Tag: Rule 22-2

Affidavits: A Reminder Not to Assume, Comment or Argue


Affidavits need to comply with the same rules that govern admissibility of evidence at trial.  Failure to do so can result in portions of affidavits being struck.   Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In last month’s case (Haughian v. Jiwa) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  During a summary trial the Plaintiff introduced an affidavit from a witness who supported the Plaintiff’s version of events regarding the circumstances of the crash.  The affidavit, unfortunately, violated several evidentiary rules and the Defendant objected to its admission.  In striking portions of the affidavit the Court provided the following reasons:

[15] Rule 22-2(12) and 22-3(13) provides:

(12)      Subject to subrule (13), an affidavit must state only what a    person swearing or affirming the affidavit would be permitted to state in evidence at a trial.

(13)      An affidavit may contain statements as to the information and belief of the person swearing or affirming the affidavit, if

(a)        the source of the information and belief is given, and

(b)        the affidavit is made

(i)         in respect of an application that does not seek a final order, …

[16] As noted in Chamberlain v. Surrey School District # 36 (Surrey) (1998), 168 D.L.R. (4th) 222, 85 A.C.W.S. (3d) 72 (B.C.S.C.), by Saunders J. at para. 15:

[15]      The court has the power to strike inadmissible evidence from affidavits: Evans Forest Products Ltd. v. The Chief Forester of British Columbia (6 April 1995), Vancouver A943891 (B.C.S.C.) [summarized 54 A.C.W.S. (3d) 180].  In practical terms, when there is no time between the application to strike inadmissible evidence and the hearing of the lis, this means portions of filed affidavits are given no weight by the court.

[17] The witness was turning right onto Sunset Street.  He deposes the following in his affidavit (the bold portions are in dispute):

6.         At the time Mr. Jiwa turned left on to Sunset Street from Smith Avenue Southbound, I had been about to turn right onto Sunset Street from Smith Avenue Northbound.  Although I had the right of way to proceed onto Sunset Street, Mr. Jiwa was proceeding anyway so I braked and waited until it was safe to make my turn immediately after Mr. Jiwa made his turn.  Mr. Jiwa cut me off to make his turn and I am very confident that had I been continuing straight northbound on Smith Avenue instead of turning right onto Sunset Street, my vehicle would have been struck by Mr. Jiwa.

7.         I disagree with paragraph 11 of Mr. Jiwa’s affidavit.  It was very clear to me that Mr. Jiwa was in a hurry.  He was driving aggressively and too fast for the area.  He was driving dangerously immediately before the accident.

8.         When I turned onto Sunset Street at almost the same time as Mr. Jiwa, I immediately saw that Ms. Haughian’s vehicle was already in the process of parking.  I am certain that Ms. Haughian was not making a wide turn from the left lane at the time Mr. Jiwa struck her vehicle as Mr. Jiwa states at paragraph 12 of his affidavit.  I disagree that Mr. Jiwa was unable to stop before colliding with Mrs. Haughian’s car.  If Mr. Jiwa had not been speeding he had plenty of time to stop because I noticed the Plaintiff’s vehicle immediately upon turning onto Sunset Street and I was behind Mr. Jiwa.  Since I could see that Ms. Haughian was in the process of parking I cannot understand why Mr. Jiwa could not see that.

12.       After the accident, I gave my contact information to Ms. Haughian because I felt that Mr. Jiwa was absolutely the at fault driver.  Mr. Jiwa was driving too fast and could have avoided the accident.

13.       I provided a statement to ICBC on June 17, 2008. Attached hereto and marked as Exhibit “A” to this my affidavit is a true copy of the statement I provided to ICBC.  I do not have an unredacted copy of the statement.  I confirm that the contents of my June 17, 2008 statement to ICBC are true and accurately recount what I observed a the time of the accident.  I disagree only with: firstly that I observed the Haughian vehicle pulling in, and secondly that I referred to Mr. Jiwa as “Indo Canadian”.  As I did not sign the statement, I would have made those changes if I was asked to sign.

[18] The defendant seeks to have the bold portions struck as being hearsay, personal opinion, editorial commentary or argument rather than fact.

[19] The witness should have confined his evidence to facts.  He should not have added his descriptive opinions of those facts (see L.M.U. v. R.L.U., 2004 BCSC 95, at para. 40; Creber v. Franklin, 42 A.C.W.S. (3d) 231, at paras. 19-21).

[20] I agree that the portions of the affidavit that are in bold in paras. 6, 7 and 12 constitute personal assumptions, commentary and argument rather than fact.  However, I am not satisfied that the statements amount to hearsay, as alleged by the defendant.  Paragraph 8 is also struck for the same reasons with the exception of the first two sentences.  Given that the application to strike was concurrent with the hearing of this application, I place no weight on the portions noted when considering the issue of liability.

