Tag: Rule 7-2

The Examination For Discovery Time Limit: When Multiple Cases are Tried Together


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing the time limit for examinations for discovery when two actions are set for trial at the same time.  In short the Court held that the Rules permit up to 14 hours of Plaintiff examination in these circumstances without the need for a Court Order.
In last week’s case (Campbell v. McDougall) the Plaintiff was involved in two separate motor vehicle collisions.  She sued for damages in both actions.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff was examined for discovery which was discontinued after 3.5 hours due to the Plaintiff’s fatigue.  The discovery was reset and continued for a full day for a total of 10.5 hours of examination.
The Defendant wished to have 2.5 further hours of examination.    The Plaintiff opposed and a Court application was brought.  It appears the the parties worked out many of their differences prior to the hearing of the application but ultimately the Court ordered that the Plaintiff attend a further 2.5 hours.
In doing so Master Bouck provided the following comments with respect to the discovery ‘cap’ of 7 hours set out in Rule 7-2(2):





[32] In the end, the plaintiff could be required to undergo up to 14 hours of an examination under Rule 7-2 without the defence having to obtain leave of the court.

[33] In this case, the defence has chosen to have one counsel conduct an examination, but effectively with respect to both actions.

[34] There is a sound basis for requesting the “additional” examination time, particularly with respect to the plaintiff’s new employment status. While it seems unlikely that the court would grant leave to exceed the specified hour allotment simply when some new information comes to light, the plaintiff’s earning abilities and capacity forms a significant part of the overall claim. A very large monetary amount for that loss will probably be advanced. An additional 2½ hours (and still less than the allowable 14 hours) examination time is not out of proportion to the amount involved in this proceeding.





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.

Examination For Discovery and Continuations – A "Heavy Onus"


One of the welcome developments in the New BC Supreme Court Rules is a cap on the length of examinations for discovery.   Examinations in conventional lawsuits are capped at 7 hours under Rule 7-2(a) and limited to 2 hours in Fast Track trials.  The Court has a general power to permit lengthier examinations in appropriate circumstances.
When parties conclude an examination for discovery there are typically requests for further information and parties usually agree to a follow up discovery to address matters arising from the further disclosure.  When a party wishes to further explore a topic already covered, however, they are usually not permitted to have a continuation of the discovery.  Reasons for judgement were released today addressing this area of law.
In today’s case (Lewis v Lewis) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff alleged injury.  The Defendant denied that she was injured and alleged that her injuries were pre-existing.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff provided various medical records including pre-accident records.
The Plaintiff attended a discovery and was examined with respect to her injury claim.   After concluding the discovery the Defendants requested a continuation to further explore the issue of the Plaintiff’s pre-accident health.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that she had already been examined with respect to this topic.  Mr. Justice Harvey agreed with the Plaintiff and dismissed the application for a further discovery.  In doing so the Court provided the following useful reasons:

[8]             The case law stands for the proposition that where a further examination for discovery is sought, there is a heavy onus on the applicant to justify that further examination, and that to justify same they must demonstrate that the complexion of the case has materially changed as a result of the passage of time, new heads of damage are being advanced, or intervening events having occurred since the last discovery, which would materially alter the prosecution of the case and the defence of it.

[9]             Alternatively, a party could produce evidence to show that full and frank disclosure was not made at the first discovery.

[10]         Here that is not the case. Here the defendant, together with its medical advisor, failed to see what was there to be seen. Specifically, each failed to note and act upon the references to previous shoulder complaints in clinical records that were in the hands of both the medical practitioner and the solicitor conducting the discovery.  I am not satisfied that the heavy onus that is set forth in the decisions I have been referred to, one of which was Sutherland (Public Trustee of) v. Lucas, has been met.

[11]         Accordingly the application for a further discovery by the defendant is dismissed.

Examinations for Discovery and Location: When Parties Live Outside BC


I recently looked into the issue of location for examinations for discovery where a party to the lawsuit resides out of the Country.  I came across a useful decision (Bronson v. Hewitt) addressing this issue under the former Rules of Court.
In Bronson, a lawsuit was started in the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.  The trial was scheduled to be heard in Vancouver and all the lawyers involved in the case practiced in Vancouver.  The Defendants lived in South Carolina.  The Plaintiff wanted to force the Defendants to come to Vancouver for examination for discovery.  The Defendants opposed arguing the discovery should take place in South Carolina.  Mr. Justice Goepel agreed with the Defendants.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

Lewis and Browning rely on R. 27(14).  That Rule reads:

Unless the court otherwise orders, or the parties to the examination consent, an examination for discovery shall take place at a location within 10 kilometres of the registry that is nearest to the place where the person to be examined resides.

Lewis and Browning submit that R. 27(14) supports their contention that prima facie a party has a right to be examined at their residence and that the plaintiffs have not filed any material which would lead the court to rule otherwise.

In Banque Indosuez v. Canadian Overseas Airlines Ltd. et al., [1989] B.C.J. No. 930 (S.C.) Skipp L.J.S.C.  reviewed the authorities and concluded:

I respectfully adopt the reasoning of Trainor J. in Hamstra v. B.C. Rugby Union et al., Vancouver Registry C865223 (B.C.S.C.), to the effect that if anyone seeks to vary the prima facie location being the residence of the person sought to be examined the court then looks at what is just and convenient for the person to be examined rather than for the solicitor of the person to be examined.

