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Ontario Evidence Statutory Law

Evidence Act

Electronic Commerce Act, 2000

There are additional evidence provisions scattered throughout the Statutes and Regulations of Ontario, particularly the Rules of Civil Procedure at R4.1 and Rule 53:
Rules of Civil Procedure, which has several provisions necessary for civil practice.



. Girao v. Cunningham

The case of Girao v. Cunningham (Ont CA, 2020) is a remarkable ruling. That it had to be written this way is an embarrassment to the legal profession. It should be read by any litigation lawyer, especially those practicing MVA litigation, as a salutory lesson in dealing with self-representing parties. On it's face it was an appeal of an MVA tort jury award, but the Court of Appeal took the oppourtunity to review numerous (sadly, necessary) basics of civil litigation. Dealing at trial with a self-represented plaintiff who relied on a Spanish interpreter throughout, the Court of Appeal used defence behaviour as object lessons in why these legal principles are important and in the end, took the unusual step of ordering a new trial from scratch [paras 7, 173-174].

I'll go through the legal principles one by one as per topic, here the principles governing business record [s.35] and medical report [s.52] evidence under the Evidence Act:
(b) The Governing Principles Regarding the Evidence Act

[42] Dr. Sanchez’s letter was adduced by the defence in order to substantiate its theory that the appellant was suffering before the accident from the same mental problems that she manifested after the accident. The defence wanted to rely on the words of Dr. Sanchez’s opinion as being true. This would be to use Dr. Sanchez’s statement for the truth of its content, making it hearsay evidence. Hearsay evidence “is presumptively inadmissible because – in the absence of the opportunity to cross-examine the declarant at the time the statement is made – it is often difficult for the trier of fact to assess its truth”: R. v. Bradshaw, 2017 SCC 35, [2017] 1 S.C.R. 865, at para. 1.

[43] There are certain exceptions to the hearsay rule under which a statement may be adduced for its truth value. Two such exceptions, hedged about with additional protections, are found in ss. 35 and 52 of the Evidence Act.

[44] Section 35 of the Evidence Act relates to business records. If a record is made “in the usual and ordinary course of any business and if it was in the usual and ordinary course of such business to make such writing or record at the time of such act,” then the record is admissible as evidence of such act: s. 35(2).

[45] Section 52 of the Evidence Act relates to medical reports and is more expansive than s. 35. It permits the court to allow the report to be admitted into evidence without the need to call the practitioner. The opinion can then be accepted for the truth of its contents. However, the trial judge must, at the request of a party, oblige the medical practitioner to testify in order to permit cross-examination. See Kapulica v. Dumancic, 1968 CanLII 419 (ON CA), [1968] 2 O.R. 438 (C.A.); Reimer v. Thivierge, 1999 CanLII 9303 (ON CA), [1999] 46 O.R. (3d) 309, at paras. 12-15; see also Doran v. Melhado, 2015 ONSC 2845. See generally Michelle Fuerst, Mary Anne Sanderson, and Donald Ferguson, Ontario Courtroom Procedure, 4th ed. (Toronto: Lexis Nexis Canada, 2016), c. 41.

[46] The respective roles of the two sections have been distinguished in several cases. Section 35 is not a proper basis on which to admit opinion evidence. In Westerhof, Simmons J.A. said, at para. 103:
Because these reports were tendered under s. 35 of the Evidence Act, the opinions concerning causation were not admissible for the truth of their contents: Robb Estate v. Canadian Red Cross Society (2001), 2001 CanLII 24138 (ON CA), 152 O.A.C. 60 (Ont. C.A.), at para. 152; McGregor v. Crossland, [[1994] O.J. No. 310] 1994 CanLII 388 (Ont. C.A.) at para. 3. Further, the appeal record contains no indication that notice was served for the admission of these reports under s. 52 of the Evidence Act. [Emphasis added.]
[47] In Robb Estate v. Canadian Red Cross Society (2001), 2001 CanLII 24138 (ON CA), 152 O.A.C. 60 (Ont. C.A.), the court noted, at para. 152: “Section 52 differs from s. 35 in that it permits the admission of opinions and diagnoses contained in medical reports signed and prepared by qualified practitioners… Section 52 was designed as an alternative to oral testimony.”

[48] In McGregor v. Crossland, [1994] O.J. No. 310 (Ont. C.A.) the court noted, at para. 3:We do not think that the diagnosis … is admissible under s. 35. It does not relate to “any act, transaction, occurrence or event”. If the notes were to be admissible at all this would have had to have been under s. 52 of the Evidence Act.
. Blake v Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company

In Blake v Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company (Ont CA, 2015) the Court of Appeal commented on several Evidence Act issues usefully as follows.

Firstly, on the practice for admitting extensive documentation at trial:
[53] Parties frequently use comprehensive document briefs in civil trials. As this court stated in Iannarella v. Corbett:[9]
It is commonplace in civil actions for counsel to prepare a trial document brief containing documents that are admitted as authentic and admissible. See John Sopinka, The Trial of an Action, 2nd ed. (Markham: LexisNexis, 1998) at pp. 41-42. Counsel typically agree on a list of documents and one party attends to the brief’s preparation.
[54] When a document brief is tendered at trial, the record should reflect clearly the use the parties may make of it. Such use may range from the binder’s acting merely as a convenient repository of documents, each of which must be proved in the ordinary way, through an agreement about the authenticity of the documents, all the way to an agreement that the documents can be taken as proof of the truth of their contents. Absent an agreement by the parties on the permitted use of a document brief, the trial judge should make an early ruling about its use.

[55] In his case, the trial judge clearly indicated at the commencement of the trial that that he would not treat a document contained in exhibit 1 as admitted evidence for his consideration unless a witness had referred to it or the document was admitted on consent. In my view, that was adequate notice to counsel that absent an agreement about a document, it would have to be proved in the ordinary course through a witness.

....

[60] Moreover, in his ruling the trial judge followed this court’s decision in O’Brien, which held that merely filing a large volume of records – in that case, the contents of a party’s Workers’ Compensation Board file – pursuant to notice given under s. 35 of the Evidence Act, without more, was insufficient to establish the truth of the contents of each document in the voluminous file. Absent express agreement by opposing counsel to the use of large sets of documents for the truth of their contents, the tendering party would have to lead evidence about the nature of the records or the circumstances in which they were created.[11]
Next, on the treatment of medical reports as business records under the Evidence Act:
[59] The trial judge’s refusal to treat the Designated Assessment Centre medical assessments prepared by Drs. Garner, Ghouse, and Meloff as business records under s. 35 of the Evidence Act followed the long-established principle stated by the High Court of Justice in Adderly v. Bremner[10] that a professional medical opinion, including a diagnosis, is not an “act, transaction, occurrence or event” within the meaning of s. 35(2) of the Evidence Act.








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