Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Judges and Privacy

Because I'm doing this "directed research" (or independant study) until my classes start in February, you're not likely to see many cartoons here this month. What am I studying? Why, thank you for asking. I'm looking at the use of mental health records in civil litigation here in Ontario. You might be surprised at just how much of your most private information can be seen by all sorts of people if you get involved in a lawsuit where your mental health is an issue. Some judges understand the importance of privacy, but in my reading of cases, I'm starting to get the idea that some judges don't get it. In a case I read today, which you can find on Quicklaw if you've got an account, a couple are suing for the psychiatric trauma suffered by the wife after she was injured in a car accident. They tried to keep her psychiatric records from both before and after the accident out of the list of documents the other side could see. The judge turned down their request and found it necessary to add details like this in his judgment:

The Plaintiffs did not sleep together in the same room for one-and-a-half years following the accident. In October 1996, [the husband] started to sleep in their son's bedroom because of stress and problems with intimacy. The Plaintiffs are in the initial stages of separation.
Where I've got "[the husband]", the judge has the name spelled out. I can't figure out why the judge thought he needed to include this background in his reasons for denying their wish for privacy, unless he really wanted to teach people a lesson about suing people and maintaining privacy.

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