Jurors in Motor Vehicle Accident Trials: Should All Insured Drivers Be Excluded?
In civil trials by jury, the juror selection process aims to weed out and exclude anyone who might be not be impartial as between the two sides of the dispute. Potential jurors can be excluded if they have a conflict of interest that is likely to affect their impartiality.
In the case of a driver suing an insurer for his or her damages after a motor vehicle accident, does this mean that all fellow insured drivers should be excluded from the jury pool?
That was the interesting – and still-unresolved – question in the recent Ontario case of Kapoor v. Kuzmanovski. This case involved a typical motor vehicle accident, with the driver suing his insurer for damages. When it came time for selecting a jury, the lawyer for the driver presented a relatively novel argument: They argued that any potential juror who drives a car, and who is insured under provincial motor vehicle insurance legislation, is “inherently in a conflict of interest” since they have a personal interest at stake that is adverse to drivers who bring claims against insurers. In other words, it was claimed that those insured drivers’ obligation to pay motor vehicle liability insurance premiums and their presumed desire to keep premiums low would constitute a conflict of interest with any other driver who was claiming for damages from an insurer.
The court found that the novel argument presented by the driver’s lawyer raised questions affecting the rights of all Ontario citizens to sit as jurors in these types of trials, and the rights of both drivers and insurers to obtain an impartial hearing. Given that these were significant issues spanning well beyond the interests of these two parties, it declined to make a determination at the pre-trial stage.
Instead, the court directed that a full motion should be heard as soon as possible to determine whether the driver’s argument was legally valid, and invited the Provincial Crown and a lawyer chosen by The Advocate’s Society to intervene as a “friend of the court” to assist by making legal arguments as to the broader impact of the court’s ultimate decision.
So – forgive the pun – the jury is still out on whether insured drivers can be excluded as potential jurors in Ontario.
If you have had a motor vehicle accident and have questions about the process or your rights, please get in touch.