Friday, November 21, 2014

Master Taylor of the Supreme Court orders the City of Prince Rupert to produce documents related to Watson Island Case

The ongoing court case between the City of Prince Rupert and the Watson Island Development Corporation continues along on its path through the Supreme Court of British Columbia, with bit of forward momentum found this week.

On Wednesday, Master Grant Taylor issued a judgment that sets up the next phase of the long running court case between the two sides.

Providing direction to the City of Prince Rupert that it must turn over documents related to legal advice with the Exclusivity Agreement , an aspect of the ongoing proceedings that has been the main focus over the last number of months.

During the course of his review of Wednesday, Master Taylor outlined some of the major points of the case thus far, all part of the preamble towards his Reasons for Judgment, which focused on the nature of client-solicitor privilege which made for the theme of the November 19th proceedings.

The court documents from that Wednesday session which were posted to the BC Supreme Court Website on Thursday, review his two main issues for deliberation from the day:

In this case to be determined is whether on swearing an affidavit in the proceedings, which is intended to be used by the defendant in seeking the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims, the defendant’s solicitor has “entered the fray” and caused the defendant to waive solicitor-client privilege.

Further to that Watco is seeking that the City produce all documents related to legal advice in connection with (1) any Exclusivity Agreements between the defendant and the plaintiff, and (2) the proposed sale of Watson Island from the defendant to the plaintiff, including all email, notes, minutes of municipal council, draft agreements and correspondence between the City of Prince Rupert (including Mayor and Council) and (a) Pamela Jefcoat and/or (b) any other lawyer at Valkyrie Law Group LLP.

As part of the review of the question, Master Taylor provided a fairly lengthy synopsis of some of the more contentious points to be considered. Including the concerns that the Watson Island Development Corporation has regarding affidavits provided by the City's solicitors that are related to solicitor-client privilege.

Included in the analysis of events, were a number of instances of conversations and correspondences, as well as a fair amount of background regarding how the City was approaching the issues of Watson Island earlier this year.

Towards the main point of those discussions on his way towards his conclusion, it was observed by Master Taylor that:

As plaintiff, Watco submits that by presenting the affidavit of the defendant’s solicitor on the contested issues material to the lawsuit, as well as the evidence of Ms. Bomben to legal advice in connection with the disputed issues in the lawsuit, that the City has “plainly waived” solicitor-client privilege, and, having done so, can no longer assert confidentiality over the documents related to the waiver.

Returning to the original question at hand, as to whether the City will have to produce all of the documents requested by the Watson Island solicitors, Master Taylor was very clear with his instructions:

I order that the City of Prince Rupert produce all documents related to legal advice in connection with the Exclusivity Agreement or a possible alternative or a revised Exclusivity Agreement between the defendant and the plaintiff within five days of this judgment. In the event no legal advice exists with respect to Exclusivity Agreements then the City through and by its Corporate Administrator should provide a letter to that effect.

That deadline of five days would suggest that the City's next court appearance regarding the Watson Island file will be on the 26th of November. 

At which time perhaps, we'll have a better understanding as to the path ahead on this long running story and whether there is any glimpse of an ending coming to it, an outcome that we imagine a large portion of the residents of the city hope is on the way sooner rather than later.

You can review the entire Reason for Judgment, which features a fair amount of interesting background on the City's discussions on the topic over the last year, from the BC Supreme Court website here.

We have background on the history of the Watson Island story on our Archive page

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