Tag: Master Caldwell

ICBC Litigation Privilege Claim Fails Due to "Investigative Stage" Finding

Further to my previous article on this topic, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing the circumstances when a defence litigation privilege claim will fail due to records being created during ICBC’s “investigative stage” following a collision.
In last week’s case (Bako v. Gray) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendant listed several documents as privileged.  These included an ICBC adjuster’s notes and further the notes of an independent adjuster hired by ICBC.  The Plaintiff brought an application to produce these records.  The Defendant refused arguing these records were subject to litigation privilege and that they were created for the dominant purpose of preparing for litigation.
Master Caldwell rejected this argument finding the records were more likely created during ICBC’s investigative stage.  In ordering production of the records the Court provided the following reasons:
[5] In Hamalainen (Committee of) v. Sippola, [1991] B.C.J. No. 3614 (C.A.) the Court of Appeal approved the reasoning and findings of Master Grist (as he then was) that there is an investigative stage and a litigation stage, that it was proper for the Master to determine when litigation became a reasonable prospect and further to determine when in the overall process the dominant purpose for the creation of documents became the preparation for or pursuit of litigation. The court further confirmed that in making that determination the Master was not bound or obliged to accept the adjusters’ opinions on those central issues to be decided…

[21] In his initial entry note in the defendant’s file on November 21, Mr. Matheson includes the following entries:

DICTATED MY NFA, AND A LETTER TO I/A DON UNRAU, WHOM I HAVE ASKED TO BE MY “LIASON” (sic) WITH ZOLTAN, SO LONG AS HE REMAINS UNREPRESENTED;

IN ANY EVENT, THE PLAN IS VERY SIMPLE. MONITOR ZOLTAN’S PROGRESS & OBTAIN UPDATED CLINICALS & REPORTED (sic) PERIODICALLY…AND HOPEFULLY, SETTLE HIM UNREPRESENTED SOMETIME BEFORE THE 2 YEAR LIMITATIONS PRESCRIBES. LOOKS LIKE ZOLTAN IS ASKING HIS GP TO REFER HIM TO DR. ROBINSON (RE: HIS HA’S)…I’LL BOOK A PRECAUTIONARY IME WITH DR. MICHAEL JONES, “JUST IN CASE”

I DON’T HAVE ANY CONCERNS RE:  CREDIBILITY, BASED ON WHAT I HAVE SEEN TO DATE.

[22] On November 25, 2008 Mr. Matheson made further notes to the file, including:

SO LONG AS MR BAKO REMAINS UNREPRESENTED, AND CONTINUES TO WORK, THE RISK EXPOSURE OF THIS FILE IS MODERATE.

I AM GOING TO RETAINED DON UNRAU, INDEPENDENT ADJUSTER, TO ACT AS MY LIAISON WITH THE PLAINTIFF.

I WILL SET UP A PRECAUTIONARY IME WITH DR MICHAEL JONES (NEUROLOGIST)

[23] These entries clearly indicate that as of late November 2008, Mr. Matheson’s focus was on information gathering and settlement, with both being done quickly and before Mr. Bako retained counsel; when litigation type issues did arise they were referred to as “precautionary” or “just in case”, neither of which is at all consistent with his sworn assertion that he “believed this matter would result in litigation” when he first received the file.

[24] Based on my review of the materials, it is of little import whether Ms. McIntosh or Mr. Matheson had charge of the files between November 10, 2008 and March 16, 2009, or for that matter, September 22, 2009 when the Writ was filed and sent for delivery to ICBC. Nothing in the materials supports Mr. Matheson’s assertion that he had a reasonable basis to determine and that he did determine that there was a reasonable prospect of litigation in this case.

[25] Save and except for references to reserves, the CWMS notes are ordered to be produced in unredacted form up to and including September 22, 2009.

[26] All references to the independent adjuster in November of 2008, centered on him simply being a “liaison” between Mr. Matheson and Mr. Bako, at least for so long as Mr. Bako remained unrepresented; the report is dated shortly after Mr. Bako did retain counsel. Again, I see no support for any conclusion other than that his involvement was related directly to Mr. Matheson’s stated intention to settle the file before Mr. Bako retained counsel. The report is ordered produced.

