Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, providing useful comments on disclosure obligations of personal injury litigants under the BC Supreme Court Civil Rules.
In today’s case (Holmberg v. McMullen) the Plaintiff suffered “significant injuries” as a result of two vehicle collisions and sued for damages. In litigation the Defendants requested various pre accident medical records and pharmacological records arguing that when serious injuries are alleged such documents must be produced. A Master disagreed and dismissed the application. The Master’s decision was appealed which was also dismissed.
In noting that parties have no obligation to produce documents not in their possession or control in the first phase of document production and further that pre accident medical records are not producible on demand and as of right even in the face of serious injuries being disputed on the pleadings Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering broad document production from past litigation in a case of potential indivisible injuries.
In today’s case (Easton v. Chen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 collision and sued for damages. The Plaintiff was also involved in four prior collisions that resulted in injury claims, all of which settled prior to trial.
The Defendant requested production of past examination for discovery transcripts, expert reports and mediation documents on the basis that the injuries may be indivisible. In ordering production Master Muir provided the following reasons:
 I agree with the submissions of the defendant. I am satisfied that the prior documents, the discovery transcripts and the experts reports from the prior actions could be used to prove or disprove material facts in this action and on that basis alone I would order their production. I also conclude that in any event a sufficient foundation has been laid for their production under Rule 7-1(11). Further, I conclude that it is in the interests of justice to relieve against the implied undertaking of confidentiality. Thus, the documents are to be disclosed.
 The mediation documents sought raise another issue and that is settlement privilege. The defendant relies on Dholliwar v. Yu, 2015 BCSC 670 and Dos Santos (Committee of) v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, 2005 BCCA 4, for the proposition that the disclosure of these documents is necessary in order to prove what the plaintiff received in compensation in the prior accidents and to prevent injustice through potential double compensation.
 In Dholliwar, Master Scarth held:
 It has yet to be established here that the injuries arising from the third accident are indivisible from those in the first and second. However, on the basis that indivisibility is at issue, and that there is potential for over-compensation, it is appropriate to require disclosure of the settlement documents at this time. I accept the submission of the defendants that such disclosure is necessary, in that it may assist in the settlement of the plaintiff’s claims arising from the third accident. Disclosure at this time is consistent with the previous decisions of this Court in Pete and Murray. I am satisfied that the defendants here do not seek a purely tactical advantage, as the Court found in Phillips v. Stratton, 2007 BCSC 1298 (CanLII), but rather, they wish to have the information necessary to assess their exposure, both for purposes of settlement and in the preparation of their case for trial.
 In Dos Santos at para. 34, the Court stated that “significant weight should be given to the just disposition of pending litigation in determining whether the documents sought come within an exception to settlement privilege.” In my view, to find that the documents should be disclosed at this time is consistent with this approach
 Similarly in this case, indivisibility is an issue and the defendants argue there is a potential for double compensation. The only evidence available showing what the plaintiff was compensated for in the prior actions will be found in this documentation. As a result, I conclude that the mediation documents should be disclosed.
I’ve previously discussed the difficulty ICBC has trying to withhold documents in a personal injury lawsuit based on their ‘investigative’ responsibilities. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this topic.
