Tag: Rule 7-1(14)

Social Media and Computer Hard Drive Requests "A fishing expedition…without the appropriate bait"


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a defendant application requesting the production of a Plaintiff’s Facebook postings, Twitter postings, Computer Hard Drive and Iphone.
Today’s case (Dosanjh v. Leblanc and St. Paul’s Hospital) involved allegations of medical malpractice.  The plaintiff said she suffered “cognitive impairment that has affected her thinking process“.  She sued for damages.  The Defendants brought an application seeking that the Plaintiff produce her private social media account information and computer hard-drive data arguing that this information would be relevant to the claimed damages.  Master Taylor dismissed the application finding such a broad application, even in the face of alleged cognitive injuries, was “a classic fishing expedition, but without the appropriate bait.“.  Master Taylor provided the following reasons:

[28] The defendant has not indicated the material fact or facts which it believes can be proved by searching the plaintiff’s personal computer and her social media sites.  Rather, the defendant merely says that health, enjoyment of life and employability are in issue.  Surely more is or should be required to meet the test of Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i) than just saying a particular matter is in issue in order to infringe on a litigant’s privacy.

[29] To be able to obtain a litigant’s private thoughts and feelings as expressed to friends or family members after the fact is, in my view, similar to a party intercepting private communications of another party.

[30] I am unable to envisage any rational justification for breaching the privacy rights of an individual in civil proceedings simply because it is alleged that the individual’s general health, enjoyment of life and employability are directly at issue.  Merely because a record may be made of the communication shouldn’t make it any different than a private telephone conversation.  If not, surely applications in civil proceedings for recordings of private communications can’t be far behind…

[33] I am satisfied that the defendant’s application is entirely too broad and lacks the focus required by Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i).  In fact, I am more inclined to call this application a classic fishing expedition, but without the appropriate bait.  I observe as well that the order made by the court in Bishop, supra, was focussed on the times the plaintiff spent on his Facebook account on his computer, and did not give the defendant cart blanche to troll through the plaintiff’s correspondence as is sought in the application before me.

"Investigative Stage" Trumps ICBC's Litigation Privilege Claim


Given ICBC’s monopoly over vehicle insurance in BC they typically have to perform multiple roles following a collision including investigating the issue of fault in order to make internal decisions regarding the premium consequences for the customers involved in the crash.  Documents prepared during this ‘investigative‘ stage generally need to be produced during litigation and claims for litigation privilege will fail.  Reasons for judgement were released this week further demonstrating this fact.
In this week’s case (Fournier v. Stangroom) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 collision.  In the early days following the crash and well before litigation got underway ICBC retained an engineering firm to inspect the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  The engineering firm communicated their findings to ICBC.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defence lawyer commissioned an expert report from the same firm but did not exchange it with the Plaintiff’s lawyer.
The Plaintiff made the typical document disclosure demands from the Defendants.   These were not complied with in a satisfactory fashion resulting in a Court application.   The Defence lawyer argued that the full file from the engineering firm is subject to litigation privilege.  Master Caldwell disagreed and ultimately ordered better document disclosure inlcuding production of the engineering firms materials documenting their initial investigation.  In making this order Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:




[11] On August 9, 2007 the initial adjuster on the file requested MEA or one of their engineers to examine the plaintiff’s vehicle in order to determine whether the plaintiff was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision. The engineer did so, communicated with the adjuster the following day with questions and subsequently reported to the adjuster on September 13, 2007. That adjuster referred to that report as being sufficient for his purposes; the next adjuster, Ms. Madsen referred to the “verbal report” as being “sufficient for the purposes of handling the claim SHORT OF LITIGATION” (emphasis mine).

[12] In early 2011 defence counsel commissioned MEA to prepare an expert report, apparently regarding the seatbelt issue, for possible use at trial; he says that since such a report has now been requested, the engineer’s file material, notes and such are not producible unless and until the report is received and provided to plaintiff’s counsel 84 days before trial.

[13] In cases such as this one, the adjuster or adjusters have duties of investigation on behalf of both the plaintiff and the defendants; there must, almost of necessity, be an initial period of adjusting or investigating to discover the factual matrix within which the adjusters will perform their duties and assess the file and the claims or roles of the interested parties. Absent such period and process of investigation the adjuster can have no reasonable basis upon which to conclude that there is a reasonable prospect of litigation and that all or part of what is done from any given point in time forward is done for the dominant purpose of litigation. In this regard see Hamalainen (Committee of) v. Sippola (1991) 62 BCLR (2d) 254 (BCCA).

