Tag: implied undertaking of confidentiality

Previous Discovery Transcripts, Expert Reports and Mediation Documents Ordered Produced in Indivisible Injury Case

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering broad document production from past litigation in a case of potential indivisible injuries.
In today’s case (Easton v. Chen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 collision and sued for damages.  The Plaintiff was also involved in four prior collisions that resulted in injury claims, all of which settled prior to trial.
The Defendant requested production of past examination for discovery transcripts, expert reports and mediation documents on the basis that the injuries may be indivisible.  In ordering production Master Muir provided the following reasons:

[25]         I agree with the submissions of the defendant. I am satisfied that the prior documents, the discovery transcripts and the experts reports from the prior actions could be used to prove or disprove material facts in this action and on that basis alone I would order their production. I also conclude that in any event a sufficient foundation has been laid for their production under Rule 7-1(11). Further, I conclude that it is in the interests of justice to relieve against the implied undertaking of confidentiality. Thus, the documents are to be disclosed.

[26]         The mediation documents sought raise another issue and that is settlement privilege. The defendant relies on Dholliwar v. Yu, 2015 BCSC 670 and Dos Santos (Committee of) v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, 2005 BCCA 4, for the proposition that the disclosure of these documents is necessary in order to prove what the plaintiff received in compensation in the prior accidents and to prevent injustice through potential double compensation.

[27]         In Dholliwar, Master Scarth held:

[26]      It has yet to be established here that the injuries arising from the third accident are indivisible from those in the first and second. However, on the basis that indivisibility is at issue, and that there is potential for over-compensation, it is appropriate to require disclosure of the settlement documents at this time. I accept the submission of the defendants that such disclosure is necessary, in that it may assist in the settlement of the plaintiff’s claims arising from the third accident. Disclosure at this time is consistent with the previous decisions of this Court in Pete and Murray. I am satisfied that the defendants here do not seek a purely tactical advantage, as the Court found in Phillips v. Stratton, 2007 BCSC 1298 (CanLII), but rather, they wish to have the information necessary to assess their exposure, both for purposes of settlement and in the preparation of their case for trial.

[27]      In Dos Santos at para. 34, the Court stated that “significant weight should be given to the just disposition of pending litigation in determining whether the documents sought come within an exception to settlement privilege.” In my view, to find that the documents should be disclosed at this time is consistent with this approach

[28]         Similarly in this case, indivisibility is an issue and the defendants argue there is a potential for double compensation. The only evidence available showing what the plaintiff was compensated for in the prior actions will be found in this documentation. As a result, I conclude that the mediation documents should be disclosed.

Liberal Use of Discovery Transcripts Granted in Case of Indivisible Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, considering whether defendants in separate actions could use each others examination for discovery transcripts of the Plaintiff in trial.
In today’s case (Elworthy v. Tillit) the Plaintiff alleged personal injury from two separate matters.  Both parties agreed the separate lawsuits should be heard together given overlapping injury but could not agree if both defendants could use the Plaintiff’s examination for discovery transcripts from the separate actions.  In finding they could Master Bouck provided the following reasons:

6]             The defendant Stewart led the submissions on the law with references to several common law authorities including Gill v. Gill, 2013 BCSC 2365. In that case, the court decided that the implied undertaking rule could be waived so that a transcript of the plaintiff’s examination for discovery in a Part 7 action could be used in the plaintiff’s tort action, and vice versa.

[7]             Although not precisely the same factual matrix as the case at bar, I find that the legal analysis and result in Gill v. Gill should be followed here. The same concerns raised by the plaintiff in this case were considered and rejected by the court in Gill. Here, the issues of causation and indivisible injuries provide the commonality between the actions.

[8]             The defendants differ on the language to be used in this particular case plan order. In my view, the appropriate language is that found in Peel v. Western Delta, 2003 BCSC 784 at para. 30. The order pronounced is that the evidence that is otherwise admissible and relevant, obtained at the examination for discovery in Victoria Registry action no.14-0946 (either concluded or future) will be admissible both in that action and in Victoria Registry action no. 15-2263 as if the evidence had been obtained in the other action.

