Tag: objections

More on the Broad Scope of Examination for Discovery

As previously discussed, BC Courts take a broad view of relevance when it comes to examination for discovery.  Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this topic.
In the recent case (Burgess v. Buell Distribution Corporation) the Plaintiff suffered “very serious personal injury” in a motorcycle accident.  He was operating a motorcycle with a side-car when he was injured. He sued the manufacturer and other parties.  At the Defendant’s discovery the Plaintiff wished to canvass standards the Defendant had for two wheeled motorcycles (ie- motorcycles without a side-car).  The Defendant objected arguing these questions are not relevant because a motorcycle with a side-car is a “discrete three-wheeled vehicle with handling characteristics not shared by a two-wheeled vehicle.
The Plaintiff brought application compelling answers to the contentious questions.  Mr. Justice Cullen granted the application and in doing so provided the following reasons confirming the broader scope of relevance at the discovery stage:

[10] The parties agree that the operative rule is Rule 7-2(18)(a) which reads as follows:

(18)      Unless the court otherwise orders, a person being examined for discovery

(a)        must answer any question within his or her knowledge or means of knowledge regarding any matter, not privileged, relating to a matter in question in the action ….

[11] The plaintiff takes the position that it is the pleadings which determine the issues and hence the question of relevance citing the decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal inCominco Ltd. v. Westinghouse Canada Ltd., [1979] B.C.J. No. 1963.

[12] The plaintiff says the Court on an application such as this ought not to consider evidence in rendering a decision as to do so prejudges the effect of the examination for discovery and usurps the role of the trial judge.

[13] The defendant on the other hand says the only way to determine relevance within the meaning of the Rule is to consider what the available evidence is likely to establish. The defendant says if I consider the evidence of its expert it will establish that the questions concerning the characteristics of a two-wheeled vehicle are simply not relevant to the characteristics of a three-wheeled vehicle and should not be permitted under the Rule.

[14] The plaintiff on the other hand submits that even if I do consider the evidence the question is simply not so clear cut that I could make a determination without effectively usurping the role of a trial judge.

[15] As I see it, this is not a case where it could be said that on the pleadings there is no relevance to the questions being posed. As Seaton J.A. pointed out in West Coast Transmission:

It is not appropriate to plead evidence and the information respecting these other cables is essentially evidence from which the Court will be asked to conclude that the defendants knew or ought to have known of a danger. The respondents relied upon an affidavit to the effect that evidence of non-tech cable would not be a guide to the propensities of tech cable. The respondents refused to answer questions on that subject. I do not think it appropriate to conclude on affidavit evidence that a proposition is unsound and exclude the area from the examination. That is what was done here. It was said then that before there could be examination with respect to cable other than tech cable the appellant would have to establish that the other cable was similar. I know of no procedure whereby a party can prove an aspect of his case before discovery. The decision on similarity ought to be made at trial, not before trial, and particularly not before discovery.

[16] In my view, on that basis the order sought should go. If I am wrong in that however, I am still not satisfied having considered the evidence put before me that there is not some relevance to the questions being posed. There is a difference between the views of the experts as to the possible cause of the accident and whether it resides exclusively in the characteristics of the vehicle as a three-wheeled vehicle or whether it has its source in the component parts of the two-wheeled vehicle. And that is a question essentially for the trial judge.

[17] In his affidavit of December 12, 2011, the plaintiff’s expert deposes as follows in para. 6:

6.         The steering assembly of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle sidecar is identical to that found on the solo motorcycle. The underlying steering assembly response of the base solo motorcycle will behave in the same manner as that same unit will respond when attached to the motorcycle sidecar. This is because they are exactly identical mechanical devices. What will be different is the level of the response of the solo motorcycle vehicle compared to the level of response of the motorcycle sidecar vehicle and the path each vehicle takes due to shaking (oscillations) of the steering assembly once that shaking is initiated.

[18] While I do not in any way wish to be taken as resolving the issue which undoubtedly is a very complex one, I am simply not able to say that the characteristics of some components of the two-wheeled vehicle as revealed by the questions posed may not be germane to the effect upon the three-wheeled vehicle at issue in this lawsuit and, accordingly, for those reasons, I will grant the application of the plaintiff.

