A case management meeting on the two class-action lawsuits was held in Supreme Court in Corner Brook on Friday.
Justice William Goodridge led the meeting, which included lawyers for both the plaintiffs and defendants named in the claims.
Adam Joyce and Kelly Langthorne of Brothers and Burden Law Office were present in the court. Their firm represents about 300 of the 1,043 people who had their personal information inappropriately accessed by a former employee of the health authority.
Their suit names Valerie Dyke and Catherine Allen-Vater as representative plaintiffs and lists Donna Colbourne, the former clerk accused of the breach, and Western Health as defendants.
A suit being handled by St. John’s lawyer Bob Buckingham lists Barbara Hynes as the representative plaintiff.
Buckingham appeared via telephone as did lawyers for Western Health and Colbourne.
Discussion in the court centred on whether the two cases can be heard separately or if they would have to be combined. The parties also discussed which firm would take the lead in arguing the matter.
Lawyers for Western Health were of the opinion that the two lawsuits were so similar that they could not be heard separately, and that only one could proceed.
Buckingham, however, indicated that his suit could be broader and take in more people who had been affected by other breaches within the health authority. It was also noted that Buckingham’s suit only names Western Health as a defendant. After hearing from all parties, Goodridge decided to give them more time to examine the issues and set another case management meeting for May 7.
Following the meeting, Joyce said the issues discussed will need to be determined before the suit can move forward.
“The next step is going to be for conversations to take place between our firm and Mr. Buckingham’s,” said Joyce. “What we were really here today to do was to set dates and just try to figure out how the matter is going to proceed.”
If the two firms can’t come to an agreement on who will take the lead on the case, Joyce said an application will be filed to have the court make that determination.
If that needs to happen, a date to hear that application will be set at the next case management meeting.
Whether a hearing is needed to decide if both, or just one of the suits can be heard, will also be discussed at that meeting.
“We’re so early in this process right now that changes can be made to harmonize either the actions or how it’s going to proceed going forward,” said Joyce, meaning that the plaintiffs from the two suits could be combined into one, and other changes could be made to the statements of claim to further differentiate between the two cases.
Joyce said the case management meetings are an important part of the process.
“Once certification (of the class-action) is done, these type of meetings will keep happening and it’s just to kind of have the matter moving forward in a timely fashion, to keep all parties involved.”