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March 9, 2011

Proportionality in Discovery

Master Short recently conducted an exhaustive review of the principles of proportionality in discovery. In Warman v. National Post (2011), 103 O.R. (3d) 174 (S.C.J.), the defendant brought a motion seeking production of a mirror copy of the plaintiff’s computer hard drive. The action was a libel action brought under the Simplified Procedure.

Master Short held that the new rules changing the test from “relating to” to “relevant to” a matter in issue signal a shift away from the broad and liberal discovery practice that has existed in Ontario. The default rule should start with proportionality and a recognition that not all conceivably relevant facts are discoverable in every case. Master Short adopts an eight factor proportionality test for e-discovery used in an American case (Rowe Entertainment v. William Morris):

1. The specificity of the discovery requests;
2. The likelihood of discovering critical information;
3. The availability of such information from other sources;
4. The purposes for which the responding party maintains the requested data;
5. The relative benefit to the parties of obtaining the information;
6. The total cost associated with production;
7. The relative ability of each party to control costs and its incentive to do so;
8. The resources available to each party.

Master Short held that although relevancy should remain a threshold requirement, proportionality should replace relevancy as the most important principle guiding discovery.

This decision will no doubt garner attention as a guideline for discovery. It will be interesting to see if the eight factors become the new standard for discovery in general or limited to e-discovery.

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