More on the Responding Report "IME" Limitation


Adding to this growing database of caselaw considering the relationship of Rule 7-6 and  Rule 11-6(4), reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, demonstrating that “responding” independent medical exams will not be granted as a matter of course.
In the recent case (Godfrey v. Black) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  She sued for damages.  Her pleadings specifically identified an alleged TMJ Injury.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff was examined for discovery with respect to her TMJ pain.  She also served an expert report addressing this injury in compliance with the time-lines set out in the Rules of Court.
The Defendant brought an application for the Plaintiff to be assessed by a TMJ specialist of their choosing.  Their application was brought after expiry of the 84 day expert report service deadline   They argued an exam was necessary in order to obtain a responding report under Rule 11-6(4).   Master Caldwell disagreed and dismissed the motion finding no sufficient evidence was tendered to explain the need for a physical exam.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[2]  I am told that the pleadings, when they were issued, specifically identified among other things injury to the temporomandibular joint (“TMJ”).  That, it is said, and I agree, put the defence on specific notice that there was an issue relating to the jaw and the TMJ…
[9]  There is no evidence before me to indicate why this particular dental expert believes it necessary for him to do a physical examination of the patient.  In fact, the instruction letter from counsel specifically asks for among other things a critique of the report of the first dentist.  Many of those bullets which appear in the letter which I will not make further reference to appear able to be done on the basis of a criticism of methodology or findings as opposed to requiring an independent examination of the person of the plaintiff…
[13]  I have been referred to several cases, but the one which I find the most helpful is the case of Wright v. Brauer, 2010 BCSC 1282 a decision of Mr. Justice Savage in similar circumstances where he was dealing with a trial date in the near future and an examination such as this where there was no medical evidence as to why a physical examination was necessary in order to provide a truly rebuttal or critical report…
[15]  In my view, the same reasoning applies in this case…
[18]  This application comes late in the day, a year after the defence was well aware that TMJ was an issue that should be looked into.  Had they wished to get a full report, they were well able to make that application or the request earlier.  I am not satisfied on the material that there is a basis for me to infer from the submissions of counsel or the material filed that an independent medical examination of the person of the plaintiff is required in order for this dentist to provide a truly rebuttal report.
These reasons are unpublished but as always I’m happy to share a copy with anyone who contacts me and requests these.

"Investigative Stage" Trumps ICBC's Litigation Privilege Claim


Given ICBC’s monopoly over vehicle insurance in BC they typically have to perform multiple roles following a collision including investigating the issue of fault in order to make internal decisions regarding the premium consequences for the customers involved in the crash.  Documents prepared during this ‘investigative‘ stage generally need to be produced during litigation and claims for litigation privilege will fail.  Reasons for judgement were released this week further demonstrating this fact.
In this week’s case (Fournier v. Stangroom) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  In the early days following the crash and well before litigation got underway ICBC retained an engineering firm to inspect the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  The engineering firm communicated their findings to ICBC.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defence lawyer commissioned an expert report from the same firm but did not exchange it with the Plaintiff’s lawyer.
The Plaintiff made the typical document disclosure demands from the Defendants.   These were not complied with in a satisfactory fashion resulting in a Court application.   The Defence lawyer argued that the full file from the engineering firm is subject to litigation privilege.  Master Caldwell disagreed and ultimately ordered better document disclosure inlcuding production of the engineering firms materials documenting their initial investigation.  In making this order Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:




[11] On August 9, 2007 the initial adjuster on the file requested MEA or one of their engineers to examine the plaintiff’s vehicle in order to determine whether the plaintiff was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision. The engineer did so, communicated with the adjuster the following day with questions and subsequently reported to the adjuster on September 13, 2007. That adjuster referred to that report as being sufficient for his purposes; the next adjuster, Ms. Madsen referred to the “verbal report” as being “sufficient for the purposes of handling the claim SHORT OF LITIGATION” (emphasis mine).

[12] In early 2011 defence counsel commissioned MEA to prepare an expert report, apparently regarding the seatbelt issue, for possible use at trial; he says that since such a report has now been requested, the engineer’s file material, notes and such are not producible unless and until the report is received and provided to plaintiff’s counsel 84 days before trial.