Court Orders Part 7 Action Discovery Transcripts Disclosable in Tort Action

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, allowing a Defendant in a tort action to gain access to a Plaintiff’s examination for discovery transcript from a related Part 7 action.
In the recent case (Gill v. Gill) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision and sued for damages.  She also sued ICBC for allegedly denying benefits owing under her own policy of insurance.  ICBC defended both actions but appointed separate lawyers to do so.  The Plaintiff was examined for discovery in both lawsuits.  Subsequent to this the Defendant in the tort action applied for a copy of the transcript from the Part 7 action discovery.  Madam Justice Adair held it was appropriate to lift the implied undertaking of confidentiality and ordered disclosure.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[20]         Ms. Simon is correct that the underlying causes of action in the Tort Action and the Part 7 Action are different.  In that sense, the issues are different.  She also points out, correctly, that the two actions cannot be consolidated for trial or heard together by virtue of s. 83(4) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, and Part 7 benefits are not to be referred to at the trial of the Tort Action.  Moreover, a determination with respect to entitlement to Part 7 benefits does not bind the court in the Tort Action.
[21]         However, there are, without any doubt, overlapping factual issues in the two actions, including:
(a)      was Ms. Gill injured in the accident and, if so, what injuries did she sustain as a result;
(b)      was Ms. Gill unable to work as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident; and
(c)      has Ms. Gill incurred expenses in relation to medical and rehabilitative treatment as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.
[22]         Although the causes of action are different, key factual issues will be the same in both actions.  Ms. Gill must establish injury, causation and loss arising out of the same event, namely, the accident on April 5, 2009.  If, in stating that “the issues are sufficiently different and discrete,” the Master was referring to factual issues in each action, then, in my opinion, the Master was clearly wrong, because many factual issues in the two actions are obviously very closely related, if not identical.
[23]         Ms. Gill, as the plaintiff in both actions, can be compelled to testify in both the Tort Action and the Part 7 Action about the same factual issues, so there is no privacy issue that needs to be protected.
[24]         On the other hand, there is a compelling public interest in getting at the truth.  As Mr. Justice Hood observed in Scuzzy Creek Hydro & Power Inc. v. Tercon Contractors Ltd. (1998), 62 B.C.L.R. (3d) 366 (S.C.), 1998 CanLII 5684, at paragraph 22:
[I]t is the possibility of there being inconsistent statements which triggers the special reason for the production of the discovery transcript.  The test over the years . . . has never been higher than “lets see what the witness had to say under oath before with regard to these or related matters”.  What [the witness] has said may be relevant to the evidence [the witness] gives in the second action.
[25]         Accordingly, here, the defendant has demonstrated the existence of a public interest of greater weight than the values (privacy, and the efficient conduct of litigation) the implied undertaking is designed to protect…
[31]         In summary, the defendant’s appeal is allowed and the defendant’s application to use the discovery transcript from the Part 7 Action in this action is granted.

Medico-Legal Reports from Previous Lawsuit Ordered Disclosed in Subsequent Litigation

