Tag: litigation privilege

Witness Name and Statement Ordered Disclosed

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, ordering that the name and statement of a witness be disclosed in the course of litigation.
In this week’s case (Derksen v. Canada Safeway Limited) the Plaintiff alleged injury following an incident on the Defendant’s premises.  She sued for damages.  In the course of the claim a liability claims examiner retained by the Defendant obtained a statement from a witness who “claimed to have information regarding the plaintiff and her claim“.  The Defendant did not share this document claiming litigation privilege.  Master Caldwell disagreed finding the statement, along with the name of the witness, needs to be disclosed.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following brief reasons:
[14]         The remaining issue involves a statement provided to Ms. Freestone by an unnamed individual on April 11, 2012. According to Ms. Freestone, she was contacted by this person who claimed to have information regarding the plaintiff and her claim. An interview was arranged and a transcript created. The defence now claims that the interview was done and the statement created solely for the purpose of litigation.
[15]         There is no property in a witness, particularly a lay witness. Based upon the material before me, the individual has potentially relevant, potentially controversial information, about the plaintiff and her claim. The statement provided by this lay witness may well form an important part of cross examination. Failure to disclose such a statement denies plaintiff the opportunity to investigate the allegations contained therein and to challenge the veracity and motives of the informant.
[16]         No authority was cited to me to support the defence position of privilege as regards the statement and the identity of the witness.
[17]         The defendants are ordered to produce to counsel for the plaintiff an unredacted copy of the statement dated April 11, 2012 which has been listed as privileged item 4.3 of the defendants’ List of Documents.

Witness Entitled To Copy of Statements Provided To ICBC Despite Litigation Privilege Claims

Reasons for judgment were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, addressing the entitlement of a witness to a collision obtaining a copy of a statement they provided to ICBC.
In last week’s case (Minnie v. ICBC) the petitioner was the witness to a collision involving a vehicle and a pedestrian.  She gave ICBC a statement detailing her account of what occurred.  The pedestrian ultimately sued the ICBC insured motorist for damages.  The witness wished to obtain a copy of her statement to ICBC but ICBC refused to disclose this.  The witness brought a Freedom of Information request for the statement but this did not prove fruitful.  The witness brought a petition in the BC Supreme Court.  ICBC opposed arguing there were further steps the witness could have taken through the Freedom of Information process and further that the statement was protected by litigation privilege.  Mr. Justice Steeves concluded that neither of these were valid reasons to keep a copy of the statement away from the witness.  In ordering ICBC to disclose a copy of the statement to the witness Mr. Justice Steeves provided the following reasons:
[41]  Although the respondent is entitled to have its litigation privilege protected, fairness requires that the petitioner be provided with a copy of her statement.  The petitioner is a stranger to the litigation about the accident; she is not a party and she has no interest in it.  I note that, if the petitioner was a party, there would be no question that she would be entitled to her statements, as I will discuss below.  I have some difficulty imposing on a private citizen the rules of a “sporting event” that are more onerous than those placed on parties.  The risk of applying those rules to a non-litigant without legal representation is that a person can, through accident or ignorance, make a mistake.  The mistake can be only embarrassing to the non litigant and/or it can distort the evidence before the court.  Neither is desirable.
[42]  Within the bounds of an adversarial system, private citizens should be encouraged to participate in the litigation process and disclosure to them of previous statements, as in this case, is a modest way to accomplish that objective.  The petitioner could have insisted on some kind of legal document that assured her that she would get a copy of her statement before she gave it.  She did not do that.  In m view, she did not have to do it ad nor should she now be at a disadvantage greater than a party for fail
[43] The petitioner is entitled to a copy of her statements as soon as practicable in order to review them herself and with her solicitor. However, I set conditions on that disclosure to recognize the litigation privilege that also attaches to the statements.  The disclosure of the statements does not extend to disclosure by the petitioner to other persons, including the plaintiff in the accident that she witnessed (or counsel for the plaintiff).  If, ultimately, there are issues at trial that involve the petitioner’s statements, they will have to be resolved by the trial judge.
 