[13] In cases such as this one, the adjuster or adjusters have duties of investigation on behalf of both the plaintiff and the defendants; there must, almost of necessity, be an initial period of adjusting or investigating to discover the factual matrix within which the adjusters will perform their duties and assess the file and the claims or roles of the interested parties. Absent such period and process of investigation the adjuster can have no reasonable basis upon which to conclude that there is a reasonable prospect of litigation and that all or part of what is done from any given point in time forward is done for the dominant purpose of litigation. In this regard see Hamalainen (Committee of) v. Sippola (1991) 62 BCLR (2d) 254 (BCCA).

[14] These engineers were approached within the first 3 weeks following the collision, clearly within the period of initial investigation and was even seen by at least one of the adjusters as being used for purposes of handling the file short of litigation. The investigative material, notes, correspondence and other such recordings of the engineers were not created at a time when litigation was a reasonable prospect; neither were they created for the dominant purpose of litigation. The fact that counsel has now requested an expert report from MEA does nothing to change that any more than a request to a G.P. or plaintiff’s medical expert that he or she provide an expert report renders that practitioner’s clinical records privileged.

[15] The MEA investigative material, notes, correspondence and working papers which arose between August 9, 2007 and September 13, 2007 inclusive are not subject to a valid claim of litigation privilege; they are ordered to be listed and to be produced to plaintiff’s counsel within 14 days. If there are any other MEA materials which arose between September 14, 2007 and the date when defence counsel commissioned their expert report, those are to be listed with the required clarity, date and description in order that any further claim of litigation privilege can be properly assessed.





More on the New Rules of Court and Document Disclosure: The Proportionality Factor


As recently discussed, a developing area of law relates to the extent of parties document production obligations under the new Rules of Court.   The starting propisition is that parties need to disclose a narrower class of documents then was previously required.  A Court can, on application, order further disclosure more in line with the “Peruvian Guano” test that was in force under the former rules.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, making such an order.
In today’s case (Whitcombe v. Avec Insurance Managers Inc.) the Plaintiff was employed as an Insurance Underwriter with the Defendant.  The Plaintiff was let go and sued for wrongful dismissal.  The Defendant counterclaimed alleging they lawfully terminated the Plaintiff’s employment and further making allegations of misfeasance by the Plaintiff.
In the course of the lawsuit the parties were dis-satisfied with each others lists of documents.  They each applied for further disclosure.  Master Caldwell granted the orders sought finding that the concept of ‘proportionality‘ calls for greater disclosure in cases of “considerable importance“.  In granting the applications Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:

[10]         In short, both parties make serious allegations of actual misfeasance and in particular allegations which may well have a significant impact on the other’s reputation in the insurance industry and on the parties’ respective abilities to continue in business or to be employed in a professional capacity.  This is therefore a matter of considerable importance and significance to the parties regardless of the quantum of immediate monetary damage.

[11]         I find this to be important to my consideration of proportionality as directed in Rule 1-3(2) when interpreting and applying Rule 7-1.  In my view, where, as here, the issues go beyond negligence and involve opposing allegations of misfeasance, proportionality must be interpreted to allow the parties a wider, more Peruvian Guano type disclosure in order to defend and protect their respective professional reputations and abilities to carry on in the business community.

[12]         Here one or both sides have levelled allegations involving malice, bad faith, arbitrariness, lack of integrity/fidelity/loyalty and incompetence at the other.

[13]         In addressing Rule 7-1 in the case of Biehl v. Strang, 2010 BCSC 1391, Mr. Justice Punnett said at paragraph 29:

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

[14]         I am satisfied that in these circumstances the disclosure sought by both parties in their applications is appropriate in that it seeks evidence or documents that can or may well assist in proving or disproving a material fact.

Interestingly the Court implied that Peruvian Guano like disclosure likely will not be made in motor vehicle collision claims noting that “This is not a simple motor vehicle type case, arising in common context and involving straight forward negligence issues and quantification of physical injury compensation.”

