Tag: Solicitor’s Brief Privilege

Case Plan Conference Orders Can't Trump Privilege

Last year I highlighted a decision confirming that the Court’s powers under the new rules of court don’t allow orders to be made which will trump legitimate privilege claims.  Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming this principle.
In the recent case (Blackwell v. Kwok) the Defendant sought an order at a Case Planning Conference requiring the Plaintiff to disclose the specialty of the expert witness(es) the Plaintiff intends to rely on.  The Court refused to make this order finding it would trump the privilege in the Plaintiff’s counsel’s solicitor’s brief.  In dismissing the request Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:
[11]         Plaintiff’s counsel referred me to the Court’s decision in Nowe v. Bowerman, 2012 BCSC 1723.  In Nowe, the defendant proposed that each party be limited to one expert each and that the plaintiff advise the defendant of the area of expertise by November 17, 2012, approximately ten months before the scheduled trial.  The Court denied the application:
[10]  The area of expertise of an intended expert witness is a matter of trial strategy.  Trial strategy is a key component of a solicitor’s brief.  It may well evolve as plaintiff’s counsel builds a case and makes decisions based upon a myriad of factors and considerations.  Intentions may change as the process unfolds over time.
[11]  In my view, unless and until the intention to rely upon a particular expert in a particular field is declared by delivery of a report in accordance with the timelines established by the Rules, in the absence of a compelling reason an early incursion into this aspect of the solicitor’s brief will not be justified.
[12]  That being said, there may well be cases in which a departure from the usual timelines can be justified.  For example, in complex cases such as those involving brain injuries as a matter of fairness it may be necessary to provide defence counsel with a longer period than would be available under the usual regime in order to schedule appointments with certain kinds of experts. …
[12]         I note that in Nowe, the plaintiff argued that it was “not the kind of case in which a long period is required in advance of an appointment being made with a certain type of expert” (para. 7).  Although possibly a longer period may be justified in some cases, I am not satisfied that a “departure from the usual timelines can be justified” in the case at bar.
[13]         In my view, the defendants’ application should be rejected.  I see no prejudice if the normal rules for delivery of expert reports apply.  If the defendants choose to retain an expert to conduct an independent medical examination and prepare a report based on the plaintiff’s pleaded injuries, but no psychological injury is alleged at trial, an appropriate award of costs will afford the defendants the necessary relief.
[14]         Not surprisingly, I cannot state matters better than Chief Justice McEachern in Hodgkinson: “While I favour full disclosure in proper circumstances, it will be rare, if ever, that the need for disclosure will displace privilege”.
[15]         The Court declines to make the order sought.
 

BC's New Rules of Court Don't Trump Solicitor's Brief Privilege

Earlier this year I highlighted two  judgements (here and here) discussing that the New Rules of Court don’t allow the Court to override solicitor’s privilege.  Further reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming this principle.
In the recent case (Nowe v. Bowerman) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 motor vehicle collision and sued for damages.  The Defendant set down a Case Planning Conference asking for an order that “Plaintiff’s counsel advise the defence of the areas of expertise of his proposed experts“.
Madam Justice Dickson dismissed this request finding it would infringe on solicitor’s brief privilege.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
[10]  The area of expertise of an intended expert witness is a matter of trial strategy.  Trial strategy is a key component of a solicitor’s brief.  It may well evolve as plaintiff’s counsel builds a case and makes decisions based upon a myriad of factors and considerations.  Intentions may change as the process unfolds over time.
[11]  In my view, unless and until the intention to rely upon a particular expert in a particular field is declared by delivery of a report in accordance with the timelines established by the Rules, in the absence of a compelling reason an early incursion into this aspect of the solicitor’s brief will not be justified.
[12]  That being said, there may well be cases in which a departure from the usual timelines can be justified.  For example, in complex cases such as those involving brain injuries as a matter of fairness it may be necessary to provide defence counsel with a longer period than would be available under the usual regime in order to schedule appointments with certain kinds of experts.  In this case, however, I am unable to identify such a compelling reason.  In these circumstances, I decline to make the order sought.
To my knowledge these reasons for judgement are not publicly available but, as always, I’m happy to provide a copy to anyone who contacts me and requests one.

