DAILY NEWS Jan 17, 2013 10:13 AM - 0 comments

New Brunswick court upholds order to produce fire documents for State Farm

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The New Brunswick Court of Appeal recently upheld a lower court decision requiring a fire insurance claimant to produce records for State Farm Fire & Casualty Insurance.


The appeal court dismissed an appeal from Karen Bennett of an Oct. 2011 decision by Judge Judy Clendening of the Court of Queen's Bench, which ordered Bennett to produce several documents for State Farm.

According to court records, Bennett was the owner of a property in Nashwaak Village, about 15 kilometres north of Fredericton, that was destroyed by fire on June 19, 2008. 

State Farm denied her insurance claims on the grounds that the home had been vacant for more than 30 consecutive days, that there had been "a material misrepresentation regarding the vacancy of the home" and that she "failed to give notice of a material change in the risk when the home became vacant."

In background information provided with Judge Clendening’s ruling, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police conducted an investigation "because it is suspected that the fire may have been deliberately set."

Bennett has argued State Farm should not be allowed to get RCMP documents related to the fire for several reasons.

In its Jan. 10 decision, the Court of Appeal essentially rejected all of her arguments.

"Ms. Bennett argues that the documents produced by the RCMP 'should not be used for parasitic or collateral purposes,' the appeal court noted in a decision by Judges Marc Richard, Richard Bell and Bradley Green. "She submits that '[n]either the police nor the Crown should be co-opted into the private proceedings between parties without any limitations,' on the basis that it is 'not the role they were created to fulfill.'" 

But the appeal court said this argument was not grounds for appeal.

"No compelling argument has been made in support of an overriding public policy reason to shelter relevant documents from disclosure and production in a civil matter simply because these originated or were gathered in the course of a police investigation," the court noted. "If the documents are not otherwise cloaked by privilege or immunity, and if they are relevant and shed light on the truth, the interests of justice are served by their disclosure, not by their suppression." 

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