Nov 30, 2014

Standard of Proof in Privacy and Information Requests: A Case Summary of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (Re)

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (Re), 2013 CanLII 31177 (ON IPC)

Even if demonstrated, industry standard practices for record maintenance are not the benchmark for determining ‘reasonableness’ in privacy requests under FIPPA or MFIPPA.

To have a fee waived in the public interest, there must be some actual connection between the public interest and a health and safety issue.

Executive expense claims were requested. The hospital issued a fee estimate of $1568 based on a representative sample, but denied a fee waiver. This was later reduced during mediation to $1149. It was determined that the fee request was excessive, but that it did not need to be waived in the public interest (as advanced). The length of search (37.5 hrs) was deemed to be excessive even though hospital record keeping was consistent with industry standards. The appropriate fee amount was only $428. If severance is required to extract only the relevant information, the institution must explain and provide sufficient reasoning if it is to charge related fees. The fee should not be waived because the information was not sufficiently connected to public health/safety concern. There is a potential ‘concern’ that taxpayer money spent does not meet this threshold. It is reasonable to expect a publicly funded institution such as a hospital to have easily accessible records for basic expense information; even if both manual and electronic copies needed to be pulled, the applicant should not bear financial burden of poor record keeping or extensive reconciliation.