Tag: Rule 12-2(3.6)

Court Critical of "Uninformative" Trial Briefs

Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, with critical comments about “uninformative” trial briefs.
In today’s case (Kirk v. Nanaimo Literacy Association) the parties wishes to dispense with an otherwise mandatory trial management conference and asked the court to waive the hearing.  In refusing to do so the Court was critical of the trial briefs filed and provided the following comments:

[6]             Both parties state in their trial briefs that they expect the trial to be completed within the scheduled time. Yet I don’t know on what basis that assertion could be made because the total time estimates for witnesses and submissions in the two trial briefs exceeds the time set for trial by almost two days. Again, perhaps the trial was rescheduled for more days, but I have not been given any trial briefs reflecting that.

[7]             Further, the trial briefs do not indicate that counsel have fully considered all matters that might usefully be explored at a TMC. For example, the plaintiff’s trial brief, after listing the witnesses to be called, states:

The filing party may call further witnesses to address any outstanding documentary hearsay concerns which the parties are unable to resolve prior to trial.

[8]             If there are unresolved issues about admissibility of documents, particularly if it is going to affect the number of witnesses to be called, that is an issue to be explored at the TMC and the parties are not ready for trial within the meaning of R. 12-2(3.6).

[9]             Under the category of “Admissions”, the plaintiff’s brief says the plaintiff will admit that:

A document which conforms to the requirements set out in the Evidence Act, RSBC 1996, C. 124, s.42 is admissible as prima facie proof of any fact otherwise provable through direct oral evidence.

[11]         Thus, the purported “admission” by the plaintiff amounts to no more than a statement that the law of British Columbia applies to this case. That does not assist the Court in determining what facts will or will not be at issue in trial. I assume there are documents that qualify as business records under the Act, that certain facts stated in them are relevant to the issues in this case and the plaintiff is admitting or not disputing those facts. If that is the case, a party who wishes to be excused from attending a TMC must set out what those admitted facts are.

[12]         The defendant’s trial brief is equally uninformative on this issue. It simply says that the facts the defendant will admit will be “determined prior to trial date”.

[13]         Clearly, as of the date they wrote their trial briefs, counsel had not clearly turned their minds to or discussed the question of what facts could be admitted. Counsel who do not make that effort cannot expect to be excused from attending a TMC.

[14]         Under the heading of “Authorities”, both parties simply state they do not expect a joint brief of authorities at trial. That is not sufficient. The trial brief asks counsel to refer to authorities in order to identify the legal issues that will be argued at trial and in order to satisfy the Court that the parties and counsel have considered the law as it may affect their position at trial. That does not mean counsel need to cite every case they may wish to refer to at trial, but by the time they start preparing trial briefs, counsel should have identified the most important ones.

[15]         This is a wrongful dismissal case, so counsel should by now be familiar with the leading cases in that area as well as any others that are particularly relevant, such as by virtue of comparable facts. Those should have been referred to in the trial brief.

[16]         In short, the trial briefs submitted are largely pro-forma documents that do not give the Court confidence that all issues have been addressed or that all potentially useful discussions between counsel have taken place. The application to dispense with the TMC is therefore dismissed.

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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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