On that note, the question that may remain after reviewing many of these cases is whether, prior to notice being given under Rule 40A, there is any privilege over the examining doctors’ materials, specifically over anything factual in nature reported by the client and not involving opinion or advice.

[29]         I am of the view that this is not so in the circumstances of the case at bar.  The passages from Stainer cited above reaffirm that even the solicitors’ brief privilege can be trumped when it comes to the bare facts, since it is well settled that “there can be no property in a witness of fact”.  Further, regardless of the way any of the cases cited in these reasons unfolded, including applications under Rule 30, outside of Rule 30, under Rule 26, pursuant to Rule 40A, and under s. 11 of the Evidence Act, and both before a report has been put into evidence and before a report has even been created, I fail to see any examples where a court has declined to order production of the factual underpinnings of an expert’s report, as reported by the plaintiff and recorded in notes, annotations and test data.

[30]         The facts of the present matter are also such that it is the plaintiff who has applied for the information in question, and it was of course the plaintiff herself who provided that information and raw data to the doctors in question.  Further, as I appreciate the circumstances of the present application, it is the non-party doctors who have the information in their hands, and not counsel for the Chandra defendants, who presumably have not been privy to the underpinnings of the reports.  As such, I fail to see how, in these circumstances, there is any doctor-client privilege or solicitor-client privilege to assert, or any strong argument to be made about non-party rights in the context of Rule 26(11)…

[36] In conclusion on this issue, I therefore order that the defendants and Doctors Hawkins, Hepburn, Weeks, Magrega, and Munro deliver to the solicitor for the plaintiff copies of their examining notes or any other recording generated by or on behalf of said doctors that records any history given to them by the plaintiff on the examination and any notes that record the doctor’s observations or findings on physical examination together with copies of any tests, questionnaires, or other documents completed by or on behalf of the plaintiff, including scoring documents prepared by the examiner, except any documents containing the doctors’ opinions or advice, within 14 days of the pronouncement of this order.

In addition to the above, the Plaintiff’s lawyer also brought a motion for production of records documenting the extent of MSP Billings that one of the Defence Doctor’s had with respect to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. In partially granting this order Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey held as follows with respect to the relevance of such a request:

[44] I agree with plaintiff’s counsel’s that the expertise of Dr. Munro is an issue, albeit ancillary, to this matter and that the information has been properly sought pursuant to Rule 26(11).  The information sought is relevant because, to use the wording in Peruvian Guano, it may allow the requesting party to damage the case of its adversary.  After all, to properly cross-examine Dr. Munro on his qualifications at trial will require counsel to be prepared with the relevant information to be able to do so, and as I understand it, acquiring the information at that later stage would interrupt the trial given the time it takes to receive it from Health Services.  To be clear, I find that Dr. Munro’s opinion and expertise is important as it relates to the plaintiff’s injury claims, particularly because it conflicts with the opinion of another medical expert.

Striking a Jury and Timing in a BC Personal Injury Lawsuit

When personal injury claims, including ICBC claims, are prosecuted in the BC Supreme Court either side has the right to elect trial by jury.  (The exception to this rule is when the claim is prosecuted under BC’s fast track Rules 66 or 68).
For a party to elect trial by Jury they simply need to give notice in accordance with Rule 39(26).
If an opposing party wishes to challenge the election for a jury trial they can oppose it pursuant to Rule 39(27) which holds in part that:

(27) Except in cases of defamation, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, a party to whom a notice under subrule (26) has been delivered may apply

(a)  within 7 days for an order that the trial or part of it be heard by the court without a jury on the ground that

(i)  the issues require prolonged examination of documents or accounts or a scientific or local investigation which cannot be made conveniently with a jury, or

(ii)  the issues are of an intricate or complex character […]

What if a party opposes trial by jury but fails to challenge the jury election within the 7 day limitation period set out in Rule 39(27)?  Are they out of luck?  Not necessarily and reasons for judgment were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this are of the law.

In yesterday’s case (Gulamani v. Chandra) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 motor vehicle accidents 10 years apart.  One of the Defendant’s chose to have the case heard by judge and jury.  The Jury notice was filed in 2003.  The Plaintiff brought an application to dismiss the jury notice years after it was filed.

