Reasons were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, striking a jury notice so a trial could proceed without the need for a lengthy adjournment.
In today’s case (Vacchiano v. Chen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2015 collision. Both liability and damages were contested. ICBC elected trial by jury which was scheduled in July, 2020. Due to Covid-19 all civil jury selections were suspended and jury trials cancelled up to and including September 7, 2020 everywhere in the province. As a result the trial would face a lengthy adjournment, about 2 years, if the matter was to proceed with a jury.
The Plaintiff brought an application for the jury notice to be struck. The Court agreed that doing so would be fair as a 2 year adjournment would be more prejudicial to the parties than the Defendant losing their prefered mode of trial. In reaching this decision Master Muir provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, considering whether a claim involving psychological injury was too complex for a jury trial.
In today’s case (Lee v. Averbach) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions and sued for damages. The Defendants elected trial by jury. The Plaintiff argued given the medical evidence the claim was too complex for a jury trial. The court disagreed and dismissed the Plaintiff’s application to strike the jury notice. In doing so Master Elwood provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, striking a jury notice for a personal injury claim with a complex business loss component.
In today’s case (Forstved v. Kokabi) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages. The Defendant elected to proceed to trial with a jury. THe Plaintiff argued that the claim, particularly with its business loss component, was too complex for a jury. The court agreed and struck the Defendant’s jury notice. In doing so Master Dick provided the following reasons:
 In this case, I agree with the plaintiff. The evidence in this case is sufficient to establish that this case will require a prolonged examination of documents or accounts and that the issues require a scientific or local investigation.
 I must now look to whether the examination or investigation may conveniently be made with a jury. In considering this question, I acknowledge that a party’s right to trial by jury is entitled to great weight and ought not to be disturbed except in the clearest of cases.
 In this case, I must consider if the jury can not only understand the evidence as it is presented and rebutted, but also retain it over 19 days and engage in a reasoned analysis at the end of the trial.
 The plaintiff will be calling at least 23 witnesses, of whom 11 are experts. There will be lay witnesses, including the plaintiff’s accountant Mr. Moody. The accountant will be introducing many of the business and tax documents to support the plaintiff’s business arrangements. There will be at least 22 expert reports to be considered.
 If I was just considering the number of experts, the expert’s use of terminology, the volume of medical evidence, and divergent opinions alone, that would not necessarily cause me to strike the jury in this case. What makes this case more difficult is the fact the plaintiff’s income and business losses are not straightforward. The jury will have to review and understand the plaintiff and his spouse’s income tax information as well as the financial statements from all of the corporations he owned. The jury will then have to analyze, understand, and interpret the documents to assess his income and business loss.
 In this case, I accept that the issues of causation and quantification of damages will require prolonged examination of documents and scientific matters going to many issues over a protracted period. The difficulties for the trier of fact in dealing with this task was set out in Wallman v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2012 BCSC 1849 at para. 57:
. . . It may be necessary to retain fine detail from the examination in chief and cross-examination of many witnesses on multiple issues for weeks before those issues are traversed by defence witnesses. Considered on their own, most, but not all, of the expert reports in this case may be understood by a jury in light of the full examination in chief and cross-examination of the experts, but retention of that understanding over several weeks is likely to be so difficult, in my view, that fruitful analysis at the end of the day may be impossible.
 I have considered all of the submissions made by counsel and the factors set out in paragraph 25 of these reasons. In this matter there is a significant dispute about the injuries sustained by the plaintiff and the impact on his life. After consideration of all of the above, I find that the jury will be significantly challenged over the 19 days of trial to retain, understand, and analyze the complex and conflicting evidence and reach factual and legal conclusions on the issues of causation and damages. As a result, I am satisfied that this matter cannot conveniently be heard by a jury.
 I therefore will exercise my discretion to strike the jury notice and there will be an order that the trial of this case will be heard by judge alone.
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:
 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  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.
 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.
 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.
 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…
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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,  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.
 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.
Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing a jury strike application in a paraplegia injury claim.
In the recent case (Laktin v. Vancouver (City)) the Defendants “were responding to a call that the Plaintiff might be suicidal” when one of the Defendant police officers “shot the plaintiff, rendering him paraplegic“.
