Ontario Superior Court rejects plaintiff's bid for a simplified procedure in a car collision case

A statutory right to a jury trial is a fundamental substantive right: court

Ontario Superior Court rejects plaintiff's bid for a simplified procedure in a car collision case

In a recent ruling, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected the plaintiff’s request to amend her claim to fit within the simplified procedure in hopes of expediting the trial process after a motor vehicle collision.

In Boniferro v. Jolicoeur, 2024 ONSC 2601, the plaintiff, a passenger in a vehicle involved in a collision caused by the defendant, initiated legal action seeking $390,000 in non-pecuniary damages, $500,000 in pecuniary damages, and $200,000 for housekeeping and home maintenance. At that time, the monetary limit for the simplified procedure was $100,000, which increased to $200,000 on January 1, 2020.

With liability admitted, the court only needed to determine the extent of damages and potentially address a threshold motion. According to Rule 48.04(1) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, no motions can be initiated without the court’s leave once an action is set down for trial. The plaintiff cited factors such as the increased monetary limit for the simplified procedure and pandemic-related backlogs as reasons to grant leave.

The Superior Court reviewed the factors set out in case law, focusing on whether there was a substantial or unexpected change in circumstances since the trial was set down. The court found that the relevant changes predated filing the trial record. The court noted that three years had passed since the monetary jurisdiction amendment. By November 2022, the plaintiff’s counsel had advised her that her damages would likely fit within the simplified procedure. Despite seeking the defendant's consent to amend the claim in March 2023, the plaintiff filed the trial record in May 2023 due to the looming five-year deadline.

The court noted that moving the matter along within the five-year timeline is significant, but extensions are available under Rule 48.14 if necessary. The plaintiff, however, set the action down for trial before seeking to amend the claim and strike the jury notice.

Ultimately, the court found no substantial or unexpected change in circumstances since setting the matter down for trial, and thus, the plaintiff did not persuade the court to grant leave. The court also highlighted that a statutory right to a jury trial is a fundamental substantive right. For the jury notice to be struck, the moving party must demonstrate that justice would be better served, which the plaintiff failed to do.

Additionally, the court considered the plaintiff’s stress and the pandemic’s impact on scheduling. However, the court found no specific medical evidence indicating that her condition would worsen without a speedy trial. The scheduling protocol established in February accounted for civil jury running trial lists in November and non-jury lists in April, further reducing the plaintiff’s argument for an expedited non-jury trial.

In conclusion, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s motion, noting that striking the jury notice would deprive the defendant of a substantive statutory right without necessarily benefiting the plaintiff.

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