Court Can't "Ride Roughshod" Over Solicitor's Brief Privilege At a Case Planning Conference


Reasons for judgement were recently brought to my attention discussing the scope of powers of the Court at Case Planning Conferences. Specifically the Court found that Rule 5-3 does not provide the power to over-ride common law principles of privilege.
In the recent case (Galvon v. Hopkins) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision. She sued for damages. As the lawsuit progressed the Plaintiff did not provide any expert medico-legal evidence to the Defendant.
This concerned the Defendant who brought a Case Planning Conference and obtained an order requiring the Plaintiff to “notify counsel for the defendant of the name of the neurologist with whom the appointment had been made and the date of the appointment, and secondly, that the parties were to provide opposing counsel with written notice forthwith upon any appointment being set for the plaintiff with medical experts, such notice to include the name of the expert, the expertise of the expert, and the date of the appointment“.
The Plaintiff appealed arguing that the Court did not have jurisdiction to make such orders under the Rules of Court. Madam Justice Kloegman agreed and allowed the appeal. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
21. I agree with counsel for the plaintiff’s submission that Rule 5-3 cannot be read as to allow the Case Planning Conference Judge or Master to disregard the common law principle of privilege.
22. In my view, Master Bouck was fixated upon settlement of the litigation; always a commendable and important goal of a case planning conference, but not at the cost of ignoring the boundaries of her jurisdiction. It may well be that such information could have been exchanged at a settlement conference, which is a voluntary and without prejudice process, but it should not be mandated as part of trial preparation.
23. …She did not appear to consider that the object of the Rules to avoid trial by ambush only apply to evidence that would be used at trial, not to expert advice received through consultation.
24. By requiring the plaintiff to disclose the very fact of her attendance before a medical expert, and run the risk of an adverse inference if she did not call the expert at trial, the master was also interfering with the plaintiff’s right to elect which witnesses to call. Such interference is not sanctioned, or warranted, I might add, by our Supreme Court Rules.
25. Having concluded that our Rules do not grant the presider at a case planning conference the power to make the orders made by Master Bouck, it follows that she did not have the jurisdiciton to do so.
26. The appeal is allowed and Master Bouck’s orders will be set aside.

More on Medical Records, Document Production and Privilege in ICBC Injury Claims

Useful reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with the records that need to be disclosed to opposing counsel following an Independent Medico-Legal Exam.
In today’s case (Gulamani v. Chandra) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 motor vehicle accidents approximately one decade apart. In the course of the lawsuits she attended various medico-legal appointments at the request of the Defence Lawyers under Rule 30 of the BC Supreme Court Rules.
Following these the Plaintiff’s lawyer brought an application that  these doctors deliver “copies of their examining notes or any other recording generated by or on behalf of the said doctors that record any history given to them by the plaintiff on the examination, and any notes that record the doctor’s observations or findings on physical examination together with copies of any tests, questionnaires, or other documents completed by or on behalf of the plaintiff including scoring documents prepared by the examiner“.
The Defence lawyers opposed this motion and argued that the sought materials “constitute the doctors’ working papers and underlying materials that are privileged and part of the solicitor’s brief until the doctor testifies in court, at which point the privilege is waived. ”
Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey rejected the defence position and noted that “solicitor’s brief privilege can be trumped when it comes to the bare facts” and that “there is no property in a witness of fact”.  In ordering production of the sought records the Court extensively canvassed the law in this area and summarized its position as follows:

[24]         Stainer and Traynor clearly indicate that any notes, annotations, recordings, or working papers that reveal an examining doctor’s confidential opinion or advice to counsel will, generally, be privileged.  Even things as small as question marks or exclamation marks added to raw test data could fall into this category and would potentially need to be redacted:Traynor, at para. 21.

[25]         However, the cases also illustrate that notes or recordings that capture the factual history given by the plaintiff to an examining doctor, as well as raw test data and results, are outside the scope of solicitor-client privilege and are subject to production.  I agree with the conclusion reached by the learned master in McLeod as one that follows these basic principles and extends them to circumstances outside the scope of a Rule 30 order. General principles are indeed just that – general principles – and not principles that are only to be applied in making a Rule 30 order or only to be applied when such an order is made.  As Master Caldwell opined in McLeod, the timing of the request for disclosure and whether a court order triggered the examination are factors which do not override the application of Rule 1(5) and the court’s role to “secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits”.  I share this view.

