Tag: Rule 7

More on The New Rules of Court, IME's and "Responding" Medical Reports


Precedents addressing whether an independent medical exam can be ordered to permit a Defendant to obtain a ‘responding‘ report are still being worked out by the BC Supreme Court.  (You can click here to read my archived posts addressing this topic) Reasons for judgement were released today by the BCSC, Victoria Registry, further addressing this issue.
In today’s case (Hamilton v. Demandre) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 separate motor vehicle collisions.  She claimed she was injured in the first and that those injuries were aggravated in the second crash.  Both lawsuits were set for trial at the same time.   One of the alleged injuries was “visual vestibular mismatch with associated dizziness, motion sickness, balance problems and double vision“.
The Plaintiff submitted to medical exams with a neurologist and an orthopaedic surgeon at the request of the Defendant in the first crash.  The Plaintiff also attended an examination with a psychiatrist at the request of the Defendant in the second crash.
In support of her claim, the Plaintiff served reports from various experts including an ENT specialist.    These reports were served in compliance with the time lines set out in the Rules of Court.  The Defendant in the second crash then asked that the Plaintiff attend a further exam with an ENT of their choosing.  The examination was to take place less than 84 days before trial.
The Defendant argued that this exam was necessary in order to obtain a ‘responding‘ report.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing a further exam was not necessary.  Master Bouck agreed with the Plaintiff and dismissed the application.  In doing so the Court provided the following useful reasons:

[33] In a nutshell, the defendant submits that an ENT examination is required to rebut the opinion that the plaintiff’s ocular vestibular problems have worsened as a result of the second accident.

[34] Dr. Longridge’s report predates the second accident; as such, it is not of assistance to the defendant’s argument. If anyone were to rely on this report to obtain a rebuttal examination, it would be the defendants in the First Action.

[35] In any event, the complaints of ocular vestibular problems are of longstanding. This is not a case of a new diagnosis or even a suggestion that a referral to such an ENT specialist is medically required. Dr. Ballard merely opines that a referral to such a specialist is a possibility if the plaintiff’s symptoms continue. Moreover, Dr. Moll, whose opinion was clearly available to the defendant for some time, discusses these symptoms in his report of January 21, 2009.

[36] As submitted by the plaintiff, the defendant chose to pursue a psychiatric, rather than ENT opinion, knowing that the ocular vestibular complaints formed a significant part of the plaintiff’s claim.

[37] As for the other opinions offered, the experts are in agreement that the plaintiff’s condition has worsened, but that treatment may yet alleviate or reduce those symptoms.

[38] The defence clearly has a theory:  the plaintiff is malingering and/or suffers a somatoform disorder. To have the plaintiff examined by an ENT specialist for an assessment that will either be diagnostic in nature and thus not true rebuttal; or merely to prove a negative, that is to confirm that there is no physiological cause for the balance and visual disturbances, would be inconsistent not only with the authorities cited to me, but also with the purposes of Rule 7?6 and 11?6 (4).

[39] On the material before me, I conclude that any report forthcoming from Dr. Bell would be fresh opinion evidence masquerading as answer to the plaintiff’s reports.

[40] In short, the defendant has failed to meet the necessary evidentiary threshold which might support an order for the examinations requested. The application is thus dismissed with costs in the cause.


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.

BC Court of Appeal Discusses Independent Medical Exams Under the New Rules of Court


Both the former and the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules provide parties to a lawsuit with an ability to request an independent medical exam of the opposing party  “If the physical or mental condition of a person is in issue in an action“.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal explaining exactly what “in issue” means.
In today’s case (Jones v. Donaghey) the Plaintiff was an infant.   He was removed from his home by the BC Ministry of Children and placed into foster care with the Defendants.  The Plaintiff alleged that while in foster care the foster parents intentionally assaulted him by “violently shaking the infant“.  The Plaintiff sued for damages.
In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff argued that the Defendant had anger management issues.  In order to explore these the Plaintiff obtained a Court Order requiring the Defendant to be examined by a physician under Rule 7-6(1).  The Defendant appealed the order.  The BC Court of Appeal set aside the order finding that the Defendant’s mental condition was not “in issue” therefore the Rules of Court did not allow this to be explored through the independent medical exam process.
The BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[14]         …since the purpose of pleadings is to define the “issues” of material or ultimate fact as between the parties, whether a proposition of fact is “in issue” for purposes of Rule 7-6(1) must be determined from an examination of the pleadings:  Astels v. Canada Life Assurance Co., 2006 BCCA 110 at para. 4, 23 C.P.C. (6th) 266.

