Case Summary by Erik Magrakan

Re: Rule 7-1
Case: Abougoush v. Sauve

Digital Vacation Photos and Metadata Production Ordered in ICBC Claim

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, ordering production of a Plaintiff’s vacation photos in an ICBC injury lawsuit.

In today’s claim (Abougoush v. Sauve) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.  She alleged that her injuries disabled her for a period following this collision.  During this period she travelled to Las Vegas, Palm Springs and the Caribbean.   Photos were taken during these trips.

ICBC asked for the photos to be produced.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that any probative value in the photos was outweighed by Privacy concerns.  Mr. Justice Rogers reviewed the photos and ultimately ordered them disclosed.  The Court noted some difficulty reconciling the activities depicted in the photos with the “Plaintiff’s perception of what is a physical activity” based on her affidavit evidence.  In ordering production of the digital photos and metadata Mr. Justice Rogers provided the following reasons:

[7] The photographs in question depict the plaintiff in various indoor and outdoor tropical settings. The plaintiff is depicted engaging in various activities including swimming, walking on a beach, going on a catamaran power boat, and visiting the Grand Canyon. The photographs clearly establish that the plaintiff did not spend the majority of her time curled up in her parent’s motorhome or resting poolside in a chaise lounge.

[8] I have referred to the pleadings, of course, in order to determine what matters are in question, but I have also referred to the plaintiff’s Affidavit #1, particularly the extracts set out above. The pleadings establish that the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s physical injuries, their effect on her enjoyment of life and their effect on her ability to participate in physical activity are matters in question. The photographs, when they are compared to the plaintiff’s affidavit evidence, are clearly relevant to the plaintiff’s perception of what is a physical activity. They are also relevant to the plaintiff’s tolerance for physical activity over a several week period.

[9] The photographs do not show the plaintiff in embarrassing or socially unacceptable situations. There is nothing about the photographs that would prevent their owner from, for example, posting them on a social networking site such as Facebook. I do not consider that the plaintiff’s demeanour or comportment in any of the photographs in the binder is such that they must be withheld from the defendants in order to preserve her privacy.

[10] In my opinion, the plaintiff’s pleadings and her affidavit evidence make the entire photographic record of her trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and to the Caribbean, relevant to matters in question in this suit. All of the photographs in the binder provided to me must, therefore, be produced to the defendants.

[11] From what I can see of the camera that the plaintiff used to take many of these photographs (the camera can be seen in the reflection off the plaintiff’s sunglasses in some of her self-portraits), I believe it was a digital device. Digital cameras typically record the time and date when the photograph was taken. Some cameras capture the camera’s GPS co-ordinates as well. These data are known as metadata. These data are relevant to a matter in issue in this lawsuit because they may provide information from which the camera user’s tolerance for physical activity from day to day or over several days may be inferred. More particularly, the metadata may be relevant to the plaintiff’s ability to, for example, be active throughout a given day and then go walking on the beach in the evening, or it may be relevant to the plaintiff’s ability to spend an evening at a nightclub until some given hour, and then tolerate swimming the next morning. For that reason, the metadata associated with these photographs must also be produced to the defendants. That discovery may be accomplished by providing the defendants with digital copies of the photographs with the metadata preserved intact in those copies.