Defence Medical Exams and Cancellation Fees

Reason for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing cancellation fees charged by doctors when a Plaintiff fails to attend a previously agreed to independent medical exam.
In today’s case (Minhas v. Virk) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 BC motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff alleged brain injury.  The Plaintiff attended two independent examinations with specialists of the Defendant’s choosing and agreed to attend a third appointment.  As the third exam date approached the Plaintiff ultimately reneged on his agreement by adding a condition that the Defence was not prepared to agree to.
The doctor’s office had a policy to charge $1,650 unless he was given 2 months notice of cancellation.  The Plaintiff did not comply with this policy and instead gave just over 2 working days of notice.
The Defendant brought a motion seeking to have the Plaintiff assessed by the doctor and to pay the cancellation fee.  Master Caldwell ruled that it was inappropriate for the Plaintiff to “unilaterally rewrite” the previous agreement to see the doctor and ordered the Plaintiff undergo the independent medical exam.  The Court refused, however, to order that the Plaintiff pay the cancellation fee finding 2 days notice was sufficient.  Master Caldwell provided the following useful reasons:
[15] The request that the plaintiff be required to pay the cancellation fee for the December 21 appointment is dismissed.  There is no evidence before me which indicates what, if any, efforts the doctor made to fill that appointment slot or to otherwise mitigate his loss.  In addition, I find Dr. Wong’s requirement of 2 months notice to be unreasonable, particularly in the absence of any explanation.  In this case the cancellation occurred on either the 15th or 16th of December (if not earlier) thus providing at least 2 full working days notice and probably more.  The material before me which simply states the doctor’s cancellation policy and nothing more, simply does not support the order sought.
The Court was also asked to order a further medical exam with a different specialist.  This application was dismissed with the Court noting that one of the purposes of the New Rules of Court is to “move toward a focusing and limiting of experts and expert opinion“.

Caselaw Update: Independent Medical Exams and Responding Reports


As previously discussed, Rule 11-6(3) of the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules requires expert reports to be served 84 days prior to trial.  Rule 11-6(4) requires “responding” reports to be served at least 42 days prior to trial.  The issue of whether a Defendant is able to force a plaintiff to attend an independent medical exam” for the purpose of obtaining a responding report is currently being worked out by the BC Supreme Court.
Two further cases have been brought to my attention addressing this topic and with these the bulk of the judicial authorities to date demonstrate that it may be very difficult for a Defendant to force a late ‘independent‘ examination to obtain a responding report.
Both of the recent cases (Crane v. Lee and Boudreau v. Logan) involve ICBC injury claims.  In both the Plaintiff served expert reports discussing the extent of their accident related injuries.  The Defendants applied to compel the Plaintiff to attend an independent exam inside the 84 day deadline in order to obtain responding reports.  Master Caldwell presided over both applications and dismissed them both.  In doing so the Court relied on Mr. Justice Savage’s reasoning in Wright v. Brauer and ruled that that precedent was “on all fours” with the present applications.  Master Caldwell repeated the following reasons from Mr. Justice Savage:

[18]         However, at this point in time in the action, the defendants are limited to what Mr. Justice Williamson referred to in Kelly, supra, as “truly responsive rebuttal evidence”.  The application must be considered in that light; the question on this application is not one of notice, but whether the Examination should be ordered to enable the defendant to file responsive evidence.  The authorizing Rule, 7-6(1) uses the term “may”.

[19]         In Kroll v. Eli Lilly Canada Inc. (1995), 5 B.C.L.R. (3d) 7, Sanders J., as she then was, noted that “true response evidence, does not permit fresh opinion evidence to masquerade as answer to the other side’s reports”.

[20]         In C.N. Railway v. H.M.T.Q. in Right of Canada, 2002 BCSC 1669, Henderson J. considered the admissability of “reply reports” holding that only the portions of the reports that provided a critical analysis of the methodology of the opposing expert were admissible as responsive evidence.  The portions of the reports describing the authors’ own opinions on the matters in issue were not admitted.

[21]         In this case, the defendants do not explain why an examination is required in these circumstances, other than a statement by a legal assistant that counsel says such is “necessary to properly defend this action and to respond to the reports of Dr. Weckworth and Dr. O’Connor”.  Master McCallum in White v. Gait, 2003 BCSC 2023 declined to order an examination where it had not been shown why such was required to produce a responsive report.

These cases, in total, seem to stand for the proposition that a Defendant needs to have sworn evidence from the proposed medical examiner explaining why physical examination is required in order to provide a responding report (which is what happened in Luedecke v. Hillman).  Absent this, late independent medical exam applications are being dismissed by the BC Supreme Court.

As of today’s date the Crane and Boudreau decisions are unpublished.  As always I’m happy to provide a copy of these cases to anyone who could benefit from them.  You can request a copy by filling out the form on this link.

