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Appeal Court upholds judge’s decision to strike jury in auto injury trial involving pre-existing medical condition


January 26, 2012   by Canadian Underwriter


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The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled a trial judge was justified in striking a jury at the outset of an auto accident injury trial involving a pre-existing medical condition (fibromyalgia).
The trial judge ruled that the anticipated complexity of the medical evidence related to the damage assessment warranted the discharge of the jury. The Appeal Court ruled the trial judge did not exercise her discretion in arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner.
Carmen Placzek was injured in a rear end collision. Prior to the accident, she had suffered from fibromylagia for many years.
Albert Green drove the vehicle that hit Placzek’s vehicle. He argued that to the extent Placzek’s physical problems interfered with her life after the accident, those problems were attributable in whole or in the main to the serious pre-existing condition and not to the relatively minor accident involving the vehicle driven by the appellant.
The trial judge struck the jury at the outset. The judge ultimately found Green was liable to pay Placzek $919,237. In doing so, she found that despite Placzek’s prior physical problems, the injuries she suffered in the accident caused significant problems for her.
Green appealed the damages and the fact that the jury was struck.
The Appeal Court found that even though some of the reasons for which the trial judge struck the jury were irrelevant to the decision, the trial judge mainly decided the matter on the basis of the anticipated complexity of the medical evidence.