Striking Of Jury Notice For Action Transferred to Simplified Procedure

Jury decision making

In the recent decision, Lightfoot v. Hodgins et al., 2021 ONSC 1950, the Court assessed how amending a Statement of Claim to bring an action within the monetary limits of the Simplified Procedure ($200,000) affected a Jury Notice that was delivered before January 1, 2020.

In Lightfoot, the plaintiff, Owen Lightfoot, brought a personal injury action against Gary Hodgins (owner) and Judy Hodgins (driver), as a result of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on April 18, 2015. The plaintiff then brought a motion to amend the Statement of Claim to limit the claim to $200,000 and proceed under the Simplified Procedure prior to the trial of the matter. The plaintiff also moved to strike the defendants’ Jury Notice arguing that if the claim was moved under the Simplified Procedure, the defendants would not be entitled to a jury.

This issue arose because of recent changes in Rule 76 Simplified Procedures and specifically, Rule 76.14. Rule 76.14 speaks to situations where Jury Notices are delivered prior to January 1, 2020. The rule prohibits those Rule 76 actions from being heard with a jury. The Courts of Justice Act (“CJA”) was also amended at the same time as Rule 76 to provide that an action proceeding under Rule 76 shall be tried without a jury.

Decision

The motion was heard by Justice Muszynski who ordered that the plaintiff’s Statement of Claim could be amended and further ordered that the Jury Notice be struck.

Justice Muszynski confirmed trials with a jury are not permitted under Rule 76 and the updated Simplified Procedure. If a Jury Notice was served before the amendments to the Simplified Procedure (January 1, 2020), parties can transfer a matter to the ordinary procedure and maintain the Jury Notice, or proceed under the Simplified Procedure with any Jury Notice struck.

The defendants consented to the plaintiff amending his Statement of Claim and to the action proceeding under the Simplified Procedure. The defendants opposed how the amendment would impact the Jury Notice. Ultimately, the Court was persuaded to strike the Jury Notice by the parties’ agreement that the action was well suited to the Simplified Procedure.

The Court also took into consideration the current strains on the legal system due to the pandemic, referring to the civil justice system “being overwhelmed” and saying that,

“…it would be contrary to the interests of justice and the principle of proportionality to require that this action continue to a 3 week jury trial in the ordinary procedure rather than a 5 day, non-jury summary trial under Rule 76.

Justice Muszynski confirmed however that any pandemic related delay in proceeding to trial with a jury was not the backbone of her decision to strike the Jury Notice.

Conclusions

Most Ontario lawyers are keeping a keen eye on any decisions relating to the striking of Jury Notices due to delays attributed to the pandemic so it is interesting to see Jury Notices contemplated in a different light.

As with the Lightfoot case, in Joseph v. Budgell, 2020 ONSC 6526, the presiding Master concluded that based on the new Rule 76 Section 108 of the CJA parties who filed a Jury Notice prior to January 1, 2020 can maintain their right to a jury but have to continue under the ordinary procedure rules.

In short, if parties wish to proceed with a jury, regardless of whether the notice was served before January 1, 2020, they must advance the action under the ordinary procedure.

If you have any questions about this article, please contact Rory J.R. Love.

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