[15]         “Relevant”, the term used by the chambers judge, belongs to the law of evidence.

[16]         The relationship between relevance and issues of material or ultimate fact was explained in R. v. Watson (1996), 30 O.R. (3d) 161 at 172, 108 C.C.C. (3d) 310 (C.A.):

Relevance … requires a determination of whether as a matter of human experience and logic the existence of “Fact A” makes the existence or non-existence of “Fact B” more probable than it would be without the existence of “Fact A”.  If it does then “Fact A” is relevant to “Fact B”.  As long as “Fact B” is itself a material fact in issue or is relevant to a material fact in issue in the litigation then “Fact A” is relevant and prima facie admissible.

[17]         This concept is succinctly illustrated, albeit using different terminology, in R. v. White, [1926] 2 W.W.R. 481 at 485, 45 C.C.C. 328 (B.C.C.A.), where the Court adopted a passage from S. L. Phipson, ed., Best on Evidence, 12th ed. (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1922) at 6 that included these words:

The fact sought to be proved is termed the “principal fact”; the fact which tends to establish it, “the evidentiary fact”.  When the chain consists of more than two parts, the intermediate links are principal facts with respect to those below, and evidentiary facts with respect to those above them.

[18]         Thus, a material fact is the ultimate fact, sometimes called “ultimate issue”, to the proof of which evidence is directed.  It is the last in a series or progression of facts.  It is the fact put “in issue” by the pleadings.  Facts that tend to prove the fact in issue, or to prove another fact that tends to prove the fact in issue, are evidentiary or “relevant” facts.  And, as Professor Thayer said at 197, “Issues are not taken upon evidential matter.”…

[29]         In my view, the chambers judge erred.  The test under Rule 7-6(1) is not whether the mental condition of a person is “relevant” to an issue; rather, it is whether the mental condition is itself “in issue”.  Moreover, Ms. Donaghey’s mental condition is not put “in issue” by the pleadings.

[30]         The issue raised by Ms. Donaghey’s denial of the allegation in paragraph 16 of the statement of claim is whether she intentionally assaulted the plaintiff by violently shaking him.  That Ms. Donaghey suffered from a personality disorder is not a material fact in respect of this issue, that is, proof that she suffered from a personality disorder would not in itself have legal consequences as between these parties.

[31]         The “issue” raised between the plaintiff and Ms. Donaghey in paragraph 27 is whether Ms. Donaghey breached her duty of care to the plaintiff in any one or more of the specified ways.  None of these allegations put Ms. Donaghey’s mental condition in issue.

[32]         The issues raised as between the plaintiff and Ms. King and as between the plaintiff and the Director respectively in paragraphs 28(d) and 29(n) of the statement of claim are whether these defendants breached their duty of care to the plaintiff by leaving him with Ms. Donaghey when they “knew or ought to have known” one or more of the particularized facts.  Thus, the issue in each case is the state of mind of these defendants.  Proof that Ms. Donaghey suffered from a personality disorder would not entitle the plaintiff to success on these issues.  Her mental condition is not a “definite proposition of … fact, asserted by [the plaintiff] and denied by [Ms. King/the Director], … which both agree to be the point which they wish to have decided”:  Odgers, supra, at para. 5.

[33]         Ms. Donaghey’s mental condition might be an evidentiary fact relevant to the issues raised in the paragraphs under discussion, as the chambers judge concluded.  However, as I have said, relevance of the mental condition of a person to an issue is not the test under Rule 7-6(1).  Rather, the person’s mental condition itself must be in issue to warrant an order pursuant to the rule and none of these allegations put Ms. Donaghey’s mental condition in issue.

