BC Court of Appeal – Jury Trial OK in Case With 40 Expert Reports

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal finding a personal injury lawsuit with 40 expert reports totaling over 700 pages was not too complex for a jury to determine.
In today’s case (Rados v. Pannu) the Plaintiff alleged serious injuries as a result of a motor vehicle collision including “a traumatic brain injury; a vestibular injury that has impaired the appellant’s balance and induced bouts of nausea, dizziness and vomiting; various musculoligamentous and other physical injuries; and, a major depressive disorder”.
The Defendants elected a jury trial and the Plaintiff objected arguing the case was ‘too complex’ and pointed to the sheer volume of competing expert evidence.  The Plaintiff pointed to many cases where discretion was exercised to strike a jury in similar cases.  In finding that judicial discretion does allow for competing results and more than ” adding up the number of experts and medical issues or the number of pages of documents or the length of trial” is needed the Court provided the following reasons:

[22]         As I turn to consider the appellant’s argument, it is useful to remember that a decision whether to strike a jury notice is not only discretionary, but also engages important issues of trial management. The determination of such issues is properly a matter for the trial court. Furthermore, the onus is on the applicant to displace the presumptive right to a jury: MacPherson v. Czaban, 2002 BCCA 518 at para. 17, leave to appeal ref’d [2002] S.C.C.A. No. 480. Accordingly and appropriately, decisions of this kind attract considerable deference from this Court. These decisions turn critically on an assessment by the trial court of multiple factors bearing ultimately on the question whether a matter can be conveniently tried with the jury or should be heard without one.

[23]         The appellant points to numerous cases in which jury notices have been struck which share similarities with this case in terms of the number of medical issues, the number of experts, the nature of the issues and the length of trial. He suggests the result in this case cannot be reconciled with the results in those cases. Thus, he argues that the bar for striking a jury notice has been raised to a level beyond anything that can be accounted for by the inevitable variability of outcome inherent in the exercise of discretion.

[24]         I accept that, as was pointed out in Cochrane v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, 2005 BCCA 399 at para. 28:

It is unassailable that decisions under Rule 39(27) are driven by the particular facts of the case.  Even so, the facts in prior decisions are helpful in determining whether the discretion to grant or refuse an order to strike a jury notice has been exercised judicially.

[25]         It follows from this that, even allowing for the inevitable variation in outcomes arising from exercises of discretion, one would expect decisions with broadly similar facts to produce broadly predictable outcomes if discretion is being exercised judicially…

[30]         In my opinion, while other similar cases can assist in assessing whether discretion has been exercised judicially, broad and general similarities may mask material differences. The analysis does not begin and end with adding up the number of experts and medical issues or the number of pages of documents or the length of trial. Those factors may be indicative of whether the trial may be conveniently heard with a jury, but they are not necessarily the last word. They were not here because the judge delved deeply into an analysis of the factual circumstances engaged in the trial and exercised his discretion based on his assessment of those circumstances.

[31]         The appellant is not able to point to any relevant factors the judge failed to take into consideration in exercising his discretion, nor can he point to any irrelevant factors he did consider. He is not able to point to any consideration receiving too much or too little weight. In short, the appellant was not able to direct us to any specific error in the exercise of discretion that would warrant this Court interfering with the order.

[32]         The appellant suggested that if this order is not set aside, this Court would be endorsing a much higher bar for striking a jury notice than has previously been the case in this province. I do not accept that submission. In my view, this case turned on its specific and particular factual circumstances as they stood at the time of the application and as they were analyzed by the judge.  The judge then properly applied the relevant considerations to the exercise of his discretion. The case turned on its facts and does not represent a departure of principle or a resetting of the height of a bar.

[33]         Finally, it should be pointed out, as the chambers judge did, that when this matter comes on for trial, the trial judge “may order the trial to proceed without a jury if the interests of justice then require the making of such an order”. It may be that the case that goes to trial may be quite different to what now appears to be the case. As noted by Seaton J.A. in Ball v. Novlesky, [1981] B.C.J. No. 677 (C.A.) at para. 16, we and the chambers judge can examine the issue only on the basis of the record before us. The case at trial may be different and the trial judge would be free to deal with the issue then, if necessary.

[34]         In my opinion, the submissions of the appellant do not rise above an attempt to reargue the case that was rejected by the chambers judge. I do not think that the appellant has identified any error in principle in the exercise of the chambers judge’s discretion. Accordingly, I would dismiss the appeal.

jury strike applications, Rados v. Pannu, Rule 12, Rule 12-6, Rule 12-6(5), Rule 12-6(5)(a)

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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