The Plaintiff sued for damages and elected trial by Jury. The Defendants brought an application to strike the jury notice arguing the trial was too complex for a jury to hear. Mr. Justice Pearlman disagreed finding that despite the severe nature of the injury the matter was appropriate for jury trial. In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:  This is not a trial that involves multiple accidents or actions, or that raises complex issues of causation of the plaintiff’s physical injuries. The jury may have to determine the extent to which the psychological injuries claimed by the plaintiff result from a pre-existing condition rather than the incident of January 21, 2006. That will involve the jury making findings of fact that are well within the capabilities of a modern jury.  The defendants have identified numerous issues of fact and law relating to issues of liability, the statutory and common law defences to the plaintiff’s claim of battery available to the defendants, the apportionment of fault, and damages. It is the responsibility of the trial judge to instruct the jury concerning the legal principles that will apply to the facts as found by the jury. The court will instruct the jury on the application and interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Police Act and the Criminal Code.  The duties of care owed by the defendants to the plaintiff are a matter of law for determination by the trial judge rather than the jury. It will be the responsibility of the trial judge to determine whether the City of Vancouver owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, and whether, as a matter of law, there is any basis for the plaintiff’s claim against the City, other than its liability under s. 20 of the Police Act for the torts of municipal police officers.  Whether, as a matter of law, the application of the doctrine of ex turpi causa would be justified in the circumstances of this case is also a matter for the trial judge.  The defence correctly submits that the provisions of ss. 34 and 37 of the Criminal Code in force at the time of the incident that gave rise to this action add a level of complexity to this trial. However, juries in criminal cases have been frequently called upon to apply those provisions, and with the assistance of instructions from the trial judge, have done so. I see no reason why a civil jury, properly instructed, cannot perform a similar task.  In my view, finding the facts regarding what occurred in the sequence of events that culminated in Constable Coulthard shooting the plaintiff, and determining whether the force used by the police was justified in all of the circumstances are tasks well suited to a jury composed of eight members of the community.
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, addressing whether a unique causation issue in a personal injury claim was too complex for a jury.
In today’s case (Jackson v. Yusishen) the Plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant’s truck in 2009. The Plaintiff sustained some injuries and sued for damages. Some 6 months following the crash the plaintiff “coughed and the pain in his chest and back suddenly increased in intensity“. He was ultimately diagnosed with “one or two fractured ribs…hernias of the intercostal area and of the diaphragm“. He had multiple surgeries to correct these complications that had not been successful. The biggest issue for trial was for the jury to decide whether the ribs were compromised in the collision and whether the collision caused or contributed to the ultimate complications the Plaintiff was diagnosed with.
The Defendant elected trial by Jury. The Plaintiff argued the matter was too complex for a jury to decide. Mr. Justice Rogers disagreed and held that a jury could address this issue. In upholding the jury election the Court provided the following reasons:  It is possible that the jury may find that the accident weakened the plaintiff’s ribs such that the later coughing episode caused them to fracture. In that event, the standard language of an Athey instruction will suffice to guide the jury’s deliberations. Again, juries are regularly instructed on similar Athey issues – this case would not present any greater complication on that issue than any other.  Once the jury has determined whether the accident caused rib fractures or a weakening of the ribs that later turned into fractures, the rest of the jury’s duties will be relatively straight forward. If their answer to that question is yes, then they will have to assess the degree to which the injuries have impaired the plaintiff’s function and award damages accordingly. For that task, they will have the assistance of expert reports of the type that are conventionally adduced in personal injury cases. Those reports include a functional capacity evaluation, a vocational assessment, a cost of future care report, and an economist’s assessment of the present value of various loss scenarios. Again, in serious personal injury cases, juries are routinely asked to consider such reports. There is nothing about the content of the reports in this case that suggest that a jury would not be able to conveniently consider their content and render a verdict accordingly.  If the jury’s answer to the causation question is no, then their task will become very nearly trivial.  Although there are a number of expert reports that will go into evidence in this case, the reality is that the jury will likely not be required to scour each and every word in each and every report. For example, the plaintiff’s economist’s reports may be useful to the jury should it wish to award future losses to the plaintiff, but it is unlikely that the jury will need to go beyond picking what appears to it to be the appropriate multiplier for a given loss and a given set of positive and negative contingencies.  In my opinion, the jury’s task of hearing, examining, and considering the evidence in this case will not exceed the bounds of convenience. The jury will be asked to conduct a scientific inquiry into what the radiographs could and did show of the plaintiff’s rib structure, but that will be a relatively narrow and focused inquiry. The jury will be guided by the opinions of qualified medical practitioners and by counsel’s submissions. It is not every contest of medical opinion that will disqualify a jury from trying a personal injury claim, and in my view, the scientific inquiry that the jury will make on this issue will be within its capacity.  Once the jury gets past the issue of causation, this case will become a relatively straightforward assessment of personal injury damages. The evidence on quantum issues is entirely conventional and is of the sort that juries are often asked to consider and assess. The jury may have to make some difficult decisions, but the path to those decisions will not, in my view, be so intricate or complex as to overwhelm the jury’s capacity to arrive at a just and proper judgment.  For these reasons, I have concluded that the plaintiff’s application to strike the jury notice must be dismissed.
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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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