Canadian courts continue to grapple with scope of production issues in various contexts. In the B.C. case of XY, LLC v. Canadian Topsires Selection Inc.,  B.C.J. No. 657, (“XY, LLC”) the plaintiffs brought an application for further production of records. Of note here is the fact that the defendants had failed to disclose certain records and had deliberately misled the plaintiffs and the court. As a result, an Anton Piller order had been previously executed, which secured a significant number of paper and electronic records.
Under the B.C. rule amendments, documentary production is two-tiered, in part to ensure the discovery process remains proportionate. Parties are required to produce records that are material to the case (for any party), and those upon which the producing party intends to rely at trial. Further production is facilitated through demands for particular classes of documents, which must be identified by the requesting party with relative precision. Strictly construed then, discovery is limited to a finite set of records that are identified with some precision (para. 25).
With this statutory framework in place, the B.C. Supreme Court considered whether broad document production (to the standard in the Peruvian Guano case) should continue to be available in certain cases. This required an examination of a court’s jurisdiction to invoke its inherent jurisdiction with respect to discovery issues.
The court noted that in some cases, such as those involving fraud or other wrongdoing, parties are unable to identify with specificity the full range of records they seek. Further, it may not be possible to lead evidence that these “unknown” categories of records exist.
Calling the court’s jurisdiction to order broader discovery (beyond classes of records identified with reasonable specificity) “auxiliary” in nature, the B.C. court held that “expanded document production may, in appropriate cases, serve to better achieve the diverse purposes” of a “just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits” (para. 56). However, it confirmed that extenuating circumstances would be required to order discovery outside of statutory parameters, and made clear that such cases would be limited (para. 57).
Ultimately, the B.C. court declined to give the plaintiffs the relief sought in this case, due in large part to the Anton Piller order that it held would have captured and protected the majority of the required records. Further, proportionality principles were not applied in this case as the case was deemed to be unconstrained by such concerns.
We do note with interest that another Canadian court has confirmed that it would prefer that counsel collaborate and ideally resolve discovery scope issues prior to turning to the courts for resolution (refer back to our blog on Kaymar v. Champlain).
What do we take from this case?
A limited scope of discovery governed by statutory rules of procedure will continue to be the norm;
In extenuating circumstances, courts have the inherent jurisdiction to order “broader discovery”; this jurisdiction will be utilized sparingly;
Proportionality continues to be an overriding objective in Canadian courts; and,
Courts want to remain a last resort for discovery disputes.