Ontario Superior Court rules on admissibility of jury questions in vehicle accident case

Jury questions must be grounded in 'reasonable evidence': court

Ontario Superior Court rules on admissibility of jury questions in vehicle accident case

In a case arising from a motor vehicle accident, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled on the admissibility of jury questions related to claims of past and future income loss and contributory negligence.

The decision in Barry v. Anantharajah, 2024 ONSC 740 emerged from a jury trial where the plaintiff sought $700,000 in damages for loss of income and earning capacity from an accident that significantly impacted her professional and personal life.

In her statement of claim, the plaintiff asserted a substantial claim for special damages due to loss of income and diminished earning capacity. Conversely, the defendant countered with allegations of contributory negligence on the plaintiff's part, including failure to maintain a proper lookout and to take reasonable care for her own safety.

A contentious issue in the trial was the admissibility of specific jury questions regarding the plaintiff's negligence and her claims for past and future income loss. The plaintiff challenged the inclusion of a question on her own contributory negligence, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to suggest she was negligent. Meanwhile, the defendant sought to amend or strike questions related to the plaintiff's past and future income loss, asserting that these were not properly substantiated with evidence.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice examined legal precedents, finding that jury questions must be grounded in "reasonable evidence" and that speculative claims cannot be put to jurors. It underscored that the evidence must support a verdict and that jurors should not speculate or "pull a dollar figure out of thin air" regarding economic losses.

Upon reviewing the evidence, the court determined that there was reasonable evidence to suggest the possibility of contributory negligence on the plaintiff's part, thus allowing the related jury question to stand. The plaintiff's actions at the time of the accident, including her focus and use of her phone, provided a basis upon which the jury could reasonably conclude that she may not have exercised due care.

Regarding the income loss questions, the court found that the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to justify claims of both past and future income loss. This included detailed testimony about her employment history, aspirations to work as a Personal Support Worker (PSW), and the financial impact of her injuries.

The court noted that the plaintiff's evidence, including expert testimony on her likely income trajectory, had the accident not occurred, provided a reasonable basis for these claims to proceed to the jury. Accordingly, the court ruled that all the questions shall go to the jury.

Related stories

Free newsletter

Our newsletter is FREE and keeps you up to date on all the developments in the Ontario legal community. Please enter your email address below to subscribe.

Recent articles & video

Court of Appeal addresses wrongful conviction risk in 'Mr. Big' police stings

Empathy, human connection, and creativity separate lawyers from AI systems, says Tara Vasdani

Karen Perron named as associate justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Ontario Superior Court orders repayment of insurance benefits obtained through misrepresentation

Ontario Superior Court upholds human rights tribunal's authority over workplace disputes

School boards' lawyer suing social media platforms hopes trial reveals inner workings of algorithms

Most Read Articles

Five new judges appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice: Dwyer, Garg, Little, MacFarlane, Wilson

School boards' lawyer suing social media platforms hopes trial reveals inner workings of algorithms

Court of Appeal addresses wrongful conviction risk in 'Mr. Big' police stings

All-lawyer standup comedy show Good Laughs back for another year