In this British Columbia insurance claim (Kendall v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada)  the  claimant  was suing the insurance company, Sun Life, for denying her claim for disability insurance benefits.  She claimed  for her benefits denied by Sun Life, as well as for mental distress and punitive damages. The personal injury claimant says that Sun Life acted in bad faith . Sun Life did not want to disclose details of their internal claim practice but the court ruled:

“… the relative treatment of the plaintiff’s disability claim, compared to the general practices of the defendant insurer, may be relevant and may be the proper subject of some exploration on examination for discovery.  In my view, what was sought in Astels goes much further than what is sought in this case, at least with respect to the questions asked on examination for discovery that were objected to. “

The Sun life representative refused to answer many questions under oath at an examination for discovery and the judge stated that,

“Rule 7-2(18)(a) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules, B.C. Reg. 168/2009 [Rules of Court] sets out the scope of examination as follows:

(18)      Unless the court otherwise orders, a person being examined for discovery

(a)        must answer any question within his or her knowledge or means of knowledge regarding any matter, not privileged, relating to a matter in question in the action, …

[7]             Despite a variety of substantive changes to the Rules of Court enacted effective July 1, 2010, the scope of examination for discovery has remained unchanged and is very broad…

[13]         While the scope of examination for discovery has not changed with the new Rules of Court brought into force on July 1, 2010, the length of examination for discovery is now limited to seven hours or any greater period to which the person to be examined consents: Rule 7-2(2).”

The injury claimant’s  lawyer walked out of the examination for discovery after several interruptions made it impossible to continue.  The court pointed out:

“[67] It should be a very rare circumstance when the court will endorse a party’s request for a continuation of examination for discovery, where that party made a unilateral decision to terminate the examination prematurely.  However, the circumstances here, in my view, left the plaintiff’s counsel with very little choice.  There was so much disruption in her conduct of the examination that her client was being deprived of the right to cross-examination.  The entire purpose of the examination for discovery was being thwarted…

[70]         I conclude that given the extent of the interruptions by counsel for the defendant during the examination for discovery, the witness was unresponsive to many questions and the ability to conduct a cross-examination was defeated.  I conclude that it is appropriate in this case to make an order that is akin to allowing the plaintiff to start the discovery afresh.  The plaintiff should be entitled to a seven hour examination for discovery that is conducted in accordance with the spirit and object of the Rules of Court.  “

Posted By Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer  Mr.Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B
Issue: Should injury companies be allow to hide internal documents relating to how they refuse or deny injury claims?

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