[34]         This situation may be contrasted with the more common situation in which a plaintiff claims damages on the basis that a defendant has negligently caused him or her personal injury.  In such a case, the defendant’s denial puts the plaintiff’s condition, whether physical or mental or both, “in issue”.  The plaintiff’s injury is a material fact and the failure to prove it will be fatal to the action.  Accordingly, the defendant may be entitled to a medical examination pursuant to Rule 7-6(1) to obtain evidence of the plaintiff’s physical or mental condition.  However, as I have explained, this is not such a case.

[35]         For those reasons, I would allow the appeal, set aside the order that Ms. Donaghey attend for a psychiatric examination, and dismiss the plaintiff’s application.

Caselaw Update: Independent Medical Exams and Responding Reports


As previously discussed, Rule 11-6(3) of the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules requires expert reports to be served 84 days prior to trial.  Rule 11-6(4) requires “responding” reports to be served at least 42 days prior to trial.  The issue of whether a Defendant is able to force a plaintiff to attend an independent medical exam” for the purpose of obtaining a responding report is currently being worked out by the BC Supreme Court.
Two further cases have been brought to my attention addressing this topic and with these the bulk of the judicial authorities to date demonstrate that it may be very difficult for a Defendant to force a late ‘independent‘ examination to obtain a responding report.
Both of the recent cases (Crane v. Lee and Boudreau v. Logan) involve ICBC injury claims.  In both the Plaintiff served expert reports discussing the extent of their accident related injuries.  The Defendants applied to compel the Plaintiff to attend an independent exam inside the 84 day deadline in order to obtain responding reports.  Master Caldwell presided over both applications and dismissed them both.  In doing so the Court relied on Mr. Justice Savage’s reasoning in Wright v. Brauer and ruled that that precedent was “on all fours” with the present applications.  Master Caldwell repeated the following reasons from Mr. Justice Savage:

[18]         However, at this point in time in the action, the defendants are limited to what Mr. Justice Williamson referred to in Kelly, supra, as “truly responsive rebuttal evidence”.  The application must be considered in that light; the question on this application is not one of notice, but whether the Examination should be ordered to enable the defendant to file responsive evidence.  The authorizing Rule, 7-6(1) uses the term “may”.

[19]         In Kroll v. Eli Lilly Canada Inc. (1995), 5 B.C.L.R. (3d) 7, Sanders J., as she then was, noted that “true response evidence, does not permit fresh opinion evidence to masquerade as answer to the other side’s reports”.

[20]         In C.N. Railway v. H.M.T.Q. in Right of Canada, 2002 BCSC 1669, Henderson J. considered the admissability of “reply reports” holding that only the portions of the reports that provided a critical analysis of the methodology of the opposing expert were admissible as responsive evidence.  The portions of the reports describing the authors’ own opinions on the matters in issue were not admitted.

[21]         In this case, the defendants do not explain why an examination is required in these circumstances, other than a statement by a legal assistant that counsel says such is “necessary to properly defend this action and to respond to the reports of Dr. Weckworth and Dr. O’Connor”.  Master McCallum in White v. Gait, 2003 BCSC 2023 declined to order an examination where it had not been shown why such was required to produce a responsive report.

These cases, in total, seem to stand for the proposition that a Defendant needs to have sworn evidence from the proposed medical examiner explaining why physical examination is required in order to provide a responding report (which is what happened in Luedecke v. Hillman).  Absent this, late independent medical exam applications are being dismissed by the BC Supreme Court.

As of today’s date the Crane and Boudreau decisions are unpublished.  As always I’m happy to provide a copy of these cases to anyone who could benefit from them.  You can request a copy by filling out the form on this link.

