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Does the Ontario Court of Appeal grant enough deference to jury decisions?

In Canadian law, jurors are understood to be an equalizing force that absorbs two sides of an argument and makes a fair, balanced decision. Judges, meanwhile, are expected to grant juries’ decisions with a high level of deference. Personal injury lawyers must communicate with juries in clear, transparent terms in order to secure the best possible outcome for their clients.

In a recent article for The Lawyer’s Daily, lawyer Patrick Brown argued that obtaining ‘high personal injury awards’ has become exceedingly difficult, thanks in part to the Ontario Court of Appeal’s unwillingness to treat juries’ decisions with due deference.

Brown cites several cases where personal injury lawyers have persuaded juries to award generous compensation, only to have the amounts whittled down in the higher courts.

In Hamilton v. Canadian National Railway Co., for instance, a jury awarded Suzanna Hamilton $115,000 for the loss of her young daughter. The Court of Appeal reduced the amount to $50,000.

In To v. Toronto Board of Education, the Court of Appeal found the jury’s award of $50,000 to be “inordinately high,” and instead granted $25,000 to an 11-year-old girl for the loss of her brother.

Finally, a jury awarded Jared Padfield, an elite volleyball player, $500,000 in 2003 for severe injuries that derailed his playing career. The trial judge reduced the amount to $274,000, and the Court of Appeal lowered it further to $150,000, stating that the amount was “outside the range of reasonableness.”

Justice Patrick Galligan, a dissenting Court of Appeal judge in Hamilton v. Canadian National, wrote: “I think that there is no better forum than a jury composed of six representatives of the community to perform the impossible task of deciding what value should be placed upon the loss to family members of the companionship. The fact that it arrived at amounts which are substantially higher than I might have awarded, or which most judges in this province might have awarded, does not indicate to me that this jury was acting unreasonably.”

In other words, Judge Galligan argued for treating the jury’s decision with deference in this case. Personal injury lawyers encounter an array of challenges when representing their clients in court, from “hired gun” testimony to scorched-earth tactics from well-financed defendants. The Appeal Court’s unwillingness to honour juries’ decisions in lower courts is yet another obstacle to compensation for injured plaintiffs.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, feel free to contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a consultation. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers can help you access compensation that will make your road to recovery easier.

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