[14] These engineers were approached within the first 3 weeks following the collision, clearly within the period of initial investigation and was even seen by at least one of the adjusters as being used for purposes of handling the file short of litigation. The investigative material, notes, correspondence and other such recordings of the engineers were not created at a time when litigation was a reasonable prospect; neither were they created for the dominant purpose of litigation. The fact that counsel has now requested an expert report from MEA does nothing to change that any more than a request to a G.P. or plaintiff’s medical expert that he or she provide an expert report renders that practitioner’s clinical records privileged.

[15] The MEA investigative material, notes, correspondence and working papers which arose between August 9, 2007 and September 13, 2007 inclusive are not subject to a valid claim of litigation privilege; they are ordered to be listed and to be produced to plaintiff’s counsel within 14 days. If there are any other MEA materials which arose between September 14, 2007 and the date when defence counsel commissioned their expert report, those are to be listed with the required clarity, date and description in order that any further claim of litigation privilege can be properly assessed.





More on Document Disclosure: Hard Drives, Phone and Banking Records


(Note: I’m informed that the case discussed in the below post is under appeal.  When the appellate decision comes to my attention I will update this post)
As previously discussed, one of the areas being worked out by the BC Supreme Court is the extent of document production obligations in personal injury lawsuits under the New Rules of Court.  Further reasons for judgement addressing this subject were recently brought to my attention.
In the recent (unreported) case of Shackelford v. Sweeney the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 motor vehicle collision.  He alleged serious injuries including a head injury with resulting cognitive difficulties.  The Plaintiff was a successful self-employed recruiter and his claim included potentially significant damages for diminished earning capacity.
In the course of the lawsuit ICBC applied for various records supposedly to investigate the income loss claim including production of the Plaintiff’s computer hard-drive, phone records and banking records.  The application was partially successful with Master Taylor providing the following reasons addressing these requests:
[7]  In relation to the cellphone records, the plaintiff gave evidence at his examination for discovery that he conducted most of his business over the telephone or the Internet, and he rarely met with people, and therefore it is suggested that the cell phone records relating to his business are probative.  I agree that they can be probative, but I do not believe that the actual phone numbers themselves would be probative in any particular method or way.  What is probative is how much the plaintiff used his phone on a daily or weekly basis to conduct his business
[8]  Accordingly, I am going to order that the cellphone records that relate to his business, from January 1, 2007, to the present date, be produced, but in all circumstances every phone number but the area code is to be redacted….
[13]  The Defendants also seek an order that the plaintiff produce the hard drive from the laptop he was using when he was operating (his recruiting business)…
[17]  …As there is an ongoing obligation by the Plaintiff to produce all business records in relation to this claim, I say that the obligation continues with respect to the hard drive that exists, and that the plaintiff has the obligation to examine the hard drive himself and/or with counsel, and extract any of his business records from there and provide them to the defendants.
[18]  If the Plaintiff requires the services of a technician to assist in that regard, then the cost of that will be borne by the defendants.  Once the business records have been extracted and redacted for privacy concerns, those documents will be henceforth provided to the defendants within 14 days thereafter…
[21]  I think that only leaves bank statements relating to business income.  I think the plaintiff has a positive obligation to provide some information with respect to his income, showing his income being deposited into his bank account.  Where that in the bank statements shows, it should be left unredacted, but where it shows anything related to his wife or private unrelated business purchases , those may also be redacted.
This case is worth reviewing in full for other matters such as a declined request for production of the Plaintiff’s passport and client names.
At this time this case is unreported however, as always, I’m happy to e-mail a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests the reasons for judgement.

