On October 16th the British Columbia Court of Appeal applied the common interest privilege doctrine in finding that a draft legal opinion prepared for a vendor of property was immune from production despite being shared with the purchaser, its various officers and the potential financial underwriters of the proposed transaction. The opinion was about the validity of the plaintiff’s claim, which challenged the proposed transaction.
The Court explained:
The disclosures to Mr. Hotel were in the course of discussions between the solicitor for the De Graaf defendants (Mr. McEwan), the solicitor for Western (Mr. MacLean) and the solicitor for National Bank Financial. (Mr. Hotel). The interests of the clients of the three solicitors were not identical but they were common to the extent that financing of the Western exploration of the Mongolian properties was beneficial to all of them. They also shared an interest in assessing the invalidity of Maximum’s claims. Sharing the opinions in the McEwan draft was reasonably in aid of a due diligence investigation of the Maximum litigation. The chambers judge put it in terms of an ongoing interest in completing the transaction which the disclosure was designed to facilitate. In my view, that is a sufficient common interest to support the extension of the privilege. In this regard, I agree with Mr. Justice Lowry (as he then was) in Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP v. Canada (M.N.R.) 2002 BCSC 1344 (CanLII), (2002), 6 B.C.L.R. (4th) 135, 2002 BCSC 1344, relied on by the chambers judge in the quotation I have earlier included, that commercial transactions can benefit from an uninhibited exchange of legal opinions among parties allied in interest.
The Court also rejected claims of waiver based on the purchaser’s internal communications and based on “state of mind” issues pleaded in the defence.