As a part two of my blog from Tuesday, the Superior Court recently released a decision on the issue of disclosure for surveillance evidence.
The litigation in Bishop-Gittens v. Lim also arose from a motor-vehicle accident. In this particular case, the Plaintiff brought a motion, prior to opening submissions at trial, to exclude surveillance evidence that had been gathered by the Defendant. The issue before the Court was whether the Defendant should be allowed to rely on the surveillance and video footage for impeachment purposes under the following set of circumstances:
- there was no reference to surveillance in the Defendant’s affidavit of documents, as none had been conducted at that time;
- during the examination for discovery, the Defendant advised the Plaintiff that no surveillance had taken place;
- surveillance was conducted one month after the Defendant’s examination for discovery and over various days two years after the initial surveillance;
- the Defendant did not deliver a revised affidavit of documents in advance of trial; and
- there was no disclosure of the surveillance evidence until a letter disclosing the particulars of the surveillance, without a copy of the surveillance evidence itself, was delivered to the Plaintiff less than one month before trial.
Justice McKelvey concluded that the Defendant was in breach of the Rules, and
“In light of the defence’s failure to disclose the surveillance information in a prompt manner, it is apparent that this evidence may not be referred to during the trial unless leave is given by this court. The test for leave in connection with both a failure to disclose a document under rule 30.08 and the failure to correct an answer on discovery under rule 31.09 is governed by rule 53.08. This rule provides that where evidence is admissible only with leave of the trial judge, “leave shall be granted on such terms as are just and with an adjournment if necessary, unless to do so will cause prejudice to the opposite party or will cause undue delay in the conduct of the trial.”
The case law makes it clear that, in considering whether leave should be granted under rule 53.08, a trial judge must grant leave unless to do so will cause prejudice that cannot be overcome by an adjournment or costs. See Marchand (Litigation Guardian of) v. The Public General Hospital Society of Chatham (2000), 2000 CanLII 16946 (ON CA), 51 OR (3d) 97 (ON CA). As noted in the Iannarella decision, this mandatory orientation is understandable, since relevant evidence, including surveillance, is ordinarily admissible.”
Ultimately, Justice McKelvey allowed the Defendant to rely on the surveillance evidence only for the purposes of impeachment. The present circumstances before Court was distinguished with Iannarella because the trial not yet begun and neither party had taken any steps at trial which could result in prejudice by not knowing that this evidence may be introduced.
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Earlier this year, the Ontario Court of Appeal released a lengthy decision in respect of a party’s obligation to disclose surveillance evidence throughout the litigation process if one intends to rely on such evidence at trial.
The factual background of Iannarella v. Corbett arose from a personal injury claim relating to a rear-end collision that occurred on a snowy winter evening. The Plaintiff claims that he suffered a rotator cuff injury to his left shoulder when the Defendant failed to stop in time before he collided with the Plaintiff’s vehicle. According to the Defendant’s testimony,
“there was nothing further he could have done to avoid the collision and repeatedly said that the accident was caused by “mother nature”. He told Mr. Iannarella at the scene: “Sorry, but I don’t control mother nature.”
While the Defendant may not be in control of mother nature, he was in control of his conduct throughout the proceedings.
In defence of the Plaintiff’s claims for damages, the Defendant retained private investigators to conduct surveillance on the Plaintiff over various time periods between 2009 and 2012. As the result, 130 hours of surveillance was recorded after the accident on February 19, 2012. However, the existence of the surveillance was not disclosed to the Plaintiff in an affidavit of documents nor were its particulars made known to him.
At trial, the Defendant sought to use the surveillance footage as evidence of the functionality of the Plaintiff’s left arm after the accident. Ultimately, the Court of Appeal found that the use of surveillance evidence at trial to be improper as “a form of trial by ambush”. The Court of Appeal was adamant that the disclosure obligations required by the Rules of Civil Procedure must be followed to ensure fairness and prompt settlement discussions.
