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Jury strike by reason of ICBC publication unsuccessful

In Yates v Lee 2014 BCSC 1298 the defendants in a personal injury case arising from a motor vehicle accident sought to have a trial heard by a judge and jury. The defendants’ insurer was ICBC.

The plaintiff applied, before the trial, to strike the jury notice arguing that ICBC had tainted the jury pool when it raised its rate for its basic insurance premiums and published on its website reasons for the increase, including the sharp increase in the cost of injury claims. The plaintiff argued that ICBC had biased every potential juror by asking them to consider their own insurance rates when deciding the compensation to award injured motorists. This was a novel argument.

Traditionally, jury notices are struck when: (1) the issues at trial require a prolonged examination of documents or a scientific investigation not convenient for a jury (2) the issues are intricate or complex; or (3) because the time and cost to hear the matter by jury is disproportionate to the amount involved in the dispute. In personal injury actions jury notices can be struck when the medical issues are very complex and there are many expert reports.

Mr. Justice Pearlman dismissed the jury strike application for a number of reasons, which included a lack of jurisdiction to find jury bias prior to trial. He further commented that the material in support of the application did not establish a real potential that the possible jurors in BC held a bias, that they could not set aside, to decide the personal injury case impartially.

Case summary by: Christopher H. McDougall