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Ches Crosbie Barristers

Can I Get A Civil Jury Trial In Newfoundland And Labrador?

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If your claim is for personal injury damages, you cannot get a civil jury trial in Newfoundland and Labrador. And now it seems that if your claim is for insurance bad faith and punitive damages, probably not either.

So says the Supreme Court, Trial Division, in a recent decision.

Caselaw over the last ten years left open the door to civil jury trial in this province, in the relatively small number of cases which engage community standards of morality and would benefit from a consensus or cross-examination of community opinion. Disability insurance cases with punitive damages claims were supposed to fit this exception exactly, but now doubt has been cast on even this possibility. The merit of juries is that they overcome the complacency of the judges and move the law to new levels, in step with enduring social values. Just not, apparently, in Newfoundland.

For an illustration of how different attitudes toward the right to civil jury can be in other provinces, have a look at lawyer John McKiggan's blog "Court refuses to fast track medical malpractice claim of elderly plaintiff". Astonishing as it may seem to a Newfoundland lawyer, a very elderly plaintiff was refused a speedy trial because the defendant doctors told the court that they wanted a civil jury trial! The Nova Scotia court defended the right to civil jury trial, including in complicated malpractice cases, as "a process well suited to determining the resolution of the issues of fact that can be anticipated at this trial."

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