In essence, as a general rule of thumb, a party may not rely on surveillance evidence if it is not disclosed through an affidavit of documents. Disclosure must be made either in full or as a privileged document, depending on whether the evidence is relied upon substantively or for impeachment purposes.
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In one of my blogs earlier this summer, I discussed the new Rule 20 of the Rules of Civil Procedure with respect to summary judgment and the two approaches to its interpretation. One takes a narrow view that the test has not changed much, and the other, more expansive view, is that the new rule significantly expands the powers of the motion judge.
Pursuant to an order of the Honourable Associate Chief Justice for Ontario, the Ontario Bar Association (“OBA”) was appointed as Amicus Curiae to render assistance to the Court on the meaning and scope of Rule 20 in the group of five appeals heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal this summer. The Court’s decision will interpret Rule 20 and provide some guidance regarding the scope of the new powers and the implications for the rest of the proceeding.
In its factum, the OBA does not comment on the merits of the individual appeals but does address the following issues:
1. Whether the test for summary judgment has changed in that once a motion judge has exercised the powers under Rule 20.04 (2.1) & (2.2), is there any limitation on his or her ability to find facts and to grant or refuse judgment that would not apply to a judge who has conducted a full trial?
2. When is it appropriate for the motion judge to weigh evidence, evaluate and draw reasonable inferences in order to grant or refuse summary judgment under Rule 20.04(2.1)?
3. When is it appropriate to hear evidence under Rule 20.04(2.0)?
4. What are the principles to be considered in issuing orders under Rule 24.05?
For the answers to these questions and more, see the factum for yourself here.
We will be looking forward to hearing from the Court of Appeal itself on these issues. Stay tuned.
Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.
Medical Records are one of the most important categories of evidence available to the estate litigator. In most cases, medical records from health care providers who treated a testator in and about the time a Will was made will be seen as the most persuasive evidence available because the author of such records will be seen as both (i) possessing some degree of expertise related to the assessment of capacity and (ii) exhibiting complete objectivity as a witness (unlike the family members who may be contesting capacity).
In Ontario, the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario (“CPSO”) has posted a policy on its website providing the public with information concerning medical records and what they are required to contain. Not surprisingly, security and privacy of medical records is one of the foremost concerns. Of particular interest is the fact that one of the “principles” of good record keeping as mandated by the CPSO is to maintain “information essential to others for a wide variety of purposes…including legal proceedings”
For its part, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has stringent requirements for the production of Claims Reference Files providing details of all health care providers who have provided services to a deceased client. Typically, a Certificate of Appointment of Estate trustee With a Will or a Court order will be required to obtain a Claims Reference File for a Deceased.
David M. Smith – Click here for more information on David Smith.
The Rules of Civil Procedure are the the Barrister’s Bible. While we may not keep them on our bedside tables, they can be found on every good litigator’s desk as well as scattered throughout the office in strategic locations.
As lawyers, we generally have good memories for anything logical or analytical – case names can be remarkably pulled out of a hat at a moment’s notice. Not quite so for the Rules. Why? Because they aren’t always self evident or logical, especially when they work in tandem with other legislation that qualifies or expands on them. For example, did you know that a person who is “incapable” can, nonetheless, be “competent”?
Under Rule 31.03 (5)(b) a person who has been declared incapable of looking after their property or personal care pursuant to the Substitute Decisions Act may be examined if he or she is competent to give evidence.
There is a prima facie right to examine an adverse party pursuant to Rule 31.03(1). All persons are presumed competent to give evidence pursuant to section 18 (1) of the Evidence Act. This presumption is rebuttable by sufficient evidence to the contrary. The onus rests on the party alleging incompetence to establish that the witness has no capacity to perceive, recollect and communicate evidence in the proceeding. (See R. v. Caron, 1994CanLII 8735 (ON CA) The evidence required for a determination of incompetence is medical evidence from a person qualified to speak with authority on the subject.
In Trypis v. Lavigne, 2008 CanLII 26266 the Ontario Superior Court sets out the general principles applicable to the issue of competency of a party to give evidence. Trypis is twist in the other direction whereby a person who was “capable”, in that there had not yet been a finding of incapacity under the SDA, was found “incompetent” to testify.
