Summary Trial Documentary Evidence: Rule 9-7 (5)(b) Interrogatories


The governing rule of Interrogatories is noted under Rule 7-3 Discovery by Interrogatories, which should be reviewed.

  • Interrogatories are written questions, given to the other party to answer under oath.
  • You can deliver a list of questions to the other party and they have to provide answers, in the form of an affidavit, within 21 days.
  • Interrogatories are useful to get factual information and perhaps help you decide on other important questions for an examination for discovery.

Purpose of Interrogatories:

  • The purpose of interrogatories is to enable the party delivering them to obtain admissions of fact in order to establish his case and to provide a foundation upon which cross-examination can proceed when examinations for discovery are held.
  • You might want to use interrogatories to get factual information like numbers; data; bank account numbers; inventory lists; customer lists, and so on.

Summary Trial:

Responses to Interrogatories can be appended to an Affidavit and relied on in a summary trial application. Interrogatories should not be overlooked as the Court often will rely on the documentary evidence to assist them with the finding of facts or resolving of issues that exist. Where conflicts in the Affidavit evidence exists, Interrogatories may be useful and may add weight to the facts outlined in your affidavit material.

In Pearlman v. Critchley, 2011 BCSC 1479 (CanLII), helpful comments were shared on Interrogatories that are worthy of mention:

“The purpose of interrogatories was helpfully explained by Madam Justice Baker in Tse-Ching v. Wesbild Holdings Ltd. (1994), 98 B.C.L.R. (2d) 92 (S.C.):

Interrogatories are a pre-trial tool designed to narrow and focus the issues in the lawsuit, reduce the length and expense of trial and eliminate the element of surprise at trial. The Rule with respect to Interrogatories is to be interpreted in accordance with the general purpose of the Rules which is to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits. The leading decision in British Columbia on the purpose and scope of interrogatories is that of our Court of Appeal in British Columbia Lightweight Aggregate Ltd. v. Canada Cement LaFarge Ltd. [citation omitted]. At page [64] of that case, Justice Taggart adopted this passage from Kennedy v. Dodson [citation omitted]:

The legitimate use, and the only legitimate use, of interrogatories is to obtain from the party interrogated, admission of facts which it is necessary for the party interrogating to prove in order to establish his case; and if the party interrogating goes further, and seeks by his interrogatories to get from the other party matters which it is not incumbent on him to prove, although such matter may indirectly assist his case, the interrogatories ought not to be admitted.

Other British Columbia authorities have established these requirements for and limitations on interrogatories:

  1. Interrogatories must be relevant to a matter in issue in the action.
  2. Interrogatories are not to be in the nature of cross-examination.
  3. Interrogatories should not include a demand for discovery of documents.
  4. Interrogatories should not duplicate particulars.
  5. Interrogatories should not be used to obtain the names of witnesses.
  6. Interrogatories are narrower in scope than examinations for discovery.
  7. The purpose of interrogatories is to enable the party delivering them to obtain admissions of fact in order to establish his case and to provide a foundation upon which cross-examination can proceed when examinations for discovery are held.
  8. Interrogatories are only one means of discovery. The court may permit the party interrogated to defer its response until other discovery processes have been completed, including examinations for discovery.

It is clear, therefore, that interrogatories are not intended, and indeed should not be used, as a means of conducting a less expensive examination for discovery. They are fundamentally different tools, if I can use that expression, in litigation.”

See also Charest v. Poch, 2011 BCSC 1165 (CanLii) in which the court relied on the documentary evidence submitted from various pre-trial tools, such as the Interrogatories, to assist the court with the finding of facts in a matter in which there were conflicts.  As quoted:

 I agree with the plaintiffs that there is a head on conflict in the evidence that goes directly to the foundation of the matter. In McVeigh v. Boeriu, 2011 BCSC 400 (CanLII), Madam Justice Ker noted that the court must proceed with caution where such head on conflicts exist:

[45]      I am mindful of the decision of the Court of Appeal in Cotton v. Wellsby (1991), 1991 CanLII 5730 (BC CA), 59 B.C.L.R. (2d) 366 (C.A.) [Cotton], where Madam Justice Southin cautioned, at p. 378, against the use of the summary trial procedure where there are conflicts in the affidavit evidence and “issues of who said precisely what to whom when [were] significant.” Southin J.A. continued at p. 378: “Where such issues are crucial, the trial judge must be alive to the possibility that the case is simply not suitable for summary trial.”

[62]           Although there was a conflict on the affidavit materials in McVeigh, Ker J. concluded that there was also documentary evidence, “in particular the [Letter] as well as the Notices to Admit, the Reply to the Notices to Admit and the Interrogatories and Responses to Interrogatories, from which the facts can be determined and judgment given in this case”: at para. 50.

[63]           There is also additional documentary evidence in this case. The plaintiffs filed affidavits from Mary Anne Martin, who is the sister of Mrs. Charest and Larry Poch, and the affidavit of John Martin, who was married to Mary Anne Martin. John Martin and Mary Anne Martin married in 1972 and divorced about 1990. There is also the discovery evidence of both of the plaintiffs, as well as Mrs. Poch. Further, attached to the affidavits of Mrs. Poch and Mr. Charest, are documents including bills for work done on the Property and the Lot, property tax notices, legal documentation of the trailer swap between James Poch and the plaintiffs, and letters from 2009 that lead to this litigation.

Therefore, there is value in utilizing Interrogatories if there are conflicts in the evidence as they can certainly be used in a summary trial application and assist the Court, especially if you are pressing for a summary trial hearing.  The Court in Charest v. Poch concluded:

I am satisfied that, while there are conflicts in the affidavit evidence, they are not detrimental to the achievement of a just resolution of this case on summary trial. The materials provided on this application, including the discovery and documentary evidence, are organized and not prolix or overwhelming: Chu v. Chen, 2002 BCSC 906 (CanLII). With reference to these materials, in addition to the affidavit evidence, I am satisfied that the evidentiary conflicts can be addressed in a manner other than by preferring one view over the other.

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