Wage Loss Claims, Document Disclosure and Proportionality


As previously discussed, the new BC Civil Rules have changed the test of document production in the pre-trial discovery process.  The test has been narrowed from documents “relating to every matter in question in the action“ to “all documents that are or have been in a parties possession or control that could be used by any party to prove or disprove a material fact” and “all other documents to which a party intends to refer at trial“.  In addition to this the Court must take the concept of ‘proportionality‘ into account when considering an order to produce third party records.
Reasons for judgement were released considering this narrower obligation in the context of an ICBC claim.
In today’s case (Tai v. Lam) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff was injured and claimed damages.  The Defendant asked that the Plaintiff produce his bank statements from the date of the accident onward in order to “defend against (the Plaintiff’s) claim for loss of earning capacity”  The Plaintiff refused to provide these and a motion was brought seeking production.    Master Baker dismissed the motion and made the following useful comments about document disclosure obligations under the new rules and the concept of proportionality:

[5]             I am not going to make the order sought.  I agree entirely with Mr. Bolda’s view of this, which is that it is essentially one production too far, that the information and details sought goes beyond what is reasonable, even on a redacted basis.  To ask that all the bank statements be produced is a broad, broad sweep.

[6]             Sitting here listening, it struck me, it is as if a party who commences proceedings and says, “look, I have been injured and I have suffered financial losses” is inviting some kind of a Full Monty disclosure, that they are expected to produce all financial information they might ever have out there.  Even if it is suggested or offered today that that be done on a redacted basis, it is still, in my respectful view, a requirement for production that is excessive.

[7]             It certainly raises big issues about privacy and if one says, “well, redaction would fix that”, what does it take for counsel to sit down and patiently, carefully redact their client’s bank records for four and a half years?  If that is not a question of confidentiality and privacy, it is a question of proportionality, which is just as concerning to me today as the other issues.

[8]             The banking records.  I am also persuaded by Mr. Bolda’s argument, and a  common position taken today, that the judgment will be one of assessment, not calculation, that the trial judge will have multiple facets to consider and amongst them the gross income.  And while it is for the defence to present and structure its case as it wishes, it seems to me that if it successfully attacks any of these claims for expenses it can only increase Mr. Tai’s income, and I cannot see the value in that perspective.

[9]             I know that until recently the standard in this province was Peruvian Guano and locally Dufault v. Stevens, but that standard has changed.  There has to be a greater nexus and justification for the production of the documents in a case, and I am satisfied that that standard has not been met here today, so that the application is dismissed.

More on the New Rules of Court and Proportionality: Withdrawing Deemed Admissions


As previously discussed, the BC Supreme Court Rules permit parties to a lawsuit to ask the opposing side to make binding admissions through a “Notice to Admit”.  If the opposing side fails to respond to the Notice in the time lines required they are deemed to have made the sought admissions.  Once the admission is made it cannot be withdrawn except by consent of the parties or with the Court’s permission.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, considering the Court’s discretion to withdraw deemed admissions.
In today’s case (Piso v. Thompson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2003 collision.  She sued for damages alleging longstanding injuries as a result of this crash.  In the course of the lawsuit ICBC’s lawyer served the Plaintiff with a Notice to Admit claiming that the Plaintiff was fully recovered within two years, that there was no claim for past wage loss nor a claim for diminished earning capacity.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer neglected to respond to the Notice in the timelines required resulting in the admissions being inadvertently made.  ICBC then brought an application for summary judgement.
The Plaintiff brought an application asking for permission to withdraw the admissions.  ICBC opposed arguing there would be no prejudice to the Plaintiff if she was faced with these admissions as she could sue her own lawyer in negligence to make up for any damages the unwanted admissions caused.  Master Caldwell rejected this argument and permitted the Plaintiff to withdraw the admissions.  The Court cited the principle of ‘proportionality‘ in reaching judgement.  Master Caldwell provided the following useful reasons:

[20]         Rule 7-7 provides a mechanism to streamline and make more efficient the litigation process. It rewards efficiency and encourages a focus on issues which matter and which are truly in dispute. It provides penalties and disincentives for failure to admit that which should properly be admitted by way of cost sanctions. It certainly provides for much more extreme outcomes in appropriate circumstances but it also provides for judicial discretion in excusing or relieving from such extreme outcomes in appropriate circumstances.

[21]         In my respectful view Rule 7-7 does not, nor was it intended to, create a trap or add an inescapable obstacle to ensnare or trip up sloppy or inattentive counsel to the detriment of the parties to the litigation.