In Lo v. Lo[1991] B.C.J. No. 3005 (S.C.) Master Wilson stated:

I understand Banque Indosuez to be authority for this principle, that subrule 14 is the primary determinant of the place for the examination for discovery of persons residing outside of British Columbia.

If the prima facie rule is to be changed then the court looks at what is just and convenient for the person to be examined, not for counsel.

I am of a similar view.  The default position is that non-resident parties are entitled to be examined at their place of residence.  This conclusion is consistent with R. 27(26), which sets out that the rules governing discovery apply so far as practical to persons residing outside the province.   One of those rules is R. 27(14) which sets out that absent consent or a court order, a party is entitled to be discovered at the registry nearest to the party’s residence.  There is no reason why a non-resident party should be treated any less generously than a party who resides in British Columbia.  All parties have a prima facie right to be discovered where they reside.

The court does have the power to order that a discovery take place at a different location.  In making such an order, the court’s main consideration is the convenience of the party being examined.  Convenience of counsel is not a proper basis to compel a party to travel to Vancouver for a discovery.

In the circumstances of this case, it would not be just or convenient to compel Ms. Lewis or Ms. Browning to come to Vancouver.  They are entitled to be examined at their place of residence.  Their discovery will be in Greenville, South Carolina.

This decision was based on the former Rules of Court and to my knowledge no reported decisions address the issue of location for discovery under the New Rules.  The result, however, would likely be identical under the New Rules because the former Rule 27(14) is substantively reproduced at Rule 7-2(11) of the New Rules and the former Rule 27(26) is reproduced at Rule 7-2(27) of the New Rules.

The New Rules of Court and Examinations for Discovery


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, discussing the scope of permissible questions at examinations for discovery under the new Civil Rules.  In short, the Court noted that although the New Rules contain some changes with respect to the time permitted for discovery, precedents developed under the former rules remain good law with respect to permissible questions.  The court also addressed the factors that can be considered in extending an examination for discovery.
In today’s case (Kendall v. Sun Life Assurance Company) the Plaintiff had disability insurance with the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sued claiming the Defendant improperly denied her insurance benefits.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff examined a representative of Sun Life for discovery.  During the course of discovery Sun Life’s lawyer caused “so much disruption” with interfering objections that Plaintiff’s counsel terminated the examination prematurely and walked out.
The Plaintiff brought a motion compelling the representative to attend discovery again to complete the examination, to answer the questions that were objected to and to extend the time of discovery beyond the permitted 7 hours.  Madam Justice Griffin granted the motion and in doing so made the following comments about the scope of permissible discovery questions under the new rules:

[6]             Rule 7-2(18)(a) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009 [Rules of Court] sets out the scope of examination as follows:

(18)      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, …

[7]             Despite a variety of substantive changes to the Rules of Court enacted effective July 1, 2010, the scope of examination for discovery has remained unchanged and is very broad….

[13]         While the scope of examination for discovery has not changed with the new Rules of Court brought into force on July 1, 2010, the length of examination for discovery is now limited to seven hours or any greater period to which the person to be examined consents: Rule 7-2(2).

[14]          The newly imposed time limit on discovery makes it all the more important that the courts enforce the principle that counsel for the examined party must not unduly interfere or intervene during the examination for discovery.  The time limit imposes a self-policing incentive on the examining counsel to be focused and to not waste time on questions that will not advance the purpose of investigating the case or obtaining admissions for use at trial.

[15]         While the time limit on examination for discovery creates an incentive on the examining party to be efficient, it unfortunately also creates a risk that counsel for the examinee will be inefficient by unduly objecting and interfering on the discovery, for the purpose of wasting the limited time available.  If that party is economically stronger than the examining party, it also can strategically increase the costs of litigation this way, by burdening the financially disadvantaged party with having to bring a court application to obtain a proper discovery.

[16]         The proper conduct of an examination for discovery within the spirit of the Rules thus relies on the professionalism of counsel for the party being examined.

[17]         As held by the Ontario Superior Court in Iroquois Falls Power Corp. v. Jacobs Canada Inc. (2006), 83 O.R. (3d) 438 at para. 4:

Improper interference by counsel in the other party’s discovery undermines the purposes of discovery, prolongs it, fosters professional mistrust and generally offends the overall purpose of the Rules….

[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. ..

[52] In summary, the majority of objections made were not valid. The objections were undue interference in the flow of the examination for discovery.  It may or may not be the case that some of the questions were worded awkwardly and may have been seeking evidence of marginal relevance.  The examining party who frames questions badly runs the risk that the evidence obtained will end up being of no value.  Nevertheless, considerable respect ought to be shown for the professional judgment of counsel for the examining party on how to best approach an examination for discovery.  It is not up to counsel for the party being examined to dictate the opposing side’s decisions on which relevant areas of questioning should be the focus of the discovery.  It is also not in accord with the object of proportionality to make it the function of the court to become involved in micro-managing examination for discovery questions.

In addition to the above this case is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s discussion of the many specific objections that were raised.  In particular, the Court held that it is permissible in lawsuits for denied insurance benefits to ask the insurer’s representative about their general practices.

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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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