When Juries get ICBC cases Wrong

In BC, the Jury Act permits litigants to a motor vehicle personal injury case to have the matter tried by a jury rather than a judge. The option is only available in Supreme Court by way of Rule 12-6.

Unlike judges, juries do not issue written reasons for judgment, which can make their judgments difficult to appeal. The issues in personal injury cases can be complex and a jury may have to determine liability for the accident, the amount of pain and suffering damages, past and future wage loss awards, and the cost of future care award payable to the plaintiff, if any.

Sometimes, a jury’s award is internally inconsistent such that judicial intervention is necessary. For example, in Harder v. Poettcker, 2015 BCSC 2180 the jury found the plaintiff 85% liable for the accident (and by implication, the defendant 15% liable), but awarded him $0 for pain and suffering. Also, inexplicably, it awarded monies on other heads of damages for out of pocket medical expenses and loss of housekeeping capacity. That is directly inconsistent with the nil pain and suffering award.

In Harder, the Court concluded that the judgment was inconsistent and the only remedy was a new trial before a judge based on the evidence already presented at the jury trial. The parties were asked to make written submissions on the evidence and told to expect a written decision thereafter.

Where a jury’s verdict is inconsistent, the Court maintains the inherent jurisdiction to remedy the inconsistency, for example, by ordering a new trial or entering a judgment that is consistent with the jury’s award.

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