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Finding unreported decisions in British Columbia

This article was written by Michael Dew, a Vancouver lawyer who practices civil litigation. Click here for contact information and further details about Michael’s practice. This article provides only information, not legal advice. If you require legal advice you should consult a lawyer. 

Research articles : 
Nowadays almost all judgments are made available to commercial database companies such as Quicklaw, and so very few decisions go unreported. However, historically all decisions not considered worthy of publishing by the editorial staff of the traditional paper based reporters went unreported.
Counsel on unreported cases sometimes rely on those cases in subsequent litigation and this is one way in which unreported cases work their way into the published law reports, and then into the secondary sources. Therefore, you may want to find an unreported decision.
The unreported decision database of the British Columbia Courthouse Library:
The British Columbia Courthouse Library has an electronic list of selected unreported decisions. The collection is described on this page of their website, but essentially consists of selected decisions from the following courts and tribunals:
o       B.C. Court of Appeal (1977 - present)
o       B.C. Supreme Court and County Court (1964 – present)
o       B.C. Provincial Court (1992 - present)
o       B.C. Human Rights Commission (1974 to 1984)
o       B.C. Labour Arbitration Awards (1974 to 1998)
o       Immigration Appeal Board (1977 - 1987)
o       Residential Tenancy Arbitration decisions (1996 - 1998)
o       Real Property Assessment Cases (1950-1955)  
o       Solicitors' Liability Index (1972-1988)  
You can search for listed cases using this search engine on their website. However, the search engine merely searches the list of unreported decisions that has been compiled by the library – it does not search the text of the decisions themselves. There is no database on which one can electronically search the content of the decisions themselves. In other words it is not practical to turn to the unreported decisions database to find a case on a particular topic. Rather, the database simply assists one in finding a known unreported decision.
Although the list includes more than 19,000 court and tribunal decisions from 1881 to the present, it does not list all unreported decisions.  However, when lawyers enquire at the reference desk about unreported decisions, the librarians often retrieve those decisions and add them to the database. Therefore, the database is being updated continually and the popular unreported decisions should already be listed in the database.
Getting a copy of the actual decision:
There are three options for obtaining copies of unreported decisions.
Option 1: Order it from the Courthouse Library:
If the unreported decision is listed in the database described above, you can order it from the Courthouse Library. It can be delivered by fax, mail, or email (PDF). The cost is $10 + 65c per page regardless of the mode of delivery.
Option 2: Make a copy yourself from the hardcopy available on the shelves of the Courthouse Library
If the unreported decision is listed in the database described above, you may see that there is a volume title and call number outputted with the search results. If so, you can copy the decision directly from the hardcopy available on the library shelves. The following is a list of the paper collections of selected unreported decisions available on the shelves of the Vancouver Courthouse Library:
o       B.C. Court of Appeal Rules Precedents (1957-1972) (KN352 K61 1972)   
o       B.C. Supreme Court Rules Practice Notes (197-1979) (KN352 H88) 
o       B.C. Human Rights Commission (1974-1984) (KM221 B75 A12 H85)  
o       B.C. Labour Arbitration Awards (1974-1998) (MICFORM KN196.2 A121 B75)    
o       Real Property Assessment Cases (1950-1955) (KM337.6 R41 1955)  
o       Residential Tenancy Arbitrators' Decisions (1985-1996) (KN90 A121 A72) 
o       British Columbia Supreme Court Rules of Practice (1964-1975) (KN352 K691)  
o       Solicitors' Liability Index (1972-1988) (KL85 C38)  
These collections are not complete e.g. don’t assume that all unreported B.C. Court of Appeal decisions between 1957 and 1972 are available on the shelves.
Option 3: Obtain a copy from the Court Registry
Even if the unreported decision is not listed in the Courthouse Library database, you can obtain it directly from the Court Registry. All written decisions, and oral decisions which were transcribed, will be available in the court files. The cost of obtaining copies of cases from the registry is $8 plus $1 per page. Depending on whether the court file is stored in the court registry you visit, or is in another registry or in storage, it may take a day or two to obtain a copy.