[22]         The current Rule 1-3(a) continues the long-standing object of the rules:

The object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules is to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits.

[23]         There is no question in my mind that the failure in this case was a sloppy, inadvertent and possibly even negligent failure on the part of former counsel for the plaintiff. I am satisfied that the plaintiff himself cannot be faulted in any way for the oversight; he had neither actual notice of the document in question from his lawyer nor an opportunity to provide a reasoned and considered response.

[24]         The refusal of leave to withdraw these admissions will deny the plaintiff his opportunity to have his claim heard on the merits. The argument that the plaintiff can have his relief by way of a professional negligence claim against his former counsel fails to recognize the further delay and expense of such a claim. In the context of proportionality such an option does not seem appropriate from a financial or court resource prospective.

[25]         In my view this is precisely the type of situation which warrants an order allowing the withdrawal of a deemed admission while providing for the other party in costs and other accommodations.

[26]         The plaintiff is granted leave to withdraw the admissions.

Independent Medical Exams and Forced "Waivers"


When Plaintiffs attend defence medical exams some doctors require patients to fill out questionnaires and waivers of liability.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing this area of law and concluding that Plaintiffs cannot be forced to sign waivers through the Court ordered independent medical exam process.
In today’s case (Mund v. Braun) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision and allegedly sustained some complex injuries.  In the lawsuit the Plaintiff agreed to attend a defence medical exam with a neurologist (Dr. Makin).  Dr. Makin requested that the Plaintiff sign a waiver form indicating that the Plaintiff “will not sue Dr. Makin outside of BC.”.  As previously discussed, BC law provides doctors with a strong immunity from lawsuits arising from carelessness in the independent medical examination process.  The reason for this waiver was to apparently protect the doctor against the remote chance that the Plaintiff could sue outside of BC.  The Plaintiff refused to sign the waiver.
The Defendant brought a motion and the BC Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the Plaintiff could be forced to sign such a waiver.  Mr. Justice Brown dismissed this motion finding that unless the Court of Appeal rules otherwise the law is settled that BC Courts don’t have jurisdiction to force plaintiff’s to sign such waivers.  In addressing this point Mr.  Justice Brown held as follows:
[38] In any case, on the question of requiring the plaintiff to sign the Jurisdiction agreement, I am bound by Desjardins (Litigation guardian of) v. Huser, 2010 BCSC 977; Kobzos v. Dupuis, 2006 BCSC 2047; Stead v. Brown, 2010 BCSC 312; Peel Financial Holdings Ltd. v. Western Delta Lands, 2003 BCCA 180; Rafferty v. Power (1993), 15 C.P.C. (3d) 48 (BCSC); and Allan-Trensholme v. Simmie, [2006] B.C.J. No. 720 (BCCA). I do not have jurisdiction to order the plaintiff to sign the Jurisdiction Agreement. On the narrow point of whether jurisdiction remains with the court under the Civil Rules to require a party to sign an authorization for documents in the possession of a third party but over which the party has sufficient control, e.g. the party’s clinical records kept by their physician, that is governed by the cited cases until such time as the Court of Appeal specifically rules on that. For now, the general question appears settled; and as for the facts at bar, in my view, the consent in this case falls squarely within the ambit of the authorities cited.
This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the extent of testing that can take place during a Court ordered exam.  Dr. Mund wished to conduct electro-diagnostic testing of the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff refused.  Mr. Justice Brown held that this test was permitted and in so finding stated as follows about doctors discretion during the testing process:
[16] I accept Dr. Makin’s explanation that electro-diagnostic studies are considered an extension of neurological examinations. I find the testing is minimally invasive, and would not invade the plaintiff’s privacy…

[19]         Given the variety of causes attributed to the plaintiff’s symptoms, which include thoracic outlet syndrome, myofascial factors, soft tissue pathology in the neck and right shoulder, cervical spine disc disease with a degenerative factor and even diabetes II, diagnosis is obviously a not straight forward exercise in this case.

