Can accident information be published on-line by the Saskatchewan court?

Canadian Underwriter Magazine April 15, 2009

The online publication of personal medical information contained in a tribunal decision concerning an auto insurance claimant’s case, is not a violation of the claimant's statutory privacy rights, the Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan has ruled.

Elaine Germain, asked the court to prevent the on-line publication of medical information and other personal information about her, contained in her case before Saskatchewan’s Automobile Injury Appeal Commission (AIAC).

The AIAC is a tribunal created to hear appeals from the decisions of Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) adjusters, regarding auto injury claims.

Germain was injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2001, and claimed she was wrongfully denied benefits under the province’s Automobile Accident Insurance Act (AAIA).

Germain commenced her appeal before the commission in 2004. She then contacted the commission, to state she did not want the decision in her case published.

The commission publishes and broadcasts decisions on the Internet, on their own Web site and on CanLii.

The appeal hearing adjourned at Germain’s request, for a determination on this point.

Before the court, Germain argued (among other things), that the province’s Health Information Protection Act (HIPA), protected the privacy of her medical information. She argued that the purpose for which the insurance tribunal collected her medical information, was not one of those enumerated under the HIPA. In a lengthy decision, the court disagreed.

“I find that the commission has authority to publish its decisions, including on the Web, despite the absence of statutory or regulatory provisions, specifically allowing it to do so,” the court ruled. “The creation of a decision after adjudication and provision of it to the public generally on the Net, is in my view, within the purposes of Part VIII of the AAIA.”

For this reason, the court ruled the commission’s mandate for acquiring personal medical information fell under an exemption from the protections granted in the HIPA.