Tag: settlement privilege

Previous Discovery Transcripts, Expert Reports and Mediation Documents Ordered Produced in Indivisible Injury Case

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering broad document production from past litigation in a case of potential indivisible injuries.
In today’s case (Easton v. Chen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 collision and sued for damages.  The Plaintiff was also involved in four prior collisions that resulted in injury claims, all of which settled prior to trial.
The Defendant requested production of past examination for discovery transcripts, expert reports and mediation documents on the basis that the injuries may be indivisible.  In ordering production Master Muir provided the following reasons:

[25]         I agree with the submissions of the defendant. I am satisfied that the prior documents, the discovery transcripts and the experts reports from the prior actions could be used to prove or disprove material facts in this action and on that basis alone I would order their production. I also conclude that in any event a sufficient foundation has been laid for their production under Rule 7-1(11). Further, I conclude that it is in the interests of justice to relieve against the implied undertaking of confidentiality. Thus, the documents are to be disclosed.

[26]         The mediation documents sought raise another issue and that is settlement privilege. The defendant relies on Dholliwar v. Yu, 2015 BCSC 670 and Dos Santos (Committee of) v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, 2005 BCCA 4, for the proposition that the disclosure of these documents is necessary in order to prove what the plaintiff received in compensation in the prior accidents and to prevent injustice through potential double compensation.

[27]         In Dholliwar, Master Scarth held:

[26]      It has yet to be established here that the injuries arising from the third accident are indivisible from those in the first and second. However, on the basis that indivisibility is at issue, and that there is potential for over-compensation, it is appropriate to require disclosure of the settlement documents at this time. I accept the submission of the defendants that such disclosure is necessary, in that it may assist in the settlement of the plaintiff’s claims arising from the third accident. Disclosure at this time is consistent with the previous decisions of this Court in Pete and Murray. I am satisfied that the defendants here do not seek a purely tactical advantage, as the Court found in Phillips v. Stratton, 2007 BCSC 1298 (CanLII), but rather, they wish to have the information necessary to assess their exposure, both for purposes of settlement and in the preparation of their case for trial.

[27]      In Dos Santos at para. 34, the Court stated that “significant weight should be given to the just disposition of pending litigation in determining whether the documents sought come within an exception to settlement privilege.” In my view, to find that the documents should be disclosed at this time is consistent with this approach

[28]         Similarly in this case, indivisibility is an issue and the defendants argue there is a potential for double compensation. The only evidence available showing what the plaintiff was compensated for in the prior actions will be found in this documentation. As a result, I conclude that the mediation documents should be disclosed.

Court Rejects Request to Produce Settlement Documents From Previous Injury Claim

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing a request to produce documents relating to the settlement of a previous personal injury claim in the prosecution of a subsequent claim.
In today’s case (Gamble v. Brown) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2009 collision, brought a claim for damages and ultimately settled.  She was then injured in a 2011 collision.  In the current lawsuit the Defendant requested broad production of the previous file information including “any mediation brief, settlement letter, file memo, communication or similar document” .  The Plaintiff agreed to produce relevant medical records but not all records captured in the broad request.  The Defendant applied to court for an order to produce these documents but this was dismissed.  In finding the sought order was inappropriate Master Taylor provided the following reasons:

[29]         In the case at bar, the first accident occurred on March 19, 2009. The subject accident occurred on September 1, 2011. By account of some of her physicians, and at least one expert report prepared for the defendant, the plaintiff was doing well and not suffering any effects from the 2009 accident well before the occurrence of the 2011 accident.

[30]         As well, the plaintiff has offered the defendant a letter from her previous solicitor confirming the terms of the settlement she received for the injuries she sustained in the 2009 accident, together with medical-legal documents from the previous accident.

[31]         In this case, I am of the view that the defendant/applicant has not shown that the public interest in preventing double compensation has taken precedence over the public interest in encouraging settlement such that I should order the production of the mediation brief, settlement letter, file memo, communication or similar document prepared by the plaintiff’s previous solicitor.

[32]         The final question becomes whether or not the plaintiff should place any terms on the production and disclosure of the documents she has provided to the defendant. In my view that is a matter for the trial judge to determine at the outset of the trial and in the absence of the jury, aside from the issue of the plaintiff maintaining her solicitor-client privilege with Mr. Wytrychowski, which should be preserved in any event.

[33]         In conclusion, I determine that the defendant has not satisfied me that I should order breach of the settlement privilege attached to the documents prepared by the plaintiff’s previous counsel for the plaintiff in the 2009 Alberta case. Accordingly, the defendant’s application is dismissed with costs to the plaintiff.

 

Some Threats OK, Others Not So Much in Settlement Negotiations


In BC the law provides wide protection over confidential settlement discussions to permit parties in a lawsuit to have full and frank resolution attempts.  Typically settlement discussions made on a ‘without prejudice’ basis are protected by the law of settlement privilege and are not admissible in a subsequent trial.
There are exceptions to this general rule, however, and one such exception relates to communications with”threats of an egregious nature“.  Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In yesterday’s case (Monument Mining Limited v. Balendran Chong & Bodi) the parties were involved in a defamation lawsuit.  In the course of the lawsuit various settlement offers were exchanged.  The Plaintiff sought to introduce these into evidence.  The Defendants opposed arguing these were protected by settlement privilege.  Mr. Justice Goepel concluded the letters contained egregious threats and therefore privilege was lost.  In admitting the letters into evidence the Court provided the following reasons:

[25] In Evergreen Building Ltd. v. IBI Leaseholds Ltd., 2006 BCSC 1190 at para. 16, 58 B.C.L.R. (4th) 294, Kelleher J. said at para. 16:

[16]      Privilege is lost not by making a threat, but by threatening to do something of an egregious nature. For example, a threat to commence an action or to bring a motion does not destroy the privilege attaching to a settlement communication. On the other hand, a threat to commit perjury is not privileged.

[26] I find that the July 12 Letter does contain threats of an egregious nature. The July 12 Letter warns that if the settlement proposal is not accepted, the Clients may  bring claims against Monument, Avocet and their respective directors alleging fraud and other misdeeds and may inform the AIM, the TSX and Haywood Securities Inc. of the alleged fraudulent conduct. Such actions could be devastating for a publically traded company.

[27] Monument and Avocet were not parties to the D8 Litigation.  The reservation of rights set out in the July 12 Letter served no legitimate settlement purpose. The intent of the reservation of rights was to put improper pressure on entities not involved in the D8 Litigation. The threat is of such character that the public interest in its disclosure outweighs the public interest in protecting settlement communications.  Settlement privilege does not extend to the July 12 Letter.

[28] In the result, the Settlement Letters are admissible and will be marked as exhibits 37, 38 and 39 respectively.

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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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