ICBC Claims and Proper Objections to Examination For Discovery Questions

In one of the more in-depth judicial discussions of examinations for discovery in the context of a personal injury claims, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the scope of proper objections at a Plaintiff’s examination.
In today’s case (Nwachukwu v. Ferreira) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 collision.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff attended three examinations for discovery.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer raised numerous objections during these and the discoveries were ultimately cut short.  The Defendant brought an application directing the Plaintiff to answer the questions which were objected to and further for permission to conduct a lengthier examination for discovery pursuant to Rule 7-2(2).
Mr. Justice Willcock granted the application finding there was “significant obstruction” at the previous discoveries.  In doing so the Court provided the following helpful comments about the scope of discovery and of common objections:

[32] The scope of examination for discovery has recently been canvassed by this court in Kendall v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, 2010 BCSC 1556; More Marine Ltd. v. Shearwater Marine Ltd., 2011 BCSC 166; and Day v. Hume, 2009 BCSC 587.  In those cases, the court reiterated the following principles:  the language of Rule 7-2(18) is identical to the former Rule 27(22) and the scope of examination for discovery has remained unchanged and is very broad.  Rigid limitations rigidly applied can destroy the right to a proper examination for discovery.  Useful or effective cross-examination would be impossible if counsel could only ask such questions as plainly revealed their purpose.  An examination for discovery is in the nature of cross-examination.  Counsel for the party being examined should not interfere except where it is clearly necessary to resolve ambiguity in a question or to prevent injustice.

[33] The time limit established by Rule 7-2(2) creates a greater obligation on counsel for the party being examined to avoid unduly objecting or interfering in a way that wastes the time available.  A largely hands-off approach to examinations for discovery, except in the clearest of circumstances, is in accord with the object of the Rules of Court, particularly the newly stated object of proportionality.  Allowing wide-ranging cross-examination on examination for discovery is far more cost effective than a practice that encourages objections which will undoubtedly result in subsequent chambers applications to require judges or masters to rule on the objections.  It is far more efficient for counsel for the examinee to raise objections to the admissibility of evidence at trial rather than on examination for discovery.  Where intervention is appropriate, the proper conduct of counsel is to state the objection to the form of a question and the reasons for the objection, but it is not appropriate to make comments, suggestions or criticism.

Applicable Law

[34] Many of the specific objections in issue are addressed in an article by John Shields and Howard Shapray published in The Advocate, Vol. 68, pt. 5 (September 2010) at page 671, referred to by Mr. Markham-Zantvoort in argument.

(a) Relevance

[35] Counsel objects to many questions on the grounds that they are not relevant.  In addressing these objections, I proceed from the proposition that counsel should have broad discretion to frame appropriate questions for the examination of the plaintiff, respecting the principles described in the cases to which I have referred.

(b) Confusion

[36] Counsel objects to many questions on the grounds that he finds them confusing.  In Cominco Ltd. v. Westinghouse Canada Limited (1979), 11 B.C.L.R. 142 (C.A.), the Court of Appeal at para. 19 held:

If a question is difficult to answer, the witness can say so and can be cross-examined about the difficulty. It is for the witness, not counsel, to deal with that.  Difficulty in answering does not exclude a whole area. It excludes specific questions.  No area of fact is closed on the ground that to enter it would “open the floodgates”.

(c) Repetition

[37] Counsel objects to questions he considers repetitive.  As Shields and Shapray note, “asked and answered” is not an appropriate objection in Canada.  Madam Justice Boyd in Rec Holdings Co. v. Peat Marwick Thorne Holdings, [1995] B.C.J. No. 1964 (S.C.), held at para. 9:

It is trite law that an examination for discovery is in the nature of a cross-examination.  While there will be situations in which repeating the same allowable question over and over on cross-examination may amount to intimidation, the Court must be slow to interfere where that tactic is used relatively sparingly and particularly in circumstances in which there are good grounds for the cross-examiner’s belief the witness may be falsifying his evidence.

(d) Inadequate Foundation

[38] Shields and Shapray say there is no requirement that a foundation be laid for a question.  In Cominco, the court noted at para. 632:

The objection is that no foundation was laid for the questions.  That suggestion does not appear to have been made at the time and I think that, if one objects, one should say why.  Presuming that this objection can now be made, I merely say that I know of no requirement that a foundation be laid.  None was cited to us.  Those questions should have been answered by the witness without interruption by counsel.

(e) Compound Questions

[39] Counsel routinely objected to questions that he considered to be compounded questions.  Shields and Shapray say, properly in my view, that objection to the form of question should be used sparingly.

