BC Injury Claims and Document Disclosure – Can a Court Order a Plaintiff to "Consent"?
Important reasons for judgement came to my attention today dealing with discovery of documents in BC Injury Litigation.
The BC Supreme Court Rules require parties to give discovery of relevant documents in their possession or control. Often times there are relevant documents that are not in the Plaintiff’s possession or control but the Plaintiff has the ability to easily get these documents. (For example medical records documenting accident related injuries.) Such records are commonly referred to as “Third Party Records”.
When a Defendant requests Third Party Records Plaintiff’s often consent, obtain the documents, and then exchange a copy of the relevant records. When the parties don’t consent a Court Motion can be brought.
With this background in mind today’s case dealt with an important topic; when a motion for Third Party Records is brought can the Court order that the Plaintiff sign authorizations to allow the Defendant to get the records directly? Mr. Justice Hinkson held that such a shortcut is not allowed under the Rules of Court.
In today’s case (Stead v. Brown) the Defendant “brought an application to require the plaintiff to execute consent forms for the production of the records of some ten doctors, three hospitals, two groups of physiotherapists, WorkSafeBC, the Ministry of Housing, and Service Canada“.
The Plaintiff opposed the application on the basis that the Court lacked the power to make such an order. Mr. Justice Hinkson agreed and held that even if the requests were relevant a Court could not compel disclosure in this fashion, instead the Defendant would have to follow the procedure set out in Rule 26(11) of the BC Supreme Court Rules.
In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Hinkson was referred to the BC Court of Appeal decision Peel Financial Holdings Ltd. v. Western Delta Lands where the BC High Court held that “The Supreme Court judge cited no authority fo rhis power to compel a party to consent, and no authority for such a power was provided to us. As I jhave said, a consent given pursuant to an order is a contradiciton in terms“.
Mr. Justice Hinkson went on to find that while there was another case (Lewis v. Frye) which held that a Supreme Court judge could compel a party to sign an authorization, that decision was wrong. Specifically Mr. Justice Hinkson held as follows:
Regrettably the decision of the Court of Appeal in Peel Financial Holdings Ltd. was not considered which Hood J. and I am persuaded that the binding nature of that authority if considered would have altered the conclusion reached by him had the authority been brought to his attention.
I conclude that the plaintiff in this case cannot be ordered to execute authorizations for the release of records in the (hands) of third parties. The mechanism that must be pursued in order to obtain the hospital and doctors’ records is pursuant to Rule 26(11) of the Rules of Court.
This decision is important because it clarifies the procedures that must be used when Defendants in Injury Lawsuits wish to obtain the records in the hands of Third Parties and the Plaintiff does not consent. Time will tell whether the New Rules of Court which soon come into force will effect this reasoning.