"Investigative Stage" Trumps Claim to Litigation Privilege Regarding Quantum of Damages Investigation

I’ve previously discussed the difficulty ICBC has trying to withhold documents in a personal injury lawsuit based on their ‘investigative’ responsibilities.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this topic.
In this week’s case (Spenst v. Reemeyer) the Plaintiff alleged injury s a result of a motor vehicle/pedestrian incident which occurred in 2010.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC denied liability on behalf of the motorist.  ICBC refused to produce two ‘investigative reports’ they commissioned arguing these were protected by litigation privilege.  Master Caldwell found the evidence ICBC produced in support of their claim fell short of the mark to obtain the protection of privilege and ordered production of the documents.  After summarizing the legal principles involved Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:
[12]         In short, the determination as to whether litigation is contemplated as a reasonable prospect is not merely subjective and arbitrary but rather must be objective and based upon reasonable information obtained by appropriate investigation.
[13]         What does the evidence before me reveal when viewed in the light of the above tests?
[14]         First, I have absolutely no evidence from that adjuster who apparently had conduct of the file for the first 18 months.  I am not told whether or not any investigations were undertaken during that time as to either the issue of liability or the extent of damages.  Plaintiff’s counsel submitted, and defence counsel did not dispute, that no denial of liability was ever communicated to the plaintiff prior to the delivery of the Response to Civil Claim.
[15]         Second, Ms. Roach notes that the plaintiff retained counsel.  Plaintiffs have a right to obtain legal advice, including legal advice regarding their rights and responsibilities arising out of motor vehicle or personal injury matters. Consultation with counsel is not a direct or even reasonable guarantee that one is on the road to active litigation; the involvement of counsel may well enhance the possibility of resolution short of trial.
[16]         Third, Ms. Roach says that she only handles claims that are being litigated or are likely to be litigated and thus she determined that since the file was transferred to her it would be litigated.  Strangely however, Ms. Roach, in her own correspondence of May 8, 2012 (the day she commissioned the investigations/reports) wrote to plaintiff’s counsel:
To minimize costs, I will work with you to conclude this matter as quickly as possible.  If it is determined that your client is entitled to compensation, I will be prepared to release settlement funds only when the entire claim, including taxable costs and disbursements, has been resolved and the necessary release documentation completed.  I look forward to working with you on this matter.
[17]         At the time Ms. Roach wrote this conciliatory letter referencing concluding the matter, entitlement to compensation and settlement funds in response to a similarly conciliatory letter of introduction from plaintiff’s counsel, action had not yet been commenced, no position on liability had been taken and there is no evidence that any substantive investigation or even basic inquiry had been undertaken regarding any aspect of the plaintiff’s claim.  The mere arbitrary assertion that this file is likely to go to litigation because this adjuster handles only litigation files and she had decided it would go to litigation is not objectively defensible on the evidence before me.
[18]         Fourth, Ms. Roach says that the end of the limitation period was approaching and, by implication, litigation would have to be commenced.  What this assertion fails to recognize is that there is a significant difference between the commencement of an action in order to protect against the expiry of a limitation period and the active conduct of litigation.  In her May 8 correspondence, Ms. Roach expressly confirmed that her letter was not “a waiver or extension of any applicable limitation”.  In order for any legitimate, even-handed settlement discussions to take place, as invited by her letter, it was necessary for plaintiff’s counsel to preserve the plaintiff’s right to claim at law for her alleged injuries in the event that negotiations failed.
[19]         Counsel for the defendant advised in submissions that the investigative reports were obtained not on the issue of liability but rather on the issue of quantum of damages.  There was no evidence in the material to support that submission and counsel failed to indicate why that distinction would make a material difference in regard to the investigation/dominant purpose assessment.
[20]         The evidence before me fails to objectively establish to any certainty that the reports which were commissioned and which are sought by the plaintiff were commissioned for any purpose other than for basic investigation of the plaintiff’s claim.  There is no evidence to indicate that the adjusters had undertaken any type of earlier investigation to determine whether there was a reasonable, objective basis upon which liability should be denied or quantum questioned.  The reports are ordered produced forthwith.

Case Plan Conference Orders Can't Trump Privilege

Last year I highlighted a decision confirming that the Court’s powers under the new rules of court don’t allow orders to be made which will trump legitimate privilege claims.  Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming this principle.
In the recent case (Blackwell v. Kwok) the Defendant sought an order at a Case Planning Conference requiring the Plaintiff to disclose the specialty of the expert witness(es) the Plaintiff intends to rely on.  The Court refused to make this order finding it would trump the privilege in the Plaintiff’s counsel’s solicitor’s brief.  In dismissing the request Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:
[11]         Plaintiff’s counsel referred me to the Court’s decision in Nowe v. Bowerman, 2012 BCSC 1723.  In Nowe, the defendant proposed that each party be limited to one expert each and that the plaintiff advise the defendant of the area of expertise by November 17, 2012, approximately ten months before the scheduled trial.  The Court denied the application:
[10]  The area of expertise of an intended expert witness is a matter of trial strategy.  Trial strategy is a key component of a solicitor’s brief.  It may well evolve as plaintiff’s counsel builds a case and makes decisions based upon a myriad of factors and considerations.  Intentions may change as the process unfolds over time.
[11]  In my view, unless and until the intention to rely upon a particular expert in a particular field is declared by delivery of a report in accordance with the timelines established by the Rules, in the absence of a compelling reason an early incursion into this aspect of the solicitor’s brief will not be justified.
[12]  That being said, there may well be cases in which a departure from the usual timelines can be justified.  For example, in complex cases such as those involving brain injuries as a matter of fairness it may be necessary to provide defence counsel with a longer period than would be available under the usual regime in order to schedule appointments with certain kinds of experts. …
[12]         I note that in Nowe, the plaintiff argued that it was “not the kind of case in which a long period is required in advance of an appointment being made with a certain type of expert” (para. 7).  Although possibly a longer period may be justified in some cases, I am not satisfied that a “departure from the usual timelines can be justified” in the case at bar.
[13]         In my view, the defendants’ application should be rejected.  I see no prejudice if the normal rules for delivery of expert reports apply.  If the defendants choose to retain an expert to conduct an independent medical examination and prepare a report based on the plaintiff’s pleaded injuries, but no psychological injury is alleged at trial, an appropriate award of costs will afford the defendants the necessary relief.
[14]         Not surprisingly, I cannot state matters better than Chief Justice McEachern in Hodgkinson: “While I favour full disclosure in proper circumstances, it will be rare, if ever, that the need for disclosure will displace privilege”.
[15]         The Court declines to make the order sought.
 

BC's New Rules of Court Don't Trump Solicitor's Brief Privilege

Earlier this year I highlighted two  judgements (here and here) discussing that the New Rules of Court don’t allow the Court to override solicitor’s privilege.  Further reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming this principle.
In the recent case (Nowe v. Bowerman) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 motor vehicle collision and sued for damages.  The Defendant set down a Case Planning Conference asking for an order that “Plaintiff’s counsel advise the defence of the areas of expertise of his proposed experts“.
Madam Justice Dickson dismissed this request finding it would infringe on solicitor’s brief privilege.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[10]  The area of expertise of an intended expert witness is a matter of trial strategy.  Trial strategy is a key component of a solicitor’s brief.  It may well evolve as plaintiff’s counsel builds a case and makes decisions based upon a myriad of factors and considerations.  Intentions may change as the process unfolds over time.
[11]  In my view, unless and until the intention to rely upon a particular expert in a particular field is declared by delivery of a report in accordance with the timelines established by the Rules, in the absence of a compelling reason an early incursion into this aspect of the solicitor’s brief will not be justified.
[12]  That being said, there may well be cases in which a departure from the usual timelines can be justified.  For example, in complex cases such as those involving brain injuries as a matter of fairness it may be necessary to provide defence counsel with a longer period than would be available under the usual regime in order to schedule appointments with certain kinds of experts.  In this case, however, I am unable to identify such a compelling reason.  In these circumstances, I decline to make the order sought.
To my knowledge these reasons for judgement are not publicly available but, as always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.

You Can't Be Forced to Show Your Hand: Litigation Privilege and Expert Reports


Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with the limits of the Court’s power to order litigants to reveal which experts they may rely on at trial.
In the recent case (Amezcua v. Norlander) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate collisions.  The first took place some 14 years ago.  Commenting on the pace of litigation the Court noted that “the wheels of justice have ground so slowly that at times they stopped“.
The Defendant was apparently not aware of the nature of the injuries the Plaintiff was advancing.  An application was brought at a Case Planning Conference seeking the Plaintiff to “confirm which experts and expert reports it plans to rely on at trial“.  The Defendant argued that the Court can make such an order under Rule 5-3(1).
Master Baker noted that such an order would infringe on litigation privilege.  The Court did, however, order an accelerated date for the Plaintiff to serve his expert reports noting the slow pace of litigation.  Master Baker provided the following reasons:

[7]As I said above, the defendant Taylor asks for an order that the plaintiff “…confirm which experts and expert reports it plans to rely on at trial”.  In Galvon v. Hopkins, Kloegman J. declined to order that a party name a neurologist consulted by the party, along with the date of the appointment, or to advise of the names of subsequent experts or the dates of their appointments.  After considering several authorities, she concluded:

I do not see anything in Rule 5?3 governing case planning conferences that clearly, expressly, and specifically allows the presider to compel a party to provide another party with the details of any potential expert witnesses before that party has even consulted with the expert or made an election whether to call the witnesses’ evidence at trial.