In the ever developing landscape of disclosure obligations in personal injury lawsuits, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing the discoverability of medico-legal reports obtained in previous litigation.
In the recent case (Wright v. Thomas) the Plaintiff was involved in a personal injury lawsuit that went to trial in 2007.  In that lawsuit various expert reports were introduced into evidence.  The Plaintiff was injured in a subsequent collision and advanced another lawsuit.  The Defendant wished to rely on the previous medico-legal reports but the Plaintiff objected arguing these reports were not relevant and production violated the implied undertaking of confidentiality.  In ordering that the reports be produced Master Bouck provided the following reasons:
[16]         Whether the implied undertaking rule even applies in this case might be in doubt. In Cochrane v. Heir, 2011 BCSC 477, the court ruled that a plaintiff must provide records obtained in a previous personal injury action as part of disclosure obligations under Rule 7?1. Furthermore, one might query whether evidence disclosed at a public trial and now part of a public record is subject to the implied undertaking rule. The underlying purpose of the implied undertaking rule is to protect the privacy of an individual who is compelled to disclose certain information in the pre?trial process.
[17]         In the case at bar, I understand that some of the reports were used at trial and thus any breach of privacy has already happened. However, this last point was not argued, so I must still determine whether the documents at issue involving the same plaintiff also concerned the same or similar issues to the case at bar…
[21]         In the present action, the clinicians also make mention of possible conversion disorder.
[22]         The alleged probative value of the reports in the earlier action is to show that the plaintiff has a history of, or perhaps a susceptibility to, these non?organic conditions.
[23]         In my view, in the absence of some medical evidence in support, the court should not make the leap and decide that all of the above?described conditions fall within the same diagnostic category. In fact, the only similar or same diagnosis is the conversion disorder. Presumably the existence of this condition historically forms the factual basis for one of the defences to this action, otherwise the defendant would not be pursuing the application.
[24]         The defendant’s pleadings were not before me. It might have been helpful to have that pleading as an exhibit to an affidavit. One option for the court would be to dismiss the application with liberty to reapply upon providing such evidence. Obviously a further application will result in additional cost to one or both parties. To avoid such cost, I have instead reviewed the electronic record of this pleading, which is a matter of public record. The presumption of the plea of pre?existing condition was confirmed.
[25]         Thus, in my view, the defendant has met the threshold test of relevancy with respect to the following reports: Dr. Rocheleau dated October 24, 2005; Dr. Rocheleau dated December 21, 2005; and Dr. Kemble dated November 28, 2005…
[27]         I now turn to the question of prejudice. First, there is no evidence from the plaintiff that she is prejudiced by the use of this information. The contents of the affidavit of Katheryn MacDonald can be given no weight, as any statements regarding possible prejudice are based on double hearsay. Other parts of the affidavit are akin to argument.
[28]         In any event, the implied undertaking rule is not intended to prevent attacks on the plaintiff’s credibility. Indeed, in many of the cases before me, leave is granted to permit a challenge to a party’s credibility using the evidence given at a previous examination for discovery. Prejudice to the plaintiff has not been established.
[29]         Nevertheless, in my view, the order sought by the defendant with respect to the use of the reports at trial is too broad. Rather, the order will go that the defendant is given leave to list the three reports in her list of documents.

Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality Set Aside For Health Care Costs Recovery Action

Further to my previous posts addressing the implied undertaking of confidentiality, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing whether the undertaking for documents produced in a tort action should be set aside for a subsequent prosecution under the Health Care Costs Recovery Act.
In this week’s case (British Columbia v. Tekavec) the Defendant was found liable for damages after an individual fell from a balcony in a building owned by him.   He was ordered to pay over $322,000 in damages.  The BC Government then sued the Defendant seeking recovery of their Health Care Costs.
In the course of the lawsuit the Government requested production of certain documents which were created in the initial litigation such as examination for discovery transcripts.  The Defendant refused to provide these arguing they were subject to the implied undertaking of confidentiality.  The Court held that in these circumstances it was appropriate to order production.  In doing so Mr. Justice Williams provided the following reasons:
11]         It is a fundamental rule of the litigation model that information, both documentary and oral, obtained by a party through the discovery process is subject to an implied undertaking. It cannot be used by any other party (i.e. other than the originator) except for the purpose of the litigation in which it was produced. The undertaking is essentially perpetual: it survives the resolution of the litigation in which the discovery was made. The restriction can be modified only by court order or with the consent of the party with whom the material originates.
[12]         The principle is authoritatively articulated in Juman v. Doucette, 2008 SCC 8, and the underlying rationale is discussed there at some length. For the purpose of the present discussion, there is no point to delving into that.
[13]         Where a court order is sought to relieve against the implied undertaking, the applicant will have the onus of satisfying the court on a balance of probabilities that the interest to be advanced through the sought-after disclosure is greater than the values that underpin the rationale for the implied undertaking. Central to the analysis will be a careful consideration of any prejudice that will be caused to the party who initially provided the material at issue. Of course, it goes without saying that the material must be relevant to the issues in the action in which the disclosure is sought…
29]         In the matter at hand, it is my conclusion that the circumstances warrant an order overriding the protection of the implied undertaking. The basis for so deciding is that, while the applicant HMTQ was not a party to the original action, the principal issue in the present action is compellingly similar to the issue there: was Mr. Tekavec responsible for the injuries that were sustained by Mr. Jack? I note as well the following: Mr. Jack has apparently indicated that he has no objection to the materials being disclosed to the applicant. There would be no prejudice to Mr. Jack if the materials were to be disclosed. Finally, the same questions and topics that were canvassed with Mr. Tekavec in the examination for discovery at issue could be quite properly raised in his examination for discovery in the present action. In effect, disclosure of the materials represents a proper means of proceeding more efficiently.