(f) Privelege

[40] Counsel objected, at the most recent examination, when the plaintiff was asked what he alleges or says in relation to the claim.  The plaintiff cannot be asked what counsel told him about his claim or how the case will be framed at trial.  He may not be asked how much he will say he has lost, if the answer requires disclosure of an opinion obtained by the solicitor.  Question 1152 on the examination for discovery seems to seek such information.

[41] The witness cannot be asked to disclose how the facts having assembled, weighed or analysed by counsel.  That is what was offensive in the general requests considered by the court inTriathlon Ltd. v. Kirkpatrick, 2006 BCSC 890.  The questions asked in that case were held to offend the description of the privilege afforded to the solicitor’s brief in Hodgkinson v. Simms(1988), 33 B.C.L.R. (2d) 129 (C.A.).  It was the manner of getting at the work product by asking what facts had been assembled by counsel or what facts would be relied upon, rather than by asking about specific facts, that was objectionable.  The manner in which facts have been marshalled is a question going to trial strategy.  It is for that reason that I expect that counsel have included in the book of authorities Blue Line Hockey Acquisition Co., Inc. v. Orca Bay Hockey Limited Partnership, 2007 BCSC 143, although no express reference was made to it in oral submissions.  In that case, questions were held to be objectionable because of what was being sought: conclusions reached by counsel, rather than the evidence of the witness.

[42] Questions that intrude upon privilege are generally objectionable.  That is expressly reflected in Rule 7-2(18).  Care should be taken to protect the solicitor/client relationship.

The New Rules of Court and Examinations for Discovery


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing the scope of permissible questions at examinations for discovery under the new Civil Rules.  In short, the Court noted that although the New Rules contain some changes with respect to the time permitted for discovery, precedents developed under the former rules remain good law with respect to permissible questions.  The court also addressed the factors that can be considered in extending an examination for discovery.
In today’s case (Kendall v. Sun Life Assurance Company) the Plaintiff had disability insurance with the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sued claiming the Defendant improperly denied her insurance benefits.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff examined a representative of Sun Life for discovery.  During the course of discovery Sun Life’s lawyer caused “so much disruption” with interfering objections that Plaintiff’s counsel terminated the examination prematurely and walked out.
The Plaintiff brought a motion compelling the representative to attend discovery again to complete the examination, to answer the questions that were objected to and to extend the time of discovery beyond the permitted 7 hours.  Madam Justice Griffin granted the motion and in doing so made the following comments about the scope of permissible discovery questions under the new rules:

[6]             Rule 7-2(18)(a) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009 [Rules of Court] sets out the scope of examination as follows:

(18)      Unless the court otherwise orders, a person being examined for discovery

(a)        must answer any question within his or her knowledge or means of knowledge regarding any matter, not privileged, relating to a matter in question in the action, …

[7]             Despite a variety of substantive changes to the Rules of Court enacted effective July 1, 2010, the scope of examination for discovery has remained unchanged and is very broad….

[13]         While the scope of examination for discovery has not changed with the new Rules of Court brought into force on July 1, 2010, the length of examination for discovery is now limited to seven hours or any greater period to which the person to be examined consents: Rule 7-2(2).

[14]          The newly imposed time limit on discovery makes it all the more important that the courts enforce the principle that counsel for the examined party must not unduly interfere or intervene during the examination for discovery.  The time limit imposes a self-policing incentive on the examining counsel to be focused and to not waste time on questions that will not advance the purpose of investigating the case or obtaining admissions for use at trial.

[15]         While the time limit on examination for discovery creates an incentive on the examining party to be efficient, it unfortunately also creates a risk that counsel for the examinee will be inefficient by unduly objecting and interfering on the discovery, for the purpose of wasting the limited time available.  If that party is economically stronger than the examining party, it also can strategically increase the costs of litigation this way, by burdening the financially disadvantaged party with having to bring a court application to obtain a proper discovery.

[16]         The proper conduct of an examination for discovery within the spirit of the Rules thus relies on the professionalism of counsel for the party being examined.

[17]         As held by the Ontario Superior Court in Iroquois Falls Power Corp. v. Jacobs Canada Inc. (2006), 83 O.R. (3d) 438 at para. 4:

Improper interference by counsel in the other party’s discovery undermines the purposes of discovery, prolongs it, fosters professional mistrust and generally offends the overall purpose of the Rules….

