There has been an interesting development in a case winding its way through the courts of British Columbia. Gordon Stenner commenced an action against his daughter, Vanessa Stenner-Campbell and various other defendants (docket number S030424) alleging that when Ms. Stenner ended her business relationship with her father and began to compete, she had breached fiduciary duties by, amongst other things, misappropriating client documents and contacts, and by passing off her business as being related to Mr. Stenner’s. Significant aspects of these claims were dismissed in a judgment given on September 14, 2007.
In December 2007 the plaintiff applied to re-open the trial based upon allegations that Ms. Stenner had intentionally concealed highly relevant documents. The court found that the documents in question, including confidential client records, would have been highly relevant to the decision which had already been made. However, the court looked at a number of factors including:
a) evidence that the documents in question had been altered;
b) evidence that the documents may have been “planted” with Ms. Stenner after the fact; and
c) evidence that Ms. Stenner’s former husband would have had both an opportunity and the motive to plant the documents, possibly acting with the cooperation of representatives of the plaintiff.
Based upon these factors and others, Mr. Justice Holmes dismissed the application to re-open the trial based upon the discovery of the “new documents.” The case certainly highlights the need to be vigilant in assessing evidence collected by others. That evidence may not always be what it seems.