In this week’s case (Spenst v. Reemeyer) the Plaintiff alleged injury s a result of a motor vehicle/pedestrian incident which occurred in 2010. In the course of the lawsuit ICBC denied liability on behalf of the motorist. ICBC refused to produce two ‘investigative reports’ they commissioned arguing these were protected by litigation privilege. Master Caldwell found the evidence ICBC produced in support of their claim fell short of the mark to obtain the protection of privilege and ordered production of the documents. After summarizing the legal principles involved Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:  In short, the determination as to whether litigation is contemplated as a reasonable prospect is not merely subjective and arbitrary but rather must be objective and based upon reasonable information obtained by appropriate investigation.  What does the evidence before me reveal when viewed in the light of the above tests?  First, I have absolutely no evidence from that adjuster who apparently had conduct of the file for the first 18 months. I am not told whether or not any investigations were undertaken during that time as to either the issue of liability or the extent of damages. Plaintiff’s counsel submitted, and defence counsel did not dispute, that no denial of liability was ever communicated to the plaintiff prior to the delivery of the Response to Civil Claim.  Second, Ms. Roach notes that the plaintiff retained counsel. Plaintiffs have a right to obtain legal advice, including legal advice regarding their rights and responsibilities arising out of motor vehicle or personal injury matters. Consultation with counsel is not a direct or even reasonable guarantee that one is on the road to active litigation; the involvement of counsel may well enhance the possibility of resolution short of trial.  Third, Ms. Roach says that she only handles claims that are being litigated or are likely to be litigated and thus she determined that since the file was transferred to her it would be litigated. Strangely however, Ms. Roach, in her own correspondence of May 8, 2012 (the day she commissioned the investigations/reports) wrote to plaintiff’s counsel: To minimize costs, I will work with you to conclude this matter as quickly as possible. If it is determined that your client is entitled to compensation, I will be prepared to release settlement funds only when the entire claim, including taxable costs and disbursements, has been resolved and the necessary release documentation completed. I look forward to working with you on this matter.  At the time Ms. Roach wrote this conciliatory letter referencing concluding the matter, entitlement to compensation and settlement funds in response to a similarly conciliatory letter of introduction from plaintiff’s counsel, action had not yet been commenced, no position on liability had been taken and there is no evidence that any substantive investigation or even basic inquiry had been undertaken regarding any aspect of the plaintiff’s claim. The mere arbitrary assertion that this file is likely to go to litigation because this adjuster handles only litigation files and she had decided it would go to litigation is not objectively defensible on the evidence before me.  Fourth, Ms. Roach says that the end of the limitation period was approaching and, by implication, litigation would have to be commenced. What this assertion fails to recognize is that there is a significant difference between the commencement of an action in order to protect against the expiry of a limitation period and the active conduct of litigation. In her May 8 correspondence, Ms. Roach expressly confirmed that her letter was not “a waiver or extension of any applicable limitation”. In order for any legitimate, even-handed settlement discussions to take place, as invited by her letter, it was necessary for plaintiff’s counsel to preserve the plaintiff’s right to claim at law for her alleged injuries in the event that negotiations failed.  Counsel for the defendant advised in submissions that the investigative reports were obtained not on the issue of liability but rather on the issue of quantum of damages. There was no evidence in the material to support that submission and counsel failed to indicate why that distinction would make a material difference in regard to the investigation/dominant purpose assessment.  The evidence before me fails to objectively establish to any certainty that the reports which were commissioned and which are sought by the plaintiff were commissioned for any purpose other than for basic investigation of the plaintiff’s claim. There is no evidence to indicate that the adjusters had undertaken any type of earlier investigation to determine whether there was a reasonable, objective basis upon which liability should be denied or quantum questioned. The reports are ordered produced forthwith.
Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further judicially shaping document disclosure obligations under the new rules of court.
In last week’s case (Bains v. Hookstra) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 motor vehicle collision. The Plaintiff agreed to produce his MSP Printout, Pharmanet Records and WCB records from the time of the crash onwards. The Defendant was not satisfied with this timeframe and sought these records from before the collision. In support of their application the Defendant produced evidence that the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions in the year prior to the accident at issue in the lawsuit. The Defendant plead that there was a pre-existing injury but the Court noted this was done in a “very pro-forma way“.