Rule 5-3 does have clear and express provisions respecting experts: Rule 5-3(1)(k) permits the Court to direct the appointment of joint experts, to order that they consult, to limit the number of experts, to set dates for service of experts’ report (i.e. other than those set by Rules 11-6(3) and (4)), or to direct what issues upon which they may be called.  But none of these (other than by advancing the service date for reports) requires that a party disclose either the expert’s identity, or the area of his or her expertise before serving the report.

[8]Rule 5-3(1)(k) is not inconsistent, in my view, with the reasoning in Galvon.  The disclosure aspects of that Rule assume that evidence has been gathered, assessed, and considered essential to a party’s case.  The only question remaining then is when it will be disclosed, thus Rule 5-3(1)(k)(iv), permitting service dates other than those provided by Rule 11-6.  It is important and instructive to note the court’s reference to “potential” expert witnesses; it seems to me that Kloegman J. was concerned with protecting litigation privilege during the evidence-gathering phase, so that the party assembling his or her case is free to do so without the requirement of disclosing experts (or, I conclude, directions) that may prove fruitless and avoid adverse inferences.

[9]The defendant Taylor’s request, however, comes within Rule 5-3(1)(k) and does not ask the name or expertise of potential witnesses, but rather the details of the experts it will rely on at trial.

[10]This case, as I have mentioned, has an extraordinary aspect.  The first accident occurred approximately 13 years ago.  Such delays sometimes occur when, for example, the plaintiff is an infant.  That is not the case in this situation.  The defence is justified in its frustration and perplexity in not knowing, in any reliable way and after 13 years, the nature or extent of medical injuries suffered by the plaintiff.  That being the case, the plaintiff is ordered to deliver the reports of experts upon which she intends to rely at trial, no later than November 1, 2012.

Litigation Privilege Claim Fails Due to the 'Two Hats' of ICBC

(Update February 12, 2015the below decision was overturned in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Court of Appeal)
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I previously discussed the Two Hats of ICBC and suggested fixing the conflict of interest this creates.  Reasons for judgement were released earlier this year by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this conflict of interest in action in the context of a litigation privilege claim.
In the recent case (Raj v. Khosravi) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  He was insured with ICBC and met with an adjuster to advance his claim.  After the initial meeting the ICBC adjuster commissioned the services of a private investigator who produced a report.
In the course of his lawsuit the Plaintiff requested a copy of this report but ICBC refused to provide it arguing it was subject to litigation privilege.  The plaintiff argued that the report was commissioned in the ‘investigative stage’ following the collision and further that even if the report was in part prepared for the purpose of defending subsequent litigation, it was also commissioned in the context of his claim for Part 7 benefits.  Mr. Justice Groves agreed and ordered the report to be disclosed.  The Court provided the following reasons:
[29] It is clear there were two distinct purposes for this investigative report.  That is conceded by the Defendant.  The question then becomes, was the dominant purpose litigation?  And has the defendant met the onus of satisfying the court that in fact the dominant purpose was litigation?…
[49]  I am also of the view that the defendant’s claim for privilege must fail, in regards to a dominant purpose analysis.  Again, assuming that we’ve gotten over the litigation privilege hurdle, here this investigation, by the adjuster’s own admission, had more than one purpose.  As such, the onus of claiming and eliminating the competing purpose rests on the defendant.
[50]  I agree with the submission of the plaintiff that, during the entirety of the evidence of the adjuster, both in affidavit and during his cross-examination on his affidavit, there is a strong suggestion, a clear suggestion, that the purpsoe of this investigative report was a true dual purpose report.
[51]  Again, the information obtained by the adjuster, at his interview with the plaintiff on November 14, 2006 was information necessary to potentially adjudicate a tort claim, and potentially adjudicate a Part 7 claim.  In discovery, the adjuster confirmed that he had retained the investigator during the meeting with the plaintiff, that “the intention is to get information that is going to contradict what I was told in the initial appointment”.
[52]  What he was told in his initial appointment related to both Part 7 claims as well as tort claims.  The adjuster seemed to draw no distinction in the investigation, as to which of those two claims is to be covered or emphasized.  As such, the onus of showing that the dominant purpose of the report was litigation cannot be met, on the evidence.
[53]  Based on what I have said, I will allow the appeal of the master in regards to the report of the investigator, dated December 15, 2006 and order that it be disclosed.
To my understanding this decision is not publicly available but, as always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.