Getting to Peruvian Guano

Yesterday morning I was teaching as a guest instructor at PLTC (the BC Bar Exam Course) overseeing a Courtroom skills exercise.  During the mock court application I asked the soon to be lawyers under what circumstances the Pervuian Guano test applied for document production.  Little did I know my  question was being answered just across town by Master Bouck who released reasons for judgement addressing this topic at length.
As previously discussed, the New BC Supreme Court Rules replaced the Peruvian Guano test for document production with the narrower test of documents that “prove or disprove a material fact”.  However, the rules allow for the Peruvian Guano test to kick in through the second tier of document production set out in Rules 7-1(11),(12) and (13).  Master Bouck addressed exactly what’s necessary to get to the Peruvian Guano stage.
In yesterday’s case (Przybysz v. Crowe) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  ICBC’s lawyer brought an application for the production of various records.  The application was largely unsuccessful however before dismissing it the Court provided the following useful feedback about the requirements necessary to get to the Peruvian Guano stage of document disclosure:

[27] …this application is, in fact, brought pursuant to Rules 7-1(11), (12) and (13). Those Rules contemplate a broader scope of document disclosure than what is required under Rule 7-1(1)(a) Indeed, the two tier process of disclosure (if that label is apt), reflects the SSCR’s objective of proportionality. In order to meet that objective, the party at the first instance must put some thought into what documents falls within the definition of Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i) but is not obliged to make an exhaustive list of documents which in turn assists in the “train of inquiry” promoted in Compagnie Financiere du Pacifique v. Peruvian Guano Co. (1882), 11 Q.B.D. 55 at pp. 62-63(Q.A.).

[28] Only after a demand is made under Rule 7-1(11) for documents that relate to any or all matters in question in the action and the demand for productions is resisted can a court order production under Rule 7-1(14). It should be noted that in this case, the demand (and indeed order sought) is for production of additional documents, not simply a listing of such documents: seeRules 7-1(1) (d), (e) and (f).

[29] The court retains the discretion under Rule 7-1(14) to order that the party not produce the requested list or documents. Again, the court must look to the objectives of the SCCR in exercising this discretion.

[30] As to the form and substance of the request, it has been suggested by Master Baker that:

… there is a higher duty on a party requesting documents under … Rule 7-1(11) … they must satisfy either the party being demanded or the court … with an explanation “with reasonable specificity that indicates the reason why such additional documents or classes of documents should be disclosed” …

Anderson v. Kauhane and Roome (unreported, February 22, 2011, Vancouver Registry No. M103201) at para. 4

[31] A similar higher duty or burden rests with the party rejecting the request under Rule 7-1(12): see Conduct of Civil Litigation in B.C (2nd edition), Fraser, Horn & Griffin @ p. 17-7. In my view, the burden is not met by stating that documents will not be produced simply because of the introduction of the SCCR.

[32] The objective of proportionality might also influence the timing of requests for broader document disclosure. The court has observed in More Marine Ltd. v. Shearwater Marine Ltd., 2011 BCSC 166, that under the SCCR:

… the duty to answer questions on discovery [is] apparently broader than the duty to disclose documents.

para. 7.

And further:

… if the court is to be persuaded that the broader document discovery made possible by rule 7-1(14) is appropriate in a particular case, some evidence of the existence and potential relevance of those additional documents will be required. The examination for discovery is the most likely source of such evidence.

para. 8.

[33] Nevertheless, neither the court nor the SCCR require that an examination for discovery precede an application under Rules 7-1(13) and (14). Depending on the case, proportionality and the existing evidence might support pre-examination document disclosure so that the examination can be conducted in an efficient and effective manner….

[40] It is suggested by the learned authors of Conduct of Civil Litigation in B.C. that authorities decided under former Rule 26(11) may be applicable to an application for broader disclosure of documents under Rules 7-1(11) – (14): p. 17-7. That suggestion is not inconsistent with Master Baker’s ruling. Again, the questions for the court will be what evidence is presented and does an order for production achieve the objective of proportionality?

Master Bouck also released a second set of reasons (Baldertson v. Aspin) with this further useful feedback of the intent of Rule 7-1(11):

[29] The intent of Rule 7-1(11) is to inform the opposing party of the basis for the broader disclosure request in sufficient particularity so that there can be a reasoned answer to the request. TheRule allows the parties to engage in debate or discussion and possibly resolve the issue before embarking on an expensive chambers application. Whether this debate or discussion was had verbally in this case is not clear on the record.

[30] Nor does it appear that any written request was made to the plaintiff to list documents relating to the 2001 motor vehicle accident. Again, the Rules appear to have been ignored as a matter of expediency.