Master Muir ultimately rejected the application finding that evidence of previous collisions leads to no more than “mere speculation” of a pre-existing injury. In dismissing the application the Court provided the following reasons:  The applicant must demonstrate a connection between the documents sought and the issues beyond a “mere possibility”: Przybysz v. Crowe, 2011 BCSC 731 at para. 45, referencing Gorse v. Straker, 2010 BCSC 119 at para. 53, and, as was noted by Master Bouck in Edwards v. Ganzer, 2012 BCSC 138, at para. 51, “there must be some ‘air of reality’ between the documents and the issues in the action ….”  The plaintiff has clearly denied that he was suffering from any pre-existing injury at the time of the accident in question or for two years prior. He has further denied that he made any WCB claim during that two-year period.  The evidence put forward by the defendant does no more than raise the mere possibility of a prior existing condition. In the circumstances of the plaintiff’s denial, that evidence is insufficient to warrant an order for the production of the documents sought.  The defendant’s application is therefore dismissed
Adding to this site’s archived caselaw addressing examination for discovery, useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, making the following points:
1. silence (or even agreement) to a discovery request does not compel a party to comply with it
2. the court has no power to order that answers to questions outstadning at an examination for discovery be put in writing
3. the narrower scope for document production requirements is not circumvented simply by asking for production of documents at an examination for discovery
In this week’s case (LaPrarie Crane (Alberta) Ltd. v. Triton Projects Inc.)Master Bouck provided the following reasons addressing these points:  As for the outstanding requests from the examinations, Triton submits that when there is no objection to production on the record — or indeed, where a positive response from the examinee is made — such requests must be answered : Winkler v. Lower Mainland Publishing Ltd., 2002 BCSC 40 at para. 17. In other words, the party being examined is not able to reflect upon requests unless counsel states on the record that the request will be taken under advisement or an objection is raised. Nor can a party have a change of mind upon reflection, or upon taking legal advice.  The principle that a party should not be permitted to subsequently revoke agreements made at an examination for discovery is laudable. However, silence does not mean consent: Gellen v. British Columbia (Public Guardian and Trustee of), 2005 BCSC 1615 at para. 17 (S.C.). Furthermore, it is difficult to see how the principle enunciated in Winkler can be applied after the introduction of time limited examinations for discovery: Rule 7-2 (2).  If counsel is expected to pause and consider the relevancy of every question asked of the witness, the time allotted for a party’s examination might well be consumed by objections, interventions and even argument. In recent decisions, the court has strongly discourage such intervention at examinations for discovery: see More Marine Ltd. v. Shearwater Marine Ltd., 2011 BCSC 166 at para. 13 foll’g Kendall v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, 2010 BCSC 1556 at para. 18. Given this change in procedure, I decline to follow Winkler.  If a person declines to provide the additional information requested, the examining party is not without a remedy: Rules 7-2 (22)-(24). This appears to be the remedy pursued on this application. Nonetheless, the court has no power to order that answers to questions outstanding at an examination for discovery be put in writing: Diachem Industries Ltd. v. Buckman (1994), 91 B.C.L.R. (2D) 312 at p. 314 (S.C.) [my emphasis].  Finally, it is acknowledged that under the SCCR, the duty to answer questions at an examination is broader than the duty to produce documents: More Marine Ltd. v. Shearwater Marine Ltd., supra, at para. 7. However, a party does not get around the application of Kaladjian v. Jose principles by asking for the documents at these examinations: Maxam Opportunities Fund (International) Ltd. Partnership v. 893353 Alberta Inc., 2012 BCSC 553.
Reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, dismissing an ICBC application to compel production of a Plaintiff’s vacation photos.
In the recent case (Dawn-Prince v. Elston) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision. In the course of her lawsuit she was examined for discovery where she “testified that she had been on these vacations…(and) about her activities on the vacations“.
