Surveillance particulars must be served even if not relying on it at trial

A recent decision has held that a defendant who obtains surveillance must serve particulars of it, even if not relying on it at trial.

In Arsenault-Armstrong v. Burke, 2013 ONSC 4353 (S.C.J.), the plaintiff sought an undertaking that the defendant provide particulars of future surveillance, including date, time, name of investigator and so forth.  The defendant refused to provide particulars if she was not relying on the surveillance at trial.

Justice Hambly held that the defendant must provide particulars of surveillance even if she does not intend to rely on it at trial.  At paragraph 11, Justice Hambly stated:

[11]           The consequences of the defence not producing the full particulars of surveillance evidence in its possession, even if in the period leading up to the trial the defence is of the view that it will not rely on it at trial are well illustrated in Beland.  The surveillance evidence will assist the plaintiff in evaluating the strength of her case and arriving at her settlement position prior to trial.  Even if the defendant will not be able to use the surveillance evidence for impeachment purposes, as a result of its non-disclosure, the defence will gain knowledge of the plaintiff from the surveillance evidence which it will be able to use to its benefit.  A requirement that the defence produce it even if it does not presently intend to use at trial is consistent with what the Court of Appeal said in Ceci v. Bank (1992), 7 O.R. (3d) 381 quoted above by Justice Howden.  In Beland, after a 17 day trial a jury dismissed the plaintiff’s case.  The trial judge fixed costs against the plaintiff, exclusive of HST at $115,318. This is a devastating result for a plaintiff. Perhaps it could have all been avoided if the disputed surveillance evidence had been produced by the defendant.

The difficulty with this decision for the defence is that the value of surveillance as an impeachment tool may be lost if the plaintiff has knowledge of the particulars.  In addition, if the defence does not intend to rely on it at trial, how can it assist in settlement?  Lastly, the decision does not give guidance on how far in advance of trial the particulars must be disclosed.

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