N.M. Patterson & Sons Limited v. The St. Lawrence Seaway Mgt. Corp.

In Admiralty Practice, Discovery on (Updated )

This was an appeal from a motion in which a solicitor was found in contempt of court for disclosing to the media information obtained on examination for discovery. The appeal was dismissed. This important case reminds practitioners that documents and information received through the discovery process are subject to an implied obligation of confidentiality. Such documents and information may not be disclosed to any third parties or used for any purpose other than the litigation in which it is produced or given. The implied undertaking is only released if and when the document or information becomes publicly available by being tendered as evidence at trial. The Court of Appeal judgment clarifies that the public availability of the information is a defence to the charge of contempt and not an element of the offence. Therefore, the onus is on the accused to prove the information is publicly available.