The "Investigative Stage" Bar to Privilege: Plaintiffs vs. Insurers


As recently discussed, claims for litigation privilege can fail when a defendant’s insurer collects statements and information shortly after a collision in what is deemed to be the ‘investigative stage‘.  The simple reason being that such documents typically are not created for the dominant purpose of litigation.
This analysis, however, does not necessarily translate easily to statements obtained by Plaintiffs following a crash because Plaintiffs do not share the same investigatvie responsibilites that insurers do.   This reality was highlighted in reasons for judgement published earlier this year by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In the recent case (Cliff v. Dahl) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  She hired a lawyer to assist her with her claim.   The lawyer hired an investigator who obtained statements from multiple witnesses to the collision.
ICBC brought an unsuccessful application to force the Plaintiff’s lawyer to produce these documents.  The Plaintiff refused stating these statements were privileged.  ICBC appealed arguing these documents were obtained during the ‘investigative stage‘ and should be produced.  In dismissing the appeal Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons highlighting the ‘investigative stage’ and the different duties of Plaintiffs versus insurers:

[22] The Master had before him an affidavit of plaintiff’s counsel which, sketchy as it is, did say that the information was gathered and the statements were gathered for the purpose of preparing for the plaintiff’s case in this action, as opposed to investigating the plaintiff’s case, and the Master apparently inferred from that that litigation was the dominant purpose. Sketchy as that evidence was, I cannot say that the Master was clearly wrong in drawing that conclusion.

[23] Defence counsel refers to a statement of the Master in which he says in effect that it is very hard to see how statements gathered by plaintiff’s counsel once retained would not meet the dominant purpose test. That is probably too broad a statement and certainly if the Master said that it was a general rule of law, that would be a question of law to be reviewable but in my view that is not the basis of the Master’s decision. He made a finding on the evidence before him.

[24] In that regard, I note that while the evidence from plaintiff’s counsel is sketchy, plaintiff’s counsel in this situation is in a somewhat different position from the insurance adjusters whose determination of dominant purpose is often at issue in other cases such as Hamalainen, supra.

[25] The point at which a plaintiff’s counsel moves from the stage of investigating and considering the possibilities of litigation to a firm decision to proceed and the subsequent efforts that have a dominant purpose of litigation depends of course on the information in counsel’s possession. Much of that information must necessarily come directly from the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s counsel must balance the need to show the dominant purpose of the document or the witness statement with the restrictions placed upon him or her by solicitor/client privilege.

[26] I infer from the material before me that the Master reviewed the evidence and found it sufficient to establish a dominant purpose. Whatever decision I might have made had the matter come before me, I cannot say that the Master was clearly wrong.

[27] Those are my reasons for judgment and so the appeal is dismissed.

Of note, this result was revisited after the witness subsequently became a party to the litigation.

Privileged Witness Statement Ordered Produced When Witness Becomes Party

Interesting reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether an otherwise privileged statement can be ordered to be produced in litigation where the statement was given by the opposing party.
In last month’s case (Cliff v. Dahl) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision when he was struck by a vehicle driven by the Defendant.  Shortly after the collision the Plaintiff’s lawyer obtained witness statements from a Mr. Weaver and Mr. Jones.
In the course of the lawsuit the Defendant Dahl requested production of these statements but the application was dismissed finding the statements were privileged.  Later Mr. Jones and Mr. Weaver were added as Defendants in the lawsuit.  They brought their own application for production.  Ultimately this was successful with the Court finding a different analysis is required when a party is seeking production of their own statement.   In compelling production Madam Justice Bruce provided the following reasons:

[35] Based on these authorities, I am satisfied that Mr. Weaver and Mr. Jones are entitled to a copy of the statement they provided to Mr. Cliff’s investigator. While their statements as witnesses would not be compellable due to litigation privilege, the change in their status to parties adverse in interest to Mr. Cliff place them on a different footing. Disclosure of these statements is necessary to ensure fairness in the litigation process, to enable these parties to properly defend themselves against allegations of negligence, and to support the truth seeking function of the court. Production of these statements is neither counter-productive to the adversary process nor to the confidential relationship between solicitor and client.