ICBC brought an application to have access to any photos taken of these holidays. The Court dismissed this application finding that while canvassing the scope of a Plaintiff’s vacation activities is fair game at discovery production of photos is not required. In dismissing the application Master McCallum provided the following reasons:  In the authorities to which I was referred, the court has on some occasions ordered production of photographs in similar circumstances where on vacation…  The difference in this case is that the plaintiff acknowledges that she engaged in the sporting and physical recreational activities, including the very ones that are referred to in the Fric decision; hiking, scuba diving, and so on. The photographs that are requested have been reviewed by counsel or someone in cosunsel’s office, Marler, who swears in her affidavit that she reviewed 23 photographs in which the plaintiff was shown and says that they do not depict the plaintiff in strenuous physical activities; rather they depict her standing, sitting, or walking, by the pool, or on the beach…I am satisfied from that evidence that production of this evidence, which is clearly the second stage of documentary discovery contemplated by the Rules, is not appropriate. These photographs, from the evidence on this application, will not assist the defendant in defending the claim. The evidence of the plaintiff, of course, with respect tow hat she did on her vacations nay well assist, but the photographs neither contradict nor confirm that. They show the plaintiff on the evidence in activities that are not inconsistent with anything other than standing, sitting, or walking, none of which she says she cannot do,..  The application for production of photographs…is dismissed.
Reasons for judgement were published last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding that in the context of personal injury claims, the relevance of clinical records should be determined on an entry by entry basis.
In last week’s case (Hyvarinen v. Burdett) the Plaintiff claimed permanent physical disability as a result of a 2008 collision. In the course of the litigation the Defendant requested various records the Plaintiff refused to produce. A court application was brought resulting in mixed success with some of the withheld documents being ordered to be produced. In adjudicating the matter Master MacNaughton provided the following sensible reasons addressing the vetting of irrelevent medical records:
While I accept that when a document is produced by a party, it should generally be produced in its entirety, the exception is where a party is able to establish a good reason for a document not to be produced. In North American Trust Co. v. Mercer International Inc. (2000) 71 B.C.L.R. (3d) 73 (BCSC), Justice Lowry, then of this court, reiterated the general principle but said:
…But where what is clearly not relevant is by its nature such that there is good reason why it should not be disclosed, a litigant may be excused from having to make a disclosure that will in no way serve to resolve the issues. In controlling its process, the court will not permit one party to take unfair advantage or to create undue embarrassment by requiring another to disclose part of a document that could cause considerable harm but serve no legitimate purposes in resolving the issues. (para. 13)
In this case, there are two reasons why the general rule about redacted documents should not apply. The first is because the documents sought in unredacted form are not, although generally listed as such, single documents. Rather, they are a series of records compiled over time from a number of interactions with the plaintiff. These records should not be approached globally as if they were a single document. Each entry requires a separate analysis as to whether it may prove or disprove a material fact or relate to a matter in a question in this action.
Second, and importantly in this case, the court must be careful not to unnecessarily infringe on the plaintiff’s privacy interests. Recently, in Kaladjian v. Jose, 2012 BCSC 357, Justice Davies reiterated the importance of a plaintiff’s privacy interests in a personal injury action. He said:
Every individual’s health and the medical treatment of it is a personal and private matter that should not be lightly interfered with. In today’s world of medical specialization, disclosure of even the name of a medical professional consulted by an individual for reasons wholly unrelated to a defence plea of a prior existing condition is an unwarranted and unnecessary invasion of privacy. (para. 75)
As recently discussed, claims for litigation privilege can fail when a defendant’s insurer collects statements and information shortly after a collision in what is deemed to be the ‘investigative stage‘. The simple reason being that such documents typically are not created for the dominant purpose of litigation.
This analysis, however, does not necessarily translate easily to statements obtained by Plaintiffs following a crash because Plaintiffs do not share the same investigatvie responsibilites that insurers do. This reality was highlighted in reasons for judgement published earlier this year by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In the recent case (Cliff v. Dahl) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision. She hired a lawyer to assist her with her claim. The lawyer hired an investigator who obtained statements from multiple witnesses to the collision.