More on the New Rules of Court and Proportionality: Withdrawing Deemed Admissions


As previously discussed, the BC Supreme Court Rules permit parties to a lawsuit to ask the opposing side to make binding admissions through a “Notice to Admit”.  If the opposing side fails to respond to the Notice in the time lines required they are deemed to have made the sought admissions.  Once the admission is made it cannot be withdrawn except by consent of the parties or with the Court’s permission.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, considering the Court’s discretion to withdraw deemed admissions.
In today’s case (Piso v. Thompson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2003 collision.  She sued for damages alleging longstanding injuries as a result of this crash.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC’s lawyer served the Plaintiff with a Notice to Admit claiming that the Plaintiff was fully recovered within two years, that there was no claim for past wage loss nor a claim for diminished earning capacity.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer neglected to respond to the Notice in the timelines required resulting in the admissions being inadvertently made.  ICBC then brought an application for summary judgement.
The Plaintiff brought an application asking for permission to withdraw the admissions.  ICBC opposed arguing there would be no prejudice to the Plaintiff if she was faced with these admissions as she could sue her own lawyer in negligence to make up for any damages the unwanted admissions caused.  Master Caldwell rejected this argument and permitted the Plaintiff to withdraw the admissions.  The Court cited the principle of ‘proportionality‘ in reaching judgement.  Master Caldwell provided the following useful reasons:

[20]         Rule 7-7 provides a mechanism to streamline and make more efficient the litigation process. It rewards efficiency and encourages a focus on issues which matter and which are truly in dispute. It provides penalties and disincentives for failure to admit that which should properly be admitted by way of cost sanctions. It certainly provides for much more extreme outcomes in appropriate circumstances but it also provides for judicial discretion in excusing or relieving from such extreme outcomes in appropriate circumstances.

[21]         In my respectful view Rule 7-7 does not, nor was it intended to, create a trap or add an inescapable obstacle to ensnare or trip up sloppy or inattentive counsel to the detriment of the parties to the litigation.

[22]         The current Rule 1-3(a) continues the long-standing object of the rules:

The object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules is to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits.

[23]         There is no question in my mind that the failure in this case was a sloppy, inadvertent and possibly even negligent failure on the part of former counsel for the plaintiff. I am satisfied that the plaintiff himself cannot be faulted in any way for the oversight; he had neither actual notice of the document in question from his lawyer nor an opportunity to provide a reasoned and considered response.

[24]         The refusal of leave to withdraw these admissions will deny the plaintiff his opportunity to have his claim heard on the merits. The argument that the plaintiff can have his relief by way of a professional negligence claim against his former counsel fails to recognize the further delay and expense of such a claim. In the context of proportionality such an option does not seem appropriate from a financial or court resource prospective.

[25]         In my view this is precisely the type of situation which warrants an order allowing the withdrawal of a deemed admission while providing for the other party in costs and other accommodations.

[26]         The plaintiff is granted leave to withdraw the admissions.

How Long is Too Long for an ICBC Claim to go to Trial?


As I’ve previously written, ICBC and other personal injury claims can take a long time prior to settlement or trial.  This is particularly true in cases involving serious injuries where the long term prognosis remains unknown for  a number of years.  As I explained in this video, it is difficult to value a claim until the prognosis is known and it could be risky to settle a claim before this.
Appreciating that injury claims can take a long time, how long is too long?  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing this issue.
In this week’s case (Hullenaar v. Wells) the Plaintiff was allegedly injured in an assault in 1997.  He claimed two cars being driven by the defendants boxed him in and then one of the defendants “struck him in the face with a stick causing damage” which led to a serious eye injury.
The Plaintiff sued the alleged assailants and ICBC within the time set out in the Limitation Act.  The personal injury lawsuit dragged on for years.  ICBC grew tired of the matter and brought a court application to dismiss the claim for want of prosecution.  Master Caldwell granted the application and dismissed the lawsuit.  In doing so the Court provided the following comments:

[16]         Once inordinate and inexcusable delay is found, a rebuttable presumption of prejudice to the defendants arises; see Tundra Helicopters. None of the evidence presented to me rebutted that presumption.

