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Court can’t split trial if jury notice is served and one of the parties objects


January 21, 2009   by Canadian Underwriter


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The Ontario courts have no jurisdiction to split a trial in which a jury notice is already filed and one of the parties to the action objects, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has found.
The case arose out of a motor vehicle collision in October 1999, in which a woman was backing out of a private driveway on Halloween. The car was hit by pick-up truck driving on an east-west road in Hastings County.
A youth who was seated in the car backing out of the driveway suffered a catastrophic brain injury and pelvic fractures.
The defendant driving the pick-up truck pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to yield right of way, but did not admit civil liability for the collision.
Both the plaintiffs and the defendants called for a jury trial on the matter.
The defendants moved to bifurcate the trial, handling the liability issue prior to the damages issue.
The motions judge noted a two-week jury trial on liability alone could be scheduled in a short period of time, whereas a lengthy trial on all of the issues could not be scheduled for at least a year or more.
But the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that bringing a case to justice expeditiously did not outweigh the right of the parties — once a jury trial had been requested — to have both the liability and damage issues heard by a jury of their peers.
The court did not have the jurisdiction to bifurcate the trial, the Superior Court found.