Abolishing Juries in Civil Trials

Abolishing Juries in Civil Trials

Attorney General seeks input of insurance industry

As some of you may have heard, the Attorney General Doug Downey has sought the input of professionals in the insurance industry about the possibility of abolishing juries in civil trials in Ontario in order to help address the severely backlogged court system. 

Those who work in the court systems here in Ontario know all too well how backed up the courts are. The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped as court closures have caused all the scheduled matters to be placed on hold indefinitely.

Should civil juries should be completely eliminated?

Mr. Downey asks whether civil juries should be eliminated altogether and whether certain types of cases should remain as jury trials, such as defamation, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association proposed a temporary solution in which all jury notices are temporarily suspended until the courts are back up and running like before.

Could result in some advantages

Personally, Badre Law PC has a trial scheduled for December 2020 and we are unsure if the COVID-19 pandemic will impact any scheduling with respect to this. One thing all plaintiffs have in common is their concern about getting their cases heard as their litigation has probably been dragging on for years before it actually gets to trial.

There are advantages to moving forward without jury trials in personal injury cases. Trials are becoming more complex and expensive. Arguing in front of a jury takes more time, and ultimately more money. So, in order to save on legal costs and court resources the elimination of jury trials is in order. 

The downside of jury elimination

Having said this, the abandonment of jury trials may result in the loss of public perception of common sense in the legal system. The public’s input or opinion on a matter is the foundation of our legal system. Without it, the system may lose touch with society’s values. 

Insurance companies prefer to have jury trials due to the tactical advantage it presents: The tactical advantage is the uncertainty and potential for longer and more expensive trials. Plaintiffs faced with the prospect of a long and expensive jury trial and its inherent risk and uncertainty are more likely to want to settle.

Badre Law’s take on the situation

In our opinion, the temporary suspension of jury trials is warranted in order to play catch up with the backlogged court system. As a temporary measure judge alone trials will likely not lose touch with society’s voice of reason. As of right now, jury trials are not to resume until September 2020.

For more information about the suspension of jury trials please check www.ontariocourts.ca. You can also check the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association Blog to hear more opinions at www.otlablog.com.