More on the Scope of the Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality


An important and developing area of law in BC relates to the implied undertaking of confidentiality.  When a lawsuit for damages is brought in the BC Supreme Court, the parties are required to make disclosure of certain relevant documents even if such disclosure is harmful to their interests.
In order to strike a balance between fulsome disclosure and privacy rights, the Courts have developed a rule known as the “implied undertaking of confidentiality” which prohibits a party who receives this forced disclosure from making use of the documents/information outside of the lawsuit without consent of the other parties or a court order.  Reasons for judgement were recently brought to my attention (thanks to Dan Michaluk) clarifying that the implied undertaking even covers documents obtained from the Crown by a party charged with a criminal offence.
While the recent case (R. v. Basi) is a criminal case it is relevant for personal injury lawsuits.  Often times a Defendant in a civil lawsuit faces criminal consequences prior to a civil action.  In the course of the initial prosecution relevant documents are produced.  Many of these documents are equally relevant in a subsequent civil lawsuit.  In clarifying that the implied undertaking extends to these documents precluding their automatic use in subsequent civil proceedings Associate Chief Justice MacKenzie provided the following reasons:

[42] If Bennett J.’s statement left any doubt about the existence of an implied undertaking rule in British Columbia, I would affirm that an accused who receives disclosure material pursuant to the Crown’s Stinchcombe obligations, or to a court order, does so subject to an implied undertaking not to disclose its contents for any purpose other than making full answer and defence in the proceeding.

[43] The basis for this implied undertaking is in the sound policy reasons expressed in Wagg and Taylor and also discussed in the Martin report, all referred to above. As recognized in the civil context in Goodman v. Rossi (1995), 24 O.R. (3d) 359 (C.A.) at 367-368 referring to Lindsey v. Le Suer (1913), 29 O.L.R. 648 (C.A.), the undertaking flows as a necessary implication from the limited purpose for which the recipient has been given access to the documents.

[44] I am aware that the Court in Wagg was reluctant to lay down a rule in the criminal context that could have significant consequences in other types of litigation. However, I am satisfied this concern does not present a barrier in British Columbia in light of the jurisprudence of this Court and the recognition by our Court of Appeal that the practice in this province is not make use ofStinchcombe material for collateral purposes.

[45] As a result, I am satisfied that because the proceeding is over for which the disclosure was provided, the respondents are not entitled to make any further use of the material that remains subject to the undertaking.

I am having a difficult time reconciling this decision with the recent case of Cochrane v. Heir which indicates that Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i) would automatically force a litigant to list relevant documents in a civil suit notwithstanding the implied undertaking of confidentiality.  I suspect the Court of Appeal will eventually be asked to weigh in on this issue.  In the meantime parties to a lawsuit can simply take a common sense approach in agreeing to consent orders to set aside the implied undertaking of confidentiality if it applies to otherwise relevant and clearly producible documents.

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.

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”.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and the "Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality"


As I’ve previously written, when a lawsuit for damages is brought in the BC Supreme Court, the parties are required to make disclosure of certain relevant documents even if such disclosure is harmful to their interests.
In order to strike a balance between fulsome disclosure and privacy rights, the Courts have developed a law known as the “implied undertaking of confidentiality” which prohibits a party who receives this forced disclosure from making use of the documents/information outside of the lawsuit without consent of the other parties or a court order.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, dealing with this area of the law.
In today’s case (ICBC v. Titanich) the Defendant was involved in a motor vehicle accident and apparently injured another party named Swan.  Swan sued the Defendant.  ICBC apparently held that the Defendant was in breach of his policy of insurance and defended the lawsuit as a ‘statutory third party‘.  ICBC obtained a Court Order for disclosure of the RCMP records relating to the accident and then settled the Plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit for some $346,000.  ICBC then sued the Defendant to recover the $346,000 on the basis that they alleged he was in breach of his insurance.
ICBC apparently relied on some of the information obtained in the RCMP files to base their decision to pursue the Defendant for repayment of the $346,000.  The Defendant brought a motion to dismiss the lawsuit arguing that ICBC “breached its implied undertaking of confidentiality in relation to the documents it obtained from the RCMP“:.
The Court ultimately dismissed the motion holding that while ICBC did indeed breach their implied undertaking, no remedy was necessary since ICBC would be granted judicial permission to use the RCMP records in the current lawsuit had they brought a motion seeking such an order.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Barrow summarized and applied the law of the “implied undertaking” as follows:

