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Vancouver ICBC Accident Jury Trials

Vancouver ICBC accident jury trials are a presumptive right in car accident injury cases in BC. Vancouver car injury victims or ICBC personal injury defence lawyers can ask for a jury trial to decide who caused the crash and the proper amount of a Vancouver personal injury money damage award.

However, either party to an ICBC car accident case in Vancouver can ask to strike a jury notice if certain conditions are met.  When is a Vancouver ICBC car  Accident jury trial not allowed in car injury cases?

The MacLean Personal Injury team routinely handles ICBC car accident jury trials.  We will work with you to develop a strategy to seek or oppose a jury trial on your behalf as the consequences to the victim of the choice are huge.

We are pleased to provide the following summary of the rules that apply to when it is proper for a Vancouver ICBC accident trial to be heard by a jury.

In the recent case Vancouver car accident injury case of  Jackson V. Yusishen,  Mr Justice Rogers allowed a ICBC car accident injury jury trial to proceed despite conflicting expert reports and testimony of multiple medical, engineering and lay witnesses (we bold the key areas):

[1]             This is an application to strike a jury notice. The plaintiff maintains that owing to its complexity the case is not suitable to be heard by a jury. The defendant disagrees.

The Law

[2]             A party has a presumptive right to trial by jury and should not be deprived of that right absent good reason to do so: Cliff v. Dahl, 2012 BCSC 276.

[3]             When it assesses a motion to strike a jury notice, the court should bear in mind that a jury must be assumed to be as capable as a judge acting alone. As McKenzie J. wrote in MacKinnon v. Ebner, [1997] B.C.J. No. 364 (S.C.): [24]      …A reasonably informed and intelligent jury is as capable or assessing expert evidence as is a single judge. It is up to counsel to ensure it is presented so that a jury can understand it. Indeed, the very purpose of expert evidence is to assist lay people to understand technical evidence…

[4]             The authority to strike a jury notice is found at Rule 12-6(5):

(5)    Except in cases of defamation, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, a party on whom a notice under subrule (3) has been served may apply

(a) within 7 days after service for an order that the trial or part of it be heard by the court without a jury on the ground that

(i) the issues require prolonged examination of documents or accounts or a scientific or local investigation that cannot be made conveniently with a jury,

(ii) the issues are of an intricate or complex character, or

(iii) the extra time and cost involved in requiring that the trial be heard by the court with a jury would be disproportionate to the amount involved in the action,

or (b) at any time for an order that the trial be heard by the court without a jury on the ground that the trial relates to a fast track action or to one of the proceedings referred to in subrule (2).

[5]             Only Rule 12-6(5)(a)(i) and (ii) have application to the present motion.

[6]             Subparagraph (i) of the Rule contemplates a “prolonged examination of documents” or a “scientific or local investigation” that cannot be made “conveniently with a jury”.

[7]             While a given trial may involve a large number of documents, it is not always necessary for the trier of fact to examine each and every one of them. Whether a “prolonged examination of documents” will be necessary will not be determined by a page count, but rather by the content of the documents and whether the issues in the trial will require the jury to pour over the content in detail: see Wipfli v. Britten, [1982] 32 B.C.L.R. 343 (S.C.).

[8]             The “local investigation” element of subparagraph (i) has no application here.

[9]             In the context of a personal injury case, a conflict of expert medical opinion will require the jury to engage in a “scientific investigation” within the meaning of the rule: Sadowick v. Doobay, [1982] B.C.J. 447 (S.C.) at para. 12.

[10]         What is “convenient” was discussed by McEachern C.J. (as he then was) in Wipfli supra: [26]      Convenience, in the sense in which that word is used in the Rule, does not depend solely upon whether or not the jury can be made to understand the evidence….What is required before it is convenient to have a scientific investigation made with a jury is the ability to have a proper trial, which includes not just an understanding of the evidence as it is being given, but also an ability to retain this understanding throughout a long trial in a form which permits an analysis of the evidence in relation to the difficult questions which must be decided at the end of the case.

[11]         Whether the character of the issues before the jury will be intricate or complex as subparagraph (ii) describes is a matter for a common sense assessment of the problems that will be put to the jury at the end of the trial. For example, in the case of Campbell v. McDougall, 2011 BCSC 1864, the outcome of the plaintiff’s claim relied heavily upon the validity of certain test scores administered to the plaintiff by a variety of experts on a number of occasions over a number of years. The plaintiff was a person whose educational and professional background could reasonably lead to a suspicion that she manipulated those scores. The court struck the jury notice in that case in part because a proper analysis of those scores would be a complex and intricate process.  

[20]         This application requires the court to put itself in the collective shoes of a hypothetical jury and to consider whether, firstly, the issues that will be put to the jury will require it to engage in a prolonged examination of documents or conduct a scientific investigation, such that the jury will not be able to carry out its function conveniently; and, secondly, whether the issues will be of an intricate or complex character.

In the end result the court found that the jury’s task of hearing, examining, and considering the evidence in the case would not exceed the bounds of convenience and that reviewing medical evidence would have the assistance of experts to explain the evidence to the jury. Call MacLean Personal Injury today at 604-576-5400 for a free no obligation consultation.

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