The Jury’s Out: De Dieu v. Taylor, 2021 ONSC 3654

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Written By: Lindsay Charles and Brandon Pedersen, Student-at-Law

De Dieu v. Taylor

De Dieu v. Taylor, 2021 ONSC 3654 is a Brampton decision arising out of a May 2021 motion to strike the jury notice.

The action arises from a motor vehicle collision from September 2013. The statement of claim was issued in April 2015 and the matter was set down for trial in May 2018. The action was put on the January 2021 trial sittings list and later adjourned to the May 2021 blitz list. Due to the ongoing pandemic, jury matters will still not be proceeding during the May 2021 blitz.

The defendant argued that the matter should be adjourned to the January 2022 sittings so that it may be heard by a jury. However, matters not reached in the January 2022 sittings will be traversed to the January 2023 sittings because the May 2022 sittings are full. If it is adjourned, the chances of this matter being heard in January 2022 are unknown. In urging the wait and see approach, the defendant argued that if the matter is not reached at the January 2022 sittings, the plaintiffs should be permitted to renew their motion to strike to avoid a further delay to January 2023.

Chown J. recognized the significant delays inherent in the Central West region which has been exacerbated by the pandemic:

[15]      Before the pandemic, the delays litigants experienced in civil matters in this jurisdiction were significant and should not be normalized or considered acceptable. The pandemic is not the fault of either party or the court, but it has compounded the problem of delayed justice. The right to a jury must be weighed against the injustice inherent in a delayed trial, in a case that has already involved a lengthy delay, and which faces uncertain and potentially inordinate further delay if not reached in the upcoming sittings.

Chown J. ordered that the matter is to remain on the list for the May 2022 sittings and if the matter is reached, the jury notice shall be struck and it shall proceed as a judge-alone trial. In doing so, Chown J. stated:

[14]      It is anticipated that the court will be inundated once pandemic restrictions are relaxed. Criminal jury trials will take precedence. The circumstances do not permit a jury trial currently and may not permit a jury trial for some time. Once jury trials are possible, the backlog in the system may result in considerable further delay. In contrast, the court can likely accommodate and hear this matter by videoconference during June if it proceeds as a judge-alone trial.

Ultimately, the hybrid “wait and see” approach utilized by Chown J. seems to best address the current issues that the pandemic has created with respect to the backlog of trials, both jury and non-jury. This approach effectively avoids locking the parties into a jury or non-jury trial and permits the matter to proceed based on the court conditions at the time the matter is called to trial.

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