[17]         There is some evidence that the plaintiff and the defendant Flynn were examined for discovery in 2002 and 2003 respectively; minimal if any examination of the defendant Wells has occurred. None of the transcripts of the discovery were produced.

[18]         This is a case which will depend largely on the evidence of the parties who were present at the time of the event. The evidence at trial will be the13 – 15 year old recollection evidence of witnesses who had spent a significant part of the evening drinking alcohol at private parties and commercial bars.

[19]         In my view the delay of 13 years, which will be almost 15 years by the time of trial, has prejudiced and will continue to prejudice the defendants in their ability to present a full and proper defence.

[20]         This is an unfortunate case. The plaintiff appears to have suffered significant injury. It is hard to imagine why the matter was not moved forward with anything approaching reasonable speed, however the plaintiff alone is responsible for the delay. Based upon the evidence presented, the interests of justice do not mitigate in favour of allowing the plaintiff to continue his action, rather they favour the dismissal sought by the defendant/third party.

[21]         The action is dismissed for want of prosecution. The applicant ICBC is entitled to its costs of this application as sought; no other party sought or is entitled to its costs.

While patience is important in the settlement of personal injury claims this case demonstrates that even with very serious injuries there is such as thing as “too long”.

Document Disclosure and Litigation Privilege – A Potentially Difficult Test to Meet

Further to my previous posts on the topic of ICBC Claims and Privilege, reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, demonstrating that a party seeking to withhold documents on the basis of ‘litigation privilege’ may face an uphill battle.
In yesterday’s case (Celli v. White) the Plaintiff was a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle.  The Plaintiff was injured and eventually sued for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendants refused to produce a number of documents relevant to the Plaintiff’s Claim on the basis that they were protected by ‘litigation privilege‘.
The Plaintiff obtained legal advice almost immediately after the accident.  As a result of this the defence lawyers argued that “litigation was inevitable from the outset.”  On this basis the Defendant refused to produce a number of documents which were gathered by the Defendant’s insurer in the immediate aftermath of this collision.
The Plaintiff applied to Court for production of a number of the allegedly privileged documents.  The Plaintiff was largely successful and the Defendants were ordered to produce a number of documents which were gathered by the Defendants insurer in the 6 months following the collision.  In reaching this decision Master Caldwell summarized the law of litigation privilege in the context of BC Injury Claims as follows:

[8] The leading case in this subject area is Hamalainen v. Sippola (1991), 62 B.C.L.R. (2d) 254 [Hamalainen].  In that case the Court of Appeal held that two factual determinations were required in order to uphold a claim of litigation privilege:

(1)        Was litigation in reasonable prospect at the time the document was produced,

(2)        If so, what was the dominant purpose for its production?

[9] The court indicated that while the first of these requirements would not likely be overly difficult to establish, the second would be more challenging:

22.       I am not aware of any case in which the meaning of “in reasonable prospect” has been considered by this Court. Common sense suggests that it must mean something more than a mere possibility, for such possibility must necessarily exist in every claim for loss due to injury whether that claim be advanced in tort or in contract. On the other hand, a reasonable prospect clearly does not mean a certainty, which could hardly ever be established unless a writ had actually issued. In my view litigation can properly be said to be in reasonable prospect when a reasonable person, possessed of all pertinent information including that peculiar to one party or the other, would conclude it is unlikely that the claim for loss will be resolved without it. The test is not one that will be particularly difficult to meet. I am satisfied it was met in this case in connection with all of the documents in issue. The circumstances of this accident, and the nature of Mr. Hamalainen’s injuries, were such that litigation was clearly a reasonable prospect from the time the claim was first reported on December 1st, 1986.

(b)        What was the dominant purpose for which the documents were produced?

23.       A more difficult question to resolve is whether the dominant purpose of the author, or the person under whose direction each document was prepared, was “… [to use] it or its contents in order to obtain legal advice or to conduct or aid in the conduct of litigation …”.

24.       When this Court adopted the dominant purpose test, it did so in response to a similar move by the House of Lords in Waugh v. British Railways Board, [1980] A.C. 521. In that case the majority opinion is to be found in the speech of Lord Wilberforce, who agreed “in substance” with the dissenting judgment of Lord Denning M.R. in the Court below. While the Court of Appeal judgments do not appear to have been reported, some excerpts from Lord Denning’s opinion are to be found in the speech of Lord Edmund-Davies, including the following at p. 541 of the report:

If material comes into being for a dual purpose – one to find out the cause of the accident – the other to furnish information to the solicitor – it should be disclosed, because it is not then “wholly or mainly” for litigation. On this basis all the reports and inquiries into accidents – which are made shortly after the accident – should be disclosed on discovery and made available in evidence at the trial.