Affidavits and Exhibits: Take Care To Review the Whole of the Evidence


Once evidence is introduced at trial it is fair game for the finder of fact to rely on it even if the party that introduced it opposes this result.  Useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, illustrating this fact.
In this week’s case (Chow-Hidasi v. Hidasi) the Plaintiff was injured in a single vehicle accident.  She was a passenger and sued the driver claiming he was at fault for losing control for “overdriving the road conditions“.  The Defendant argued that he lost control because he experienced a sudden and unexpected mechanical failure and could not avoid the collision.  Ultimately this explanation was accepted and the Plaintiff’s lawsuit was dismissed.  Prior to reaching this conclusion the Court ruled on an interesting evidentiary issue.
The trial was a “summary trial” under Rule 9-7 in which the evidence is introduced through affidavits.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer’s legal assistant attached portions of the Defendant’s examination for discovery transcript as an exhibit to her affidavit.
The Plaintiff wished to only rely on portions of the reproduced transcript.  The Defendant decided to take advantage of other portions of his discovery evidence which was included in the affidavit.  The Plaintiff objected arguing that he introduced the evidence and only wished to rely on limited portions of it.  Mr. Justice Barrow rejected this argument finding once the evidence was introduced through the affidavit it was fair game for the defendant to rely on it.  The Court provided the following insightful reasons:

[6] The plaintiff objected to the admissibility of some of the examination for discovery evidence of Mr. Hidasi, evidence that Mr. Hidasi points to in support of his position. All of the impugned discovery evidence is exhibited to an affidavit of the plaintiff’s counsel’s legal assistant. As I understand the objection, it is that the questions in dispute were reproduced and exhibited to the legal assistant’s affidavit because they appear on pages of the transcript that contain other questions and answers which the plaintiff wishes to rely on. I pause to note that while that may be so, the affidavit itself does not contain a statement to that effect. On the first day of the hearing the plaintiff’s counsel provided the defendant with a list of specific discovery questions that he wished to rely on. The questions and answers to which objection is taken are not on that list.

[7] I am satisfied that the questions and answers are admissible, and that no prejudice inures to the plaintiff as a result. They are admissible because the plaintiff put them in evidence. As to the notice of the specific questions and answers the plaintiff wished to rely on, it does not alter of the foregoing. If it was intended to be a notice as contemplated by Rule 9-7(9), it was not filed within the time limited under Rule 8-1(8). It is therefore of no moment. As to the question of prejudice, the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the plaintiff’s notice of application is that the impugned evidence formed part of the plaintiff’s case. The defendant could have addressed the matters about which he gave evidence on discovery in his affidavit evidence. He may not have, I infer, because he concluded it was unnecessary given that the plaintiff had already put those matters into evidence. In any event, if the discovery evidence is excluded, fairness would require an adjournment to allow the defendant to supplement the evidence given the changed face of the evidentiary record he had reasonably thought would form the basis for the hearing. All that would have been accomplished in the result is that the evidence that is contained in the discovery answers would be before the court in the form of an affidavit.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the legal principle of ‘spoiliation’ at paragraphs 30-33 of the reasons for judgement.

Can Lawyers Swear Affidavits In Support of Their Clients Interlocutory Applications?


In British Columbia the short answer is yes.  Useful reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this topic at length.
In last week’s case (The Los Angeles Salad Company Inc. v. Canadian Food Inspection Agency) the Plaintiff’s lawyer filed an affidavit in support of two applications of the Plaintiff.  The Defendant objected to this arguing that it was an improper practice and breached the principles set out in the Canadian Bar Association’s Code of Professional Conduct and the BC Professional Conduct Handbook.  Mr. Justice Harris disagreed and provided the following helpful reasons:

[15] No authority was cited to me in that establishes a binding general rule that solicitors cannot not swear affidavits in interlocutory proceedings in which they or their firm are counsel. To the contrary, even the professional guidelines support such a practice within limits. The case law also indicates that counsel is legally competent to swear an affidavit, even in relation to matters in dispute, although that practice is to be discouraged: see, National Financial Services Corporation v. Wolverton Securities Ltd. (1998), 52 B.C.L.R. 302 (S.C.) at para. 7.

[16] The Canadian Bar Association Code of Professional Conduct qualifies its statement of principle about lawyers swearing affidavits by referring to local rules or practice authorizing lawyers to do so. In British Columbia it is the practice for counsel to swear affidavits, on occasion, particularly in respect to uncontroverted matters or matters relevant to the interlocutory issue before court. The practice obviously carries risks, not least that a solicitor may be cross-examined on the affidavit, waive privilege or may succeed inadvertently in putting his or her credibility in issue. There are many good reasons for counsel to take great care in swearing affidavits in cases in which they are counsel.

[17] Nonetheless, there are occasions when the use of counsel affidavits is justified as a matter of practice. Sometimes, at least in respect of interlocutory matters, the evidence of counsel may be the best evidence available. It may often be economical and timely to have counsel swear an affidavit in support of interlocutory application. Introducing a legal rule that upset this practice would defeat the object of the Supreme Court Civil Rules to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits including conducting the proceeding in ways proportionate to the amount involved in the proceeding, the importance of the issues in dispute and the complexity of the proceeding.

[18] Equally, the fact that the affidavit contains some evidence on information and belief provided to the affiant by Mr. Sanderson who then commissioned the affidavit and argued the matter in court does not in itself compel the conclusion that the affidavit is inadmissible. I was not taken to any particular examples of information provided by Mr. Sanderson that gave rise to a concern that counsel were merely attempting to circumvent the professional guideline that counsel should not speak to their own affidavits, particularly if the subject matter is contentious.

[19] In my view, it would be a mistake to recognize or create a special rule requiring the rejection of affidavits sworn by counsel if those affidavits contain both admissible and inadmissible evidence. Insofar as admissibility is concerned, solicitors’ affidavits are governed by the same rules as any other affidavit. Inadmissible content may be ignored or formally struck, but the affidavit as a whole need not be rejected.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer