Civil Jury Trials: Should We Keep Them?

Civil Jury Trials: Should We Keep Them?

Doug Downey, Ontario’s Attorney General notified Ontario lawyers that their Civil jury trials may soon be coming to an end. This has been a hotly contested debate in the province for a long time. Many plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers are glad to hear that jury trials may soon be eliminated.

What does Civil Litigation Involve?

Of course, Civil litigation involves many types of disputes, but some of the most common ones are personal injury disputes against insurance companies. Plaintiffs are unable to work and need to move their matters forward to a resolution so that they can get the funds they need to pay their bills and get treatment. The longer they wait, the longer they rely on the public health and welfare system. So, fast and efficient access to their day in court will provide significant relief to our health and welfare system. 

Long Wait Times for Trial

Personal injury lawyers are used to seeing long wait times to get to trial. Of course, with the global COVID-19 pandemic and the courts shutting down, wait times have grown even longer and plaintiffs are growing even more impatient.

Civil jury trials take far longer than judge alone trials. They are far more costly and take up court resources. A judge alone trial will take half the amount of time and cost. Judges are sophisticated and understand the law without the need to take the time to explain it to them. Further, judges are aware of the statutory deductible and threshold which juries are not allowed to be informed of.

The deductible alone can wipe out a plaintiff’s pain and suffering compensation. A judge will understand the deductible and will likely make sure that a plaintiff is fairly compensated regardless of the deductible. 

How Will Insurance Companies be Affected?

Insurance companies are probably not going to like this move to eliminate Civil jury trials. Juries are notoriously cheap and award little dollars for soft tissue, chronic pain and psychology cases. These are cases where the injuries are essentially invisible. “Invisible” injuries are harder for those not suffering them to understand. This includes juries.

Finally, civil jurors are heavily burdened when they are forced to sit for a jury trial. It is, for the most part, an unwelcome obligation. It interferes with their ability to work, parenting, schooling, and other important aspects of their personal and professional lives. Jurors are paid nothing for their first 10 days of service and a mere $40 a day, up to day 49, and then $100 a day at 50 days of service. This is hardly enough compensation for those missing work to serve on a jury. You can expect a jury member to have a sour attitude going into a Civil jury trial. There is even a risk that their sour attitude could effect the result of a plaintiff’s personal injury case. 

All Things Considered – Is it a Good Idea?

So, to summarize, civil jury trials eliminate the burden for jurors, free up court time, allow for faster access to justice, and save costs for the courts, the provincial health care system, and welfare system. Looking at this, given the totality of the circumstances, it seems obvious that getting rid of the civil jury system, in most cases, is a good idea.