25.       At the heart of the issue in the British Railways Board case was the fact that there was more than one identifiable purpose for the production of the report for which privilege was claimed. The result of the decision was to reject both the substantial purpose test previously adhered to by the English Court of Appeal and the sole purpose test which by then had been adopted by the majority of the Australian High Court in Grant v. Downs.

26.       Even in cases where litigation is in reasonable prospect from the time a claim first arises, there is bound to be a preliminary period during which the parties are attempting to discover the cause of the accident on which it is based. At some point in the information gathering process the focus of such an inquiry will shift such that its dominant purpose will become that of preparing the party for whom it was conducted for the anticipated litigation. In other words, there is a continuum which begins with the incident giving rise to the claim and during which the focus of the inquiry changes. At what point the dominant purpose becomes that of furthering the course of litigation will necessarily fall to be determined by the facts peculiar to each case.

27.       In that sense there is obviously no absolute rule that the decision to deny liability in such a claim must mark the point in which the conduct of litigation becomes the dominant purpose underlying the production of each and every document of the sort for which privilege was claimed in this case. But I do not read the master’s reasons as invoking any such absolute rule. He was faced with affidavit material filed by the party claiming privilege which was deficient in a number of respects. As already noted it failed to draw any distinction between the purpose underlying the production of individual documents. The risk inherent in that approach was pointed out by Mr. Justice Esson in the Shaughnessy Golf case at p. 319 of the report:

Privilege was claimed for a large number of documents. The grounds for it had to be established in respect of each one. By trying to extend to the whole list the considerations which confer privilege on most of the documents, the plaintiff has confused the issue and created the risk that, because it did not make in its evidence the distinctions that could have been made, it must be held not to have established privilege for any.

28.       Furthermore, the affidavit material concentrated on the repetitious assertion by each deponent of his belief that litigation in the case was inevitable, from which fact the dominant purpose underlying the production of all documents was apparently assumed. As already pointed out that approach to the onus facing the deponent on this question represented a mistaken view of the law.

[10] Gray J. echoed this sentiment at paragraphs 97 and 98 of Keefer Laundry Ltd. v. Pellerin Milnor Corp., 2006 BCSC 1180 as follows:

97.       The first requirement will not usually be difficult to meet.  Litigation can be said to be reasonably contemplated when a reasonable person, with the same knowledge of the situation as one or both of the parties, would find it unlikely that the dispute will be resolved without it. (Hamalainen v. Sippola, supra.)

98.       To establish “dominant purpose”, the party asserting the privilege will have to present evidence of the circumstances surrounding the creation of the communication or document in question, including evidence with respect to when it was created, who created it, who authorized it, and what use was or could be made of it. Care must be taken to limit the extent of the information that is revealed in the process of establishing “dominant purpose” to avoid accidental or implied waiver of the privilege that is being claimed.

[11] This dominant purpose test was also confirmed by Fish J. in the case of Blank v. Canada (Minister of Justice), 2006 SCC 39 at paragraphs 60 and 61:

60. I see no reason to depart from the dominant purpose test. Though it provides narrower protection than would a substantial purpose test, the dominant purpose standard appears to me consistent with the notion that the litigation privilege should be viewed as a limited exception to the principle of full disclosure and not as an equal partner of the broadly interpreted solicitor-client privilege. The dominant purpose test is more compatible with the contemporary trend favouring increased disclosure. As Royer has noted, it is hardly surprising that modern legislation and case law

[TRANSLATION] which increasingly attenuate the purely accusatory and adversarial nature of the civil trial, tend to limit the scope of this privilege [that is, the litigation privilege]. [para. 1139]

Or, as Carthy J.A. stated in Chrusz:

The modern trend is in the direction of complete discovery and there is no apparent reason to inhibit that trend so long as counsel is left with sufficient flexibility to adequately serve the litigation client. [p. 331]

61. While the solicitor-client privilege has been strengthened, reaffirmed and elevated in recent years, the litigation privilege has had, on the contrary, to weather the trend toward mutual and reciprocal disclosure which is the hallmark of the judicial process. In this context, it would be incongruous to reverse that trend and revert to a substantial purpose test.