[18]         A largely “hands off” approach to examinations for discovery, except in the clearest of circumstances, is in accord with the object of the Rules of Court, particularly the newly stated object of proportionality, effective July 1, 2010.  Allowing wide-ranging cross-examination on examination for discovery is far more cost-effective than a practice that encourages objections, which will undoubtedly result in subsequent chambers applications to require judges or masters to rule on the objections.  It is far more efficient for counsel for the examinee to raise objections to the admissibility of evidence at trial, rather than on examination for discovery. ..

[52] In summary, the majority of objections made were not valid. The objections were undue interference in the flow of the examination for discovery.  It may or may not be the case that some of the questions were worded awkwardly and may have been seeking evidence of marginal relevance.  The examining party who frames questions badly runs the risk that the evidence obtained will end up being of no value.  Nevertheless, considerable respect ought to be shown for the professional judgment of counsel for the examining party on how to best approach an examination for discovery.  It is not up to counsel for the party being examined to dictate the opposing side’s decisions on which relevant areas of questioning should be the focus of the discovery.  It is also not in accord with the object of proportionality to make it the function of the court to become involved in micro-managing examination for discovery questions.

In addition to the above this case is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s discussion of the many specific objections that were raised.  In particular, the Court held that it is permissible in lawsuits for denied insurance benefits to ask the insurer’s representative about their general practices.

Examinations for Discovery and Proper Objections in ICBC Injury Claims

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing examinations for discovery in ICBC Injury Claims and the proper way to frame objections.
In yesterday’s case (Day v. Hume) the Plaintiff allegedly suffered a brain injury as a result of a serious motor vehicle accident.  In the course of being examined for discovery the Plaintiff’s lawyer ‘intervened on several occasions and, in the end, terminated the examination after 50 minutes over (the objection of the ICBC defence lawyer).’
As a result ICBC’s lawyer brought a motion seeking to dismiss the Plaintiff’s lawsuit on the basis that he unreasonably refused to answer questions put to him in discovery.
Madam Justice Smith of the BC Supreme Court declined to grant ICBC this relief and in doing so highlighted some points about the proper course of objecting to questions in examinations for discovery.  I reproduce the highlights of the courts discussion below:

[20]            The principles emerging from the authorities are clear.  An examination for discovery is in the nature of cross-examination and counsel for the party being examined should not interfere except where it is clearly necessary to resolve ambiguity in a question or to prevent injustice.  Intervention should not be in a form that suggests to a witness what a desirable answer might be.  As stated by Garson J. in Forliti v. Woolley, the proper conduct of counsel is to state the objection to the form of the question and the reasons for the objection, but it is not appropriate to make comments, suggestions, or criticism. 

[21]            There was no real disagreement about the legal principles, except that Mr. Maryn submitted that it must be recognized that the practice has changed since Cominco was decided in that it is now necessary to bring on an application in Chambers with respect to disputes about relevance or other matters at examinations for discovery.  Mr. Maryn submitted that it is quite appropriate for counsel to have a discussion about what might make a line of inquiry relevant and he suggested that if counsel for the defendant had been more forthcoming in this case, some of the problems leading to this application might have been avoided. 

[22]            Mr. Maryn also submitted that, in this case, where his client has suffered a brain injury and consequential memory loss, it was appropriate to remind him during the course of the examination for discovery not to make guesses.  Mr. Duplessis’s submission on that point was that it is not appropriate to remind a witness of such instructions and that any of Mr. Maryn’slegitimate concerns could be resolved through appropriate re-examination at the end of the examination for discovery. 

[23]            Looking at the transcript in this case, while possibly Mr. Maryn would have been justified in reminding his witness once not to guess or speculate and his initial comment to that effect was probably appropriate, his statement after question 39… went well beyond a reminder….  

[24]            There was also disagreement as to whether or not counsel for the party under examination for discovery can make statements for the record at the examination for discovery.  Mr. Duplessis took the position that it is not open to counsel to state things for the record.  I disagree.  Although, as I have stated, counsel for the party under examination should not make comments unless they are clearly necessary, it may be appropriate for counsel making an objection to state briefly what the objection is based upon.  First, that may lead to a resolution of the matter through discussion between counsel and avoid this kind of application.  Second, it facilitates a determination of the issue by the court if there is an application to compel an answer.  However, objections by counsel should be concise and to the point….


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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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