ICBC brought an unsuccessful application to force the Plaintiff’s lawyer to produce these documents. The Plaintiff refused stating these statements were privileged. ICBC appealed arguing these documents were obtained during the ‘investigative stage‘ and should be produced. In dismissing the appeal Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons highlighting the ‘investigative stage’ and the different duties of Plaintiffs versus insurers:
The Master had before him an affidavit of plaintiff’s counsel which, sketchy as it is, did say that the information was gathered and the statements were gathered for the purpose of preparing for the plaintiff’s case in this action, as opposed to investigating the plaintiff’s case, and the Master apparently inferred from that that litigation was the dominant purpose. Sketchy as that evidence was, I cannot say that the Master was clearly wrong in drawing that conclusion.
Defence counsel refers to a statement of the Master in which he says in effect that it is very hard to see how statements gathered by plaintiff’s counsel once retained would not meet the dominant purpose test. That is probably too broad a statement and certainly if the Master said that it was a general rule of law, that would be a question of law to be reviewable but in my view that is not the basis of the Master’s decision. He made a finding on the evidence before him.
In that regard, I note that while the evidence from plaintiff’s counsel is sketchy, plaintiff’s counsel in this situation is in a somewhat different position from the insurance adjusters whose determination of dominant purpose is often at issue in other cases such as Hamalainen, supra.
The point at which a plaintiff’s counsel moves from the stage of investigating and considering the possibilities of litigation to a firm decision to proceed and the subsequent efforts that have a dominant purpose of litigation depends of course on the information in counsel’s possession. Much of that information must necessarily come directly from the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s counsel must balance the need to show the dominant purpose of the document or the witness statement with the restrictions placed upon him or her by solicitor/client privilege.
I infer from the material before me that the Master reviewed the evidence and found it sufficient to establish a dominant purpose. Whatever decision I might have made had the matter come before me, I cannot say that the Master was clearly wrong.
Those are my reasons for judgment and so the appeal is dismissed.
Further to my previous post on this topic, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing whether MSP records were producible in a personal injury claim.
Today’s case provides perhaps the most in depth analysis of the issue to date and is worth reviewing in full. In short the Court held that such records may be disclosable given the right circumstances but a ‘pro forma’ pleading of pre-existing injury is not sufficient to trigger disclosure obligations.
In this week’s case (Kaladjian v. Jose) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision. The Defendant applied for production of the Plaintiff’s MSP printout. The Plaintiff’s lawyer had this document but did not produce it arguing it was not relevant. The Defendant’s application was dismissed at first instance. The Defendant appealed arguing MSP records were disclosable as a matter of course in a personal injury claim. Mr. Justice Davies disagreed and dismissed the appeal. In doing so the Court provided feedback as to the proper procedure when seeking production of such records and gave the following reasons:
Under Rule 7-1(1)(a), a party is now (at least initially) obligated to list only:
(i) all documents that are or have been in the party’s possession or control and that could, if available, be used by any party of record at trial to prove or disprove a material fact, and
(ii) all other documents to which the party intends to refer at trial, …
That change has altered the test in British Columbia for determining whether any document or class of documents must now (at least at first instance) be disclosed.
As stated by Edwards J. in Creed, the former broad test of relevance for disclosure purposes, emanated from the decision in Cie Financière du Pacifique v. Peruvian Guano Ltd (1882), 11 Q.B.D. 55 (Eng. Q.B.) [Peruvian Guano], which required disclosure of documents that “may fairly lead to a line of inquiry which may “either directly or indirectly enable the party…to advance his own case or damage the case of his adversary”
Rule 7-1(1) changed that test for documentary relevance at first instance by requiring listing only of documents that could be used at trial to prove or disprove a material fact and documents the disclosing party intends to rely upon at trial.