[31] Nevertheless, the plaintiff did not seek an adjournment of the application so that the process under Rules 7-1(10), (11) and (12) could be followed. The parties proceeded on the basis that the plaintiff declined the defence’s requests for additional document disclosure and/or the listing of those additional documents. In this particular case, the objectives of the SCCR are met by dealing with the merits of the application rather than rejecting the application on procedural grounds.

More on Document Disclosure and the New Rules of Court: MSP and Pharmanet Printouts


As previously discussed, the New Rules of Court have limited the scope of pre-trial document production and further have introduced the concept of ‘proportionality‘ in deciding what types of documents need to be disclosed in litigation.  The law continues to develop with respect to the application of these changes and recently the BC Supreme Court released reasons for judgement addressing two classes of documents which are often requested in BC personal injury lawsuits; MSP and Pharmanet Printouts.
In the recent case (Anderson v. Kauhane and Roome) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 BC motor vehicle collision.  She sued for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit the Defendant requested her MSP and Pharmanet printouts (government documents which keep track of doctors visits and prescption drug purchases).  These documents were routinely produced in injury lawsuits under the former Supreme Court Rules.
The Plaintiff opposed arguing that the narrower scope of the New Civil Rules no longer made such documents automatically producible.  Master Baker agreed and dismissed the Defence application for production.  In doing so the Court considered disclosure of these documents both under that narrower ‘material fact’ test in Rule 7-1(1)(a) and the broader Peruvian Guano type disclosure under rule 7-1(11).  In dismissing the application Master Baker provided the following useful reasons:
The question is: do the documents in dispute, ie, MSP and Pharmanet, come withing the terms of either Rule 7-1(1)(a), ie, documents that can be used by a party of record to prove or disprove a material fact or that will be referred to at trial or, if not, do they come under category 7-1(11), generally, in the vernacular, referred to as the Guano documents…There is no question that there is a higher duty on a party requesting documents under the second category…that in addition to requesting, they must explain and satisfy either the party being demanded or the court, if an order is sought, with an explanation “with reasonable specificity that indicates the reason why such additional documents or classes of documents should be disclosed”, and again, there is no doubt that the new Rules have limited the obligation for production in the first instance to the first category that I have described and has reduced or lessened the obligation for production in general…
The question today is, would these documents prove a material fact if available?  I think not….I am not satisfied that at this juncture they can or will prove a material fact…
I acknowledge that the defence has pleaded – and I will say this – in what I think are now becoming boilerplate pleadings, has pleaded pre-existing conditions…I am not satisfied that, by simple pleading, that somehow opens up the matter to the higher standard represented by 7-1(11).  The obligation is still on the defendant to make that case, as far as I am concerned, and that moves me to the second aspect of this, has a case been made under 7-1(11)?
Has there been, in other words, reasonable specificity indicating why the additional documents or classes of documents should be disclosed?  I think not….It seems, in the circumstances, disproportionate to me to give an open-ended order that all Pharmanet records, for example, some seven years, or records with Medical Services Plan going back to January 1, 2004, are proportionate to the claim as it is expressed and understood at this point.  So the application is dismissed.
As far as I am aware this recent case is unpublished but, as always, I am happy to provide a copy of the reasons to anyone who contacts me to request one.

More on the New Rules of Court and Document Disclosure: The Proportionality Factor


As recently discussed, a developing area of law relates to the extent of parties document production obligations under the new Rules of Court.   The starting propisition is that parties need to disclose a narrower class of documents then was previously required.  A Court can, on application, order further disclosure more in line with the “Peruvian Guano” test that was in force under the former rules.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, making such an order.
In today’s case (Whitcombe v. Avec Insurance Managers Inc.) the Plaintiff was employed as an Insurance Underwriter with the Defendant.  The Plaintiff was let go and sued for wrongful dismissal.  The Defendant counterclaimed alleging they lawfully terminated the Plaintiff’s employment and further making allegations of misfeasance by the Plaintiff.
In the course of the lawsuit the parties were dis-satisfied with each others lists of documents.  They each applied for further disclosure.  Master Caldwell granted the orders sought finding that the concept of ‘proportionality‘ calls for greater disclosure in cases of “considerable importance“.  In granting the applications Master Caldwell provided the following reasons:

[10]         In short, both parties make serious allegations of actual misfeasance and in particular allegations which may well have a significant impact on the other’s reputation in the insurance industry and on the parties’ respective abilities to continue in business or to be employed in a professional capacity.  This is therefore a matter of considerable importance and significance to the parties regardless of the quantum of immediate monetary damage.

