A jury trial is a presumptive right in a personal injury action. This car accident injury occurred on Salt Spring Island when another vehicle, travelling in the opposite direction, turned left and into the path of the claimant’s vehicle.

Given the complicated mental injury claim and other legal issues the claimant applied, unsuccessfully, to have the jury struck. This case stands for the proposition that expert opinion is unnecessary to determine the viability of a jury in personal injury cases.

Any party to a personal injury lawsuit can apply to have a jury notice struck. The provision in the Supreme Court Civil Rules that governs and restricts this type of application is Rule 12-6(5)(a) and a jury can be refused by the court if:

(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 . . .

As Judge Thompson of the BC Supreme Court stated when allowing a jury to have complex medical evidence regarding a mental injury:

[27]  I reach this conclusion despite the contents of the addendum report of Dr. A, one of the plaintiff’s psychiatric experts. In this brief report he expresses the following opinions addressed to the questions that I have to decide on this jury strike application:

…I am writing to state that in my opinion, the diagnosis of Conversion Disorder is complex and requires a level of medical and psychiatric sophistication that would likely prove too difficult for a jury to grapple with.

As described in my report, this diagnosis has [an] historical evolution and is tied to early psychiatric concepts of ‘hysteria’. Many of the terms that need to be considered when [discussing] conversion disorders are, in my opinion and experience, likely to be misinterpreted and misunderstood by lay people. It is difficult enough to discuss these concepts with medically qualified non-psychiatrists.

[28]   In my opinion, chambers judges and masters are well able to decide whether or not a case is appropriate for trial by jury without the assistance of expert opinion. We can form our own conclusions without expert assistance; expert evidence is unnecessary, and therefore inadmissible… I have read the expert opinion reports and I disagree with Dr. A’s conclusion that the subject of conversion disorders is one that is too difficult for a jury to grapple with.(Donaldson v. Dorworth,2016 BCSC 1385)

Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.

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