[13]        In Juman v. Doucette, [2008] 1 S.C.R. 157, 2008 SCC 8, Binnie J. addressed the scope of the implied undertaking and its underlying rationale. At para. 4, he wrote:

[4]        Thus the rule is that both documentary and oral information obtained on discovery, including information thought by one of the parties to disclose some sort of criminal conduct, is subject to the implied undertaking. It is not to be used by the other parties except for the purpose of that litigation, unless and until the scope of the undertaking is varied by a court order or other judicial order or a situation of immediate and serious danger emerges.

[Emphasis in the original]

[14]        The rationale for the rule is, in part, to promote complete and candid oral and documentary discovery which, in turn, advances the orderly and effective administration of justice. It does that by providing the litigant making discovery with some confidence that the material produced will be used only for the purpose of securing justice in that proceeding.

[15]        Given this rationale, it is worthy of note that the discovery in issue in the matter at hand did not emanate from a party to the litigation. It does not consist of either oral or documentary discovery produced by Mr. Spinks. It is, rather, information gathered by the police in a process entirely independent of this litigation. I note this not because it necessarily follows that documents produced by third parties are not subject to the implied undertaking but rather because it is a factor that may be taken into account in determining whether a remedy ought to be granted…

[17]        The next issue is whether the plaintiff has used the discovery. The “use” that the plaintiff has made of the information is limited to listing those documents in a list of documents. That constitutes “use” within the meaning of the rule (Chonn v. DCFS Canada Corp. dba Mercedez-Benz Credit Canada, 2009 BCSC 1474 at paras. 47?52).

[18]        Assuming that the undertaking extends to documents produced by third parties to earlier litigation but relating to the conduct or affairs of a party to that litigation, I am satisfied that the plaintiff breached the implied undertaking.

[19]        In Juman, Binnie J. wrote this about the range of available remedies for breach of the implied undertaking:

[29]      Breach of the undertaking may be remedied by a variety of means including a stay or dismissal of the proceeding, or striking a defence, or, in the absence of a less drastic remedy, contempt proceedings for breach of the undertaking owed to the court…

Further, it may be that the breach can be remedied by precluding the party in breach from using the evidence in question. That was the remedy applied in Edgeworth Construction Ltd. v. Thurber Consultants Ltd., 2000 BCCA 453, 78 B.C.L.R. (3d) 200.

[20]        Another possible remedy, and the one sought in Chonn is removal of counsel of record for the party in breach…Voith J. concluded that the defendant was in breach of the implied undertaking but declined to grant a remedy. In doing so, he made four points. First, he noted that the documents were relevant. Second, he observed that had the defendant applied to obtain the court’s leave to make use of the documents, leave would have been granted. Third, he noted that although counsel ought to have made an application, his error was not, in all the circumstances, serious. Finally, and largely as a result of the above, there was no prejudice to the plaintiff. As a result, he ordered that the plaintiff produce the documents and that the defendants were at liberty to use them.

[21]        The same four observations apply in the case at bar. The documents are relevant. The outcome of an application to be relieved of the implied undertaking, had it been made, is predictable. Binnie J. commented on the manner in which a court’s discretion might be exercised when faced with such an application. At para. 35, he wrote:

[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…

The example posited is this case. Next counsel’s conduct in this case is, if anything, less serious than that in Chonn. As in Chonn, plaintiff’s counsel in the present case raised the issue of the implied undertaking in his first conversation with Mr. Titanich’s lawyer. In doing so, he noted that he was of the view that he required the consent of the plaintiff in the previous action before disclosing the documents. He did not suggest that he needed Mr. Titanich’s consent presumably because Mr. Titanich was not a party of record in the earlier action. Mr. Titanich’s counsel did not suggest otherwise. She simply asked that the documents be forwarded to her. The understanding that Mr. Spinks had from the conversation with Ms. Roy was that they would each list the documents and that all he needed to do was obtain the consent of the plaintiff in the previous action. He obtained that consent and listed the documents.