[11]         I find this to be important to my consideration of proportionality as directed in Rule 1-3(2) when interpreting and applying Rule 7-1.  In my view, where, as here, the issues go beyond negligence and involve opposing allegations of misfeasance, proportionality must be interpreted to allow the parties a wider, more Peruvian Guano type disclosure in order to defend and protect their respective professional reputations and abilities to carry on in the business community.

[12]         Here one or both sides have levelled allegations involving malice, bad faith, arbitrariness, lack of integrity/fidelity/loyalty and incompetence at the other.

[13]         In addressing Rule 7-1 in the case of Biehl v. Strang, 2010 BCSC 1391, Mr. Justice Punnett said at paragraph 29:

I am satisfied that, if otherwise admissible, the requested production is relevant and could prove or disprove a material fact. Rule 7-1 does not restrict production to documents that in themselves prove a material fact. It includes evidence that can assist in proving or disproving a material fact.

[14]         I am satisfied that in these circumstances the disclosure sought by both parties in their applications is appropriate in that it seeks evidence or documents that can or may well assist in proving or disproving a material fact.

Interestingly the Court implied that Peruvian Guano like disclosure likely will not be made in motor vehicle collision claims noting that “This is not a simple motor vehicle type case, arising in common context and involving straight forward negligence issues and quantification of physical injury compensation.”

Scope of Discovery Under the New Rules of Court


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the scope of both discovery of documents and examinations for discovery under the new Rules of Court.
In today’s case (More Marine Ltd. v. Shearwater Marine Ltd) the Plaintiff companies sued the Defendant alleging the breach of marine insurance policies.  The Plaintiff was self represented.  He examined an insurance adjuster that worked for the Defendant.  At discovery the Defendant raised numerous objections including an objection to questions addressing “general practices in the insurance industry“.  A motion was brought seeking guidance addressing whether these questions were permissible.
Mr. Justice Smith held that this line of questioning was appropriate and ordered that a further discovery take place.  In doing so the Court provided perhaps the most extensive judicial feedback to date about the changes with respect to discovery obligations under the New Rules of Court.  Mr. Justice Smith gave the following useful reasons:

[3]             The scope of proper questioning on an examination for discovery is set out in Rule 7-2 (18) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009 [Rules]:

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, and

(b)        is compellable to give the names and addresses of all persons who reasonably might be expected to have knowledge relating to any matter in question in the action.

[4]             The new Rules came into effect on July 1, 2010, but the language in rule 7-2 (18) is identical to the former rule 27 (22).  As Griffin J. said in Kendall v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, 2010 BCSC 1556 [Kendall] at para. 7 “the scope of examination for discovery has remained unchanged and is very broad.”  In Cominco Ltd. v. Westinghouse Can Ltd. (1979), 11 B.C.L.R. 142 (C.A.) [Cominco], an early and leading case under the former rule, the Court of Appeal said at 151 that “rigid limitations rigidly applied can destroy the right to a proper examination for discovery.”  The court in Cominco also adopted the following statement from Hopper v. Dunsmuir No. 2 (1903), 10 B.C.R. 23 (C.A.) at 29:

It is also obvious that useful or effective cross-examination would be impossible if counsel could only ask such questions as plainly revealed their purpose, and it is needless to labour the proposition that in many cases much preliminary skirmishing is necessary to make possible a successful assault upon the citadel, especially where the adversary is the chief repository of the information required.

[5]             In Day v. Hume, 2009 BCSC 587 this court said at para. 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.

[6]               While Rule 7-2 (18) is the same as its predecessor, the new Rules create a distinction that did not previously exist between oral examination for discovery and discovery of documents.  The former rule 26 (1) required a party to list all documents “relating to every matter in question in the action.”  Although disclosure in those terms may still be ordered by the court under Rule 7-1 (14), the initial disclosure obligation is set out more narrowly in Rule 7-1(1):

(1)        Unless all parties of record consent or the court otherwise orders, each party of record to an action must, within 35 days after the end of the pleading period,

(a)        prepare a list of documents in Form 22 that lists

(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, and

(b)        serve the list on all parties of record.