[20]         I am satisfied nerve conductions studies are relevant to the issues raised and the pleadings and in the medical reports written for the plaintiff. The defendant submits there is at least a possibility the plaintiff’s tingling and numbness could result from degeneration in his cervical spine or unrelated nerve problems in his right arm; and the origin and causation of his neck, shoulder and arm symptoms are related to the pleadings.

[21]         I also agree that affording Dr. Makin leeway to conduct nerve conduction studies he sees as necessary is required in order to ensure reasonable equality between the parties. The studies will not necessarily duplicate earlier ones. An electro-diagnostic study is a reasonable extension of the clinical examination if the examining physician comes to judge it necessary to form, or confirm, their professional diagnostic opinion.

[22]         Therefore, the plaintiff will submit to electro-diagnostic testing by Dr. Makin if requested to do so.

Excluding Prejudicial Evidence in BC Civil Claims


One exception to the general rule that relevant evidence should be admitted in a civil trial deals with prejudice.  If the prejudicial effect of relevant evidence outweighs it’s probative value a trial judge has the discretion of excluding it.  The BC Court of Appeal recently discussed this principle in the context of an ICBC claim.
In today’s case (Gray v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  She was allegedly at fault for this crash and was sued by the driver and passenger in the other vehicle involved in the collision.  The Plaintiff was insured with ICBC.  ICBC denied coverage to the Plaintiff arguing that she was impaired at the time of the crash and therefore in breach of her insurance.  The Plaintiff sued ICBC arguing she was not impaired and that ICBC was required to provide her coverage.
After the crash the Plaintiff was given a breathalyzer test by the Vancouver Police Department and her test yielded readings well above the legal limit.  At trial the Plaintiff argued that the breathalyzer readings were faulty because the machine was not set up properly.  ICBC responded with expert evidence stating that “there is nothing to indicate that the Breath Test Supervisor did not set up this instrument correctly“.   The Plaintiff countered pointing out that there was nothing in the police files indicating what set up steps were taken by the Breathalyzer Supervisor.  This left ICBC scrambling and in the course of trial they were able to locate the Breathalyzer Supervisor and the notes detailing the set up steps that were taken at the relevant time.
The Plaintiff objected to this evidence being introduced arguing that it’s late disclosure was severely prejudicial.  The trial judge agreed.  The Court held that while the supervisor could testify he could not rely on  or refer to the breathalyzer maintenance notes in giving his evidence.  Ultimately the Plaintiff succeeded at trial with the judge finding that she was not in breach of her insurance.  ICBC appealed arguing the trial judge was wrong in excluding the evidence.  The BC Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial.  In doing so the BC High Court provided the following reasons about the exclusion of prejudicial evidence:
As Mr. Justice Wood said, speaking for this Court in Anderson (Guardian ad litem) v. Erickson (1992), 71 B.C.L.R. (2d) 68 (C.A.), “There is no doubt that a Judge trying a civil case in Canada has a discretion to exclude relevant evidence on the ground that its prejudicial effect outweighs its probative value”…

[27]         In my view, the trial judge erred in her approach to the exclusion of the documentary evidence prepared by Mr. Czech. In exercising her discretion, she was required to balance the probative value of the evidence against the potential prejudice to Ms. Gray of its admission and to make a judgment whether the prejudice outweighed the probative value. It is apparent that she did not undertake this exercise. Rather, she excluded the evidence after balancing the prejudice to the respondent, Ms. Gray, if the evidence were admitted against the prejudice to the appellants if it were excluded. Thus, she erred in principle in her approach and in failing to take into account a critically important factor – the probative value of the impugned evidence. It follows that she did not exercise her discretion judicially.

[28]         Moreover, the trial judge erred in prohibiting Mr. Czech from using his records to refresh his memory. Witnesses are entitled to refresh their memory by any means, including by inadmissible evidence: see R. v. Fliss, 2002 SCC 16, [2002] 1 S.C.R. 535.

Interestingly the BC Court of Appeal did not determine whether the evidence should have been excluded, rather that the wrong test was used.  The Court directed a new trial requiring the correct principle to be applied in deciding whether the evidence should be admitted.

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.

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.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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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