Sunday, December 06, 2009

Interrogatories In the New B.C. Supreme Court Rules

As I wrote in an earlier post, the new rules of civil procedure in British Columbia will come into effect on July 1, 2010.

One of the changes will be to restrict the use of written interrogatories.

Under the old rules, Rule 29 allowed any party to serve written questions on another party to the lawsuit. The party asked to answer the interrogatories could object to specific questions, or bring an application to court to strike the interrogatories if they were “not necessary for disposing fairly of the action or that the costs of answering would be unreasonable….”

Under the new Rule 7-3, if a party wishes to examine another by written interrogatories he or she must first get the other party’s agreement or apply to court to allow the interrogatories.

This rule change is unfortunate, and will have the opposite effect of what is intended. Instead of reducing the costs of lawsuits, in many cases it will increase the costs.

I have used interrogatories frequently in Wills Variation Act cases, where the financial circumstances of the person making the claim and of the defendants is usually quite relevant to the case. By submitting questions concerning a party’s financial circumstances in writing, the other party has an opportunity to go through his or her records, and review the questions and answers with his or her lawyer, to make sure the responses are accurate. This is much more effective than asking the same questions during oral examinations, where the other party often does not know the answers off-the-top of his or her head.

Furthermore, as often as not, another party to a lawsuit lives in another part of Canada. It is not uncommon in Wills Variation Act cases for other parties to live all over the world. In some cases, written interrogatories can be an inexpensive substitute for paying for them to come to British Columbia to answer questions in oral examinations for discovery.

Under the new rules, if another party does not agree to answer interrogatories, you may be able to get a court order allowing interrogatories (especially when used to elicit information from someone who lives far away), but it is an extra step, which adds to the expense.

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