[7]             Under the former rules, the duty to disclose documents and the duty to answer questions on oral examination were therefore controlled by the same test for relevance.  Under the newRules, different tests apply, with the duty to answer questions on discovery being apparently broader than the duty to disclose documents.

[8]             Although that may appear to be an anomaly, there are at least two good reasons for the difference.  One reason is that if the court is to be persuaded that the broader document discovery made possible by rule 7-1(14) is appropriate in a particular case, some evidence of the existence and potential relevance of those additional documents will be required.  The examination for discovery is the most likely source of such evidence.

[9]             The second reason relates to the introduction of proportionality as a governing concept in the new Rules.  Rule 1-3 (2) states:

(2)        Securing the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of a proceeding on its merits includes, so far as is practicable, conducting the proceeding in ways that are proportionate to

(a)        the amount involved in the proceeding,

(b)        the importance of the issues in dispute, and

(c)        the complexity of the proceeding.

[10]         The  former rule governing discovery of documents was interpreted according to the long-established test in Compagnie Financière du Pacifique v. Peruvian Guano Company (1882), 11 Q.B.D. 55 at 63 (C.A.):

It seems to me that every document relates to the matters in question in the action, which not only would be evidence upon any issue, but also which, it is reasonable to suppose, contains information which may — not which must — either directly or indirectly enable the party … either to advance his own case or to damage the case of his adversary. I have put in the words “either directly or indirectly,” because, as it seems to me, a document can properly be said to contain information which may enable the party … either to advance his own case or to damage the case of his adversary, if it is a document which may fairly lead him to a train of inquiry, which may have either of these two consequences…

[11]         The new Rules recognize that application of a 19th century test to the vast quantity of paper and electronic documents produced and stored by 21st century technology had made document discovery an unduly onerous and costly task in many cases.  Some reasonable limitations had become necessary and Rule 7-1 (1) is intended to provide them.

[12]         The new Rules also impose limitations on oral examination for discovery, but do so through a different mechanism.  Rule 7-2 (2) now limits an examination for discovery to seven hours or to any longer period to which the person being examined consents.  Although the test for relevance of a particular question or group of questions remains very broad, examining parties who ask too many questions about marginally relevant matters, who spend too much time pursuing unproductive trains of inquiry or who elicit too much evidence that will not be admissible at trial risk leaving themselves with insufficient time for obtaining more important evidence and admissions.

[13]          As Griffin J. said in Kendall, the time limit imposes a “self-policing incentive” on the party conducting the examination: at para. 14.  At the same time, the existence of the time limit 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. This interplay was described in Kendall at para. 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.

Production of Documents, Forced Authorizations and the New Rules of Court


As previously discussed, 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”.
It has been a matter of much judicial debate whether the BC Supreme Court could order a Plaintiff to sign an authorization to consent to the release of Third Party Records with Mr. Justice Hinkson recently finding that the Court did not have this power under the Former Rules.
The first case I’m aware of dealing with issue under the New Rules of Court was released today by the BCSC , New Westminster Registry.   Keeping the uncertainty on-going, Mr. Justice Williams found that the Rules do authorize a Court to force a party to sign authorizations for the release of Third Party Records
In today’s case (Nikolic v. Olsen) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant brought a motion to compel the Plaintiff to sign various authorizations.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that the Court lacked the authority to make such an order.  Mr. Justice Williams disagreed.  The Court provided a lengthy review of the relevant authorities and ultimately provided the following reasons addressing this issue:
[11] There are conflicting judicial authorities respecting the issue raised in this application. The line of jurisprudence which holds that the court cannot make an order requiring a litigant to authorize third party production is, in my view, troubling. For the reasons that follow, I conclude that this Court can make an order requiring a litigant to authorize a third party, whether within or outside this province, to produce records relating to him or her to another litigant. The jurisdiction to do so is based on the Rules of Court

[93]         In British Columbia, relevant non-privileged documents are compellable in a civil action. Full and complete disclosure between or among litigants prior to trial is essential to the truth-seeking function of the litigation process and proper administration of justice.