If you’d like to see more on the subject, see Natalia Angelini’s blog, The Right to Examine Incapable Persons and Minors.
Have a super weekend and thanks for reading this week.
Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.
Given the nature of estate litigation, a party to the dispute, and/or a witness that is to testify at trial, are at times elderly, in poor health, incapable of testifying or out of the jurisdiction, such that it is appropriate for their evidence to be given out of court in advance of the trial date. Rule 36 of the Rules of Civil Procedure regulates taking of evidence before trial.
A person may be examined under this Rule either by consent of the parties or with leave of the court. The court is to take into account several factors when determining whether to grant leave to order an examination before trial, which are particularized in Rule 36. These include the convenience of the witness and saving of costs. This permits the court to take a more broad approach, since previously these orders were limited to situations where it was established that the witness will likely be out of the jurisdiction or incapable of testifying.
Moreover, previously, leave of the court was necessary before the examination of a witness could be used at trial. Now, the transcript or videotape of the examination of a witness who is not a party may be used “unless the court orders otherwise”, and the witness shall not be called to give evidence at trial except with leave of the court. In contrast, the transcript or videotape of the examination of a witness who is a party may not be used except with leave of the court or the agreement of the parties.
While it seems to me that live testimony will likely have more impact then a transcript or videotape, if the circumstances warrant it, this is a handy tool to avoid difficulties and complications in attempting to get witnesses and/or parties on the stand when the trial date arrives, and ensures the evidence is preserved and gets before the court.
Have a great day,
Listen to Taking Evidence Before Trial
This week on Hull on Estates Bianca La Neve and Natalia Angelini discuss taking evidence before trial. They talk about the procedure for witnesses who may not be available at trial, which involves preserving their evidence beforehand so it is available prior to the trial.
If you have any comments, send us an email at email@example.com or leave a comment on our blog.
Listen to A Review of Dependant Support Claims
This week on Hull on Estates, David Smith and Jonathan Morse review some of the recent podcasts and hone in on some of the evidentiary requirements of a common-law spousal relationship as it relates to dependant support claims under the Succession Law Reform Act. They look at some recent case law and some of the requirements under the Ontario statute.
Comments? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on the comment line at 206-350-6636, or leave us a comment on the Hull on Estates blog.
When an irresistable force meets an immovable object, we appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In Canada (Privacy Commissioner) v. Blood Tribe Department of Health, 2008 SCC 44, the force is the Personal Information Protection of Electronic Documents Act ("PIPEDA") and the object is solicitor-client privilege. Section 12 of PIPEDA grants the Privacy Commissioner express statutory power to compel a person to produce any records that the Privacy Commissioner considers necessary to investigate a complaint “in the same manner and to the same extent as a superior court of record”. The issue in Blood Tribe was whether this conferred a right of access to documents protected by solicitor-client privilege. The Court held unanimously that the broad grant did not contain the requisite specific express authority to override privilege.
The Court stated the rule that "general words of a statutory grant of authority to an office holder such as an ombudsperson or a regulator do not confer a right to access solicitor-client documents, even for the limited purpose of determining whether the privilege is properly claimed. That role is reserved to the courts. Express words are necessary to permit a regulator or other statutory official to “pierce” the privilege."
The Court also noted that "while the solicitor-client privilege may have started life as a rule of evidence, it is now unquestionably a rule of substance applicable to all interactions between a client and his or her lawyer when the lawyer is engaged in providing legal advice or otherwise acting as a lawyer rather than as a business counsellor or in some other non-legal capacity."
Speaking of the Supreme Court of Canada, the law you’re looking for just might be in the "unreported judgments" section of the Supreme Court’s user-friendly website. How does a Supreme Court decision go unreported?
Have a great day,
Listen to Developments in Will Changes.
This week on Hull on Estates, Ian and Suzana discuss developments in will changes. They reference cases from Key Developments in Estates and Trusts Law in Ontario ed. 2008.