The Court of Queen's Bench has developed Practice Note 4 to provide guidance to the legal profession and the public regarding the preparation, management and presentation of electronic evidence. This Practice Note was developed after extensive consultation with members of the profession representing law firms of all sizes, sole practitioners, and litigation support professionals.
The Practice Note deals with the problem of the exchange of incompatible electronic data between parties to a proceeding. Incompatible data results in increased costs and duplication of effort as receiving parties are required to manipulate data before being able to use it. The practice Note establishes a default standard or framework for document exchange. This default standard represents the lowest common denominator for electronic databases which means that a party is not required to use sophisticated litigation support software in order to exchange electronic documents. In addition, the Practice Note expressly provides that parties are free to depart from the default standard if they can agree, but in the absence of an agreement, the default standard exists.
The purpose of the Practice Note is to get parties considering and addressing the issue of electronic evidence management and exchange as early in the litigation process as possible in order to avoid, as much as possible, duplication of effort with its consequential wasted time and resources. If the issues presented by electronic evidence are not addressed at an early stage in a proceeding, costs of litigation will continue to rise beyond the reach of most litigants and our justice system will be increasingly unable to remain open and accessible to all.