The Advocates' Society Assists Ontario Superior Court of Justice with Challenging Issue of Juror Bias

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice yesterday released its reasons in Kapoor v. Kuzmanovski, a case dealing with potential juror bias in the context of a motor vehicle accident trial.  In his reasons, Regional Senior Justice Peter Daley endorsed submissions by The Advocates' Society, which had been invited to appear before the Court.

The plaintiff in the case had brought a motion to prevent people who pay auto insurance premiums from serving on the jury.  The plaintiff's argument was that these jurors have a financial interest that would sway them against giving the plaintiff a higher award (which would in turn eventually translate into higher insurance premiums for all ratepayers).  Regional Senior Justice Daley dismissed the plaintiff's motion.  His Honour held that there are existing processes in place that protect the fairness and integrity of the civil jury trial, and that it would not be appropriate to exclude all potential jurors who pay auto insurance premiums in this case.  If the plaintiff's motion had succeeded, similar arguments could have been raised in virtually any civil jury trial, with a wide variety of bases for alleged juror impartiality. The concerns of The Advocates' Society regarding the impact of the plaintiff’s position on the justice system and on civil juries in particular were reflected in the Court’s decision.

Regional Senior Justice Daley had invited The Advocates' Society to act as an intervener before the Court on this motion last March.  His Honour recognized the potential breadth of the impact of the Court's decision and stated that "the membership of the Society includes lawyers who practise in all areas of civil litigation and not simply as a member of the plaintiff's or defence bars in the area of personal injury litigation".  In his reasons, Regional Senior Justice Daley thanked counsel to The Advocates Society for "their most valuable assistance".

"We are honoured and grateful to have been invited to assist the Court in reaching its decision in this matter," said Brian Gover, President of The Advocates' Society.  "The Advocates' Society firmly believes that impartiality and representativeness are fundamental elements of a jury.  That said, challenges to juror eligibility based on partiality in a civil trial must undergo careful judicial scrutiny and the existing mechanisms provide for this scrutiny."

The Advocates' Society thanks its counsel on this motion, Peter Kryworuk and Jacob Damstra of Lerners LLP in London, Ontario.

Read the factum of The Advocates' Society here.
Read the reasons of the Superior Court of Justice here.