[22]        Although for the reasons indicated, I think Mr. Spinks was required to obtain the consent of Mr. Titanich, in concluding otherwise, he was not acting in a cavalier manner but was rather proceeding carefully and on the basis of an analysis that appeared to have been shared Mr. Titanich’s own lawyer.

[23]        In all of these circumstances, there is, in my judgment, no need for any remedy.

While ICBC was not penalized for breaching the implied undertaking this case serves as a reminder that lawyers must respect the limits the law imposes on the use of documents which come within their possession through the compelled disclosure of the BC Rules of Court.  Failing to heed these restrictions can result in severe consequences as outlined in today’s case including removal from the case, exclusion of evidence or even dismissal of a lawsuit or a defence

ICBC Injury Claims and Your Privacy: The Implied Undertaking of Confidentiality

When you sue for damages in the BC Supreme Court in an ICBC Injury Claim you are subject to certain rules of compelled disclosure.  These rules require you to give verbal, documentary and even physical discovery (independent medical exams).
When ICBC gets access to this private information in the lawsuit process it is subject to an “implied undertaking of confidentiality“.  What this means is this information is not to be used by ICBC for purposes outside of the lawsuit.
If you have a further ICBC Claim involving similar injuries making the previous records relevant, can ICBC provide these records to their lawyer to be used against you in a subsequent claim?  Reasons for judgement were released today addressing this issue and the answer is no, at least not without your consent or a court order.
In today’s case (Chonn v. DCRS Canada Corp dba Mercedez-Benz Credit Canada) the Plaintiff had a history of ICBC Injury Claims.  In the most recent claim the Defence Lawyer gathered documents from the previous claims and intended to use them in the current lawsuit.  The Plaintiff objected to this.  A motion was brought before the BC Supreme Court and Mr. Justice Voith was asked to decide whether “the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“ICBC”), which, by operation of statute, had conduct of the defence of each of the Earlier Actions and has conduct of the Current Action, can list the documents it obtained from the plaintiff in the Earlier Actions without first obtaining the plaintiff’s consent or leave of the court.”
In answering this question Mr. Justice Voith summarized the law behind the “implied undertaking of confidentiality” and set out the limits of ICBC’s use of records in subsequent claims.  The highlights of the decisions are set out below:

[25] A party who has documents from earlier litigation that are impressed with the implied undertaking simply cannot make use of those documents without the concurrence of the party from whom they were obtained or leave of the court. The implied undertaking protects documents or oral discovery obtained in earlier litigation from being used for any purpose “collateral” to that litigation. Thus, the documents cannot be used for internal strategic review in subsequent litigation. They cannot be used for the purposes of drafting pleadings. They cannot be sent to counsel for the purposes of obtaining an opinion in new litigation. All of these obligations bound the named defendants in the Current Action as well as ICBC in its conduct of that litigation.

[39] Once one recognizes that a central focus of the implied undertaking rule is to prevent the use of documents in subsequent litigation without consent or leave of the court, it is not sound to assert that Rule 26 displaces the application of the implied undertaking rule. Rule 26 is a rule of broad application and it governs virtually all civil actions. There are like provisions in most other jurisdictions. The result advanced by the defendants would significantly curtail the efficacy and ambit of the rule.

[40] The submission of the defendants would also significantly erode both policy objectives underlying the rule. It would impair the privacy interests of the party to the earlier action who made disclosure and gave discovery evidence. It would also subvert the policy objective of encouraging parties to “provide a more complete and candid discovery” referred to inJuman at para. 26.

[41] The intended purview of the “statutory exceptions” rule which is referenced by the Court in Juman, is limited to specific legislation which compels disclosure and which expressly overrides the privilege and/or confidentiality concerns of the holder of the information. Rule 26 does not achieve these objects. Though it requires disclosure from parties to litigation, both Rule 26(2) and the structure of Form 93 recognize the ongoing entitlement of a party to maintain a claim for privilege. While documents covered by an implied undertaking are not, strictly speaking, privileged, I believe that it would be appropriate for a party, from whom document disclosure is sought, to list those documents in its possession which are subject to an implied undertaking under part 3 of its list of documents.

This case also addressed the remedies available when there is a breach of an implied undertaking and these are worth reviewing for anyone interested in BC Privacy Law.

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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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