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PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Charge to jury - Jury's answers - Negativing forms of negligence

Thursday, April 16, 2020 @ 8:36 AM  

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Appeal by the plaintiff from the trial judge’s dismissal of motions to strike the jury and to declare a mistrial in the plaintiff’s personal injury action. The appellant was struck by the respondent’s vehicle while standing by his truck, which was fully blocking the respondent’s lane of travel. During jury deliberations, the jury asked the trial judge a question that revealed it might have accessed inappropriate extrinsic information, the Fault Determination Rules regulation that was inapplicable but that, if applied, could impact the apportionment of liability. The jury foreperson revealed he found the provision on an Ontario government website on the weekend at the beginning of deliberations and shared it with the other jurors. He indicated no other juror accessed the internet in relation to the case. The trial judge did not question other jurors. He was satisfied the situation could be addressed through a correcting charge. He instructed the jury that the Fault Determination Rules had no relevance and not to conduct further research. The jury found the appellant 73 per cent contributorily negligent for the collision. In dismissing the motion for a mistrial, the trial judge found the jury’s fault apportionment was amply justified by the evidence.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The trial judge conducted a proper inquiry and made findings as to the nature and extent of the extrinsic information the jury received. His findings that only one juror accessed extrinsic information, limited only to the Fault Determination Rules, were supported by the evidence. The trial judge was entitled to believe the juror’s answers. He was entitled to conclude that he did not need to question every juror. He did not misapprehend the evidence as to the nature and scope of the extrinsic information reviewed by the jury. The correcting charge was adequate to dispel the prejudice arising from the jury being provided with the Fault Determination Rules.

Patterson v. Peladeau, [2020] O.J. No. 718, Ontario Court of Appeal, J.C. MacPherson, R.J. Sharpe and M. Jamal JJ.A., February 20, 2020. Digest No. TLD-April132020005