In ordering that the Defendants produce the relevant documents the Court held that the dominant purpose of much of the defendants insurer’s early investigations was due to ‘adjusting‘ the potential claims as opposed to in response to anticipated ‘litigation‘.

Since ICBC is a monopoly insurer in British Columbia the analysis of the ‘adjusting‘ phase vs. the ‘litigation‘ stage will be triggered in most multi-party motor vehicle collisions.  The lesson to be learned is that many documents which are gathered by ICBC in the early stages which may prove harmful to a Defendant if disclosed may not be protected by privilege if they were gathered by for the dominant purpose of determining how a collision occurred.

Defence Medical Exams – BCSC More Than Just A "Rubber Stamp"


As readers of this blog know when people sue for damages in the BC Supreme Court as a result of an Injury Claim they give up certain privacy rights.  Documents need to be disclosed to opposing counsel, examinations for discovery can be compelled, even ‘independent‘ medical exams can be ordered.
In the course of an Injury Claim Rule 30 of the BC Supreme Court Rules permits a Court to order that a Plaintiff undergo a Defence Medical Exam(DME) in order to “level the playing field“.   It is generally accepted that at least one DME will be ordered by the Court if requested in a typical personal injury claim.  Such an order, however, is not an automatic right and reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Chapman v. Magee) the Plaintiff was injured in “a reasonably nasty motor vehicle accident involving…a car and a motorcycle“.  The Injuries included a flailed chest and a broken ankle.
The Defence lawyer asked that the Plaintiff attend a defence medical exam with a respirologist and an orthopaedic surgeon.   The Plaintiff’s lawyer did not consent and a court motion was brought to compel attendance.  Master Caldwell dismissed the application finding that the materials in support were “significantly wanting“.    The Court noted that while the evidentiary burden on these applications is not high the Court is not a ‘rubber stamp‘ and some evidence needs to be tendered.  Specifically Master Caldwell stated:

There is nothing in the material where counsel opines as to the need for these reports or these examinations to be done, which, as I see the case authority, and in particular, Astels, para. 23, where the court says:

In addition to the paralegal’s affidavit, there was also in evidence a letter from counsel for the defendants to counsel for the plaintiff concerning the proposed medical examination in which counsel for the defendant said:

You will be asking the court to retrospectively decide whether or not the plaintiff was totally disabled the date the action was commenced.  Clearly medical opinion in that regard is relevant.

[5] He is opining there as counsel as to the importance and purpose of the Rule 30 examinations.  In my view, that sets out a bare minimum, and I do not want to be overly technical because it may or may not be efficient to go on that basis, but in my view there is not a scintilla of evidence here from counsel or otherwise as to the use that this information would be put to.  I can certainly speculate and it would appear from the pleadings that I could speculate as to what use it might be made, but far and away from what the minimum level is, it would be nice on these applications to have letters or some kind of material from a doctor opining as to why they need to see the person.  That certainly goes beyond what would be needed, but in my view, Astels puts down a bare minimum.

[6] And as I say, I may be being overly technical, but I do not think so.  These are not rubber-stamp applications and they cannot become rubber-stamp applications.  There must be some substance relating to what this information is going to be used for and what the focus is going to be.  And, frankly, having gone over the lunch hour and again read the letters, I can find no such supporting evidence in the material filed by the defendant.

[7] On that basis, this application for today by the defendants is dismissed.  It is dismissed without prejudice to their right to re-bring the application on proper material because I think there may be something out there and I think Rule 1(5) does say “on the merits” and it should not be just simply a technical slam-dunk there.  But the application on the basis of the material before me has to be dismissed in my respectful view.  It has to be dismissed on the basis that costs will be to the plaintiff in any event of the cause on this because the material brought by the defence simply is not adequate.  The issue of costs in subsequent application, should the defence seek to bring such an application, can be dealt with by the court that hears that application.

As with all civil procedure cases I will cross reference this with the New BC Supreme Court Civil Rules.  Rule 30 is replaced with Rule 7-6 and the wording is almost identical under the new rules making precedents such as this one useful under the soon to be in place new system.

Contact

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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