Tag: Rule 7-2(9)

8 Year Old Too Young To Be Examined for Discovery

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a defense application to examine an 8 year plaintiff.
In today’s case (Dann-Mills v. Tessier) the Plaintiff was involved in a ‘serious motor vehicle accident’ when he was 17 months old.  A lawsuit was brought on his behalf by his litigation guardian.  The Defendants sought to examine the Plaintiff for discovery.  The Court found that this would be inappropriate and dismissed the application.  In doing so Mr. Justice Voith provided the following reasons:

[38]        I question the possible utility or value of any examination for discovery of Jorin, particularly in light of some of the medical conclusions I have identified. It was this issue that I canvassed most fully with counsel for the applicant.

[39]        It is generally understood that the central objects of an examination for discovery are:

i)        to enable the examining party to know the case it must meet;

ii)        to enable a party to procure admissions which will dispense with other formal proof of its case; and

iii)       to procure admissions which will damage an adversary’s case.

See e.g. Frederick M. Irvine, ed., McLachlin & Taylor, British Columbia Practice, loose-leaf, 3rd ed. (Markham: LexisNexis, 2006) at 7-178.

[40]        The applicant and other defence counsel accepted that they had no desire to obtain any “admissions” from Jorin on discovery. Instead, the applicant said that the “primary reason” for Jorin’s intended discovery related to the first consideration I identified; that being, to enable the defence to know the case that it must meet.

[41]        Respectfully, I struggle to see how this can be so. This is not a case where the defendants may be surprised by Jorin’s evidence at trial. Jorin will not be present at the trial. Instead, the whole of Jorin’s case will be established by expert evidence, of which the defendants will have ample notice, and through other witnesses. The defendants can examine Jorin’s father and his grandmother (Jorin’s litigation guardian). They can interview his teachers and his special-needs assistants. In earlier applications, it became clear that Jorin, who requires full-time supervision, has had a series of caregivers. These sources are likely to be far more fruitful and reliable than the examination for discovery of an infant who, there is reason to believe, without deciding that it is so, struggles with comprehension, attention and language difficulties.

[42]        The last basis for an examination of Jorin that was raised by counsel for the applicant was a desire, in a sense, to see Jorin and how he functions. There is significant disparity in the existing medical opinions on Jorin’s functionality. I have referred to some of these differences earlier in these reasons. Other differences are apparent in the letters of Drs. Purtzki and Joschko, respectively. Counsel considers that some opportunity to see and interact with Jorin would potentially be helpful for settlement and other purposes.

[43]        First, it would appear that a discovery of Jorin would only achieve this object for the single counsel who conducted the examination for discovery, and not for the teams of counsel who represent the various defendants in this action. I cannot imagine that the intention would be to conduct the examination in the presence of all counsel who are involved in these actions.

[44]        Second, though I do not question counsel’s expressed goal, I consider that this object can be otherwise achieved. I suggested to counsel that Jorin might be videotaped, or that counsel might possibly view Jorin, at a medical examination, through a glass mirror. Though counsel for Jorin indicated he would not be opposed to such endeavours, I was also told by counsel for the defendants that the examining independent medical practitioners might object. Nevertheless, I consider that with some ingenuity there are far better means available to get a sense of Jorin and his functionality than a brief examination for discovery would yield.

[45]        In all the circumstances, I do not consider that an examination for discovery of Jorin would be appropriate, and I am unprepared to allow that examination to take place.

BC Injury Claims, Pre-Trial Discovery and "Mental Incompetence"


When suing for damages as a result of personal injuries the BC Supreme Court Rules generally permit Defendants to compel Plaintiffs to participate in pre-trial examinations for discovery.  There are a few exceptions to this and one of these relates to mentally incompetent Plaintiffs.  If a Plaintiff is mentally incompetent they can only be examined with permission from the Court.  Reasons for judgement were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with this area of law.
In this week’s case (DeMerchant v. Chow) the Plaintiff sustained a serious brain injury during a fall from a ladder in 2007.  The Plaintiff started a lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court through a litigation guardian.  During the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff refused to participate in a discovery.  The Defendant brought a motion seeking an order that he be forced to participate.  The Plaintiff opposed this and relied on medical evidence which opined that the Plaintiff “could not reliably answer questions put to him” and that he “does not have the capacity to give testimony in court“.
Ultimately Master Taylor dismissed the motion and refused to grant the defendant permission to examine the Plaintiff.  This is the first case I’m aware of applying the new BC Supreme Court Rule 7-2(9) which deals with discovery of mentally incompetent parties.  Master Taylor provided the following reasons in dismissing the application:

[2]             The application is made pursuant to Rule 7-2(9) of the new Rules which was formerly Rule 27(11) of the old Rules.  The wording of both rules is similar, but the new Rule has changed the wording somewhat.  The new Rule provides:

7-2(9) If a party to be examined for discovery is a mentally incompetent person, his or her litigation guardian and his or her committee may be examined for discovery, but the mentally incompetent person must not be examined without leave of the court.

[34]         The question to be determined, therefore, is whether the evidence before me is sufficient to find that court approval should be granted to allow the plaintiff to be examined for discovery.

[35]         In Penn v. Secord (1979), 16 B.C.L.R. 48, [1980] 1 W.W.R. 464, 106 D.L.R.(3d) 9 Ruttan, J. said the onus for showing that a party is competent to be examined rests on the party seeking his examination. In the case at bar, the onus rests on the defendants.

[36]         The Rule in question uses the term, “a mentally incompetent person”.

[37]         It has been assumed up to now that Mr. DeMerchant is a mentally incompetent person because he has a trustee and a litigation guardian.  As well, the very nature of the application assumes the plaintiff is a mentally incompetent person since the application seeks leave of the court to examine him.

[38]         According to section 29 of the Interpretation Act, a “mentally incompetent person” is a “person with a mental disorder as defined in section 1 of the Mental Health Act”.

[39]         Reference to the Mental Health Act reveals the definition of a “person with a mental disorder” as “a person who has a disorder of the mind that requires treatment and seriously impairs the person’s ability (a) to react appropriately to the person’s environment, or (b) to associate with others”…

[45]         In the case at bar, there is medical evidence which conflicts, however I am satisfied that Drs. Bogod and  Lu have provided sufficient medical evidence  to suggest that the plaintiff does confabulate and would be unreliable as a witness.

[46]         I am also satisfied that the evidence of Drs. Bogod and Lu establish that the plaintiff meets both tests set out in the definition of a person with a mental disorder.

[47]         Accordingly, I determine that the applicants have not met the onus imposed upon them in seeking an order that the defendants be granted leave to examine the plaintiff at discovery.  It should also go without saying that I do not find the plaintiff to be competent to give evidence on his own behalf in these proceedings.

[48]           Consequently, I dismiss the defendants’ applications with costs to the plaintiff in any event of the cause.

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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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