[94]         This Court has the authority under the former Rules to compel production and to specify the mechanics of its production orders. Rule 26(1.1) permits the court to order a litigant to list documents in his or her power, which may include those held by foreign non-parties. Rule 26(10) empowers the court to order a litigant to produce a document for inspection and copying in the manner it thinks just. Furthermore, R. 1(12) grants the court wide discretionary powers, in the making of orders, to impose terms and conditions and give directions as its thinks just. Read collectively, a master or judge of this Court has the jurisdiction to create the mechanisms by which relevant non-privileged documents in a litigant’s “power” will be produced, including the jurisdiction to order him or her to execute the necessary documentation allowing a record-holder, whether residing in or outside British Columbia, to effect the release of those documents.

[95]         In my view, the following excerpt from para. 110 of Hood J.’s reasons in Lewis is apt:

There is also no doubt that the Court has substantive jurisdiction or power pertaining to the discovery and inspection of documents under Rule 26, particularly the compelling or ordering of production of documents. … In my opinion, the manner in which production is achieved is for the Court. The Court’s substantive jurisdiction or power to compel the production of documents includes the jurisdiction or power to create the mechanisms or the means by which production is made.

[96]         As expressed in the jurisprudence, there are, no doubt, potentially unwieldy implications of a court order compelling authorization of third party production. Given these concerns, such orders should not be granted lightly. In this respect, L. Smith J. in McKay v. Passmore, 2005 BCSC 570, [2005] B.C.J. No. 1232 (QL), offers worthwhile guidance. That was a personal injury case arising from a motor vehicle collision. An application was brought for an order that the plaintiff execute an authorization allowing the defendants to obtain records held by the Manitoba Workers Compensation Board. Her Ladyship held, at para. 36, that while the court has jurisdiction to grant such an application, there was insufficient basis on the evidence to do so. She concluded, at para. 40, that the circumstances of the case before her did not warrant the order sought in light of the R. 26(11) criteria provided by the Court of Appeal in Dufault, which she outlined at para. 38:

1.         The applicant must satisfy the court that the application is not in the nature of a “fishing expedition.”

2.         He or she must show that a person who is not a party to the action has a document or documents in his or her possession that contains information which may relate to a matter in issue.

3.         If the applicant satisfies those criteria, the court should make the order unless there is a compelling reason not to make it (i.e. because a document is privileged or because grounds exist for refusing the application in the interests of persons not parties to the action who might be affected adversely by an order for production and the adverse affect would outweigh the probative value of the document.)

[97]         Obviously these criteria, among other relevant factors, ought to be considered by a court considering an application for an order compelling a litigant to authorize production of documents held by a third party whether located within or outside British Columbia.

[98]         For two examples as to how the McKay/Dufault criteria may apply, see Distinctive Photowork Co. v. Prudential Assurance Co. of England Property and Casualty (Canada) (1994), 98 B.C.L.R. (2d) 316, [1994] B.C.J. No. 3231 (QL) (S.C. Chambers); and Tetz v. Niering, [1996] B.C.J. No. 2019 (QL), 1996 CarswellBC 1887 (S.C. Chambers).

[99]         These cases, although they raise slightly different issues, do not detract from, but rather inform, the basic proposition that where a litigant is under an obligation to make disclosure of documents, then that obligation must be honoured. Where such documents are in the hands of third parties, the usual format will entail the litigant voluntarily agreeing to provide a document authorizing the record holder to release the material, and that will resolve the matter. However, in other cases, where consent is refused, litigants are entitled to seek relief and the court has jurisdiction to enforce the disclosure obligation, specifically by making an order whereby the party whose records are being sought will “consent” to their release. While the wording is unfortunate and has engendered a regrettable state of controversy, the underlying concept is, in my view, straightforward.

[100]     The Olsons have a legitimate interest in obtaining the requested records and I am satisfied that their application is not in the nature of a fishing expedition. I also find that the third parties named by the defendants in their application possess the requested records which relate to a matter or matters in this case. By way of obiter dicta, I note that the common law test for relevance under the former Rules is broader than what seems to be provided by the wording of the current Rules. There are, furthermore, no compelling reasons why the order sought should not be made.

[101]     Accordingly, I order the respondent/plaintiff, Mr. Nikolic, to provide signed authorizations allowing the applicants/defendants, Josiah Olson and Joel Olson, to obtain from the third parties named the records listed in clauses (c), (d), (e) and (f) of the proposed order reproduced at para. 3 of these reasons.

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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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