[36] The facts here present a particularly compelling case for production of the statements. The applicants permitted Mr. Cliff’s investigator to take their statements at a time when they were not represented. They were not offered copies of their statements nor advised to seek legal advice about this matter. In addition, Mr. Cliff interfered with the insurer’s investigation of the claim by counselling the applicants not to give a statement unless they first contacted his lawyer. By taking these steps Mr. Cliff’s actions may have prevented a timely statement from the applicants that could have formed a substitute for the statements taken by his investigator. Now that five years have elapsed since the date of the accident, it is apparent that the applicants’ memory of the events has faded. While there is nothing improper about Mr. Cliff’s conduct, it has imbued the applicants’ case with more of a sense of urgency and necessity. There is simply no other means by which the applicants could refresh their memories of the events surrounding the accident.

[37] For these reasons I order production of the signed statements of Mr. Weaver and Mr. Jones in possession of Mr. Cliff’s counsel and the audio recording of the statement. It is not appropriate that I order production of the transcript of the audio recording. This is an aid to follow along with the audio recording and commissioned by Mr. Cliff’s counsel. There is no principle of law that would require Mr. Cliff to share this work product with the applicants. They are free to commission their own transcripts of the audio recording. The applicants have not sought copies of the notes taken by Mr. Cliff’s counsel during his interviews with them. I do not regard these as statements made by the applicants; they are notes to refresh counsel’s recollection of the interview and nothing more. Accordingly, these notes should not be made the subject of a production order.

[38] Mr. Cliff shall produce the audio recordings and signed statements to the applicants within 14 days of this order and upon payment of the reasonable costs for production of copies thereof.

"Investigative Stage" Significant Barrier to ICBC Privilege Claims


A trend developing in BC Caselaw is the demonstrated difficulty ICBC has trying to withhold documents in a personal injury lawsuit based on their ‘investigative’ responsibilities.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this topic.
In this week’s case (Gilbert v. Nelson) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision with a vehicle.  The Plaintiff was 13 at the time and was riding a bicycle.  Following the collision ICBC investigated the collision and obtained engineering reports and a further report from an independent adjuster.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendant had access to these documents.  The Defendant refused to produce them claiming litigation privilege.
The Plaintiff brought an application to have these produced.   Master Taylor granted the application finding the documents were created during ICBC’s investigative stage.  In ordering production the Court provided the following reasons:

[35] Saying that litigation is a certainty is not the test for the dominant purpose.

[36] What I do observe from the facts before me is that no counsel was consulted or retained by the defendant or his insurer until after the notice of civil claim was issued in July, 2010.  While the retainer of counsel is not an absolute test as to whether or not documents were created for the dominant purpose of litigation, it is but one factor in this case that indicates that the defendant and his insurer were not preparing for litigation nor directing the course of the defence of a possible law suit, until a notice of civil claim was issued some five years post accident.  One would have thought that the defendants would have sought to establish the dominant purpose by showing on a balance of probabilities that the dominant purpose of the documents was to obtain legal advice or to aid in the conduct of the litigation.

[37] Most certainly the defendant and his insurer had followed a course of investigating the accident, and its dynamics, but other than telephone conversations Ms. Fall had with Mr. Gilbert on June 13 and 15, 2005, there is no evidence before me that the defendant or his insurer made a formal declaration to the Gilbert family by way of letter that liability for the accident was being denied.  In my view, a reasonable person would expect no less especially after the family was told that an assessment of liability would be made after receipt of the traffic analyst’s report which was anticipated to be received by Ms. Fall in August, 2005.

[38] In all of the circumstances, I find that the defendant hasn’t met the onus on him to satisfy me that there exists over either the CWMS notes or the reports currently listed in Part 4 of the Defendant’s List of Documents a litigation privilege, such that disclosure of the documents up to the date of the first letter from counsel for the plaintiff should not be made to the opposite party.  The only caveat will be that all references to reserves are to be redacted.

[39] The plaintiff shall have his costs for preparation for, and attendance at the hearing.

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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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