I say that the test of documentary relevance is changed “at first instance” because Rule 7-1 also provides processes by which broader disclosure can be demanded of a party under Rules 7-1(11) through (14) under which the court can decide whether, and if so, to what extent, broader disclosure should be made…
The introduction of the concept of proportionality into the present Rules together with the need for a party to satisfy the court that additional document discovery beyond a party’s initial obligations under Rule 7-1(1) must inform the interpretation of Rule 7-1(18). It also satisfies me that cases decided under the former Rule 26(11) are of limited assistance in interpreting and applying Rule 7-1(18) in motor vehicle cases.
It would, in my view, be arbitrary and inconsistent with the objects of the present Rules if the production of the records of a party to litigation in the possession of third parties were to be subject to a pleadings-only Peruvian Guano based test of relevance when more narrow tests govern the production of a party’s own documents…
After considering the authorities and submissions of counsel, I have concluded that the pleadings continue to govern the determination of issues of relevance in relation to the scope of examination for discovery under the present Rules and will usually also govern issues concerning the initial disclosure obligations of a party under Rule 7-1(1), if challenged by a party under Rule 7-1(10).
I have also concluded that the narrowing of the discovery obligations of parties and most particularly the removal of the Peruvian Guano “train of inquiry” test of relevance will generally require a defendant to provide some evidence to support an application for additional documents, whether demand is made under Rule 7-1(11) or Rule 7-1(18).
A requirement for evidentiary support recognizes the difference between the scope of examination for discovery and the scope of document discovery under the present Rules and will allow considerations of proportionality to be addressed in specific cases.
A requirement for evidentiary support in requests for additional documents and third party records also prevents against unwarranted “fishing expeditions” based solely upon pro formapleadings…
70]The all too common pro forma pleading of a pre-existing condition by defendants is not sufficient without more to require disclosure of MSP records which may prove to be wholly irrelevant to the injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiff.
A trend developing in BC Caselaw is the demonstrated difficulty ICBC has trying to withhold documents in a personal injury lawsuit based on their ‘investigative’ responsibilities. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this topic.
In this week’s case (Gilbert v. Nelson) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision with a vehicle. The Plaintiff was 13 at the time and was riding a bicycle. Following the collision ICBC investigated the collision and obtained engineering reports and a further report from an independent adjuster. In the course of the lawsuit the Defendant had access to these documents. The Defendant refused to produce them claiming litigation privilege.
The Plaintiff brought an application to have these produced. Master Taylor granted the application finding the documents were created during ICBC’s investigative stage. In ordering production the Court provided the following reasons:
Saying that litigation is a certainty is not the test for the dominant purpose.
What I do observe from the facts before me is that no counsel was consulted or retained by the defendant or his insurer until after the notice of civil claim was issued in July, 2010. While the retainer of counsel is not an absolute test as to whether or not documents were created for the dominant purpose of litigation, it is but one factor in this case that indicates that the defendant and his insurer were not preparing for litigation nor directing the course of the defence of a possible law suit, until a notice of civil claim was issued some five years post accident. One would have thought that the defendants would have sought to establish the dominant purpose by showing on a balance of probabilities that the dominant purpose of the documents was to obtain legal advice or to aid in the conduct of the litigation.
Most certainly the defendant and his insurer had followed a course of investigating the accident, and its dynamics, but other than telephone conversations Ms. Fall had with Mr. Gilbert on June 13 and 15, 2005, there is no evidence before me that the defendant or his insurer made a formal declaration to the Gilbert family by way of letter that liability for the accident was being denied. In my view, a reasonable person would expect no less especially after the family was told that an assessment of liability would be made after receipt of the traffic analyst’s report which was anticipated to be received by Ms. Fall in August, 2005.
In all of the circumstances, I find that the defendant hasn’t met the onus on him to satisfy me that there exists over either the CWMS notes or the reports currently listed in Part 4 of the Defendant’s List of Documents a litigation privilege, such that disclosure of the documents up to the date of the first letter from counsel for the plaintiff should not be made to the opposite party. The only caveat will be that all references to reserves are to be redacted.
The plaintiff shall have his costs for preparation for, and attendance at the hearing.
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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