Case Summary by Erik Magrakan

Re: Part I and Rule 7-1(11) to (13)
Cases: Przybysz v. Crowe and Baldertson v. Aspin

Getting to Peruvian Guano

Yesterday morning I was teaching as a guest instructor at PLTC (the BC Bar Exam Course) overseeing a Courtroom skills exercise.  During the mock court application I asked the soon to be lawyers under what circumstances the Pervuian Guano test applied for document production.  Little did I know my  question was being answered just across town by Master Bouck who released reasons for judgement addressing this topic at length.

As previously discussed, the New BC Supreme Court Rules replaced the Peruvian Guano test for document production with the narrower test of documents that “prove or disprove a material fact”.  However, the rules allow for the Peruvian Guano test to kick in through the second tier of document production set out in Rules 7-1(11),(12) and (13).  Master Bouck addressed exactly what’s necessary to get to the Peruvian Guano stage.

In yesterday’s case (Przybysz v. Crowe) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  ICBC’s lawyer brought an application for the production of various records.  The application was largely unsuccessful however before dismissing it the Court provided the following useful feedback about the requirements necessary to get to the Peruvian Guano stage of document disclosure:

[27] …this application is, in fact, brought pursuant to Rules 7-1(11), (12) and (13). Those Rules contemplate a broader scope of document disclosure than what is required under Rule 7-1(1)(a) Indeed, the two tier process of disclosure (if that label is apt), reflects the SSCR’s objective of proportionality. In order to meet that objective, the party at the first instance must put some thought into what documents falls within the definition of Rule 7-1(1)(a)(i) but is not obliged to make an exhaustive list of documents which in turn assists in the “train of inquiry” promoted in Compagnie Financiere du Pacifique v. Peruvian Guano Co. (1882), 11 Q.B.D. 55 at pp. 62-63(Q.A.).

[28] Only after a demand is made under Rule 7-1(11) for documents that relate to any or all matters in question in the action and the demand for productions is resisted can a court order production under Rule 7-1(14). It should be noted that in this case, the demand (and indeed order sought) is for production of additional documents, not simply a listing of such documents: seeRules 7-1(1) (d), (e) and (f).

[29] The court retains the discretion under Rule 7-1(14) to order that the party not produce the requested list or documents. Again, the court must look to the objectives of the SCCR in exercising this discretion.

[30] As to the form and substance of the request, it has been suggested by Master Baker that:

… there is a higher duty on a party requesting documents under … Rule 7-1(11) … they must satisfy either the party being demanded or the court … with an explanation “with reasonable specificity that indicates the reason why such additional documents or classes of documents should be disclosed” …

Anderson v. Kauhane and Roome (unreported, February 22, 2011, Vancouver Registry No. M103201) at para. 4

[31] A similar higher duty or burden rests with the party rejecting the request under Rule 7-1(12): see Conduct of Civil Litigation in B.C (2nd edition), Fraser, Horn & Griffin @ p. 17-7. In my view, the burden is not met by stating that documents will not be produced simply because of the introduction of the SCCR.

[32] The objective of proportionality might also influence the timing of requests for broader document disclosure. The court has observed in More Marine Ltd. v. Shearwater Marine Ltd., 2011 BCSC 166, that under the SCCR:

… the duty to answer questions on discovery [is] apparently broader than the duty to disclose documents.

para. 7.

And further:

… if the court is to be persuaded that the broader document discovery made possible by rule 7-1(14) is appropriate in a particular case, some evidence of the existence and potential relevance of those additional documents will be required. The examination for discovery is the most likely source of such evidence.

para. 8.

[33] Nevertheless, neither the court nor the SCCR require that an examination for discovery precede an application under Rules 7-1(13) and (14). Depending on the case, proportionality and the existing evidence might support pre-examination document disclosure so that the examination can be conducted in an efficient and effective manner….

[40] It is suggested by the learned authors of Conduct of Civil Litigation in B.C. that authorities decided under former Rule 26(11) may be applicable to an application for broader disclosure of documents under Rules 7-1(11) - (14): p. 17-7. That suggestion is not inconsistent with Master Baker’s ruling. Again, the questions for the court will be what evidence is presented and does an order for production achieve the objective of proportionality?

Master Bouck also released a second set of reasons (Baldertson v. Aspin) with this further useful feedback of the intent of Rule 7-1(11):

[29] The intent of Rule 7-1(11) is to inform the opposing party of the basis for the broader disclosure request in sufficient particularity so that there can be a reasoned answer to the request. TheRule allows the parties to engage in debate or discussion and possibly resolve the issue before embarking on an expensive chambers application. Whether this debate or discussion was had verbally in this case is not clear on the record.

[30] Nor does it appear that any written request was made to the plaintiff to list documents relating to the 2001 motor vehicle accident. Again, the Rules appear to have been ignored as a matter of expediency.

[31] Nevertheless, the plaintiff did not seek an adjournment of the application so that the process under Rules 7-1(10), (11) and (12) could be followed. The parties proceeded on the basis that the plaintiff declined the defence’s requests for additional document disclosure and/or the listing of those additional documents. In this particular case, the objectives of the SCCR are met by dealing with the merits of the application rather than rejecting the application on procedural grounds.