Ontario Superior Court denies confidentiality order in medical negligence settlement

Public access to court records is fundamental to the justice system: court

Ontario Superior Court denies confidentiality order in medical negligence settlement

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has denied a request for a confidentiality order in a medical negligence case involving a minor who suffered a catastrophic brain injury due to alleged misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

In Kocsis et al. v. Hug et al., 2024 ONSC 3656, the plaintiffs had sought to have their names initialized and certain case details redacted to protect their privacy and solicitor-client privilege. However, the court ruled that the open court principle must prevail.

The case centred around the minor plaintiff, who experienced severe injuries, including weakness, motor control issues, cognitive impairments, and emotional stress. Despite these challenges, he is expected to work with accommodations in the future. The plaintiffs presented a settlement for approval and a motion to keep sensitive information confidential.

The plaintiffs argued that the materials contained highly personal information, such as comparisons between the injured minor and his twin brother and details about the settlement and legal fees. They contended that public access to these records could harm the minor and invade solicitor-client privilege.

The Superior Court emphasized that public access to court records is fundamental to the justice system and that confidentiality orders are rare and reserved for exceptional cases. Citing recent jurisprudence, the court noted that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that public openness posed a serious risk to their privacy, the protection of minors, or solicitor-client privilege.

The court acknowledged that some information, such as details about the minor's injuries and comparisons with his brother, was intimate but necessary for the settlement approval. This information was already part of the public record through the statement of claim, which had not attracted media attention or other harm.

The court found that the proposed redactions were too extensive and not justified. The court concluded that neither the initialization of names nor the redactions were necessary to prevent a serious risk, and the benefits of public accountability outweighed any negative effects on the plaintiffs' privacy.

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