Do you need to disclose a computer database?

In a litigious matter in the Queensland Courts, once all the parties in the proceedings have filed their pleadings (documents such as a Statement of Claim, Defence and Reply), pleadings are said to have ‘closed’.  Once pleadings have closed, parties are then under an obligation to provide disclosure.  A critical element of providing disclosure is determining what documents each party has a duty to disclose.  In this article, we consider whether or not a computer database is capable of being disclosed.

What is a party required to disclose?

Pursuant to Rule 211 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999 (Qld) (UCPR), a party to a proceeding has a duty to disclose (to each other party) any document:

  • in the possession or under the control of the party; and
  • directly relevant to an allegation in issue to the proceedings; and
  • if there are no pleadings – directly relevant to a matter in issue in the proceedings.

A document is defined in schedule 1 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld) (AIA) to include:

  • any paper or other material on which there is writing; and
  • any paper or other material on which there are marks, figures, symbols or perforations having a meaning for a person qualified to interpret them; and
  • any disc, tape or other article or any material from which sounds, images, writing or messages are capable of being produced or reproduced (with or without the aid of another article or device).

Is a computer database a document?

Considering the definition of document provided in schedule 1 of the AIA, it is clear that a database is a document.  The reason for this is that a database allows any of sound, images, writing or messages to be produced or reproduced.

As a database is a document (and is therefore capable of discovery), an issue that may be faced by the disclosing party is how to provide the database to the other side.  Generally, a party will be able to provide the database on a software platform that is available to the other side to view.  However, in appropriate circumstances, the court may order that a party inspect the disclosing party’s database on their computer system (see for example Poteri v Clarke, unreported, Queensland District Court, Brisbane Registry, No 2669 of 1998, Boulton DCJ, 9.11.98).

Key points

The obligation to provide disclosure extends to documents of various mediums, including electronic.  While something (such as a computer database) may not be physically stored on a piece of paper does not mean that it doesn’t meet the definition of a document.  Parties need to be aware that their databases are likely to be document capable of being disclosed.

Further references

Cases

Poteri v Clarke, unreported, Queensland District Court, Brisbane Registry, No 2669 of 1998, Boulton DCJ, 9.11.98

Legislation

Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld)

Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999 (Qld)

Related articles by Dundas Lawyers

Electronic service of documents

What if neither party to proceedings takes a step?

What is your duty of disclosure?

Further information

If you need assistance regarding a litigious matter that you are involved in, or any potential litigation, please telephone me for an obligation free and confidential discussion.

Brisbane Lawyers

Malcolm Burrows B.Bus.,MBA.,LL.B.,LL.M.,MQLS.
Legal Practice Director
Telephone: (07) 3221 0013 | Mobile: 0419 726 535
e: mburrows@dundaslawyers.com.au

 

Disclaimer

This article is not legal advice. It is general comment only.  You are instructed not to rely on the commentary unless you have consulted one of our Lawyers to ascertain how the law applies to your particular circumstances.

Dundas Lawyers
Street Address Suite 12, Level 9, 320 Adelaide Street Brisbane QLD 4001

Tel: 07 3221 0013

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