One way to challenge a jury notice outside of the 7 days required by Rule 39(27) is to do so at a pre-trial conference.  This is so because s. 35(4)(a) of the current Supreme Court Rules permits a judge or a master at a pre-trial conference to order that a “trial…be heard by the court without a jury, on any of the grounds set ouyt in Rule 39(27)“.  Yesterday’s case, however, was not heard at a pre-trial conference and this subrule did not assist the Plaintiff.

Rule 3(2) was of assistance which states that:

The court may extend or shorten any period of time provided for in these rules or in an order of the court, notwithstanding that the application for the extension or the order granting the extension is made after the period of time has expired.

In yesterday’s case Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey held it was appropriate to extend the time permitted to challenge the Jury Notice under Rule 3(2) and ultimately ordered that the trial proceed by judge alone.  (the judgement is worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in the factors courts consider when considering whether the trial will require a ‘prolonged examination’ or is too “intricate or complex” to be tried by a jury).  In so ordering the Court summarized and applied the law with respect to late jury strike applications as follows:

[19] In Reischer v. Love & ICBC, 2005 BCSC 1352, the court was faced with similar issues in relation to an application to strike a jury notice in the context of two actions that were going to be heard together.  Well after the original jury notice for the first action was filed, but shortly after the court set a new trial for both actions to be heard together, the plaintiff brought an application to have the jury notice struck.  Drost J. first cited the settled law, explaining that the mode of trial selected for the first action is what determines the mode of trial for the several actions to be heard together.  From this principle flows the further settled point that it is the original jury notice that must be considered with regard to Rule 39(27).  In that case, as well as the case at bar, the seven day time limit had clearly passed.

[20] Drost J. then addressed Rule 35(4)(a) and held that since the application occurred outside the scope of a pre-trial conference, he could not rely upon that section to strike the jury notice either.  These circumstances also parallel the case at bar.

[21] Finally, Drost J. turned to the general judicial discretion to extend time limits afforded in Rule 3(2) and stated (at paras. 37-38) that there are two questions to consider in the circumstances: 1) whether, at an early stage of the proceedings, the plaintiff formed an intention to strike the jury notice, and 2) whether there has been such a change in circumstances as to materially alter the character of the proceedings and render them clearly inappropriate for a trial by judge and jury.  The court answered both questions in the negative, finding in particular that all of the circumstances of the combined actions were known to the plaintiff even when the initial jury notice was filed.

[22] Despite this, the court in Reischer still allowed the time extension for the application to strike the jury notice under Rule 3(2) by relying on the authority of Harder v. Nikolov, [2001] B.C.J. No. 1528 (S.C.), where the court held at para. 17 that lack of timeliness does not necessarily preclude an application to strike a jury notice.  Rather, the time restrictions set out in Rule 39(27) may be overcome if consideration of trial fairness so requires.  In Reischer, at para. 41, Drost J. stated that but for the application of this principle from Harder, the court would have dismissed the plaintiff’s application.

[23] With these decisions in mind, I note firstly that unlike the plaintiff in Reischer, the plaintiff in this matter could not have been aware of all the circumstances in relation to the combined actions dealing with her motor vehicle accidents at the time the original jury notice was filed.  Whereas the accidents in Reischer occurred a relatively short time apart, the accidents in this case occurred a decade apart and the court proceedings in relation to the first accident were essentially at the point of trial before the plaintiff could have possibly been aware of the circumstances arising from the second accident.  I also note that the plaintiff advised of her intention to strike the jury notice within five days of the Court adjourning the first trial and filed her notice of application to strike the jury notice before the Court reset the trial of the two actions.

[24] As to the second question set out in Reischer, and unlike the court’s finding in that case, I do find that a significant change in circumstances has occurred here.  The trial will now be significantly longer and will involve complex legal issues related to causation, including the defence of novus actus, in the context of two accidents that occurred a decade apart.  I find that this is a sufficient change to the character of the proceedings such that a consideration, at least, of the plaintiff’s application to strike the jury notice is necessary and just.

[25] Alternatively, like the court in Reischer, I would in any event also apply Harder and find that the lack of timeliness in the plaintiff’s application is overcome by considerations of trial fairness.

[26] In short, I do not give effect to the Chandra and Doorandish defendants’ initial objections to this application, and I will now turn to consider its merits.

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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.

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