The Second Opinion: Production Orders and Electronic Information - Appeal Court Offers a List of Considerations

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal recently grappled with questions of relevance, proportionality and privacy in the context of whether or not to order the production of electronic information.

The court in Laushway v. Messervey, 2014 NSCA 7 affirmed an order requiring a plaintiff to produce a hard drive for forensic review because it contained metadata (essentially data about data) which could show how much time the plaintiff spent at his computer, a point central to his lost income claim.

The Court of Appeal helpfully created a list of factors for judges to consider when deciding whether to grant a production order in similar circumstances (at para. 88):

If it would assist trial judges in the exercise of their discretion when considering whether or not to grant production orders in cases like this one, let me suggest that their inquiry might focus on the following questions.  They would supplement the guidance already contained in the Rules. The list I have prepared is by no means static and is not intended to be exhaustive.  No doubt the points I have included will be refined and improved over time, and adjusted to suit the circumstances of any given case:

1.     Connection: What is the nature of the claim and how do the issues and circumstances relate to the information sought to be produced?

2.     Proximity:  How close is the connection between the sought-after information, and the matters that are in dispute?  Demonstrating that there is a close connection would weigh in favour of its compelled disclosure; whereas a distant connection would weigh against its forced production;

3.     Discoverability: What are the prospects that the sought-after information will be discoverable in the ordered search?  A reasonable prospect or chance that it can be discovered will weigh in favour of its compelled disclosure.

4.     Reliability:  What are the prospects that if the sought-after information is discovered, the data will be reliable (for example, has not been adulterated by other unidentified non-party users)?

5.     Proportionality:  Will the anticipated time and expense required to discover the sought-after information be reasonable having regard to the importance of the sought-after information to the issues in dispute?

6.     Alternative Measures:  Are there other, less intrusive means available to the applicant, to obtain the sought-after information?

7.     Privacy:  What safeguards have been put in place to ensure that the legitimate privacy interests of anyone affected by the sought-after order will be protected?

8.     Balancing:  What is the result when one weighs the privacy interests of the individual; the public interest in the search for truth; fairness to the litigants who have engaged the court’s process; and the court’s responsibility to ensure effective management of time and resources?

9.     Objectivity:  Will the proposed analysis of the information be conducted by an independent and duly qualified third party expert?

10.                        Limits:  What terms and conditions ought to be contained in the production order to achieve the object of the Rules which is to ensure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding?

The McCarthy Tétrault Opinions Group consists of members of the firm’s litigation department whose practices focus on written advocacy and the provision of strategic advice and opinions in the context of complex business disputes and transactions. The members of the Opinions Group are Anthony Alexander, Martin Boodman, Brandon Kain, Hovsep Afarian and Kirsten Thompson.

discovery e-discovery electronic information privacy proportionality principle relevance



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