Videotaping Examinations for Discovery

In what circumstances will a court permit examinations for discovery to be videotaped?

J.M. v. Clouthier, 2013 ONSC 155 (S.C.J.)

This action arose out of allegations of historical sexual assault.  The defendant was in his 70s and had diabetes and high blood pressure, although he submitted evidence that he had no current health issues.  The plaintiff wished to videotape the defendant's examination for use at trial in case the defendant was not available to testify by the time of trial.  The defendant argued that the dynamic of the examination for discovery would change, forcing him to incur more cost in preparation time, and the editing and splicing of video to be shown at trial could be prejudicial to him.
The motion was brought under r. 34.19, which permits pre-trial examinations by videotape "by order of the court", rather than r. 36, which permits evidence to be taken de bene esse.  A witness examined under r. 36 may be examined, cross-examined and re-examined in the same manner as a witness at trial. 
Given the technology available, one could imagine that more examinations for discovery might be amenable to videotape, particularly as demonstrative evidence is readily accepted and the trier of fact is likely to be comfortable with and perhaps even absorb visual information more readily than reading in transcripts.

Given the technology available, one could imagine that more examinations for discovery might be amenable to videotape, particularly as demonstrative evidence is readily accepted and the trier of fact is likely to be comfortable with and perhaps even absorb visual information more readily than reading in transcripts.



Justice Hennessy allowed the motion.  Technical issues could be dealt with by the trial judge. The Court was not convinced there would be substantially more time or cost involved in videotaping the examination, and the video could be useful in terms of showing documents, photographs or charts.  There was a higher than normal probability that the defendant would not be available at trial given his age and health status.  The video was permitted under r. 34 rather than r. 36. 

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