[26]         I do not disagree with the submission by counsel for the Chandra defendants, in line with S. & K. Processors and Vancouver Community College, that an expert’s working papers remain privileged until that expert takes the witness stand.  As I understand the jurisprudence, however, there is a clear distinction between an expert’s working papers, which contain opinions, or which may be prepared for the sole purpose of advising counsel, and the facts underlying those opinions or advice.  In the case at bar, the plaintiff is not asking for the type of documents that were at issue in those cases, and those cases reaffirm that the factual material the plaintiff seeks is indeed subject to production.

[27]         The Sutherland case is perhaps, at first blush, most problematic for the plaintiff, in that it appears to imply that the only factual material requiring disclosure will be that which is not already adequately set out in the written statement accompanying the expert report (in the context of Rule 40A).  As I have indicated above, however, upon further analysis I do not believe the case stands for this point.  The court in Sutherland could not find that giving notice under Rule 40A meant that everything underlying the report was suddenly subject to production before the witness took the stand, because a pre-existing privilege existed over the documents, and was not entirely waived simply by virtue of giving notice under Rule 40A.  The court therefore only ordered production of the raw data from among the requested general “rubric of clinical records” – material that was clearly factual in nature and did not involve opinion or advice.

[28]         On that note, the question that may remain after reviewing many of these cases is whether, prior to notice being given under Rule 40A, there is any privilege over the examining doctors’ materials, specifically over anything factual in nature reported by the client and not involving opinion or advice.

[29]         I am of the view that this is not so in the circumstances of the case at bar.  The passages from Stainer cited above reaffirm that even the solicitors’ brief privilege can be trumped when it comes to the bare facts, since it is well settled that “there can be no property in a witness of fact”.  Further, regardless of the way any of the cases cited in these reasons unfolded, including applications under Rule 30, outside of Rule 30, under Rule 26, pursuant to Rule 40A, and under s. 11 of the Evidence Act, and both before a report has been put into evidence and before a report has even been created, I fail to see any examples where a court has declined to order production of the factual underpinnings of an expert’s report, as reported by the plaintiff and recorded in notes, annotations and test data.

[30]         The facts of the present matter are also such that it is the plaintiff who has applied for the information in question, and it was of course the plaintiff herself who provided that information and raw data to the doctors in question.  Further, as I appreciate the circumstances of the present application, it is the non-party doctors who have the information in their hands, and not counsel for the Chandra defendants, who presumably have not been privy to the underpinnings of the reports.  As such, I fail to see how, in these circumstances, there is any doctor-client privilege or solicitor-client privilege to assert, or any strong argument to be made about non-party rights in the context of Rule 26(11)…

[36] In conclusion on this issue, I therefore order that the defendants and Doctors Hawkins, Hepburn, Weeks, Magrega, and Munro deliver to the solicitor for the plaintiff copies of their examining notes or any other recording generated by or on behalf of said doctors that records any history given to them by the plaintiff on the examination and any notes that record the doctor’s observations or findings on physical examination together with copies of any tests, questionnaires, or other documents completed by or on behalf of the plaintiff, including scoring documents prepared by the examiner, except any documents containing the doctors’ opinions or advice, within 14 days of the pronouncement of this order.

In addition to the above, the Plaintiff’s lawyer also brought a motion for production of records documenting the extent of MSP Billings that one of the Defence Doctor’s had with respect to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. In partially granting this order Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey held as follows with respect to the relevance of such a request:

[44] I agree with plaintiff’s counsel’s that the expertise of Dr. Munro is an issue, albeit ancillary, to this matter and that the information has been properly sought pursuant to Rule 26(11).  The information sought is relevant because, to use the wording in Peruvian Guano, it may allow the requesting party to damage the case of its adversary.  After all, to properly cross-examine Dr. Munro on his qualifications at trial will require counsel to be prepared with the relevant information to be able to do so, and as I understand it, acquiring the information at that later stage would interrupt the trial given the time it takes to receive it from Health Services.  To be clear, I find that Dr. Munro’s opinion and expertise is important as it relates to the plaintiff’s injury claims, particularly because it conflicts with the opinion of another medical expert.

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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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