Superior Court declines request for Family and Children's Services records in personal injury case

The case stemmed from a motor vehicle accident involving a mother and daughter

Superior Court declines request for Family and Children's Services records in personal injury case

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has refused to grant a request to produce Family and Children's Services (FCS) files in a personal injury case.

Following a motor vehicle accident, the defendants sought access to the complete and unredacted files of the FCS of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington regarding the plaintiffs from 2014 to the present.

The plaintiffs, a mother and daughter, alleged injuries resulting from the accident and claimed damages for loss of income, loss of earning capacity, and under the Family Law Act for the loss of care, guidance, and companionship. Shaelyn Gibson, the daughter, was fifteen at the time of the accident.

During the mother's examination for discovery, it was revealed that FCS had been involved in 2016 when Shaelyn was in Grade 9. The mother, Tammy Gibson, had taken disciplinary actions, leading Shaelyn to run away. During her examination, Shaelyn acknowledged this and mentioned an additional occasion when she ran away.

The defendants argued that the FCS files were relevant to the plaintiffs' claims and insisted on disclosure to ensure a fair trial. Alternatively, they proposed the plaintiffs' lawyer request the records, review them, and provide a summary to the defendants.

The plaintiffs refused the request, characterizing it as a fishing expedition to attack their credibility. They emphasized the entire disclosure of medical and educational records and argued against dredging up the FCS file, stating its utility would be tangential at best.

In considering the motion, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice referenced the principles outlined in jurisprudence, emphasizing factors such as the importance of the documents, the necessity of production at the discovery stage, the adequacy of plaintiffs' discovery, the position of non-parties, the availability of documents from other sources, and the relationship of non-parties to the litigation.

Citing precedents, the court emphasized the high burden for the production of Children's Aid Society (CAS) files in comparable circumstances, stating a need for a reasonable possibility that the information is logically probative to an issue at trial.

In this context, the court found the defendants' motion speculative and unmeritorious, emphasizing the high level of intrusion and the potential exposure of personal and irrelevant information in child welfare files. Given the existing production and the likely tangential relevance of FCS records, the court ultimately ruled against the defendant's motion, dismissing it with costs.

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